As a part of our series called ‘Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO’ we had the pleasure of interviewing Neel Kawale.
Neel Kawale is a proptech entrepreneur with experience in management consulting, enterprise software and venture capital. He has been involved in several million dollars worth of transactions within the retail and technology sectors.
He co-founded Haüskey in 2018, a digital pre-construction condo marketplace platform, whose industry leading cash back rebate model has disrupted the Canadian market. Under Neel’s leadership, Haüskey has established key partnerships with leading developers and listing brokerages across Canada. The platform has generated $75 million dollars in pre-construction sales reservations to date.
Neel successfully expanded Haüskey’s platform services to buyers, investors and property developers internationally in 2021, launching Haüskey UK in Manchester, and partnering with eReal Estate Holdings to launch Condos.com as a developer-direct marketplace for pre and new construction condos across the US.
Neel is a member of the Forbes’ Young Entrepreneurs Council and has a passion for problem solving by employing next generation technology. When Neel is not building, you can find him on the links trying to find a solution to his golf game.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I always knew entrepreneurship was my calling. I had quite a diverse set of experiences in my professional life and one thing that always made me excited, whether it was from the financing side or operational side, was building a business from the ground up. I wanted to tackle a major societal problem and build technology that provided solutions to those problems. My biggest ideology for when I chose to build Condos.com was determining how we can take the best in technology and processes, some that hadn’t changed in one hundred years, and develop solutions that move the real estate industry forward and ensure everyone has a new operating model that is the most efficient.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The most interesting and coolest thing that happened to me in my career was being reached out to from Richard Swerdlow, founder and CEO of eReal Estate Holdings, LLC (ERH), to launch Condos.com. At the time, my other company Hauskey was a start-up company based in Toronto, but we were lucky to get notoriety through customer success stories which led to partnering with bigger companies and put us on a global stage. We let our actions speak for ourselves and saw big things come from that.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made when I first started my entrepreneurial journey was making the assumption that just because I have a great idea, it would go the exact way I thought about it. You can draw up processes in your mind, but ultimately you’ll constantly have to shift your way of thinking. As a CEO, you may think you know everything, but you have to realize you may be wrong and ensure every aspect of the business is tested and measured.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am especially grateful for my parents, they immensely helped me with getting to where I am now. They encouraged me to take risks and made it known to me that I always had their support. I’m also grateful for our great business partners and investors that have helped us with product ideas, financing and the ability to grow our business to where it is now.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
Diversity, especially in thought, is the single most important thing when you’re building a new business. Having a single frame of reference is detrimental, and in a business it’s crucial to have people on your team from various demographics who bring different life experiences and ideas to the table. Diversity allows you to provide solutions for the masses that work, as well as question preconceived notions and incorporate different thought processes. We have separately worked hard to build a robust and diverse leadership team at Condos.com and Hauskey that we are proud of.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
To truly create an inclusive, representative and equitable society, you must lead by example, create opportunities and promote the ideologies you stand for. For us, our guiding ideologies lie in diversity, inclusion and representation. We look into local markets and try to understand how people can best be represented so we create opportunities that work.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
I believe the biggest difference between a CEO and an executive is the employee engagement and cheerleading aspect of being a CEO. As CEO, it’s my job to make sure each leader performs at their best by catering our strategy to how they work best, empowering them and providing them with creative flexibility. I strive to ensure my team is properly motivated and engaged and always make myself available if other leaders need direct time with me, structured feedback or any tactic that is instrumental in their growth.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
Ruling with an iron fist does not work. The modern CEO is a person with a great vision but truly surrounds themselves with people who challenge and better them. If the CEO is the smartest person in the room, they are doing something wrong.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
What surprised me the most is the day-to-day of being a CEO. If you’re a successful CEO, you are empowering everyone at every level, so my capacity of time allotted to empowering my team somewhat surprised me. A lot of my job also goes to working with the vast majority of stakeholders, whether it’s investor relations, partnerships, fundraising or customer service management.
Do you think everyone is cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
To be an executive, CEO or leader, you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. As a CEO, you have to be able to think on your feet and be steadfast in your leadership when you are faced with uncomfortable or unfamiliar experiences. Your word and your integrity need to be at the forefront of decision-making, and understand you never know what the next day will bring.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?
My advice to creating a fantastic work culture is to understand your people. You have to know what each of the people in your organization’s goals are and how they want to progress so you can be a cheerleader for them. By doing so, that team will make sure who they hire below them will be in line with their values and work ethic. As a CEO, it’s imperative you lay the groundwork from the top of your core values, and then everything else will follow.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I try to lead by example in every fashion. As a leader of a business, you should focus on creating good societal impacts within every aspect of the business, from how you deal with customers, employees, investors and beyond. The modern CEO can’t just be focused on profits anymore, you need to have great core values from a corporate perspective.
Fantastic. Here is the primary question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- No two days are going to be the same. You will always find new questions, issues and situations you haven’t been in before, and you have to be confident and comfortable navigating those.
- A great idea doesn’t mean a great business. Until your great idea is proven by generating the right solution for it, it may not even matter if you make a sale or create the right product.
- Don’t discount the value of people. Invest time, money and experience into the people within your organization because they will be the ones who make your business successful. If customers, investors and your employees enjoy working with you, that will be more paramount than even making a sale.
- Keep going. Perseverance is at the forefront of entrepreneurship, and while it’s said a lot, you have to keep going if what you are building means a lot to you and aligns with your personal values.
- Know your guiding values in your personal and professional life. I’ve mentioned how values are so important, and it’s crucial to identify those when starting a business because you will naturally attract like-minded people to you and your business when you have them clear in your mind.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I am extremely passionate about the value of education and making that available to the masses. I hope to spend a lot of time on leveling the playing field and ensure access to education, quality mentorship and professional opportunities are available to everyone. To create more leaders in the world, everyone has to feel like they truly have the ability to achieve their dreams.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
If you think you are beaten, you are. To me, this quote is all about your mindset. If someone tells you that you can’t do something or you have a personal struggle and believe that to be true, you’re never going to get past that. You have to believe in yourself and have the confidence to achieve what you want.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I would love to have a sit down with Elon Musk. An in-depth discussion on how he is able to break down complex problems to achieve his end result. Overall, how he focuses on how things can be done and how to make them happen. With all that he has accomplished, I would greatly benefit from understanding how this person thinks about the world.