Valeriia: Bert, thank you for participating in our employee story of the month video. Today we are going to talk about your experience at Homelike, the perks and challenges of your role, and the overall culture and environment of Homelike. But first, maybe you could give a short introduction of yourself?
Bert: Yes, sure, thank you for having me actually. My name is Bert De Roo. I am actually from Belgium, but I moved to Cologne, to the headquarters of Homelike around 3 years ago. I started actually as an intern, fresh from school, and grew into Sales Manager/Account Manager, and finally into managing both the Netherlands and Belgium and now I am an Expansion Manager at Homelike.
Valeriia: So, your role at the moment at Homelike is expansion manager, right?! So, can you maybe tell me more about how your day-to-day business looks like, which teams you work closely with, and in general your routine at Homelike?
Bert: Absolutely. Being an expansion manager, it is very difficult to say what my day-to-day activities look like because every day is very much different than every day before. But right now, I am actually in New York City to support our latest launch here.
We just launched in the US, starting with New York City about 2 months ago together with our CCO, Marc. And my main activities here are driving the initial supply on the platform and supply for us is the apartments all our guests can see when they are actually looking for a specific city.
Another big topic that I am working on is adapting our platform to the US market. I work with the whole company basically. Launching a market is not something 1 or 2 people do, it is really an effort from the entire company. On the daily basis, I am talking to IT to see how we can adapt the platform, to be closer to the American market. I talk to our reservations managers because they talk on a daily basis to our guests, so we can learn what are the needs and what are the wants from our guests here in the US. Also talking to the HR, obviously, to see how or where we can hire new people.
I can go through every department in the company because on the weekly basis I will talk to them and will align with them on how we can actually improve things, where we can learn more, and everything to support the US launch.
Valeriia: What is the most exciting project for you at the moment and why?
Bert: It is definitely opening in New York City. I would not even call it a project, it is like a milestone for any startup, but also for Homelike.
It is something I am extremely proud of that Homelike is doing it and I think the whole company should be proud of this and I am also very thankful that I can actually be a part of this.
I still remember the day where we put the first apartments online 2 months ago. It was a whole celebration in the office, people from different locations doing a hangout call from Barcelona, people in the office in Cologne. It was a very big moment for us and I am very proud to be part of this.
Valeriia: Yeah I think remember because it was around 1 month since I joined the company and I think it was the best time to join, it was super exciting. So, what do you think is your greatest achievement at Homelike so far? What are you most proud of?
Bert: Well, I would come back to the New York part, something I am extremely proud of, but something that I have worked longer on and equally proud actually is the Benelux market because we launched Belgium when I just started. I just came to the company, I was a sales manager for the UK. And then after a few months, we decided we were going to launch Belgium.
Then, being from Belgium, I could support this and see just the Belgian market and also the Netherlands that we just launched before I joined.
Growing from the first initial bookings where the whole company celebrates for one booking a day and then growing that market into a bigger market, actually more established, where we get plenty of bookings every day. I think just the growth journey we did with the Benelux market is something I am extremely proud of.
Valeriia: Yes, for sure. It is definitely impressive. You have done a great job!
Bert: Thank you! The sad part for me is now I am in New York and the US is such a big market that needs full attention from multiple people, so I actually have to give away my market to the new person who will manage it and grow it into what it can be. Part of it makes me sad because it is “my” market. I started it from a very small place and now I have to hand it over. So, it is a very sad moment, but I am also very curious how the new market manager will actually take care of the market, find new ways, creative ideas to grow the market even bigger.
Valeriia: Definitely. It is thriving at the moment and you took up a new challenge. So, of course, I can understand how you feel, but I am sure the next person will also do a good job. It will be interesting for us to just follow the journey as well.
Actually, you went through so many different tasks and responsibilities, and since Homelike has such a startup mentality with a huge amount of possibilities for everyone in the team to impact and improve the business, how safe do you personally feel sharing new ideas with your co-workers, stakeholders? Let’s say on a scale from 1 to 10.
Bert: It is going to sound very cheesy because I am of course talking to HR, but I would say it is 10/10.
I think it is exactly what Homelike and our culture is about – finding or sharing new ideas with colleagues and actually implementing them.
So, anyone in the company can and should come up with new ideas and it does not matter if you are an intern like I was 3 years ago or if you are the CEO. If you have a good idea, everyone can share it, actually work on it, and hopefully, it becomes something successful. But even if it fails, which a lot of the ideas sadly enough fail, it is something we are actually not mad about. We did this project, it failed, we learned this from it and then everyone is very proud that we tried something that we came up with the new idea. So, that is something that I really love about Homelike.
Valeriia: For sure. I think it is important. We are actually looking for people who have a fresh view of our processes, on everything we do, on our product, and always come up with new ideas and new processes. I think it is quite open to always share and implement these things quite quickly. Is that right?
Bert: Absolutely. I can give plenty of examples of ideas we actually implemented. On Monday you can come up or sit together with a few people in the team and come up with an idea. On Tuesday, you create a project plan, how you can implement it, including everyone involved. On Wednesday you start implementing it and by Friday maybe the project is completely implemented in the whole company.
I don’t know if there are a lot of companies who will move at this pace to implement those things or are open to implementing these things so quickly. It is definitely something why we are growing so fast because we have great people, we have great Homelikees who come up with these ideas and who are actually willing to implement them.
Valeriia: Sounds good, for sure. And since we are already talking about the culture at Homelike, it is just interesting to know also which of our core values do you identify most closely with. Just in general how do you describe the culture at Homelike?
Bert: It is actually a funny topic because I remember when I started as an intern, we took pictures of everyone and it was always in front of one of the core values. So, I think on the 8th floor of our office, there is still a photo of me with one of the values behind me. I hope it is still there. I still think “be an entrepreneur”. I think it’s one that all of us value, but I think in my role, being an expansion manager, I have to come up with new ideas to actually push a market forward. So, it is definitely the one that I identify with most. It is like I said, we have to come up with new ideas like here in the US. It is a completely different market, the mindset of people is completely different than what we see in the European markets. So, it is key that we can come up with new ideas and implement them at a very fast pace.
Valeriia: Definitely. Okay sounds good. Just maybe the last question from my side, I would like to hear your opinion on our future of work policy as well. Have you already taken advantage of it apart from your current trip to the US? Or have you worked anywhere else in the past months?
Bert: Well, I am very lucky that I can be or I can work from the US for now. But actually at the start, when I was working still working from Cologne, I did use the policy to work from Spain. It was only for a week, but it was still a very nice experience.
I went with a good friend of mine, who is actually also a fellow Homelikee. We worked from Palma de Mallorca for a whole week. In the middle of the summer, beautiful weather.
Just the experience of working from a new location is something I really enjoy. I also try to do it here in the US, just find a few new locations, maybe a coffee shop, for example, and work there for half a day.
That is one thing that I really enjoyed. Also just being able to close your laptop at 6 or 7 pm, and then jump in the ocean or in the pool 5 minutes later. That is something that was really amazing. I am hearing a lot of conversations with other colleagues: “Do you want to go to Barcelona for a month or do you want to go even further away together?” I think it is a good sign of the culture that we have, that we are all good friends within the company and the remote work policy is something that everyone really likes. And I am also looking for next year to a few more locations where I can work from because it is just a great opportunity to work for 1 or 2 months from a different location.
Valeriia: I hear more and more that people are going to different cities and countries – to just change the picture and experience new things.
Bert: Exactly. Working at Homelike, you are in the perfect position to do so because we are in the extended-stay business. We have apartments in Barcelona, so you can actually use the platform that you work for to book your home away from home for a month and work from a Homelike apartment, which you know has the Wi-Fi, has the kitchen, everything you need. So, I think working at Homelike, is probably the best place you can be to work remotely because we have such a big network of apartments that are perfect for this.
Valeriia: Exactly. Well-said. Would you actually like to do it again? Do you already have plans for the upcoming months, maybe for the upcoming year?
Bert: I do not have concrete plans yet, but I am looking again for a possibility. It is not super clear when and how long I will come back to the US for next year. So, depending on that, I can either work remotely within the US here, maybe go to Miami during the winter. And if I am in Germany or Belgium, I can definitely see myself working from Greece or Croatia to get some good weather and good food next year.
Valeriia: Very nice. Let`s see where life takes you next year. Thank you for so much, Bert, for sharing your stories and experience. That was definitely very interesting. Maybe we will do it again at some point and see where Homelike will be at that point of time and you as an expansion manager as well.
Bert: Yes, absolutely. It was my pleasure. I really think that the story of Homelike is a very interesting one. Just the pace at which we are growing. But also for me personally, just coming in as an intern, fresh from school and actually now being part of the team that is opening new markets like the US. It is very cool to work for Homelike.