Sunil Kumar is the founder & CEO of Reliance Real Estate and author of From the Ground Up, 7 principles for building a business fast.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
As a migrant, I came to Australia in 2004 as a student with dreams like many migrants. I knew it was not going to be easy, but I was prepared to work hard.
I have always been an easy-going person, I am willing to do my best and most importantly, willing to help and encourage those in my surroundings. I started working as a door-to-door sales agent, for what you might call my ‘first real job’.
This is where I struggled for three months. I didn’t make a sale or earn a single dollar, but I kept on going back and improving my skills. I still remember I got paid just $440 for my first pay cheque, just from the sales I made that week.
It all started from there. I sharpened my skills and helped the new recruits as well. Later I won many awards for excellent performance. I was promoted to business clients and went around Victoria convincing business clients to use Telstra Services.
In late 2007 I joined Real Estate. After learning for three and half years I moved to a totally new area to start Reliance in 2011. Fast forward ten years later, and I’m blessed to be the CEO of one of the fastest growing Real Estate businesses and working with some of the sharpest minds and dedicated professionals the industry has seen.
With the understanding on how to build a business from nothing, and having implemented both short term and long-term visions, we have now established a brand with 10 years’ experience that promotes the exceptional service to our clients and an encouraging environment to our team for an exceptional career.
If there is one thing which underpins anything else in my success, it’s helping others without expecting it back. I’ve also just launched a book titled From The Ground Up.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I start every day by waking up at 5:30am in the morning. My day normally starts with a quick run to get my heart racing, followed by yoga and meditation.
I will normally spend on average 35-40 minutes doing this every morning. I then get ready for work and drop my son off at the bus stop, before heading into the office. My work days start at 7:50am. For the past 12 years, I have always started around 8:00am.
The first two hours of the working day are the most important, especially in making crucial decisions within the business for the brighter future of teams and clients. I don’t have meetings first thing in the morning. This time is more about getting things done and brainstorming about the growth challenges we are facing within our organisation or how to provide a better experience to our clients.
I directly work with a limited team of three people. Myself, Megan (EA) and Mariah (PA). We have a standing 10–15-minute daily huddle at 8:34am. This is to discuss the focus for our day.
We go over what each of us will be doing and discuss how we can support each other to get things done. Amongst the three of us, we aim to get a week’s work completed, in one day. By that I mean the most important items and actions which will contribute the most to the organisation.
My meetings with my teams and leaders are between 10:00-12:30, within the office. These meetings are usually with my executives. We discuss where new projects are at, improving on systems and processes to provide better services to our clients; the performance of the business, any challenges they are facing and overall decision making.
Between 12:30pm-2:00pm is a 30 min lunch time which I mostly spent having lunch with either one of my team members or a client discussing business.
Between the hours of 2:00pm-4:30pm is again looking at other items that need to be completed, what projects are happening and what the status of them are. This time is also allocated for replying to emails and looking at what tasks are upcoming.
Every day without missing this, 5:00pm-6:30pm is when I am on the phone returning any calls, liaising with my clients to close deals or bringing in new business. I have kept a constant habit of contacting my clients during this time. I tend to also support team members across our offices during this time. In my 90 min prospecting calls I like to keep in touch with my key clients for future business, closing a deal and approaching some new key clients looking for new business.
6:30pm is when I like to finish on pending tasks and attend to any emails that are in my inbox. I try to be home by 7:00pm. As soon as I am home from work, I focus on spending time with the kids and my family. I always keep my phone away, only checking once before I go to bed. As the time is limited with kids, I give them full attention. We enjoy dinner together and get the kids ready for bed.
Being a reader my whole life, I always try to finish my day with 15-20 minutes of reading before bed.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Over the past 18 months, Victoria has been in a series of lockdowns. This therefore means that we have had to adjust to working from home.
Although I do not feel fully productive working from home, I too have had to adjust. Thankfully during lockdown, I can work in a fully equipped home office, with access to a computer, webcam, printer, and other technology to make the best of working from home.
One important thing I like to do when working from home, is follow the same routines. Daily huddles still occur, just online over Teams (video conference), and weekly team meetings with executives still commence. In fact, during lockdowns, we will always try to over-communicate with our team. This may be either via a phone call or by daily catch ups.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Sometimes it’s hard to keep a good balance between work-life and home. The best regard I do in that aspect is by saying no to afterhours invitations.
Whether that be dinners, drinks or invitations for various parties and events. I am very particular on what I say yes to. Especially if it is after work hours.
It was a different story before 2017. In 2017on New Years, I made a resolution to be conscious of my time. I really thought and considered if attending these events were helping me to achieve my goals, when I was away from my family, after work hours.
Another major factor to work-life balance, is to stay away from technology or social media when I am at home. I tend to not search or browse around the internet. I prefer to spend time playing with the kids. I have always considered Sunday being a family day.
Sunday mornings are mostly spent with my wife and kids having breakfast and enjoying our time together. Once a fortnight we go out with the kids to watch a movie, or out for dinner. We even enjoy taking them to a play centre. Giving my kids my full presence satisfies me, which is what helps me balance work and life. When I am home, I am fully present with my family.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Yes, for the better. One of the improvements I have made is my morning routine. I am not a big gym fanatic. The way it has gone in the past is, it would take me an hour and a half to get ready, drive to the gym and have a 45-minute gym session.
Instead, the very first thing I do now is put on my socks and running shoes and workout at my home gym, or go for a quick run around the creek in front of my house. So, I save around 30-45 minute every morning by exercising at home or simply going for a run.
Although, eight times out of 10, I am running. Then I enjoy finishing off with yoga and meditation. Running helps me to keep active. Yoga brings me a good combination with the mind and body, and meditation has helped me to stay calm, even in the most challenging situations, which do arise within the business every day.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Some of my favourite books are, How to Win Friends and Influence People, written by Dale Carnegie. The 5am Club, written. By Robin Sharma. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over Your Life, written by Richard Carlson. Ikigai, written by Hector Garcia & Francesc Miralles.
Some movies I would recommend are Hard Times, The Founder, Spy Game, Kung Fu Panda and The Man Who Knew Infinity and a netflix series Inside Bill’s Mind.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
The Remarkable. Remarkable is an E-ink tablet for reading documents and textbooks. You can also sketch and take notes, then send the notes directly to your email in a PDF format. Spotify is an amazing app that I use on a daily basis. Especially for meditation, podcasts, music, etc.
Teams (Office 365) is great for communication with the team. We also host our team meetings on this app. The mobile app is also an effective tool. Evernote. My team specifically uses this software for notetaking, organising and task management.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I think if your family understands that the work you are doing is important, and they are a part of the vision with you. They will understand and support you in the process. My family is a part of the vision we are trying to achieve with work. They acknowledge and support me
because they know it influences many people. The first part is getting your family and team on your side, by having them understand what exactly it is that you do and why you do it, then the support naturally flows.
Secondly, have an excellent routine and laser focus. I see a lot of people are spending 8-10 hours at work, but their productivity is extremely low. It can be they spend a lot of time chit chatting, or on social media or just cruising along. Once you improve your routine you will always want to get the best out of the day. Stay focused on your goals which will make you more productive and aligned at the same time.
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