People who have made a difference in the
world have a common personality trait and that is they were born rebels. A heart
that does not get restrained by external judgements and believes in its own
mission in life is the heart that eventually creates a legacy in the world.
This is how we can best describe our
next column guest, Sadhana Smiles, GM of McGrath Estate agents, Neutral Bay,
Mosman and Northbridge
Born and bred in Suva, Fiji, Sadhana was
growing up to be a rebel as per the traditional norms of a typical Indian
culture in her surroundings. She had the spirit of any normal creative human
child who would like to experiment with life’s unlimited pleasures but kept
getting restricted by the so called man made rules of a limited thinking
society, until one fine day her parents decided to give air to her wings and
decided to send her to a boarding school in Melbourne.
This was the beginning of a new chapter
in her life or perhaps as some people would like to call it her destiny. She was
sent to a boarding school in Melbourne at the age of sixteen, where she hated it
initially due to the discomfort brought by a huge change. Coming from a
comfortable upbringing to sharing rooms and bathrooms was a bit of a shock.
Change of diet from curries to vegemite was not easy on a little girl’s taste
buds. But as they say ‘the force’ is around you when it wants to help you grow.
She found a guardian in that bewildered
state of mind. Her guardian taught her the fundamental rule of life, that is,
“Stand up for who you are and make sure you have a voice that can be heard”.
That teaching changed her attitude
towards life and she learnt to embrace the change slowly and never looked back.
Today Sadhana is a proud mother of two
beautiful young children, GM of a prestigious real estate company, owner of a
small business, Real Change, winner of 2007 Price Water House Coopers Vic/Tas
Franchise woman of the year award (she was the first woman in Real Estate to win
this award) and 2007 REIV award for Service.
Her past credentials also include titles
such as, People & Performance manager at Hocking Stuart, Melbourne’s most
prestigious name in RE industry and General Manager Real Estate Institute of
Inspite of achieving those big
accolades, a humble Sadhana still believes that her real contribution to the
society is through a non profitable organisation she runs for Fijian women and
children, called LINKS FIJI (www.linksfiji.com).
She was inspired by a Fiji woman named Leba, who died of cervical cancer leaving
behind seven children, who had regular pap smear done every year but just after
the last one she could not afford $2/- for her bus route to get the results from
her doctor. By the time she got to know the reality, it was too late. Sadhana
took charge and promised Leba to look after her children and pledged in her mind
right there to start off this non profit organisation so other women like Leba
could be saved.
Tell us about yourself, your early education, your family and what brought you
to Australia and when?
When I was growing up, I had this tendency to break the traditional rules of a
conservative Indian society I was surrounded by. I wore non traditional clothes,
made friends outside our cultural norms, did everything possible to prove myself
an open and liberal personality.
I was sent to boarding school in
Melbourne when I was sixteen to be on my own so I could be disciplined. That did
not work as I found independence and started to live even more liberally. Those
were interesting times in my life as on one hand, I found this independence but
on the other hand, I was terribly out of my comfort zone, trying to adjust to a
The best thing happened to me at the
time was that I found a guardian who taught me fundamentals of life. It was a
new beginning for me and I never looked back from there onwards.
You have a very impressive track record as P&P manager with Hocking Stuart and
GM RE services, REIV and now GM LNS property. You have also been an entrepreneur
having your own business and have won 2007 PWC Franchise woman of the year. Tell
me, if I were to get into your mindset, how would I see the world differently?
Meaning what kind of perception and understanding would it take to achieve this
reality? How much is this to do with your early education, your upbringing and
then learning afterwards on a constant basis?
Good question, I am a very driven person and have always raised the benchmark
on what I want to achieve in life, I have never accepted the norm that women
can’t be paid equal or have equal management jobs, in my mind I have a clear
picture of what I want in terms of career, the types of biz I want to work in,
people I want to work with and the environment. I also have people around me who
push me and hold me accountable, I see the world as I can achieve anything as
long as I am committed to it, prepared to do the hard yards, accept that I will
make mistakes, learn from them, and push to the next stage. Many see me as a
role model which is humbling, I just see myself as me, I have a lot more to do
yet, only just started.
What would be a daily schedule in the life of Sadhana Smiles for seven days a
I wake up around 6am and go to the gym every alternate day. I then go back home,
get ready and get to work by around 8ish. My day is mostly packed with meetings
with first line managers. The most hectic days start from 5am and does not
finish till late night but that’s only when there is some urgent project
My PA mostly blocks my calendar with
meetings and she knows my priorities. I need socialising after hours so I try
not to do meetings after work. Most busy days have five meetings lined up back
to back. I personally do not believe in compartmentalising the week as
emergencies happen and you have to deal with those. Overall, I prefer
prioritising work as per urgency.
What is the key factor in managing people in big organisations where a
competitive environment, especially in sales, can be the biggest challenge for
managers? Please also give us your advice on successful and smart delegation.
Do not expect people to be exactly like you. Help them shine. If you want the
work done, you can not beat on their head all the time and treat them like
children. Work with their strengths, sit down with them one on one and work out
the solutions together like adults. If there are skill gaps then train them. No
matter how senior they are, they need to be trained and everyone has to be on a
KPI’s (key performance indicators).
The best way to deal with complicated
situations is to confront them, back it with data and numbers and have an open
communication. My colleagues say that I am firm but fair. I believe behaviour is
the biggest part of management. A manager has to mimic the behaviour what they
want to see in their people. Hold yourself to higher level of behaviour, which
is, honesty, transparency, having fun, etc,. You need to show them your softer
side. People have to believe in you and in your passion before they start
implementing your values in your business.
I believe in Gandhi’s philosophy of “you
must be the change you want to see in the world”.
I personally think that foundations of a company should be strong before it
looks at growth, which means the processes and people should be properly in
place before an entrepreneur starts to stretch it further. What would be your
advice for small business owners who would like to grow their business on a
steady platform? What fundamental strategies, tools or processes should be in
place before creating a momentum in sales?
Yes, it is important that the basics are well founded before growth. You need
the people, technology, systems, culture, speed to delivery, great customer
service, people who deliver memorable experiences, biz plan, KPIs to hold people
and biz accountable to, regular reviews, adjust and go again.
I recently came across an interesting concept in one of Dr Demartini’s lectures
that one of the seven powers in human life is vocational power. If you choose
your vocation as per you calling, you will never feel the urge to go on vacation
because your vocation becomes your vacation. I personally believe in this
concept very strongly. So if I were to ask you, if you were to define yourself
in terms of your calling, would you feel that strong affiliation with your work?
Yes, I certainly believe in calling and I have
found mine. I run a non profitable organisation in Fiji called LinksFiji (www.linksfiji.com).
I started this organisation around ten years back and now we are running it from
here in Australia. I got inspired by a woman named Leba who had her pap smear
every year but missed out on the results of her last one before the cancer
engulfed her life. And that was only due to the reason for not having the bus
fair for her to go to the doctors and collect her results. I was so moved by the
story that I decided to help her children she left behind and hence started
helping those women who wanted help and education to improve their lives.
We have a board, supporters who donate
funds or services and amazing volunteers all who enable us to visit Fiji on a
Our biggest challenge is fund raising.
We would like people to do their tiny bit, even with $2.50/- to pay for a woman
like Leba’s bus fair so she doesn’t miss out on her pap smear test results.
Now a question which is on my mind these days. I feel passionate about basics of
life; that is learning from your own conscious which is free of information
collected from media or external influences and hence creating your own unique
legacy in the world the way Einstein, Darwin or Gandhi did. At that point in
time there was no media, not many books; quite contrary to the way we are today,
inundated by external influences. Do you think an overflow of information is
probably diminishing our own talents and hence we are getting distracted in
expanding our own creativity?
Yes, absolutely, because the only way you can move
forward in life is by believing in yourself. The only challenge in life is that
how far you would like to go. Yes, you should read books but follow your own
thinking and instincts.
Learning should be a constant in life. How do you choose your mentors for a
I think we can learn from everyone and find mentors everywhere. When my mum
wakes up early in a winter morning at 5am to go for a walk, she becomes my
inspiration. When I see someone else doing what I would like to do but don’t do,
they become my inspiration. So mentors can be found everywhere.
Tell us about your interests and hobbies. How do you like to rest and recharge?
I like to eat, socialise, read, going out.
Would you like to share your vision with us? How do you see yourself ten years
I would like to grow LINKS FIJI, would like to have
financial security so I can create my vocation as vacation, have healthy and
loving relationships with my family and children. My vision is also to merge the
two cultural values into one. For eg, I am still Indian in my heart and love to
cook Indian food at home and I love to make the two cultures merge in harmony.