CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland fintech startup Fund That Flip aims to be a bridge between house flippers and investors with capital. But leaders also want to be a bridge between what employees want and the environment in which they work.
The company’s rapid growth is helping them pivot, both to a changing real estate market and to an improving work culture.
For the first time, Fund That Flip ranked #1 among mid-market companies on cleveland.comThe list of Best Workplaces of 2022. While employees surveyed gave many different reasons why they liked their jobs, one of the reasons executives cited was that employees have a say in how their job is done.
For the list of the best places to work 2022, cleveland.com and the Plain Dealer compiled 220 Notable Northeast Ohio Employers based on employee surveys. This year, we focused on employee retention. Find the full list and stories of the top three winners in each category at cleveland.com/top-workplaces.
Marketing director Kendall Bazan said her team, which has grown from four to 17 people in six months, decides how they want to work together. But even having feedback on decisions is unique to new recruits.
“What was really exciting for them was getting into a business where this bureaucracy wasn’t already established,” Bazan said.
Kimberly Sullivan, vice president of people and culture, said the company continues to try to strengthen that worker contribution. This involves working with managers to ensure they are not biased towards ‘traditional’ work environments and using surveys to encourage workers to speak up more.
Fund That Flip’s business model is about connecting builders and homebuilders with the investment capital they need to do so. The fintech provides loans to real estate investors, whether to repair and resell homes or build them from scratch. It does this by pairing them with passive investors who can also choose which fins to lend.
The company, which lends across the United States, employs about 230 people, including 140 in Cleveland.
Whether it’s hybrid work, specific times scheduled on calendars for time off work, or regular updates from workers on company operations, Sullivan said much of the culture relies on employee feedback.
“It’s a really refreshing place to work where we can be innovative and think ahead and build something that works for everyone on our team,” Sullivan said.
Transparency on actions and finances
Sullivan said the company aims to be transparent with its customers and strives to do the same with its employees.
Fund That Flip meets with staff monthly to update them on finances. Bazan said workers can see exactly how the business is doing and ask questions, which can be especially helpful in a business tied to the housing market.
Sullivan said Fund That Flip also regularly educates workers on equity issues and other corporate responsibility topics. These business aspects are becoming increasingly important to workers, she said, so the company needs to show it can follow the word.
To feel useful
Abby McNutt, hiring manager for the company, said employees are offered all sorts of benefits like full pay, health, dental and vision care and more. But what they also get is the feeling that their work matters.
With the company growing so fast, there isn’t a lot of busy work.
“This place can only exist if every person does their job here,” McNutt said.
She said it felt like we could make an impact in a short time and workers were empowered to do their best. Many employees who responded to the Energage survey mentioned the same thing.
Fund That Flip also offers employee options, which are an element of company ownership. They can also choose to get more options instead of money during the bonus period. When it starts selling on the stock exchange, employees would essentially have parts of the business to sell or keep.
Readjusting to work two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, Fund That Flip chose a hybrid work situation. There are a few positions that need to come into the office, but no one has to come in five days a week, Sullivan said.
The company also prioritizes work schedules that align with employees’ lives and block out time. Both Sullivan and Bazan block time in their calendars for their children, making it a point to be off work to be there for their families.
Sullivan said they had to build trust across the company so that employees could do what works for them, without a boss or executive wanting “butts in the seats” at some point.
Workers still choose to come in, she said, opting for the designated workstations with cubicle walls and well-installed technology, so they can be an inviting place to work outside the home.
A “Midwest” state of mind
Fund That Flip’s goal is to provide real estate investors with fast and flexible financing so they can put it to use for their own projects. Most loans are short term, and unlike a traditional mortgage company, they do not lend to people who will live in the homes they buy.
Kazan said that like other fintechs, there are algorithms and technologies that improve the business. But the company has tried to embrace “Cleveland culture” more than the culture found on the coasts, where most startups are located.
That meant building a business that works in the Midwest and keeping a personal touch.
“A handshake beats an algorithm every time,” Bazan said.
Fund That Flip was started by John Carroll University graduate Matt Rodak, who earned a degree in finance and landed a job with an insurance company, before deciding to flip houses himself. It was there that he saw that pinball machines needed a better way to raise capital.
He launched Fund That Flip in New York, then opened a second headquarters in Cleveland in 2016. The company now has a dozen offices across the United States.