Category Director News
He might just say it’s a family business, but those who work with Mduduzi Hlongwane will say it’s so much more than that. Once responsible for deliveries, and now a director at Natal Property Consultants, it was perseverance, hard work, ethics and a hugely positive attitude that has got Mdu where he is today.
“You’ve got to believe in yourself!’ says Mdu, and that he does.
“It started in 1973, when Mdu’s father, Nicholas, started to work, as a messenger, for my parents Monty and Geraldine Campbell who had, five years prior to that, started Natal Property Consultants,” says Bruce Campbell, of the Pietermaritzburg-based family business that’s now almost 50 years old. “Nicholas worked for us for 25 years and so, yes, from very young Mdu was part of the family.”
“I remember him when he, like me, was a boy,” says Paul Campbell, Bruce’s son who is also now a director. “He would hang around the offices after school, much as I would, learning about clients and colleagues alike.”
With 11 siblings at the Hlongwane home, funds however were always stretched and for the last few years of school, (Mdu matriculated at Mehlokazulu High School in Imbali) the enterprising Mdu got a job in Bruce’s garden. “My father had asked Bruce to make me rich one day, and this was, I guess, the start,” smile Mdu.
In 1997 though things changed, as days before the 25 year long service party that Natal Properties had organised for him, Mdu’s father passed away. Mdu, who by then was doing Business Studies part time at university, changed course and presented himself to Bruce, saying that his father would be very proud if he took over the job of messenger.
“He didn’t have much to learn!,” laughs Bruce, “as he’d been with his father on so many errands that he knew exactly what to do. It was a testimony to his character though that while his father had used a bike for his duties, Mdu refused that. He was so fit he used to run instead.”
After four and a half years as a messenger, during which he studied IT part time, Mdu left Natal Properties temporarily to work in an IT company. “I needed the experience,” says Mdu, “but two years later, I knew I had to make a change. I thought about myself in 10 or 20 years time, and realised that I needed to start earning properly, so I took a chance and asked Bruce if I could work for him on commission.
People had said you only need to sell one or two properties and then you’ll be able to buy a car,” says Mdu, “so I started asking around, asking everyone I knew whether they wanted to buy a house!”
Mdu’s first sale took place 8 years ago. It was a house in Glenwood in Pietermaritzburg. “It was love at first sight!” says Mdu about the clients and the house. And for Mdu that remains an important aspect of the job. “I love seeing people love a home – and getting to understand what sort of person would match what sort of house is an interesting challenge that still keeps every day different.”
For Mdu, the car was a little less instant. “I had started working quite often in the townships of Edendale and Imbali which were new areas for an agency like Natal Properties. Still I had to get there, so they would give me money for a taxi, and I’d pick up the clients and they take them to see the house.”
“After that we helped Mdu buy a car by selling him the office’s second hand Ford Bantam, and once again it’s a testimony to his character that he still has it today along with his Audi!” comments Bruce.
In 2011, when Bruce’s parents retired, Mdu was offered shares in the business, and now as one of the directors he fulfils the vital roles not just of selling but of training too.
Natal Properties have a good number of agents who work solely in the townships as they find this is a burgeoning market, and Mdu spends considerable time training them.
“To be successful, agents need to be positive, work hard, love people and be unfailingly honest. I also believe that agents should write everything down – go through a home and list all faults, all the questions, all the quirks, everything that needs to be remembered and to be done, so that they know what they are talking about when they take clients to view properties. In the townships sales are a little different too, and it’s vital to get people pre-approved for bonds for example.”
“Where to from here?” Mdu is often asked. “Natal Properties is my home and I’m part of the family. I can’t think of working elsewhere,” he says, “but we could have more branches, branches all over the country and I'll soon be heading up some of these!” he smiles.
****Article written by Andre Fiore printed in the Business Day - Homefront
Author: Andre Fiore