From Dumpster Diving to Building a $3 Billion Business: 7 Things Sharran Srivatsaa Learned on His Journey to Success
In 2011, Sharran Srivatsaa walked away from his banking job on Wall Street to become the president of Beverly Hills-based Teles Properties. At the time, the luxury real estate brokerage was making over $300 million annually, but it was far from its original growth projections. In just five years, Srivatsaa and his partners transformed the company into a business worth more than $3 billion — increasing its value 10 times over.
Srivatsaa is now a venture capitalist, sought-after business coach, and the CEO of real estate software company Kingston Lane. He has earned a comfortable lifestyle, but things weren’t always that way. After immigrating to the United States from India as a teenager, Srivatsaa had a stroke of bad luck that led him to “dumpster diving” for food.
The Advisor in The Oracles shared his journey with fellow entrepreneur Bedros Keuilian on “The Empire Show” podcast. Here’s what he says he learned along the way.
1. Have a singular focus and don’t give up (even if it takes 39 times).
I remember having a tough conversation with my dad when I was around 13. “India probably isn’t the right country for you,” he told me. “We need to find your passport out.”
We were sitting on a bench across from some tennis courts and decided that tennis was going to be my opportunity for a better life. I’d never taken a lesson before, nor was I athletically gifted. But I went all in on my training and made it my only priority. I went to school and played tennis. That was it. Everything else was secondary.
I became a professional player as a result — which actually disqualified me from athletic scholarships. (Our plan worked too well!) But I was still able to come to the U.S. when I earned an academic scholarship to Luther College in Iowa.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Luther and an MBA from Vanderbilt University, I was hired by Goldman Sachs. I was asked to do 39 one-on-one interviews to get the position — excluding coffees, dinners, and conferences. I had to impress 39 people. How many times have you tried before quitting?
2. Know your 'why' and make it known.
Just having a goal isn’t enough; you need a meaningful reason to achieve it. Without a compelling “why,” it’s easy to quit when adversity arises.
Sometimes that why must transcend you. My tennis goal was a big deal in my family. I felt a deep responsibility to succeed, since my parents invested so much in me. I couldn’t sleep in when I didn’t feel like training. Accountability fueled me.
Socializing your why with a mastermind group, coach, mentor, or board of advisors ups the ante. If you’re serious about reaching 10X growth, you need an incredible support system of others who’ve been there. Transformation doesn’t happen in isolation. Community drives achievement.
3. Daily accountability is key.
Reaching $3 billion was an overwhelming goal, so we broke it into a daily sales target. Not an annual, quarterly, or even monthly goal — but a daily one.
We needed to make $8.3 million a day, so we started with a goal of $5 million and worked our way up. If we made $3 million one day, we needed $7 million the next. This kept us focused. While this figure sounds high, we sold luxury properties across California. Adjust your target accordingly.
4. Greatness is in the granular.
You might be a successful CEO with a social following who gives speeches and writes books, but you should still know what’s going on in your business at all times. Jeff Bezos knows exactly what happens at Amazon. He may not have to execute on the day-to-day details, but he understands the outcomes.
Sales are the lifeblood of a business, yet some CEOs can’t even tell me their numbers. Don’t disconnect from the metrics. When you have your finger on the pulse of your business and know your value chain, you can take an idea and know where to “install” it profitably into your business.
5. Focus on authentic signaling.
After growing Teles, we sold it to Douglas Elliman. There are two factors to getting the highest offer on your business. First, determine how you can make the buyer great. Don’t focus on how great you are — communicate how great your business would make them. Find out who they are, what they stand for, and why the purchase would benefit them.
Next, signal to the potential buyer that you don’t need to sell and can walk away at any point. This becomes a dance that can take a year. We often make decisions spontaneously based on a snapshot, but when we stop and remove the pressure of time, we can see future scenarios. Look forward and reason back. With successful, authentic signaling, you can earn more flexible terms.
6. Good habits drive good results.
Condition your mindset with small rituals. I was given a headset my first day at Goldman Sachs. Even though I wasn’t making calls yet, the managing partner told me to put it on so I would get used to it being part of my body.
I thought he was crazy; but today, I walk into my office, open my laptop, and put on my headset. The headset symbolizes seriousness that makes me focused, decisive, and articulate. My wife jokes that as soon as I remove it, I can’t even pick a restaurant for dinner!
If you aren’t getting results, change your routine. Tweak something you do regularly — even if it’s just getting in the habit of flossing before you brush your teeth every night. The compound benefits of everyday accomplishments will convince your psyche that you can conquer anything. When you feel like quitting, get some wins under your belt. Crush a workout or something you enjoy. You’ll feel great and be ready to get back to the grind.
7. Be grateful.
My parents sent me to college in the U.S. with an international cashier’s check. When I tried to cash it, I was told it would take two weeks to clear. There was just one problem: I needed to eat in the meantime.
I crashed every pizza party on campus I could find, but there were several days where I went hungry. One day I noticed someone throwing an untouched meal in a dumpster and realized that many other people did the same. For the remainder of those two weeks, I ate a lot of meals from the dumpster.
I was so thankful for that food. I didn’t tell my family about that for a long time, because I was so grateful for all they sacrificed to give me a better life.
Invest in your personal infrastructure so you can approach life optimistically with gratitude. Journaling is a daily ritual for me today. I often tell the CEOs I mentor that “fear has no place on paper.” When you’re unhappy or stuck in your head, pour everything out onto paper and you’ll feel better.
Whether it’s meditation, exercising, or another activity, identify the best way to reprogram your brain. Do it first thing in the morning or at the end of the day and watch yourself move closer toward your goals.