Modsy is an organization that sits at the intersection of design, art and technology, combining together advanced 3D graphics, computer vision and creative curation. Their mission is to change the way we imagine, design and create our homes.
I came across Modsy when I was searching for help with designing my mum’s guest bedroom for when she visits our home in Florida from Scotland. I was under a time crunch and I needed someone who could help me pull it all together and at a budget that worked for our family. I loved the interaction so much, it led me to reach out to Shanna to learn about what she was doing to create such a customer centric solution and culture.
I recently talked with their CEO Shanna Tellerman about her own personal leadership journey, co-creating with her clients and the truth about the Modsy culture.
Audrey McGuckin: How did you come to be CEO of Modsy Shanna?
Shanna Tellerman: The path was not exactly a straight one – I started my first company straight out of grad school. It launched me into start-ups and I ran it for 5 years. It was tough, and I learned the hard way. We were doing a lot of really cool things. I sold this company to Autodesk and I spent 2 years with them after the acquisition. The next part of my journey was on the other-side of the table, I joined Google Ventures! It was there that everything culminated for me. It hit me in the face. It was a significant personal experience for me. I could imagine using 3D with visualization along with incredible design and support service.
Audrey McGuckin: What have been your moments of truth through your journey?
Shanna Tellerman: There have been two. The first and most stressful moment for me was with my first company. We were right in the middle of the financial crash in 2009 and I had to pitch what felt like to hundreds of investors trying to get just one of them to say yes. Looking back on that experience it was my ability to persist and find a way through a seemingly impossible situation. We raised the funds!
The second was when I went to work in venture capital. That was the hardest job I’ve ever had, way harder than a start-up. I’m so used to being on a team and venture capital is not a team environment. In venture capital the decision making is slow and you don’t see the results for a long time . The way the industry is set up is counter to how I work. It’s about power, it’s ego driven and you work hard in small sprints. All of that is the opposite of my mental model – I’m optimistic versus pessimistic. I don’t like to be in a power position versus being on a team and making something happen. It was in this stressful situation that I had this aha moment, my “moment of truth”. I kept thinking about this idea. I kept thinking, I want to build another company, I want to be – true to myself. This move was a huge game changer for me. It’s hard for leaders to make those calls.
Audrey McGuckin: How did you move through this Shanna?
Shanna Tellerman: It took visualization of what I wanted my life to be. I literally create a vision board. It was super clear. It was a start-up. I thought about it every minute of every day, I imagined my exact day as a CEO from beginning to end and I started working towards that vision.
Audrey McGuckin: What are your biggest challenges today as a CEO?
Shanna Tellerman: People – at the end of the day we’re trying to build something huge in the industry and my greatest hope is that we’re known for this. But it’s the journey that gets you up every day. When you build a great team, it’s so rewarding, but it’s not a constant state. It’s a living organism, there’s always a new thing, in the moment it’s challenging but massively rewarding.
Audrey McGuckin: Shanna you and I met through the unique experience I personally had with Modsy. I was so inspired by your team and the customer service. Tell us about the obsession with the client.
Shanna Tellerman: We have an approach of co-creating with the client. Our clients want to feel part of the design process and that also applies to our people. They’re not looking for people to tell them how to do it. No one on my team comes to work feeling like they can’t contribute. The value we offer clients is the relationship between technology, design and the function of the space. We only exist to support that, it’s ultimately going to be the client’s space. In the work place when you get it right it’s empowering – if you feel like your work matters – you care – you care about all of that – fully bought in and fully caring.
Audrey McGuckin: What’s your biggest learning as a CEO?
Shanna Tellerman: I truly want every person at Modsy to feel valued and feel part of the team. We have a sense of humbleness. We’re not afraid of mistakes and we’re not afraid to look at things that are broken. It’s created a culture that’s flat and everyone on my team has a voice.
We have 3 core values – these are the truth of Modsy:
• Number one – Lead with the heart – this means do the right thing for the client no matter what.
• Number two – Assembly required – hard work is required and when things come together that’s when you create value.
• Number three – Make magic – a lot of the hard things are behind the scenes and our customers should never even see it.
Audrey McGuckin: What’s your advice for other leaders Shanna?
Shanna Tellerman: Well it’s actually new advice I have for myself. Pick 2-3 areas of focus each quarter and align your time to those 2-3 big things. As a CEO you can be spread thin. Line up your time and make big things happen.
Audrey McGuckin helps companies focus their energy on what matters most – people. We work with you to map the journey to unleash the collective power of your organization by aligning leaders, culture and people strategies so that you maximize your chances of realizing your goals. Reach out to learn more at email@example.com or contact us at (727)-793-4236.