Sandi Mbutuma is Managing Director of Azzaro Quantity Surveyors, serves on multiple Boards and is the 2017/2018 outgoing National Chair of the Women’s Property Network. She is an influencer in the property industry, with a career already filled with accolades such as winner of Young Executive under 35 years at the 2014 BQ Awards and winner of the Top Business Young Achiever under 35 years old at the 2013 Top Women Awards, amongst many.
I had the privilege of asking her 5 Questions.
You have recently celebrated the three-year anniversary of your firm Azzaro Quantity Surveyors, congratulations! What has been the biggest challenge and your best moment or achievement as a South African entrepreneur?
Coming into entrepreneurship was a big leap of faith. Starting my own company was never in any of my plans, as I’ve always given myself many reasons why I wouldn’t consider entrepreneurship.
The major obstacle was probably being a single mom and playing a dual role. Whilst the security of income was important and living in an age where job losses and unemployment is on its highest peak. Overcoming these fears and insecurities was a battle I am happy to say that I have won.
Taking from the lessons you have learnt through the twists and turns of your journey, please share your top golden nuggets of advice for entrepreneurs?
One of the things I’ve learnt in this business is that you need to love what you do. How you can sell something to someone or an investor that you are not passionate about or rather, don’t believe in?
Any form of entrepreneurship takes up a lot of time and hard work, which sometimes leads to fruitless labour before you get any results. Passion gets you through the rough parts of entrepreneurship.
Secondly, influence and environment are everything to an entrepreneur’s mind. You are what you eat and your business personality is developed by the people around you and the outside influences of your life. You need to surround yourself with positive energy to be able to apply the same energy in your business.
A Quantity Surveyor, from my perspective, has similarities with the comprehensive application a Chartered Accountant has in the general business sphere. It is a great foundation for applying great depth as you are involved in all aspects of a construction project, from knowing every detail of the development lease agreement to understanding design. For a young or aspirant QS, what would your advice be to achieving a holistic value-add to the profession, rather than just being the “bean counter”?
Sometimes you shouldn’t always have to wait to climb up the ladder, you should bring your own ladder.
There is so much that one can do besides being a QS, but it’s up to you to take the initiative. The industry is evolving and its always the best thing to be on the right side of evolution. There are quite a number of organisations within the industry aimed at the value-add side of each profession.
Multiple conventions are hosted each year, some which I have had the honor to chair or participate in. The reason for all of this activity is to create holistic professionals who are not blind to what is happening outside of the spreadsheets and drawing plans.
Women’s Property Network has been fortunate to have you as National Chair for two years. What has it meant for you to be part of WPN at this level and why do you think the WPN is still relevant in the South African property industry?
It was such an amazing experience to be part of such a dynamic organisation. Even though I have stepped down as Chair, the drive to bring about change and balance in the industry is something I will continue to do.
According to BWASA, 80% of mothers are now breadwinners, 22% of board directors are women, but only 7% are executive directors. As long as these numbers are still this grave, our fight is not over.
WPN’s role in the industry will continue to evolve with the industry’s tides and it is something that is already underway through partnerships with organisations that are striving for the same goals and more.
WPN serves both ends of the industry and this includes the young girls that are at the entry point of the industry to whom the WPN Educational Trust has awarded 29 bursaries in excess of R1.5-million just in 2018.
So, if you ask about relevance, the lives that have been changed through this initiative can surely attest.
As a super dynamic, successful woman, there is tremendous pressure to stay on top of your game on all fronts – from your business to your family. What keeps you sane and grounded?
To stay relevant and on top of the game, you have to constantly push yourself to learn, realign the business with your clients and also constantly reinvent yourself and your business to stay competitive. It’s something that is definitely not for the faint of hearted.
One has to build resilience on all platforms, whether it be family or business.
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.