Robert Bull is the Chief Executive Officer of RoyaleLife, the largest provider of bungalow living for the over 45s in the UK. Under his strong leadership, RoyaleLife has revolutionised what’s being called the “Bungalow Lifestyle” – affordable access to luxury, gated communities boasting single storey living in superb locations.
The key to success has been the RoyaleLife’s unique Home Part Exchange Scheme which offers the potential buyer 100% of the current market value of their home. By way of illustration, if their current home is valued at £450,000, and the RoyaleLife bungalow is purchased for £300,000 that will leave £150,000 cash for the buyer. In short, the customer has a lovely new home bought and paid for, with money in the bank to live a stress-free lifestyle.
There are no hidden costs either: RoyaleLife take care of the estate agents’ and solicitors’ fees as well as any stamp duty and, with all the homes fully furnished with all home comforts and the very best appliances, there will be no large-scale removal fees.
Under Robert’s leadership, RoyaleLife has been able to expand significantly. Currently, RoyaleLife has over 64 developments with 30 more in different stages of planning and development.
Throughout his career, Robert has established himself as a well-rounded visionary who drives growth for his companies. Here he gives an insight on how he’s changing the perception of bungalow living in the UK.
Where did the idea for RoyaleLife come from?
RoyaleLife can trace its roots back to 1945, so it’s a business with a solid reputation built up over many years.
Over the last decade, we saw that there was a major gap in the housing market. Traditional new home developers stopped building bungalows to concentrate on family homes and apartments and yet, for the over 45’s, the demand for single storey living was increasing.
The facts speak for themselves. The National Home Building Council (NHBC) cited low maintenance, low running costs, and releasing capital as key reasons why the over 45’s wanted to downsize. We addressed the need and we’ve been able to really capture the imagination of the buying public.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My day starts at 6:30 am with a workout in my gym at home. I’ll then shower, breakfast, and arrive at the office by 8:30.
The day is organized with time blocked out for phone calls, meetings, and contact with RoyaleLife’s heads of departments. After lunch at my desk, there are more calls and meetings, and work generally finishes around 7 PM The evening is reserved strictly for family and personal time.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I encourage everyone in the company to have a voice. With a team of 400, I like to maintain a flat management structure, encouraging ideas from everyone, ensuring that they feel comfortable making a contribution.
Once we have an idea that we’re interested in pursuing, we discuss and explore it fully. We run through the pros and cons and insist on a thorough cost analysis. The truth is, an idea is only an idea, but we need to make sure that it makes financial sense before investing in resources.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Downsizing. Downsizing into one of our bungalows allows our customers to free up equity and use those funds as they wish. They can pursue a new lifestyle, do things they’ve never been able to do before, retire, or invest. It excites me that this option allows them to live a fuller life without having to worry so much about money.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
People work with me, not for me. I think that’s my best quality as an entrepreneur—teamwork. I want my team to know straight from the off that we are just that, a team.
That teamwork principle isn’t just important to inspire your people, it’s important to me, as well. In my opinion, people who think they can do everything themselves – without help or support – are the people who fail.
I think that my own personal habits are also an element of my success. My routine and regime keep me focused and on track. Habits are the building blocks of success.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I was often impulsive as a young man. I would have told myself to take the long view. Today, I know that you’re more effective if you plan well.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
This is a difficult one. I think you need to have a certain ability to see the bigger picture to run a large business and I do seem to have a knack at seeing what’s coming down the road.
I appreciate that sometimes people don’t always agree with me but it’s important to have confidence in your own judgement. Without doubt I have my family and particularly my father to thank for their support, which has enabled me to hone my abilities.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Always have an open mind. This is so important. No one is ever too old to learn, even if you’re at the top of your game. Great ideas can come from anywhere; sometimes they come from the most unexpected places, so always be open to what you’re hearing and seeing.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
You need to have a solid plan and you need to be able to see it through to completion. Getting to that destination is going to be a mixture of your own talents and the characteristics that you and your team bring to the table. You’ll need ambition and determination. You’ll need resilience and a little luck.
You need to be able to share the load, as well. That was a big lesson for me and for any successful entrepreneur. You need to share your responsibilities with your team if you want to succeed.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Early in my career, I suffered from a real lack of knowledge and experience in dealing with commercial agreements.
I overcame this by an intense and lengthy period of self-education – listening very carefully to lawyers and accountants and observing how they overcame the day to day challenges they had to face. This investment has paid dividends.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
My grandfather always said to me: “Buy land, they don’t make it anymore.”
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I made a £100 donation towards a barbeque at Wickham Court, one of our developments in Hampshire.
It was a great investment for me because it was really wonderful and heartwarming to meet and get to know our residents. I had a fantastic time talking to them and learning about their lives today and how they had changed for the better, a satisfying experience for me because I can see the tremendous difference that my company was able to make.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Elite Dynamics Software Solutions. This is the programme that helps us manage the business and it supports all of our departments – sales, finance, reservations, management. Through Elite we can very quickly gather all the knowledge we need to enable us to take the decisions we need to make.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Into the Upwave: How to prosper from slump to boom by Robert Beckman.
The book is more than 30 years old. But the insights have been amazing. I will use what I learned through this book for my whole life. It’s a favourite and one that I recommend over and over to people.
What is your favorite quote?
Don’t be arrogant – nobody likes arrogance in people.
- Teamwork is essential for success.
- Great ideas come from anywhere – keep an open mind.
- Always plan for the long haul planning ahead is important to success.
- Habits are the building blocks of success.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.