SUCCESS AND THE FAMILY WAY
WHAT do three sisters and their 80-year-old mother have in common with the Dormehl Phalane Property Group? The answer is that they run the rapidly-on-the-rise property group’s Upper Highway letting branch in Hillcrest, Durban.
More formally known as Dormehl Phalane Upper Highway Letting and Prestige Sales, the team’s offices are in the heart of Hillcrest, at the Village Centre opposite Richdens Spar.
The branch, which has five letting agents and one sales agent, joined the Dormehl and Phalane family in April 2011, and has not looked back.
They are certainly doing something right as the branch waltzed off with a pile of prizes at the property group’s ninth annual national awards ceremony held at a breakfast at Old Halliwell Country Inn, at Curry’s Post in The Midlands, on March 14.
What makes this achievement even more remarkable is that the branch rated 2017 as a particularly tough and challenging year.
Jackie Darbyshire is the matriarch of the team, heading up and running the letting “Managed” department, assisted by Kerry Louwrens and Francine van Pletzen.
Jackie’s daughters at the branch are Claudine Veronesi, 43, the branch principal and letting agent; 40-year-old letting agent Leanne Jonsson; and Maxine Strydom, 49, a selling agent.
The team had reason to smile broadly at Old Halliwell last week, when they posed for a photograph with awards that included their agent, Loryn Bryce, having been placed first nationally for procurement agent of the year; Leanne having been placed second in the same category; and Claudine filling third spot.
Maxine Strydom placed fifth overall in the sales division and Jackie Darbyshire was placed second overall in the Management division.
“Plus our branch won first place overall for National Procurement office, was first-placed for combined rental office, and was placed second overall for Management division,” adds a proud Leeane.
As to the secret of their success, Leanne offers: “We are emphatic about delivering the best customer service to both tenant and landlord. We do not waiver on being thorough in everything we do, when placing a tenant in a home.”
She adds: “We utilise the best systems to assist us in placing qualified tenants, and within our office we believe we have a great recipe that works. We really do care for one another.
“We are not aggressive ‘sales’ agents that want to steal each other’s clients. We are loyal to one another and really do want the best for each other. That’s not to say we don’t want to get ‘the next deal’, but we are respectful and it works!”
Jackie has been in property for more than three decades and used to operate in Westville, where the family lived 24 years ago.
Maxine returned from overseas and they decided to open up a real estate agency called The Meeting Place Realty, in Sandy Centre in Pinetown.
Leanne became the receptionist after she left school, and Claudine decided to join the company after studying. Since then, Jackie and Maxine continued to work in property. Both Claudine and Leanne left the industry to pursue other career opportunities, but decided to return to the field a few years later.
“Jackie and Maxine work from our office in Clifton Hill Estate, Hillcrest. Maxine is one of the accredited sales and letting agent within the estate and has been working with the estate since the first brick was laid,” explains Leanne.
“Claudine and I are based in the Hillcrest office and do the general, day-to-day, managerial duties of running the office as well as letting houses. I am also one of the accredited rental agents in Clifton Hill Estate,” she adds.
The branch focuses on Durban’s Upper Highway area, so handles property in Kloof, Gillits, Hillcrest, Assagay Waterfall, Crestholme and anything in between.
Leanne is quick to give a thumbs-up to these areas: “We have been living in this area since 1991 so we are pretty biased. We love the climate, the convenience and the accessibility to everything we need.
“Also, the schools in the Upper Highway area are amazing. The area is developing but still has old beautiful majestic homes keeping the history alive.”
Joining the Dormehl Phalane Property Group was “an opportunity we couldn’t refuse”, says Leanne.
“We were going through a difficult time then and Owen stepped in and was with us all the way. We hadn’t met Owen before mid-March 2011, but once we did, we didn’t want to leave his side.
“We had heard such amazing things about him, and we felt like we’d belong. Since then, our relationship has grown from strength to strength, and we absolutely adore him. If we have ever had any issues, Owen is our first call, and he never lets us down. Owen is like family.
“Owen is a presence, and the brand is growing day by day. With that growth comes responsibility, and Owen feels personally responsible for every single person employed within the brand, as well as our branches.
“Dormehl was always looking to expand the brand and make it more visible. Metamorphosising into Dormehl Phalane is another strength – opening doors, clinching opportunities and evolving with the times.
“We haven’t had many dealings with Daniel (Tau) Phalane directly. However, we were lucky enough to be at his table for the national awards in the Midlands, and he and his wife are lovely, gracious people. They make you feel comfortable and are happy to engage with you.
“Owen has always had an open-door policy, and allows us to go directly to the source. Owen will assist you where he can, and if he can’t he will make a plan.”
Any pros and cons of family working together in the property business?
“This might sound ridiculous, but we really do not have too many cons,” says Leeane.
“Our parents have held this family together with all their might. We have always been taught to be tolerant of everybody else’s needs and are accommodating to one another’s needs.
“Working together can be trying at times, as we all have completely different personalities and opinions. However, we have learnt to not sweat the small stuff and also to pick the battles we can win with one another.
“Our lives are very busy, we have grown children, young children and children with special needs – so it is important to focus on positivity and to get the job done. We are very respectful of each other’s lives. We all work differently and all bring something amazing to our company.”
All in her family were attracted to a career in property, Leanne says, because “we are all self-driven and like writing our own cheques”.
She elaborates: “We are independent, strong woman. As most moms, our lives are very busy and dedicated to our family, so we do enjoy the flexibility of fetching kids, watching sports matches and helping our kids with homework. And being able to work after-hours and at weekends to get the deals in.”
Challenges and plans for the branch?
“Since our one letting agent Kerry has moved over to our management department to assist Jackie and Fran, we are looking for a procurement agent.
“We have started our year with a bang, and are excited about what the future holds. We would like to place one of our agents in each of the Upper Highway branches to service all rental client’s needs when they pop into one of the branches.”
What has been Leanne’s most memorable moment working in property?
“Every day is memorable! How can it not be, while working with family. All jokes aside, we really do have a great team who want great things for one another.
“We laugh, we cry... but we get the job done. Our favourite time as a team is when we can escape the office and let our hair down together.
“We have great people in our company that are extremely dedicated and loyal to our family. Wherever we go together, we manage to create a great atmosphere and enjoy ourselves.
What does the branch consider to be essential skills or other attributes to be a good agent?
“The most essential skill is to make clients feel welcomed and taken care of. The rest will then fall into place. Always ‘under-promise’ and ‘over-deliver’.
“You have to be confident, to an extent, and have some form of administrative skills. We think it is essential to also ‘look the part’ and present yourself professionally. Even if we feel awful, we try to make it count. It is vital to work as a team and to be respectful to one another.”
Views on Dormehl and Phalane’s pledge to get more blacks into the company?
“We think it is fabulous that, as a group, we are pioneers in making our branches blended and representative of what South Africans are.”
Author: Billy Suter