MAIN IMAGE: Myles Wakefield, CEO of Wakefields Estate Agents
This year, Wakefields Estate Agents celebrates its 85th anniversary, and it has been a remarkable journey for the family’s four generations, whose history is inseparable from the residential property industry in KwaZulu-Natal, where its activities are concentrated.
Myles, great-grandson of founder John and son of previous CEO Keith (now chairperson), took the leadership reins some ten years ago after returning to South Africa after following a professional tennis career overseas. He immersed himself in the family business across all disciplines, be that accounting (he has a B.Com Accounting degree), marketing, developments, and sales, mirroring his mentor father’s commitment.
Myles adjusted quickly and adeptly to the role, having grown up tuning into the innumerable dinner-time conversations that he absorbed with interest even as a five-year-old. From a young age, he eagerly counted Wakefields’ adverts compared with competitor agencies in the newspapers and accompanied his father on numerous show day visits. “It was fun and still is because of many different aspects of property that I was exposed to then and the new market trends now.”
Do you believe it is important for property practitioners to have qualifications/degrees beyond those specifically property-related?
In general, yes, this is not a criterion for working within the Wakefields group. What add-on qualifications reveal is that such individuals have the ability to commit to discipline and more is that they are willing to embrace further knowledge acquisition. It’s a great indicator of a person’s calibre and commitment to their passions. At Wakefield’s, we believe in learning, even if that knowledge is in a different field.
Real estate is a people’s business, which presents opportunities to work in many different aspects of property, be that elements of legal, financial, sales and marketing, interior design, construction, and even psychology. There are so many variables encompassed in this one career.
Having the tools to navigate buyers and sellers through, particularly their emotional connections to property, can be a major advantage.
What does the ideal Wakefields property practitioner ‘look’ like?
I don’t think there is a generic model. That said, I would like to emphasise five key characteristics:
• Discipline. This may sound boring, but we believe that disciplined estate agents follow through on all their tasks and responsibilities, even going beyond those. They phone clients back and do things that move the needle in the business:
- Team players. We enjoy agents who put the needs of their clients ahead of their own and who work well within groups. Making buyers and sellers happy has rewards, not all of them obvious, and often involve a number of players.
- Determination and persistence. This is important, specifically because the market can be volatile. Agents need to be able to endure through good and bad market conditions and not escape when things get tough.
- Knowledge hungry. People who are constantly learning and acquiring knowledge will always have an advantage, and more so if they are willing to learn from their mistakes.
- Emotional intelligence. Agents with a good and fair understanding of their own and other people’s emotions can connect quickly to other human beings. Human connections are crucial to this business.
What is Wakefields driving message?
We want to sell property the right way. For Wakefields this means operating ethically and putting the needs of clients first. We deliver the best results by ensuring constant training and using systems that we have tested to ensure workability.
We have always treated our clients as though they are our own family by virtue of our own family history in the residential property industry. But drill down deeper, and you’ll find that we are devoted to the KZN province because we have lived here our whole lives. We understand the nuances of the region, and that sustains our reputation.
What will be your lasting legacy in the industry?
I’m 49 years old now, and honestly, I’m not worrying about my own legacy or what people think. I just keep doing my best, trying to lead by example. When the time comes for me to retire, I do hope, though, that those who follow will lead by the same principles and guidance that were passed onto me by the examples of my great-grandfather, grandfather and father.
What is your impression of PropTech?
PropTech is moving at quite a pace. Our challenge is to stay up to speed with clients’ needs, how we can reach and service them better, and how tech can play a role in doing this more efficiently. There are lots of things happening around AI, too, but we have to remember that ours is a human-centric business first and foremost. That connection must not be lost in the world of technology.