Firm foundations

The principles of building a successful business.

To build a successful business you need to know exactly what your business is about; start with your “why”. Truly know why you’re doing what you’re doing; where you’re going, and who you want standing alongside you. I began my business journey with a clear understanding of what I wanted for myself, my family and the people who were following me into the unknown future. After some initial stumbles and strain, the business path became one of growth and purpose.

I started Reliance Real Estate in 2011 from nothing. Literally. The business I was working for had a policy of their way or the highway, with no growth opportunity. I was leaving a decently paid job in real estate to jump, fear in one hand and a sense of freedom in the other. It was a move spurred on by an unidentifiable “knowing” that this was what I was meant to do. I was, though, experiencing severe financial strain, raising a young family and desperate to hold on to those who were loyal to the dream, but who were quickly becoming disenchanted as it looked certain we would fail.

It wasn’t until I lost my star performer, was often working seven days a week, and my body and heart were heavy from lack of sleep and excess stress, that I understood big changes needed to occur. Hard work, developing my business principles and a return to old-school basics were what I believed would turn things around for me and were the keys to creating a successful business.

“Nothing matters more in the success of your business than having the right people.”

Over the last 10 years the business has grown to 10 offices across Melbourne’s western suburbs, with a team of over 140 people and still growing. Reliance Real Estate, a once fledgling new business, was to become Australia’s fastest growing real estate group three years in a row in the Financial Review’s “Fast 100 List”.

I have written my second book, become a keynote speaker, and provided mentoring and coaching to many up-and-coming agents and business owners who want to succeed and be the best they can be.

But what are business principles? Basically, they are a set of foundational statements that guide your business’s future decisions to success. And what does a successful business look like? Well, it’s the right investment, tools and advice, brand recognition, energy, momentum and drive, people and leadership. Most importantly it’s developing the principles needed to make the shift to a business that lasts, a guide to the bright future where you want to take your business.

Here are some of our guiding principles.

1. Look where you’re going

The best thing you can do for your business is to create a vision, one that will keep you focused on contributing to future success. Without a clear vision, I was disheartened by even small challenges, I lost sight of what I wanted the business to be, and at times I was out of alignment. When you create a path to the bigger picture, you begin to make strategic moves, as opposed to being a mouse on a wheel; you value lessons and failures and your goal will drive you forward.

2. Who’s with you?

Nothing matters more in the success of your business than having the right people. Business is all about the people. Find out who’s aligned with your vision and provide them the right environment. Research who you want in those pivotal roles, have deep conversations with them about what they want for their long-term future plans and ensure it aligns with yours. Look for people who aren’t just a clone of you (great ideas often come from those who don’t necessarily think like you, but who do share common mindsets, traits and values).

3. Lead, don’t dictate

There’s so much more to being a true leader than being in “control” and directing people. If you want to grow and become a successful business, the best thing you can do to achieve this is to create leaders around you; locate them, empower them, believe in them, lead the leader. To scale your business, creating other leaders will be the key. A handy leadership tip is “get up early”. Most successful leaders in business or sports start their day early. Take yourself away, somewhere with no interruptions, sit with a cup of tea or coffee and look at the big picture. Share your big picture with your leaders.

4. Culture. Buzzword or not, it works

Respect, growth, fun and celebration – pretty unsurprising elements, but they are actually where it’s at. If you want to create a great environment for your teams, it’s all in the idea sharing, the fun (yes, you read that right) and the communication conversations. Understand what your people want, listen to their ideas (you don’t have to implement them, but you do have to acknowledge them) and have some fun with your people. Celebrate their wins and their achievements, both professionally and personally.

5. Take it from the paper to reality

Business is not just for the practical minded. It’s also for the dreamers. To start any business, you need to have dreams, but you need to design systems and processes, implementation and ownership. They might not be fun words like “dreaming, goals and vision” but without them your teams won’t feel they are a part of something special. Balancing leadership, culture and execution is guaranteed to lead you and your teams to success.

Principles are about how we conduct ourselves, how we think, how we behave. We often refer to our “principles” when talking about what kind of person we are; well, the same applies to our business. It’s important to know and understand what kind of business you are so you can share that message with the world and anyone who becomes involved with you; whether a client or a team member, they will know exactly what you have to offer.

After all, being a good human being will fulfill your life’s journey.

This article first appeared in issue 34 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine