For Amir Suljic, sport and business have a lot in common: Setting goals and working hard to achieve them. Experiencing and committing oneself to team spirit. Developing oneself into a positive leadership figure. Striving for success and mastering setbacks.
A sense of duty may sound like a bothersome virtue to others, but for the feisty man from Kitzbühel, it’s a guarantee for success. The professional real estate consultant takes his work seriously and knows that he can only meet the high expectations of his clients if he also has high expectations of himself.
Amir found a little time for us to interview him. We asked him what lies behind the success of his company Cum Laude Immobilia, how successful customer relationships are developed, how digitisation is changing his business, and what makes the Kitzbühel region so charming.
Amir, how would you describe yourself in relation to your daily work?
It’s never easy to describing yourself. I would say that professionally, I try to be responsible, purposeful, friendly, competent and outgoing.
Do you see yourself more as a businessman, a broker, an agent, a mediator, a salesman… or perhaps even a life-enhancer?
I see myself as a life-enhancer and a real estate consultant. The focus lies on professional advice and interpersonal relationships. We do not simply find properties for our customers; we also take care of them after the property has been acquired.
Everyone has challenges. How did you master yours, especially here in the Alps?
2008 and 2009 were the years of the big financial crisis, but I really wanted to start a business of my own. Founding Cum Laude Immobilia in 2010 was a big step to take. The media was full of bad news. I was nervous, but also confident that I would be successful if I worked professionally and had local contacts. With the aid of a strong infrastructure and the help of my employees, I managed this very well. Business really took off in 2012. There was a precisely defined budget and clear objectives. We also invested in marketing, of course, and that paid off.
How did you feel at the beginning after starting your own business?
That’s something that should be decided by your gut feeling. As soon as this decision is made, there is only one direction, namely forwards. My family was very supportive.
We did a little research and found out that you used to play a lot of football. To what extent has sport helped you to be more successful as an entrepreneur?
If you want to achieve goals in your job, you need to work as part of a team, just like in sports. I find team sports especially important for both business and family life. The fact that I played football has helped me enormously when growing into a positive leadership role. I was an offensive midfielder. I passed the ball forward to the FC Kitzbühel strikers and I was a good shot myself.
What helped you to get where you are today?
I had a lot of responsibility in my family from an early age. After school, I picked up my six years younger sister from kindergarten and we were alone at home until 3:00 or 4:00 pm – so I learned about caring and a sense of duty when I was still young. You never forget the things that you learn when you’re young. That’s also the reason why I tell new team members the most important things that they need to know as soon as they start work.
Did anyone ever tell you that you wouldn’t be able to achieve what you did?
There are many envious people in Kitzbühel. A lot of the competitors said: »They’ll never make it!« – but that was an additional incentive for us to be better. It also means working at weekends, or after 6:00 or 7:00 pm – but we are highly motivated by this incentive and personify this approach every day.
How have digitisation and the internet changed your business?
In 2005, we were still sending orders and quotes by fax and publishing advertisements in newspapers. Between 2007 and 2010, digitisation changed everything. At first, we used the internet mainly for e-mail and all the websites. You still needed to log in at hotels with a Wi-Fi password and so on. Today you are always online, regardless of whether you are in a restaurant, at a hotel or on a ski lift. We use high-performance software to perform regular property updates and add images. Working in the cloud gives us speedy access to everything we need, wherever we may be – lists, descriptions, etcetera.
We are very easy to reach, can handle processes more efficiently, and can react faster to new developments. But to ensure that accessibility does not become a disadvantage, you need to learn to control it. The internet also offers many opportunities to make new contacts and gain customers. My two friends Denis Lademann and Tobias Reinhardt and their Suchdialog agency have also played a very important part in this development, not to say guaranteed its success.
How important is the internet to you?
It’s important, but not the most important. People are the most important. You offer advice as a human being and bring in your personality. Mistakes sometimes occur and you have to learn from them. The internet provides an excellent extension to our possibilities, but there is no substitute for on-site customer contact at viewings or meetings.
How would you rate the importance of your website and perhaps also of social media as a point of contact for your customers?
The website is the most important. Discerning customers must feel at home immediately. It’s our number one lead generator, and enables us to target a very specific group of customers. However, the children and relatives of these customers are interested in our social media accounts. We don’t just sell real estate through social media, we also bring the region and its people closer to our readers, or discuss lifestyle topics. We use social media to present our services to a wider audience.
Which special requirements, wishes and expectations do your customers have in regard to you personally or your properties?
With prices in the double-digit million range, it is critical that any expectations created online are also fulfilled. The key factors here include accuracy, reliability, integrity, insider tips provided on site, after-sales service, procuring the services of competent architects, carpenters or interior designers, arranging a chauffeur service or a helicopter service… New customers know little about Kitzbühel, so we don’t only act as real estate consultants, we also provide advice about the local area.
Do you have the feeling that digitisation has altered these requirements, wishes and expectations?
The customers inform themselves extensively in advance; they have read glowing descriptions and seen beautiful pictures. It is important that these also correspond to reality. Over the last two or three years, prices have increased between 10 and 15 percent per year. The high prices are still paid, but fewer compromises are made with regard to location and quality.
What would you do if the internet didn’t exist?
Difficult question. I can hardly imagine that any more. My children are growing up with tablets and computers and can sometimes use them better than we can. That’s why it’s so important to stay on the ball and invest in digital technology.
You mentioned earlier that you see yourself as a life-enhancer. In what way?
We find homes for our customers that allow them to withdraw from everyday stress. They frequently tell me how well they are able to switch off in Kitzbühel to create time for their families or friends, or for themselves. That type of praise is particularly important to us, and spurs us on.
What turns a property into a home?
A feeling of personal well-being. It doesn’t matter whether this feeling occurs in a mountain chalet in an exposed location or in a little 45 m² city apartment. Every customer is different. It is only important to know and fulfil their needs.
Does the feel-good factor play an important role in your work?
Definitely. We have also created offices with environments that ensure we feel that way on a daily basis. With lots of wood and modern elements. When we feel good, we also work well.
What materials and elements are typical for interiors in the region?
Wood is very present everywhere. Reclaimed timber is often used in high-value properties. In combination with modern, Italian-made furniture, this creates a very special atmosphere. Rauris Valley natural stone is also used. These natural design elements go hand in hand with state-of-the-art technology such as bus systems, elevators or geothermal energy.
What role do smart home solutions play today, and how important will they be in the future?
They are becoming increasingly important, since customers are prepared to make ever fewer compromises. With a bus system, the whole house is connected to a server and everything can be controlled from anywhere in the world with a mobile phone or tablet, or by special control units in the house.
What do you remember most when you think of your childhood??
I was 12 or 13 and my team was in the final of a football tournament. The night before the match, I wanted to do a bit of training. I lost track of the time, got home too late and my mother gave me a proper ticking-off. The next day, I wasn’t allowed to play in the grand final. That was a great lesson to me, especially since a report in the newspaper also read: »Amir Suljic got a red card from his mother«. It may make me smile today, but at the time it wasn’t funny at all. It taught me to keep to deadlines and to manage my time well. Making binding agreements, meeting deadlines and providing feedback are indispensable in customer relations. I think I still have that newspaper cutting somewhere.
Kitzbühel has received several awards as the best ski region in recent years.
How important is skiing to you personally?
We grew up right next to the ski slope. Skiing is encouraged by the kindergartens and schools here. Now I live in Jochberg, also right next to the ski slope. My little daughter is in the ski club, and my wife is Norwegian, so she is also a big fan of skiing. For me, skiing is a wonderful way to create a work-life balance, and to experience nature and speed. With the new carving skis, you can cut some incredible curves and get a feeling of speed. I also enjoy leaning into turns or testing my limits.
Is pushing the limits a little another maxim that you apply to your life?
Yes, but in a controlled way, because I have a lot of responsibility. The winter season is very, very important for our company. But when the slopes are quiet at about half past eight in the morning, I enjoy pushing my limits for two or three hours. I always look ahead, of course.
What makes Kitzbühel special for you?
Kitzbühel has invested 300 million euros in its ski system over the last 10 to 12 years. The lifts are state-of-the-art, and the snow machines can blow snow onto the slopes at 0 degrees, or even at +1°C. Two things that bind me to the area are the staggering natural spectacle presented by the range of massive mountains and the history of the town. The local people also make a contribution to the feel-good factor.
What do the mountains make you feel?
Contentment, or sometimes the desire to climb one of the summits.
How do Kitzbühel and the local inhabitants change in the low season, when the tourists have gone and all the stress dies down?
Outside the high season it is quieter during the week, but it gets a bit busier at weekends. Kitzbühel is also very charming when there’s less happening. You can just stroll through the streets and explore the region, and you don’t need to reserve a table for every dinner. In the high season the parking lots are sometimes crowded.
And the people are always friendly. There are other areas or luxury resorts where you will only experience high prices, unfriendly waiters and locals who are dissatisfied with the situation. It is important to us that the local people are also happy. We have a town policy that unites tourism with the region. After all, it is the locals who look after the guests and the tourists in local accommodation. It’s a give and take situation.
Would you tend to recommend the low season or the high season?
I must confess, I love all the hustle and bustle in the high season. If you live here, you can travel around the region at other times of the year. Winter is also high season for our business. Customers come into the office spontaneously and we take them to view properties. This also frequently results in spontaneous purchases.
You mentioned that it was your dream to have a vineyard on the shores of Lake Garda. Why is wine important to you?
The older the wine, the better. The same could be said of companies and their success, or the appreciation in value of real estate. We love the region around Lake Garda. We visit the wineries there several times a year and take wine with us to enjoy at home. One of my dreams would be to have a beautiful rustico at Lake Garda with a few vineyards. Grow my own grapes, make my own wine and enjoy drinking it. After an exhausting week, wine is my personal luxury.
You told us that you are thinking about writing a book. Why did you come up with that idea?
I’ve been in this business for almost 15 years, and you have positive, negative and amusing experiences. For example, there was the time when we sold a house for seven million euros. The contract was signed, the money was paid and the house was furnished. The customer came to take possession of the house in the evening, but when we went into the house, all the furniture was gone – and the vendor as well. We had to improvise. We booked a hotel room for the customer for the next few days at our own expense and gradually refurnished the house.
What would you do tomorrow if you could not be a life-enhancer or a mediator between customer and seller?
I would probably be a winegrower. I would see it as a hobby. I also consider my profession as a real estate consultant to be a hobby. If it is a successful business without any compulsion or stress, that’s wonderful. The same would apply to the wine. It is always important to me that I am surrounded by people who I am able to motivate for my ideas and products.
What do you do to escape the fast pace of everyday life?
I’ve got an amazing golden retriever. He’s nearly two years old and is my best and most loyal friend. After work, we often go for walks. It helps me to wind down and enjoy nature. I still always play football once a week, which is also very good for me: kicking a ball about, having a beer, chatting and philosophising – not about work, either.
Or chilling out with my family. Helping the children with their homework, or enjoying a leisurely meal with my wife and a glass of good wine. It recharges my batteries. I am very grateful to my family for their support and understanding. Appointments often take place at weekends and then you simply have to be flexible.
About Amir Suljic.
Amir Suljic’s time as a footballer with FC Kitzbühel paved the way to his success as an entrepreneur. As an offensive midfielder, he scored 50 goals in 160 games.
From the very beginning, Amir exercised his profession as an estate agent with the necessary integrity, striving to attain the highest possible level of legal and professional knowledge in order to meet lawyers and architects as peers. With this in mind, he trained as a state-certified estate agent and property developer. After a period working as an employee, Suljic realised that he would only be able to implement his ideas in his own company. He grew up in Kitzbühel, so he knew the region very well and took advantage of this knowledge. His company Cum Laude Immobilia is now one of the best addresses in Kitzbühel for discerning clients from all over the world. Not least because the self-proclaimed »life-enhancer« is willing to work harder than others.
– Born in 1982 in Kufstein, Austria
– First job was in a small sports store
– Successful footballer with FC Kitzbühel until 2010
– Trained in Salzburg as a state-certified real estate agent and property developer
– Since 2010: Managing Director / CEO of Cum Laude Immobilia GmbH