BEE: Finding Success in the Property Industry
BEE is quite a charged issue and one that the real estate industry is still busy tackling. There have been many talks on how to better create a real estate industry that reflects South Africa as a whole. Perhaps surprisingly, there are real success stories that indicate that we may not be as far off as we thought…
There are programmes that have been proposed by the government in conjunction with the real estate industry to see BEE compliance become a reality; one of these is the ‘One Learner – One Estate Agency’ internship programme recently launched by the Department of Human Settlements and the EAAB (Estate Agency Affairs Board). What it aims to create is an internship position at each of the estimated 10 000 estate agencies operating in South Africa. The idea is to open up the sector to young people (the average age of an estate agent currently being 58), women and previously disadvantaged people. To ensure that young people are entering the industry, all the applicants must be below 35 years of age.
According to EAAB chairperson, Professor Kwandiwe Kondlo, the programme will run over three years, ending in March 2017, enabling school-leaving learners and tertiary students to become one of 10 000 new real estate agents. The project will consist of a mandatory year-long internship during which the EAAB has committed to monitor and facilitate each internship position, thereby ensuring that each new entrant receives valuable theoretical as well as practical learning. While this is still in the early stages it is a step in the right direction and, if properly implemented, will ensure that not only is the real estate sector BEE compliant but that there is an influx of fresh young minds ready to engage and contribute to the property industry.
This programme has not yet been launched as funding is a critical concern that has yet to be addressed, but many hope to see it launched so that despite the logistical and financial concerns the property sector will become a BEE success story.
And there are already property companies who are striving to show that success is at hand. Chas Everitt has already made changes to HR and procurement procedures to improve its current B-BBEE compliance levels. From a HR management perspective it is looking at increasing its training budget to 10% of net profit after tax and this will be focused on learnerships, mentorships and internship programmes for black employees and unemployed black people.
Berry Everitt says, “We understand that we are still quite a way off where we need to be, but we are improving every day and we do already have some positive success stories on which to build.” Leapfrog Property Group shares this goal. Launched in 2007 its structure and shareholding scheme from day one has been to ensure the company is majority black owned, and to date it is the only national group to have achieved this.
Says Bruce Swain, MD of Leapfrog, “We have also been vigilant in trying to deal with BEE compliant suppliers, which resulted in a procurement recognition level of 110% for our latest rating assessment. A strong focus on trying to assist independent agents who operate in the townships, mainly through the provision of training, but also business support, allowed the company to achieve a 100% score for socio-economic development. Finally, the composition of the board of directors, management and staffing, in addition to the above elements resulted in Leapfrog Property Group being rated as a level three contributor (AA status) for the company’s latest B-BBEE verification.”
Leapfrog is also committed to the EAAB’s One Agency – One Learner initiative and looks forward to assisting new entrants in becoming qualified, successful professionals in our exciting industry.”
JHI is another company that made sure BEE was an important part of what it was as a company several years ago. As soon as BEE compliance was introduced in South Africa, JHI began measuring and transforming its company.
Nomzamo Radebe, MD of JHI Properties elaborates, “From inception and adoption of the process, employee transformation reporting became a priority and part of the company’s monthly executive committee meetings, with those members conveying the message and policy through to all levels of staff. In this way the process was adopted and driven not only by senior executives and management, but throughout the organisation. The human resources department reported on the status and as a company we benchmarked against the property charter as well as the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) targets.”
An Employment Equity forum was established at JHI, which meets regularly, including HR and company managing directors and executives. This is a valuable platform on which to raise any issues and recommendations, enabling HR to action where possible and provide feedback to the forum as well as to the various Exco teams. Regular staff feedback sessions (‘Let’s Talk’) are held where the MD of the company provides feedback to staff on all aspects of performance, including BEE progress.
“In addition, reporting on corporate social investment (CSI) initiatives forms part of the feedback provided by HR. In regard to procurement, this has been allocated to the finance department, with procedures put in place for vendor acceptance, and again with monthly status reports submitted to the executive committee. Enterprise development is another initiative implemented by JHI. Up and coming entrepreneurs are approached and we assist them in various ways to establish and run a business,” says Radebe.
“When JHI Properties commenced on the BEE process, it was a level four contributor, and it took us two or three years to progress to level three. We believe that JHI is a responsible company and we believe in the transformation process. Development of people is a key strategy and plays an important role in the success of our organisation. We have intern and learner programmes in place and are proud of the success rate we achieve – over the past few years approximately 80% of our interns/learners have been placed in employment within the company. For JHI, this is a highlight among our achievements and deeply rewarding, particularly as we have seen interns who were placed in permanent positions rise to management positions within six to eight months. We have also introduced a fast track development plan where we have individuals who were on junior levels progressing to senior positions after one to two years.”
And that’s not all, team-building initiatives are encouraged within the company, and the company contributes towards a worthy cause or charity, with the main contribution coming from the staff themselves through participation in their own time. Radebe says, “We realise that much of the success of our BEE programme has been due to constantly measuring and reporting on our progress and maintaining focus, while meeting company performance targets in regard to stakeholders. This is very much a journey and our aim is strive for level two status within the next few years.
“This process has certainly made a difference both internally as well as externally. Within JHI it enables staff to state with pride that they are committed to transformation and strive to do what is right. From an external point of view it benefits the organisation, especially when we go out on tender with government institutions or parastatals, as well as with other like-minded organisations, whose goals are to comply and achieve better ratings.
“I believe that we need transformation in the property industry so that we can increase the skills pool and expertise in property. Currently, there is a relatively small participation in this market. If one considers the demographics of the country and the demographics of individuals currently employed within the property industry, the statistics are not commensurate with each other. We need to have people from all sectors of society in South Africa being able to contribute their expertise in this sector,” concludes Radebe.
Herschel Jawitz of Jawitz Properties echoes this sentiment:
“Jawitz Properties has achieved a level three BEE compliance rating largely as a result of three factors: recruiting people who fall into the previously disadvantaged communities categories; skills development of these people through ongoing training – internally and sending them on external courses; and through trying to ensure as best we can that our procurement partners are BEE compliant. The real challenge going forward will be the increased training and recruiting of black estate agents and the promotion of our current black members of staff into more senior and management positions. At the current time there is no real government or other related business that we participate in that requires us to have the BEE certification but it is rather in the spirit of being part of the solution and we also have a property charter that puts certain milestones in place with regard to being BEE compliant.”
BEE Success Stories
Sipho Zamisa is an estate agent from RE/MAX Coast and Country, in Hibberdene and surrounding areas. A husband and father of five, Sipho shows that BEE is affecting real change on the ground in South Africa. Growing up in rural Umzumbe, about 20km inland from Hibberdene, Sipho could not get work after graduating with a matric.
It was in 2003 that he saw a new Pam Golding office in the area and went in to pay them a visit. After chatting to the principal agent, a fire was ignited and Sipho knew he wanted to be an estate agent. He began studying straight away and before long had received his licence and was a practising agent.
Sipho says, “When I began my career as an agent, I did not have a driver’s licence or a car and therefore the only way I was able to do my job was to walk. I would walk enthusiastically from house to house and client to client. I loved walking, it was a time that I really enjoyed and it certainly got people talking. I would say that walking the streets caused people to know me and remember who I was and what I did. In fact, many of the clients that I had during that time are still with me today. As much as I enjoyed walking, there were moments when I felt self-conscious telling clients that I didn’t have a car and so, instead, I would tell them that my car was broken and needed to be repaired. I eventually progressed to a bicycle and, after completing my driver’s licence, I bought myself my very first car.”
After seven years with Pam Golding, Sipho moved to RE/MAX and has pushed himself hard to think and work beyond the proverbial box, which he credits for his success. “My journey has inspired my family tremendously – not just my immediate family but my extended family as well. They are very proud of my achievements and can see how far I have come.”
Clifford Nxasana is also a RE/MAX estate agent but works in Cowies Hill, Pinetown and surrounding areas. He was born in the rural area of Ixopo and was raised there by his single mother, before moving to Pietermaritzburg at the age of six to begin schooling.
After matriculating in 2002, Clifford began his career in retail stores, moving on to security for ADT, but the job was dangerous and involved patrolling late into the night, never knowing what would happen or what he would find. One of the buildings under his watch was the RE/MAX building in Cowies Hill, where he grew to know Gail Compton, the principal, after responding to alarm activations.
“After meeting Gail and chatting to her, I had a better idea of what RE/MAX was all about. One day I decided to visit the RE/MAX Tricolor offices to find out more about becoming an agent. I was asked whether I had enough money to support myself for between four to five months. At that moment I didn’t, but I went away and saved up enough money to be able to live for four to five months while I waited for my commission to come through. I came back and joined RE/MAX Tricolor in March 2009.
“When I began my career as an estate agent it was not easy. I didn’t have the equipment that I needed, but I came into a supportive office where I was given a PC to use until I bought my own laptop. I also didn’t have a car, I only had a bakkie. On the days that I needed to view properties, I had to swop my bakkie with a friend’s private vehicle so that I could take out my clients. Life was not easy, but because I had a strong, supportive family standing by my side, I made it through my worst year in 2010 – when my garden cottage that I rented was broken into twice, and all my clothing and possessions were stolen. In addition, the real estate market was at its worst. Since joining RE/MAX my life has completely changed for the better. Through the training that I have received, especially the Brian Buffini programme, the way I see life has changed and I have the mind-set of ‘think like a famer and work like a hunter’. Also the fact that I am now a professional allows me to become a better person each and every day and to grow my earnings and provide a life for my child that is better than the life that I had.
“I now own my own house, I have a private car as well as my bakkie, and my lifestyle has improved to such a level that the people who I used to work with at ADT now see me as their role model and would love to be like me. It is things such as this that make me want to work harder still and to become the best person that I can be, and to help other people to succeed as I have. With Gail giving me the opportunity to become part of the RE/MAX Tricolor team, and the training that Gail and RE/MAX have given me, along with the support of my colleagues, I have become a better person in life as a whole.”
In the past, the property sector may not have been known as an industry into which previously disadvantaged people could venture and have thriving careers, but there are many property companies that are looking to change this and build an industry that is a reflection of the society in today’s South Africa… and they have the success stories to show that, with a little bit of initiative and support, BEE does work!
Word: Angelique Redmond