Sol Zakay Interview

Sol Zakay is the extremely private and publicity shy Chairman & CEO of the Topland Group. Sol ranks 50th on the Sunday Times Rich List with an estimated net worth of £3.4bn and is one of the most influential people in the UK property industry.

We wanted to understand a little bit about his background, how he has managed to achieve such amazing success and what motivates him to keep growing. We’ve gathered information from a variety of sources to answer the questions below. We firmly believe that learning the stories of successful people like Sol, it can help others looking to take those same steps.

What do you think is the most important factor in running a successful business?

Strategy and commitment. Two words that are very easy to say but extremely hard to follow through on. If you don’t know what your goals are, you will never make consistently good decisions. 

Too many businesses are built on short-term planning and knee-jerk reactions, this might achieve some immediate results but it will not lead to long-term, sustained growth. You need total focus and know exactly what you are trying to achieve.

How did you start your business?

It’s a story I’m very proud of because it highlights the importance of working hard and having a plan. I knew to achieve my goals I would need to earn money and get myself well-educated. 

I actually started in the fashion industry, with a stall in Portobello market selling various garments I’d produced. This enabled me to raise the funds to both get further education and make an entry into real estate. I started in property with small residential houses and flats before moving on to bigger developments.

What advice would you give to others in the real estate business?

In property, you hear so many people repeat the mantra - location, location, location. For me, to succeed in the real estate business, you need to remember to focus, focus, focus. Get a long-term strategy and stick to it. 

Believe in yourself, if little things go wrong, don’t allow that to sway you from your path and remain focused on the future.

What are some of your goals right now?

Certainly one of my goals is helping to move the property industry into more and more sustainable development. I have been advocating this approach for many years and whilst great strides have been made, we can all do more and I’m determined to see Topland at the forefront of this.

What is your definition of success?

It is hard to define it in a word or a single phrase but the thing that always comes back to me is fulfilment. Feeling like I have made a difference and knowing that I did everything possible to make what I was working on a success, so having no regrets is important.

As Thomas Edison said, success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration

What characteristics or traits that you believe successful people have in common?

That is really simple because I don’t believe you can achieve sustained success without two factors - motivation and hard work. You have to know what you want to achieve and then you need to be prepared to work as hard as possible to achieve that.

It means your motivation needs to be very personal, as this is the thing that will drive you to work hard enough to succeed.

What is a typical week like for you?

I try to keep my schedule as flexible as possible. I love that every day is different and it will depend on what I have on that day. 

Mondays are typically more about getting organised and prioritising things, but I try not to fill up my diary with too many tasks, I believe in focusing on the tasks that matter most to me and I avoid over-stacking jobs and hate multi-tasking as it makes people inefficient.

I hate laziness and a lack of focus, I believe in maximising my output by scheduling in the right amount of jobs and doing them well.

I do try and keep Mondays and Fridays clear of calls, this means I can decide on a last-minute long weekend if something important comes up. 

What do you do daily that gives you the success you are looking for?

I avoid procrastination. I think you have to be decisive if you want to succeed on a daily basis. Give yourself sufficient time to complete a task, finish it and move on, don’t look back.

I only attend meetings if they are absolutely necessary, too much time is wasted in meetings that either don’t require your involvement or could have been resolved with a quick phone call. To maximise my day, I minimise multitasking and focus on the things that matter.

If you were to start over having the knowledge that you have now, what would you do differently, if anything?

I try not to look back and regret anything. I have achieved everything I have in life because of the things I have done in my past, so I don’t think doing things differently makes sense. 

I focus on the future and the goals I still have left to achieve, they matter more now than what I did 1, 5 or 20 years ago.

What is your biggest joy in life? Why?

That’s actually the easiest question to answer, it is spending time with my 3 boys, they are the people that bring me more joy than money ever could. I work as hard as I do to ensure they have everything I can possibly provide for them. 

I’m incredibly proud of the young men they have grown up to become and whilst I certainly don’t take all the credit for that, whatever small part I played in that feels me with immense pride.

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