HARD-WORKING BIRD STILL FLYING HIGH
BILLY SUTER gets to know amiable LOUISE BIRD (pictured), one of the longest serving members of the Dormehl Phalane Property Group (DPPG). Based in Durban, Louise handles advertising and design for the fast-growing property group.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH DPPG AND IN WHAT CAPACITY WERE YOU FIRST EMPLOYED - AND WHERE?
I joined the Dormehl Property Group after a year or so of the company having been formed, so it’s going on for nine years. Time goes so quickly, especially when you enjoy what you do.
I was first employed as Administrator at the Upper Highway franchise. At that stage the Upper Highway office was not in existence, but planning was already taking place and, as I had had 11-odd years of experience under my belt in the position of Administrator elsewhere, I established the office for company head, Owen Dormehl.
Initially, agents and I worked from the Westville franchise until Owen found us premises in the Delcairn Centre in Kloof.
Later, we moved to Gillitts, where the Upper Highway main office still stands.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN AT THE GILLITS BRANCH - AND HOW HAS THAT GROWN OR CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?
Well, that’s hard to say as I haven’t always been at Gillitts and I now fall under the KwaZulu-Natal Head Office in Sherwood, even though I have an office at the Gillitts franchise.
I was Administrator at Gillitts for two to three years, when Owen approached me to become his personal assistant. Then, after about six months, we moved to Westville, where I stayed for a good while.
I must add here that I had been active in designing advertising material since my days at Acutts, as I have a strong combined advertising background of nearly 50 years. My love for that followed me and I introduced this passion into my property world, which I have grown to love so much.
So, during my Dormehl PA time, I was asked to and started producing the advertising pages for the newspapers - and that then started to grow. Finally, and approximately four years ago, I branched out to designing for DPPG full time. I just love every minute of it!
WHAT WERE YOU DOING, WORK-WISE, PRIOR TO JOINING OWEN DORMEHL IN THE EARLY DAYS OF DPPG?
I first met Owen while working at Acutts Upper Highway, when Owen was then also at Acutts, with their Head Office. I remember him saying to me: "I want you to come and work for me", and I just smiled and took it as small talk!.
When one Acutts branch closed its doors and I was made redundant, I sent my CV to Owen, who had by then left Acutts a year earlier and opened up Dormehl Property Group.
He contacted me straight away and made a 7.30am appointment for me for the following day, to see him in Westville. The rest is history.
Prior to that I have an advertising background, with newspapers and advertising agencies.
HOW HAS YOUR ROLE IN THE COMPANY CHANGED OVER THE YEARS - AND WHAT IS YOUR WORK RESPONSIBLITY AT DPPG NOW? ALSO, WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES AND REWARDS OF THAT?
My role has changed somewhat but I enjoy a challenge, whatever it is. That’s the reward. It’s about being happy and content with what one does in an eight-hour day and how one is appreciated.
Challenges? They do come - I have deadlines and some really madly-busy days, but I survive!
Also, I am still open to franchises countrywide contacting me on a daily basis for advice, even though I don’t always deal with their problems. I am always here to either put them in touch with the right person or help them in any way I can.
WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF WORKING FOR DPPG?
If there are cons, they are out-weighed by all the pros. For one, we have great camaraderie amongst the franchises and the agents working here. It’s like one fantastic, enormous family. Also, management is most approachable - and that also counts a lot.
WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME HIGHLIGHTS IN YOUR TIME WITH THE COMPANY?
Well, my first year receiving the company’s Blue Door Award for administrative excellence was a lovely, unexpected surprise. I received the inaugural award in 2011.
WHAT ARE SOME NOTABLE CHANGES IN DPPG OVER THE YEARS THAT YOU HAVE FOUND MOST REMARKABLE?
Growth - incredible growth! And, of course, Daniel Phalane becoming a director was another really great moment. I also have to mention "new blood, new ideas" - I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring.
HOW DO YOU RATE OWEN AND PHALANE AS PEOPLE.... AND AS BOSSES?
I haven’t had the opportunity of meeting Daniel Phalane as yet, but I am looking forward to that day. I have heard from my colleagues, who have had the privilege of meeting him, that he is a fine and friendly person. Owen is a friendly, approachable person - a real ‘salt of the earth’ type.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE STRENGTHS OF DPPG?
Determination to grow and succeed. As we say, it’s all about passion.
WHERE AND WHEN WERE YOU BORN AND SCHOOLED?
I was born and bred in Vereeniging, Transvaal (now Gauteng).
WHAT POST-SCHOOL STUDYING HAVE YOU DONE - AND WHAT OTHER JOBS HAVE YOU HELD?
In my day, girls either became nurses, secretaries or teachers. I wanted to follow in my father's footsteps and become an attorney. That was unheard of, so I was sent to a secretarial college after finishing-school for a year.
When I started working, from day one I needed a job that would stimulate the brain. So after one year of 'playing' receptionist, I boldly went for an interview at The Star newspaper's Classified Department - and got the job.
After three months tyere I asked for a transfer to The Cape Argus and was with them for 11 years, holding positions of sales canvasser in Motoring and Property, sales rep, and sales trainer to more than 80 people.
I then left to work at J Walter Thompson Advertising Agency, got married and left before my first daughter was born.
We then moved to Johannesburg and I met up with one of my Star newspaper colleagues who offered me a job with Caxton Newspapers, in Advertising. After five months I was offered the position of Classified Advertisement Manager, where I was also involved in the training of a staff complement of over 40 people until leaving for KZN. It as then that I joined Acutts.
HAVE YOU WON ANY OTHER ACCOLADES OR AWARDS OVER THE YEARS FOR ANYTHING?
I am a 'background' person. I enjoyed supporting my staff and in turn watching them blossom and receive awards, which in turn was a feather in my cap.
For me, this is more rewarding than receiving awards myself - but, yes, I did win awards while at Caxtons Ltd, for different advertising initiatives, and, of course, the Blue Door Award for my first year at Dormehl.
ARE YOU MARRIED WITH CHILDREN? ALSO, WHERE IS HOME FOR YOU?
Yes, I am happily married with two gorgeous daughters who are both brilliant graphic designers. We live with our dog Zoe and two cats, Lola and Fonzi.
AWAY FROM THE OFFICE HOW DO YOU LIKE TO RELAX AND UNWIND. ANY HOBBIES OR FAVOURITE THINGS?
I never really relax. I do love watching some TV but then my mind is always generating some form of advertising that I can use for DPPG.
I enjoy spending time with my hubby and daughters. I also like gardening... when the weather allows.
WHAT WORDS WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO DESCRIBE YOURSELF?
Enthusiastic, loyal, hard-working, tolerant, sincere, honest.
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF - HOWEVER TRIVIAL - THAT MOST PEOPLE ARE UNLIKELY TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?
I am quite a shy person (or I was at one time) and I enjoy my own company... and my music, while working.
While I seem to be most obliging most of the time, I will take so much and then can explode (sorry everyone, it doesn’t often happen, but it can.)
I can ‘size up’ people pretty well, and pretty correctly too.
I am a straight-talker. I just don’t believe in being two-faced.
HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR ANNUAL LEAVE?
Not away, as I mostly prepare for my return to work and deadlines looming. Many times I work through some of my leave.
WHAT ARE SOME PLANS FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR - AND BEYOND?
Can’t think that far. Sorry.
ANY NEWS - PERSONAL OR APPLICABLE TO DPPG - THAT YOU CAN SHARE?
You’ll know as soon as I have any!
Author: Billy Suter