Rhonda Wong, CEO and co-founder, Ohmyhome, credits her philosophy of treating her team as family for the firm's high retention rate among senior team members, as she describes her ideal CHRO and more, in this exclusive interview with Jerene Ang.
Q As the CEO of a regional start-up, what does your day look like?
It’s very hectic generally. It starts and ends hectic. Most of the regular working hours are filled with presentations and discussions. I only get to my email either early in the morning or much later in the day. It is common for me to take meetings after dinner as well because it can be more relaxing to not have to rush to the next appointment. The best part of the day is always the crazy brainstorming sessions that are filled with wild ideas and lots of laughter. Our team inspires us every day.
Q You established Ohmyhome in 2016 and built the company to be the regional one-stop property solution that it is today. As the company has grown, how has your role changed from then to now?
In 2016, I had to do everything from giving out flyers to managing the accounts, like a jack of all trades. Today, there are people who are better at those jobs than me at each point of the process. My role has evolved into a mixture of advisor to various team leaders, a cheerleader for our entire team, a doctor prescribing solutions, and a fortune teller to look into the future that we are building.
Q As the company grows and frequently onboards new team members in Ohmyhome’s three offices, how do you maintain a family-like environment and keep new staff aligned with company culture?
My sister, Race, and I first started the company with just the two of us, and now we have close to 80 people in the company across three offices. Our team is warm, driven and team-spirited, and when we hire, we look for smart individuals who would enjoy our culture too. I invest a lot of time in building strong relationships with our team leads as I believe that they are essential ambassadors of culture and communicate more frequently with the team. I also have an open-door policy and make myself personally accessible to my employees.
Q As a start-up with a very high retention rate amongst senior team members, what would you say is the secret to retaining talent?
We’re very proud of our 100% retention rate among senior team members, and they have been with us from the very beginning of the company.
My philosophy is to treat my team as family, and naturally, they will treat you as a family. Through the battles fought and won together in building Ohmyhome, we’ve bonded and work-wise, we have excellent chemistry and understanding. We play up each other’s strengths and complement and support each other in areas of weakness. Like a family, we ensure that they have a sense of belonging in the company. I’ve attended birthday celebrations and weddings. These have helped foster a strong team who are willing to go into the trenches with me.
I am very honest with them and the trust runs both ways. For our talented team, employment opportunities are readily available for them. I retain them no less than they choose to retain me.
Q Ohmyhome has many upskilling initiatives to help its team excel in their current role and beyond. How has that helped the company to innovate and stay productive?
We are proud of our upskilling and knowledge sharing initiatives which cover a broad range of subjects from time management to property market insights to the use of digital tools. Having people who are cross-trained in multiple disciplines helps our team to contextualise their work into the larger whole which results in a more coherent product but more importantly, the free exchange of ideas promotes a culture that is open to innovation. This has sparked new ideas and fosters the team’s confidence in executing these new ideas. We have seen agents coming up with solutions to streamline processes that allow us to close deals as quickly and efficiently as possible. Furthermore, our sales agents are never just a sales agent at Ohmyhome, they also have a part to play in our marketing and the wire framing of our next features.
For example, when circuit breaker was announced, the team’s innovative minds kicked in and they immediately thought of ways to continue serving our customers with minimal disruption. Ideas were considered and were quickly put into action from stepping up our video property viewing features to different ways of reaching out to clients and reassuring them that we will still be able to assist them in transacting their property. We were able to swiftly move into our Circuit Breaker business continuity plan within two days which enabled us to continue serving our customers seamlessly and to close deals for our clients amidst circuit breaker.
Q How would you describe your leadership style?
It would be a blend between transformational and coach-style leadership. It’s important to me as a personal achievement that everyone who enters my firm grows into a more complete person both from a professional and personal standpoint. Their journey as Ohmyhome should be transformational and they should be able to look back and smile at how far they’ve come as an individual.
Like a coach in a sports team, I’m constantly thinking about the ways in which the individual talents in the team can be used most effectively as a unit. It is also crucial to manage personalities, understanding the different and complex ways underlying peoples’ motivations, helping them to buy into our company’s vision, and facilitating effective communication between departments. As a leader, creating a supportive and open working culture allows me to empower my team to exceed their expectations of their own abilities.
Q On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being very important, where would you place the HR function, and why?
I would say HR is a 9. HR is focused on the team, the talents, human capital, and in that way, they are one of the most important functions in the company. Our company is only as strong as our team. This means that we need to pay close attention to the team’s motivations, performance and more, and HR takes care of this.
Q How closely do you work with your HR head, and on what issues?
Any HR head will need to be aligned with the business leaders on the strategic direction of the company and how the CHRO can help to achieve the vision of the business leaders. The CHRO will also need to work very closely with the rest of the team leads and management in the areas of learning and performance management.
Q Describe your ideal CHRO.
My ideal CHRO should be warm, people-centric and a team-player. My CHRO should foster a team-like environment that unlocks the hidden talent in team members and maximise their potential, which helps us to develop our products and offerings and strengthen the foundation of the organisation.
As the company grows quickly across different markets, I expect my CHRO to be familiar with the cultural nuances across different workplaces and be able to scale the company. This person should be able to bring the different teams – engineering, marketing, agents, customer service – together into one cohesive company.