To look at Gavin Rubenstein’s stellar career so far you would hardly believe that he started his working life at McDonalds. But he says it taught him early on about what good customer service really is. “I’d highly recommend young people start out there regardless of what industry they desire to work in,” he laughs.
Despite operating in one of the most competitive and expensive areas in Sydney and being an eastern suburbs local, readers may be surprised to know that Rubinstein was not given any sort of ‘leg up’ at any stage. “I love my parents. But – my family doesn’t have connections or much money. My father was a pharmacist and drove a Daihatsu. I’ve worked extremely hard to build my business and referral network to where it is today.”
Rubinstein has now been in the industry for nearly ten years. Starting as an assistant, he says he was attracted to real estate because of the potential to earn an income without a tertiary education – one of the factors that made him aspire to the lifestyle he had been exposed to. “Because I went to the private schools and I was the poor kid, no joke (laughs), I was surrounded by a lot of money and wealth. Families welcoming you into their homes, going on holidays with friends, car lifts at the school. It was a lifestyle I didn’t have so…. yes, I wanted it.”
While he may have had the private school education, Rubinstein confesses that he hated traditional studying. But he did want to learn from the best. “I found mentors really early on; you can learn a lot from successful agents and gain so many valuable insights.”
Obviously every agent has to start somewhere, and in the early days Rubinstein found himself up against agents with long established relationships and impeccable track records in the area. But he says it was persistence and building rapport that eventually paid off.
“Frequency builds trust. I made sure I had such regular contact with the people in my area that by the time they were ready to sell I had a foot in the door. The vendor could feel a strong sense of commitment, energy and enthusiasm which even today still puts me ahead of my competitors.”
“If you asked me what the best form of prospecting is in the beginning, the answer is simple: it was cold calls. I built this business on cold calling. It doesn’t work for everybody, but it worked for me; I had an angle and it worked.”
The angle is obviously his charisma, as pretty much everyone who knows Rubinstein would agree there is some star quality there. It comes through in everything he does, although he seems a tad shy fessing up to this. Now; he is adamant that at the end of the day it’s about doing the work.
“The readers should know I just did the calls. That’s what most people don’t do. I used to lock myself in a room, I used to get the phone books and my notepad. All day I would hit the phones.”
“And I would be really efficient… when I made one call I knew what number I was calling next and qualifying along the way to make sure I wasn’t wasting any time.”
Three to five years of solid calling, says Rubinstein, gave him a qualified database of people that over time took him from being the junior on the phone to starting to see his name everywhere. Which, he says, is where the magic happens.
“I’ve now got people walking through open homes I haven’t met before face to face who will say to me, ‘Oh wow, you don’t remember me but you used to call me every single week’. That happens regularly now,” he says, again with a laugh.
A DAY IN THE LIFE: COULD YOU KEEP UP?
If you were to spend a day with Rubinstein, here is a taste of his 80-hour a week schedule.
- Alarm set for 4:45am Monday to Friday – out of bed at 5am
- 5.30am in the gym
- 8am breakfast (ordered in advance)
- In and out of appointments all day
- Constantly on the phone
- Eat lunch at my desk/in the car
- Usually ﬁnish up sometime after 8pm, often later if negotiating a deal or late appraisals.
As far as advertising is concerned, his approach was all about activity and perception in the early days. “Listing and sale activity on signboards and online is the best form of advertising. Achieving an amazing result for your vendor, and then for them to talk about it to their circle of influence is very powerful. Use your sales and great service as a platform to promote yourself. This is all I focused on at the start.”
Work-life balance is a hot topic in the industry right now; for Rubinstein it’s about cycles. He admits to working ‘flat out’ with regular extended breaks. “I work 80 hours a week on average. The reality is I’m always on and contactable. I find balance by taking four breaks throughout the year, during school holidays as this is when there’s a downturn in my markets cycle; it’s on these breaks where I recharge, to ensure that during the high cycle I’m always performing at my peak.”
The other thing is time management. Rubinstein says, “You need to become an expert at managing your time. When at work, be at work. Limit distractions and outside noise. Focus on the task at hand. Have a team to handle problems and other non-dollar productive activities so you can focus purely on listing and selling, and providing an outstanding service.”
Much of that time is still spent on prospecting. “Every minute of every hour of every day I’m constantly working for new business. Whatever avenue is available to me, I’m constantly looking for the next listing opportunity.”
And he is driven to maintain his position.
“I work like someone is going to take it all away from me tomorrow.”
These days, Rubinstein is a media brand. With a digital profile that is talked about right across the industry a common catchphrase is, ‘If you want to have a top-notch digital profile, take a look at Gavin Rubinstein and copy him.’ And Rubinstein is okay with that. “I welcome it; I get energy out of helping other agents.”
But not everyone has the budget that Rubinstein has. Over the years he says he’s probably spent hundreds of thousands on his digital profile, as well as “enormous time and effort”. But he also says that, if managed correctly, it does a great job of generating business. “Everything digitally related I take extremely seriously because of my belief that it’s a big part of what makes a successful agent, and will become even bigger in the years to come as the world becomes more digital by the minute.”
But again he warns that there is no quick route to success here either. Although Rubinstein has almost 14,000 followers on Instagram this is something that has been in the making for over seven years. “With Instagram it started kind of socially and then really started ‘blowing up’ when I started doing property uploads; I found my following would respond really well. Then I started to put up photos of me at properties and I would get enquiries from people looking who would say ‘Can I come through before the open?’. In some instances I would even sell the property from that.
“The amount of time, effort, energy that has gone into that I cannot tell you. With Instagram, with calling, all that stuff – the secret is just doing the stuff and working hard at it. You know what I mean?”
Despite Rubinstein’s success he says he loses more listings than he did in the early days, but everything is an opportunity to learn.
“I still lose listings. The more successful you become you are going to miss more and more listings. The positive out of this is that at least I’m on the shopping list.
“I’d rather get an opportunity to pitch than not being considered at all. You can always learn things about yourself and what you could have done differently in that situation.”
“Progression is my sole biggest motivator. Never rest on your laurels: complacency kills real estate businesses. There’s a constant challenge to grow the business year in year out; next year has to be better than this year and the year before that.”
Having got to know Rubinstein a little better, I have no doubt he will continue to set a very, very high bar based on drive and sheer hard work.
STRUCTURED FOR SUCCESS
Rubinstein runs a tight ship and has plenty of support around him to provide the world-class level of service expected by his clientele (which he is fastidious about). Here’s how the team provides support to Rubinstein throughout the week.
- Jerome Srot – Operations Manager and 2IC
- Remi Quinlivan – Executive Assistant
- Oliver Lavers – Sales Executive/Buyer Consultant
- Cae Thomas – Project and Development Sales
You can also get to know Gavin Rubinstein better at his event in Sydney on October 13 called ‘What it Takes’ by Gavin Rubinstein.