Raj is founder of Rentround.com, a letting agent comparison platform that helps landlords save on rental costs. Raj also has a background in the financial industry, working with firms such as Deutsche Bank, Barclays & the Bank of New York Mellon. In his free time, Raj teaches Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at his martial arts club, ruislipbjj.com.
Where did the idea for Rentround.com come from?
I created Rentround because of my own experiences when dealing with property managers. When I lost a tenant or a new agreement was needed, a huge amount of phone calls were needed to get a good deal with a property manager
I thought, “I should be able to find a letting agent just like I do with my insurances, using a site to just compare the market”
That’s how the idea began.
I wanted to fill a need that I was sure other property owners had. Secondly, it was to create something I could creatively be proud of.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I always start the first hour of my day ignoring my phone & emails. My routine is to enjoy the start of the day, sit with family and have a good breakfast.
After that, the work starts! With so many things going on across marketing, finance, sales & customer services, daily tasks can seem overwhelming and it’s easy to lose track of what’s a priority.
I have a large ‘to do’ list that I am constantly adding to. I divide the list by
Which tasks need to be done first as a priority
Tasks I need to complete on that day
Other tasks that aren’t as important and can be pushed to later in the week
Then I have another bucket, things I’d like to do or look into one day if I get the time
To stay productive, the key for me is to take regular breaks and shut off. 30 minutes of downtime every 2-3 hours, away from my laptop & phone provides a quick refresher which enables me to re-engage with more energy.
I also train in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, usually 2 hour sessions, 3-4 times a week, often at my own club. This goes a long way to help my mental well being and during the sessions, it’s impossible to think about work as the sessions are quite tough.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I go through the same pattern when trying to bring an idea to life. I start with a quick estimate of the finance and work out if I think the business has the potential to be profitable. I’m not a financial expert so this is literally a quick finger in the air estimate.
Then if the numbers loosely stack up, I decide to create a proptype. For an online business, this is usually in the form of a basic site with limited functionality, created under £3,000.
If there appears to be a demand, then I look into investing more cash to create a more polished business.
It was the same for my martial arts club too. I found a cheap place that already had most of the equipment to rent out on an hourly basis. This enabled me to see if I could attract students and if I’d enjoy the teaching aspect of martial arts. After enjoying teaching for a year and getting a decent number of students, I invested in a bigger premises to form what was just a small volume of classes into a business.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I started a vegan diet around 3 years ago and seeing the vegan market expand has been very exciting for me.
It’s a trend that I think will continue to grow and as an advantage, it has many environmental benefits too.
The trend isn’t just for the food industry. Veganism covers clothes, lifestyles, transport, energy sources etc. For example I see many energy suppliers now advertising their electricity as vegan!
There will be new twists on products we all use on a daily basis that will work for a majority of people. Right now the economies of scale opportunities are low, however I believe more people will adopt vegan principles that will help future business opportunities.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I always tend to look at problems & frustrations I have on a daily basis, as opportunities. If they are in your life, they are likely in other peoples too. This means there’s an opportunity to problem solve… and therefore make money.
A successful business of course doesn’t always need to be spectacular like an electric car. Fixing miniscule daily problems for a target niche can be very profitable.
Looking at daily life situations with this lense helps generate ideas & new businesses.
What advice would you give your younger self?
My advice would be to not overly be consumed with making an immediate profit, if you believe in the longevity of the business.
I have created a few failed businesses over the years. These include a cosmetic business linked to the fitness industry and a student mentoring site. I was young and made a lot of mistakes, mainly focusing too much on immediate profit.
Now when I create a business, especially with Rentround, my primary focus is to create something that adds value & is of high quality. I believe once these deliverables are met, profit follows naturally. In the modern era, quick wins, short terms gains & immediate results are expected too often.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
There’s an old saying not to mix business with family & friendships. I couldn’t disagree with this more (but often I’m in the majority against those agreeing!)
Some of the best ideas, ventures & financial returns for me have come from dealing with my family & friends network.
Of course there’s always the risk of tarnishing relationships if business doesn’t go as planned. However if there’s trust & you believe in the person’s abilities, being a family member or friend should spoil opportunities to work together.
Moreso, if the business works out, then you’re sharing the success with the people you love (or like) the most.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
One thing I do over & over for my online business is constantly review my sales process.
I go through the site myself and try to critique every button, heading, page etc. Every little thing that annoys me I jot down and add to my development queue.
I find when it’s my own business, things stand out that I think are problems, while to others they may not seem a big deal. But chipping away at these small little issues overtime helps create a better business.
I also ask my best customers to do the same, asking them to tell me what they think can be improved on my sites. It isn’t suitable for all my customers, but for sure applicable to customers I have a good, honest relationship with.
Improving aspects based on their feedback also goes a long way to cement relationships even more.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
My strategy is based on short & longer term growth plans. In the short term, I’m heavily reliant on (expensive) Google Adwords, paying to be shown when people search for keywords relating to my business. In parallel, I invested in reputable property related advertisements that would help build my brand.
Both of which are costly, but have yielded positive results.
In the longer term, which I feel I am 25% through, my strategy is to ensure my site ranks well organically for my keywords. This includes writing huge amounts of property related content, being featured on related websites & ensuring my platform is search engine friendly.
In the present time I’m moving away from my short term strategy, as Rentround is gaining more traction on ranking well on search engines. I recall being elated when Rentround was ranking 1st for the term ‘compare property managers’. It’s not the most searched for term but it felt like I’d won the lottery!
In terms of what has worked well and helped grow my revenue, producing well written, insightful content has been the most fruitful. Other websites are more receptive in posting your content when it adds value. This goes the distance in improving your search engine standing. As a result, the site gets more traffic and therefore conversions. It’s far from easy. Content takes hours to create and reaching out to other websites to host your content can be tricky to manage.
As the brand got more familiar with property managers, I also invested in a redesign to improve the look of the system, the business has seen generous revenue spikes. We are seeing quarterly increases in revenue of about 20%-30%. While we’re not hitting the millions of pounds quite yet, I recouped my initial investment within the first 6 months.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I alluded to it in one of my previous answers, but not having a long term mindset was a characteristic that hampered my growth as an entrepreneur.
For example, I started a soap business and was trying to follow the trend of the growing fitness industry. The product itself, which if I’m honest was a slight gimmick, was based on containing natural ingredients that fight common skin problems people catch in gymnasiums. I was tentative in investing sufficiently in the business. In addition most of the profit I took out of the business, as opposed to reinvesting. I was a lot younger then and didn’t have a financial security blanket to lose a chunk of my savings.
I now spend more time assessing if the business has the potential for longevity, before investing my resources.
Once I start the business, I am undeterred by a lack of profit for a period of 1-2 years, depending on the nature of the business.
My belief is that I trust my analysis at the launch of the business so profits will come in the future as the business is refined.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I always hate being at a pub and having to leave the table and queue for ordering a round of drinks.
I had an idea for an app that triggers another round of drinks for your table. The trigger would be based on either a set time, or through some technology that assesses levels of liquid remaining in a glass(?!)
I have no idea if the idea is feasible or if it would be willingly adopted by bars & drinkers.
But at a high level it will help bar staff take orders, automate payments and make sure the drinks flow quicker!
The idea could be extended to restaurants as well. Instead of waiting for someone to take your order, why not just order on an app that goes straight through to the kitchen. So in summary, a mini UberEats but within a restaurant itself.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought a year subscription on the calculator service, uCalc. The idea is simple, it lets you create & customise calculators for various industries. For Rentround, it helped us create calculators for mortgage, letting agent fees & rent affordability.
Creating calculators & tools which we then offer to our readers for free, helps increase site engagement and value. This then has a knock on effect of better organic rankings and backlinks – which contributes to reducing my paid ad spend.
The functionality is easy to use and quick to then embed on your own site. I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking to add tools to their blogs.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Ubersuggest is a great tool for my SEO activities. The tool lets me scope out competition for my keywords centering around property management, letting agents & landlords.
What I like most is the tool’s ability to show where I should focus my outreach activities and which sites in the property industry can help me grow my business. The tool quickly picks out which sites in the property industry have a good reputation and link to the top ranked articles that my target audience is most attracted to. I can then approach the site owners in the aim to expand my businesses visibility.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
James Caan, The Real Deal: My Story from Brick Lane to Dragons’ Den. This book is about how James, a british entrepreneur started his business from humble beginnings, to a multi million business it is today.
The book picks out key decisions he made related to his business that helped shape what it is today. It really helped my mindset on approaching difficult decisions and how to overcome them.
I recommend the book to anyone who is starting the business on a tight budget or is funding it themselves. Aside from the above positives, it’s an excellent motivation source.
What is your favorite quote?
“Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.”
I hear so much about how some businesses are doing amazingly well with little effort and commitment. In addition there are so many companies out there offering to ‘double your revenue in 10 days’ or selling $10 instructionals of how to ‘become a Google Adwords master’ etc. It’s difficult to shift through the genuine success stories vs the fake news these days.
Trying to ignore the heavy onslaught of promotions & promises keeps you in good stead and align your focus on yourself & your business.
- The best source of finding a business idea is to focus on your own problems and thinking of a solution that you and others would benefit from
- Once you’ve conducted your initial analysis and tested the market, put in the hard work to get results, avoid being blindsided by quick win stories
- Keep focus & energy levels high. Burn out is real and take time away to realign yourself
- Failure is part of the journey. Keep your confidence high & learn from your mistakes.