Astrid Gillwald is General Manager at 360 Business Parks and has been with the firm since 2013. She is also co-founder and MD of “The Office Mob” which is a platform that connects short term office seekers with flexible space providers. T.O.M. will be launching in the next 8 weeks. Watch this space!
We asked her 5 Questions.
Firstly, congratulations and well deserved on your newly appointed position as Regional chairperson for Women’s Property Network’s Cape Town branch. As an incredibly dynamic go-getter who gets the job done, could you share a few of your key business values?
Thank you so much. I have to say that the wave of positive feedback after my nomination was indeed humbling and daunting at the same time. The Women’s Property Network has always been led by women I look up to and to suddenly find oneself in “that seat” is a bit frightening at times.
In terms of business values, I would like to share my 3 core values:
In the Commercial Property game, your name is the one thing you have absolute control over. Protect your good name with all you have.
Integrity in all your interactions, be they with contractors, tenants or shareholders. Be true to who you are and your values. Even if things don’t always go the way you want, you will at least know that you didn’t compromise your values
Teamwork, without which nothing will be done effectively. No man or women is an island: we need each other in order to succeed and achieve our visions and goals. I will never ask anyone to do something if I am not prepared to do it myself.
There is a lot of buzz around the changing of company structures, how people want to work and changes in the approach towards working space. As General Manager for 360 Business Parks, who offer various solutions for non-traditional office users, do you agree that this is a growing trend and what are your predictions?
People have been changing the way they work for over a decade now. The trend has continued to evolve and now we have various options from the more traditional serviced office through to co-working.
Having attended global co-working conferences, I can honestly say that South Africa is right up there with the rest of the world in terms of what we can offer in this segment of the property market.
Companies can no longer plan for 5 year leases, the world is changing and fast. Businesses need to be able to scale up and down depending on their business growth and the serviced office industry is in tune with these users.
Having said that, the services that we all need such as IT/Telecoms have yet to catch up to these needs and still insist on 24-month contracts. Prohibitive installation costs, long installation periods etc. are daily challenges. The fact that these are already in place, is sometimes the sole factor that makes the flexible office option so attractive.
There will always be a space for the traditional office user, however, even some of those companies are looking at using flexible space providers for projects, entering a new market or global expansion without the long term commitment and risk.
In the South African context, more of the larger commercial property funds are seeing the opportunities in this sector and teaming up with various service providers to offer flexible solutions within their portfolios.
The serviced and flexible office sector is no longer the sole domain of “hipsters” or “tech nerds”.
There are substantial companies that understand the benefits, both financially and also in terms of their employees’ overall well-being. Flexible spaces often provide extras such as networking, gyms, yoga, healthy snack bars. A more holistic lifestyle, which conventional space seldom has.
Included in your extensive repertoire, you are a Jacqueline of all trades and are willing to learn whatever you don’t know. Property management is often a much misunderstood and undervalued skill, but yet so crucial in optimising the value of a fixed asset. What do you believe are the 3 most important skills of an excellent property manager?
In my view, I believe that the following are essential skills:
The ability to listen and truly understand what everyone is wanting out of the deal. Sometimes people just want to be heard and acknowledged, whether they are a staff member or tenant.
Attention to detail. This is vital whether its interpreting a lease or checking on a contractor’s work. It is also crucial in ensuring that you recover all costs on a monthly basis – all those little things add up very quickly.
Always being open to learning. As with so many industries, the Commercial Property Management industry is constantly evolving and if you don’t make the effort to stay engaged you will get left behind.
You have built up an impressive network over the span of your career in property. Please share with us some of your key secrets of not only being a great networker but also retaining those key relationships.
I am one of those strange people who loves meeting new people and has no fear of public speaking! This combination has meant that I am always putting myself out there. I believe that you have to take the leap and just do it.
Best networking tip would be: don’t go out with an attitude of who can do something for you, rather find someone you can help, ask what they need and if you can assist, do it . This approach will bring help back to you and more importantly, you have started the journey of a real relationship.
The retention of your relationships is a result of a combination of factors such as trust, integrity and also taking the time to find out something personal about the person you are connecting with. It’s the glue that will keep you connected regardless of where your career paths take you.
As a mother of two beautiful young girls and an advocate for women, both in life in general and in the industry, what would your advice be for young women who are considering a career in property?
Late last year, I had the privilege of addressing around 200 learners on behalf of WPN. The first thing I said to them was: make sure that you are doing pure maths. Even in this age of Artificial Intelligence and computing, having a good grasp on the basic concepts of maths is essential.
For young women, my advice would be: get involved. Just about every property related organisation has a student body and/or bursary scheme. You must make the effort to engage with these organisations.
Too often we find exceptionally bright young women studying in the sector but they do not engage with the industry. We are here to help, mentor and guide you! You are our future leaders and we look forward to walking the road with you in the coming years.
Copyright © 2018 by Natalie du Preez.
This interview was conceptualised, conducted and authored by Natalie du Preez and is original content, which is property of the author, all rights reserved. This article or any portion thereof may not be copied, shared or reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the owner.