MAIN IMAGE: Denese Zaslansky, CEO Firzt Realty
In the dynamic world of real estate, Firzt Realty has long been synonymous with reliability and excellence. For just over two decades, the company – with its well-known crown and Z logo – has carved a niche by consistently exceeding industry standards. With a keen focus on personalised service and a profound understanding of diverse real estate needs, Firzt Realty has become the go-to destination for clients seeking properties and homes that resonate with their aspirations.
At the heart of Firzt Realty’s success story is Denese Zaslansky, whose wealth of experience and strategic vision have not only shaped Firzt Realty’s identity but have also established her as an industry leader. Her knowledge, drive and integrity are the foundations on which the company was built, and her enthusiasm, work ethic and willingness to teach, lead, and guide have ensured its longevity and growth.
Denese began her journey more than 35 years ago, opening her own company, Impact Real Estate, within a year-and-a-half of starting in real estate in the ‘80s. She then joined Jawitz Properties and, after that, Realty Executives International in the early 2000s.
Firzt Realty opened its doors in Glenhazel in 2002 with three employees. Now 21 years on, it has more than 100 admin and property professionals (covering Johannesburg, Randburg, Fourways, Sandton, Midrand, Cape Town and Hermanus) and offers a full suite of property services ranging from sales and leasing to auctioning for both residential and commercial properties.
At Firzt, the “personal touch, professional approach” mantra is lived daily, ensuring that each client’s journey is not merely a transaction, but an experience marked by trust and satisfaction.
What motivated you to become involved in real estate?
As a mother with young children, I needed the flexibility to tend to all the fetching and carrying and still have the time to maximise my income.
Could you share some lessons you learned when you started your business?
Time management, balancing the accounts daily, keeping a to-do list to prioritise what is important and getting those things done. And, of course, communicating with clients and building relationships is essential.
Is there a person you can single out as a mentor or someone who became invaluable to your business?
In the early ‘70s, I worked for a wholesale company where I learnt the importance of keeping a diary and how to interact with clients from the MD Russel Gaddin, who became my mentor. In 1998, my husband, Solly, with a property management and financial background, joined me in the business. He took over balancing the trust account and all other financial responsibilities, which left time for me to concentrate on growing our business.
As real estate trends change, how do you remain agile and also remain people focused?
Property will always be in demand – whether owning a home or renting a house, commercial space or an industrial site. I’m fortunate to have worked in wildly varying market conditions over the years, and it’s given me the determination and grit to always pay it forward. I have the knowledge to share with our property professionals how we overcame obstacles in the past and how we can weather the current storm in this exceptionally challenging market.
You have a people/client-centric ethos with mantras like “We are big enough to make a difference and small enough to care!” How do you engender this ethos in the property professionals who work at Firzt?
We genuinely care about the people who work with and represent us, and they, in turn, know what our beliefs and aspirations are, and treat their clients with respect and follow a moral code. Our professionals are encouraged to treat each client as a valued family member and do only the best for them.
Our administration staff understand that management regards our property professionals as clients and treats them accordingly. We strive to create an environment where people feel cared for and inspired, and we help them maximise their ability to achieve whatever they have set their minds to do. We will also listen if they need to ‘vent’ or share an experience. We offer product knowledge and negotiation training every week and will ‘hold someone’s hand’ if they need extra assistance.
What characteristics do you value the most in a property professional?
People who are self-starters, assertive, honest, have a sense of urgency, and, of course, are likeable.
What has been the highlight of your career, professionally and personally?
Every day is a highlight for me – having a staff complement of over 100 people and knowing that we provide the tools for them to earn a living.
Personally, it’s having had my daughter, Elana, in the business when we started Firzt and our son, Ephraim, who’s been hands-on daily for the past 17 years. My grandchildren have taught me that it’s essential to take time out of my busy schedule to play games and enjoy walks and picnics.
What advice would you give female property professionals starting out?
Never feel inferior to a man, have confidence in yourself, and ensure that you have sufficient knowledge that you can stand up for what you believe in without being bullish.
Could you share any goals you have for your company and yourself?
My current goal is to ensure that every person at Firzt has the confidence and staying power to survive these challenging times and achieve their goals.