By the time Andrew Golding took over the reins as CEO of the family business, Pam Golding Properties in the mid 90’s, the company, which was founded by his mother Pam Golding in the 70’s, already had significant market share of the South African real estate sector. His task was to take it to even greater heights.
This was no easy feat, he says in an interview in business publication, Moneyweb’s bespoke leadership video series.
“Notwithstanding the fact that I’d grown up in the business but never been part of the business when I arrived at Pam Golding Properties it was a huge learning curve for me. There was no question that I was trained as a medical doctor and not trained in the world of business and had an enormous amount to learn,” he says about his arrival.
Big Shoes To Fill
His biggest challenge in leading the family business, he says, was finding the right balance between preserving the legacy his parents had built, and leading the business with his own vision and goals.
What he learnt was that values such as empathy, authenticity and trust were paramount to the success of the business. These are values that continue to form the core of the business to this day.
“In terms of the success of our business, there’s no question that our core values have been central to that success. And one of those core values is around trust. So there’s a fundamental emphasis on trust within the business, in particular, we constantly emphasise the fact that this is our family name and therefore when an individual goes out and carries the Pam Golding badge, they are in fact representing Pam or representing the family. And so the trust is absolutely essential. Our reputation is effectively all we have and it’s taken 40 years to build, but it can be destroyed in a second,” he says.
Under his tenure, the company has gone from dominating the local sector to becoming a global player. They have won the Best Estate Agency in South Africa 10 times since 2005 and Best Estate Agency in Africa six times since 2011 at the International Property Awards.
This year, Pam Golding Properties is one of the international nominees for Africa against top winners from around the globe in the 2017 IPA “World’s Best” which will be announced in London in December.
Here are the lessons that Andrew Golding learnt as a second generation CEO.
1. Success Takes A Long-Term View
Success is a long-game, Golding says, and to succeed you have to see where you are going well in advance.
“[Success] is not a one-day game and therefore one’s got to put processes and thoughts in place to ensure that whatever the definition of success is – whether it’s financial success or legacy success – that it’s sustainable, [it is] as permanent as possible and that it can, in fact, last.”
2. The Family In Family Business Is Critical
More so for family businesses, the idea of work-life balance is important when it comes to ensuring a successful business, Golding says.
“I think it’s all about balance and it’s about trying to create a work-life balance, personal balance around work and non-work and obviously the importance of family. In a family organisation that is absolutely critical. It’s one of the cornerstones of our business and for us a significant differentiator.”
3. Don’t Stir The Cultural Boat Too Much
Golding says he was quite lucky in that he shared the same values as his mother. This, he says, helped ease the transition and made the shoes he had to fill that much easier to fill.
“From a cultural perspective, my mother and I have always had an extremely close relationship and our sense of values and our sense of values of Pam Golding have never really needed any debate. That was a huge advantage in that I was just simply able to plug into those values and that culture and I think it also gave the organisation a great deal of comfort because there was significant concern that this young doctor was coming in to take over from effectively the founder and that unquestionably represented a cultural challenge. But the fact was that our cultural synergy was almost absolute and so there was never a challenge around that.”
“There were significant differences in terms of vision, in terms of business philosophy. I’m trained as a scientist, she works on gut-feel, so there were lots of those challenges. But from a cultural perspective, it was very much in line.”
4. Hiring For Culture Is Even More Important In A Family Business
Golding says Pam Golding Properties’ cultural identity is centred around Pam Golding. It was about a “Pam person” who had qualities of honesty, integrity, sincerity and professionalism, he says, qualities they look for in every recruit to this day.
“So when recruitment was top of mind, individuals who were like-minded in terms of those cultural components were almost a requirement and then the technical skills that that individual might have was then something that was considered.”
“That is something that has endured today. The organisation today consists of 3,000 people and we still try and get that right regardless of where that might be, whether it’s in a small town in South Africa or whether it’s in London. Because we believe that that’s, in fact, a key competitive differentiator. And very often we will come up against someone or introduced to somebody who technically is really perfect but who culturally doesn’t fit and we discipline ourselves not to recruit that individual.”
5. Listen To Your Customers No Matter What
Very little of his medical skill set was useful in transferring from medicine to business, Golding says, but one of the skills that as a GP is absolutely essential is listening. This skill is not only a fundamental part of success in the real estate business, he says, it’s a fundamental part of business in general.
“We train our agents to listen all the time because it’s really about what the clients are saying to you that give you the essence and the clues of what’s really going on in terms of every transaction. So it’s a fundamental part of our business. The listening culture translates itself into a notion of authenticity, sincerity and particularly empathy because we are in a business where we are dealing with often distressed sellers, distressed environments and it’s critical that we connect with our clients because fundamental to the real estate environment is trust.”