SORRY

Earlier in the year I stuck my neck out and said that Joburg would show an 8% notional increase in house prices and implied it would be hot property news. Not so, I’m afraid. Sorry. Then, I stuck my neck out [with the IMF as I’ve said in a previous email], and said we’d grow at 1.7%. I was only out by 1, but that’s the 1 in the front. Drat! Another Sorry is due. So before you stop reading and call me a Wuzz, give me a break.

You see, we’re not in technical recession, the first time I heard President Ramaphosa (CR) say that I thought he was taking advantage of the latest weed laws, but then, Roelof Botha, ex-RMB, who I have always considered at the top economist in the country, was reported having the same stance. So maybe, CR has been sticking to Johnny Blue on his Fresnaye property’s stoep. So without boring you with the details, the numbers are skewed by Agriculture in the main, and what remains is some other drought-stricken technicality. All of that said, we should pop out of technical recession fairly soon and recover a tiny growth this year.

Now let’s see why Growth with a capital “G” is on the cards. 

Firstly, the SARB held rates recently and that is good news for our ailing economy. Remember, they walk a tightrope, because the Bond investors love a big differential between the Bond yield and their own country’s interest yields, adjusted for inflation and the Rand volatility. In simple terms, if you don’t raise the rates and the risk of doing business increases for whatever reason, then money flows out of the country. Big risk, but well taken given the current slowdown in our economy. In fact, a complementary decision to my next point.

So, secondly, our President has announced amazing benefits to our economy today. I am so excited even though we know we need far more. On the lighter side, #paybackthemoney would provide more than enough to stimulate our economy; just seeing someone go to jail would really lift our spirits. So again, I have no desire to go through all the details and, if truth be told, I have no idea where we find the money, but a stimulus of R50bn to “stabilize Education and Health Care” is seriously welcome and R400bn to really stimulate the economy is a mind-blow. So much stimulation in one day could be bad for one’s heart; but, thank you, President Cyril and your 10-person Advisory Board, you’re going to announce in the next few days.

We’ll cover a tiny bit of the details, the rest being your homework, but seriously, I cannot tell you how amazing it is to see a President, obviously trained by Pravin Gordhan to read teleprompters, reading a huge economic breakthrough and flawlessly enunciating Four Hundred Billion Rand, that’s R400000000000. So glad the author of 400…Rand…million, billion, ten…he, he, is no more.

We need stimulation. Money flows of private citizens offshore feel to me to be at record highs. People are leaving all around me – kids who comprise our future being snapped up for their artisan, IT and teaching skills. Out there are countries building countries on the back of our young, competent families and I feel like putting my finger down my throat when I think of the loss just when we need the skills the most to rebuild this beautiful, tortured nation, but at least we have a President who sees the issue and has the gravitas and presence to rectify the problem, albeit, over a very long period.

Healthcare needs stabilization. The Minister of Health should have declared a crisis a long time ago, but at least, finally has some money to spend. Heaven knows we need it well spent on priorities that benefit our people. Please don’t steal our hard-earned cash and don’t turn a blind eye to those who would! For education, desks and toilets would be really helpful. Make the former out of recycled plastic and achieve a double whammy. Then, for the latter, build toilets with septic tanks where you can’t easily access a sewerage pipe. For goodness sake, [I heard a guy on CapeTalk saying the sewerage pipe was 4 kms away so they could not give a school a flushing toilet.] Really??!! I used a septic tank in Amanzimtoti for years, because we had no water-borne sewerage and what about every farmer in the country?? Imagine a civil works programme that dug and kitted-out septic tanks at schools using recycled water and then teams of guys keeping them in working order? Now there’s a project worth doing.

So, in the R400bn, is a mega-fund for Infrastructure. Just to put that in perspective, a year or two ago, it was pointed out on 702 that the market capitalization of Mr Price was more than the entire Construction industry. So a company which imports clothes from China and sells them to us is worth more than Basil Read, Grinaker/LTA {Aveng], Group5, Murray and Roberts, and WBHO [the only one making money at the moment] combined. In fact, the shares of Aveng, two massive companies that we grew up with, are currently 4 cents, I am advised. How do we get to this position where the industry would probably battle to revive such is the job-bleed? Well, firstly, you steal from the SOE’s and then you take all the taxpayers’ money and spend it on salaries in government and what do you get? People affording millions of t-shirts, but no repairs of sewerage works and no building and maintenance of roads. It’s called selling your childrens’ future and is great for failed-state ignominy.

So am I depressed? No, very upbeat that we have a President who can recognise the problem and before he jets off to the United Nations and presentations to global business leaders, can announce our best shot at economic revival. His intellect, business acumen and sense of resoluteness is just a breath of fresh air. I’ve said many times before, my faith lies way above him, but if you offered me these packages announced this week and the Zondo Commission in November last year, I would have been amazed at your largesse.

Where does that leave us? As Homeloan Junction we work tirelessly to provide a consistency of service and interface with the banks that surpass expectations. We don’t always succeed we’re sure, but we press on. The wonderful thing about business is that one hand washes the other in a virtuous cycle. As I serve you, you serve me and we serve our customers. Together we do more and everyone wins. From a political perspective, we try our best to encourage each other to lose the “noise” and focus on the good in the system. The initiatives above are good by anybody’s standards and we hope they are implemented and bear fruit – jobs, upgrades, service deliveries and municipalities that work again – for all of our People. We will press on and we and we invite you to join us. We’re not Pollyanna’s, we understand the crime and grime, but we are determined to put in a solid day’s work for a well-earned reward, productive in the knowledge that we know what we are doing and we do it well.

Success to you, our readers, as you take the good, park the bad, and move on to success. We appreciate your support.

Yours in Property.

MAURITIUS 2018

I am on a plane to Mauritius. How privileged am I to be included in a group of Homeloan Junction and Ooba Winners who have shot the lights out in 2017! I did nothing, they did everything to be here.  We have first-timers, people who have never flown internationally before. We have golden oldies, those who have won over and over again and now, have won again. Each has their own story so let’s explore that.

In my management career, I have met winners at the airport.  The most excited are those who have never flown before.  They are nervous to the point of fidgety; will I be safe,  will I return to the one who kissed me tenderly at the airport? Of course, you will say the initiated – just enjoy the flight. Light-hearted, but also caring. And then there are those who are used to winning; the die-hards who have done the hard yards, amazing people who have been consistently successful over years, even decades.  Amazing that!  To do it in one year is good. To do it over and over again takes a different story completely.

So, over the next two blogs, here are their un-named stories and a summary of their critical success factors…

“Success is what you believe in”. Perhaps this is a crux of the matter as I look back on the people I met in Mauritius. They are confident and assertive – there is an air of success about them. They know what they know and find themselves often in the company of winners. You can see it in the way they interact and hear it in their language as they speak to others and together. There is a balance of affinity, distance and a professionalism that is pervasive. They know how to have fun as well; they laugh easily and play appropriately, but they overdo nothing and enjoy the moment. You can just feel, these people believe in success.

“Perseverance and long hours”, says another. Some of this team know what it takes to work 18 hours a day. From early in the morning to late at night, administration with constant calls in between, they set to the task of satisfying customers. You know what it’s like – the young couple have bought their house and they’re starry-eyed as they await bond approval. The estate agent has done the sale and is counting the commission. The developer needs 70% successful sales/bond approvals for the development loan. You have your own office costs and need to build relationships. Little wonder that perseverance and long hours are needed, not just in the short-term but as a daily habit. We all know that over time, this hectic pace dissipates as a general rule, but every now and again, the need for huge effort raises its head. These winners have ceased wondering when it will stop; instead, they lift their game when required, every time.

“Niks, I just go with the flow.” I know this lady well and she is not a Niks kind of person. What has happened here is that decades of service have done two things – cemented relationships, and generated repeat business as a significant part of her income. She did the hard work years ago and has skilled herself through thick and thin to deal deals with the estate agents and the banks. She knows her oats and doesn’t submit what will not be approved; she’s efficient, values her time and that of others. On the other hand, if anyone in that process disagrees, they could cop the lip that comes with 20 years of experience. For the uninitiated, the matter of apprenticeship comes to the fore. You don’t study to do homeloans and your BCom degree means little if it has not taught you some property law, finance, credit, banking, administration management and then overlaid that with huge dollops of inter-personal skills. You don’t get to quip “Niks”, if you haven’t done the “Baie”.

Relationships are built over years. It is often said that a relationship takes years to build and seconds to destroy. I would add that where money is involved, that formula speeds up. Making my money through consistency and quality of work is good for relationships; a kind of “spice on the top” of commercial associations. But one lie, one un-met promise, or, one poorly managed expectation, can turn your relationship into a nightmare. By the way, but for the first malady which can often be terminal, the others can be dealt quite efficiently by what I call “emotional reserves”. These reserves are built over time and can be likened to a petrol tank’s gauge. Trust, care, friendship, efficiency, feedback are all ways to build emotional reserves that fill the tank of a relationship.

A mistake may use up some of the supply, but can be accommodated from the relationship’s reserve. This may sound a little “soft” but all relationships, personal and business, where emotional reserves have been built up can then be used, by saying sorry or committing [and keeping the commitment] to do better next time. Winners manage expectations and then even in the face of bad news, have a positive approach to an outcome. How often have I myself, told a customer they are flying high in terms of their credit request and then managed them through the decline of the bank to a more realistic application. By the way, another thing here is the question of credit terms. A customer’s lack of knowledge of banking can lead to the question, “Will you get me the best rate?” My answer, “No, but I will get you the best credit terms.” What is the good of Prime – 0.5% with a deposit of R100000 if the deposit does not exist or, was destined to be used for TLC of the property? Prime + 1% may be far more acceptable with no deposit under these circumstances. Don’t get caught up-front in pricing as the bottom line of your service; you’re better than that.

“Origination is entrepreneurial and gives you an opportunity.” I guess this goes for any self-employment though it never feels like that when you’re building your business. But as the years go by and your competency and relationships strengthen, origination is a really nice business to be in. It gets you out, gets you in, and gets you going. Office jobs are crucial to service delivery, but marketing gets you face-to-face with the customer and interface with the stakeholders; it gets you out. It gets you in, into suppliers, interesting projects, opportunities for value-adds and serious negotiations. These are the places where long-term, solid relationships can be built and sustained. And, origination gets you going; every day and continuously. Perhaps one of the cutest comments in my interviews with the winners was simply this, “I won’t change my job!” Not for anything; that entrepreneurship and opportunity talking and from behind a broad smile.

On the other hand, it takes a “wild ride” to leave a stable job and come into this crazy world of property and bonds. None of the winners found it easy but they figured that origination, with its value-adding benefit to the customer absolutely free-of-charge, was the way to go. “I wondered how I would survive” was almost common to all the newbies in Mauritius. It takes a strong cocktail of self-belief and courage to walk away from the known into the unknown. Just like any business venture, you will have days of doubt and days of elation, but what our winners know by their success is that “origination is for me.” Just a point on the taking and managing of risk. Consider the risk carefully, consult wise counsel, be fairly sure of your ability to succeed and why. Wait to build the skills and/or contacts if you do not feel ready, but once you jump, then begin to manage the risk.

Start within with positive self-talk and surround yourself with winning combinations of people and processes so that you give yourself an undisputed chance of success. Like the old saying goes, “you can’t fly like an eagle with turkeys like these.” If that’s arrogance talking, get off your high horse, nobody likes a smart-ass, but if you do not have the right people on the bus, get the right people – you can go out and compete in the marketplace every day but you better have a strong, competent team behind you. You cannot fight a frontal and a rear-guard action at the same time. Think about this, it’s absolutely true. Indeed, a critical success factor.

More to follow in our final part to Mauritius 2018…

Yours in Property.

DROUGHT

The Western Cape is in the throes of the worst drought in its history. Cape Town is about to be the first city in the world to face Day Zero. That is, the day that taps are turned off other than for strategic sites; that too, as long as water remains in the dams.

Volumes have been written about the drought but here is our take for your interest. Truth is we don’t know what will happen but some healthy insight and speculation will do no harm.

Day Zero was 11 April. This was moved to 11 May. Now, it is estimated at mid-June. The timing is interesting as nobody really knows what the impact of siltation will be in the dams. At what point will the water become muddy and at what point will the density of that mud make it impossible to pump or to purify the water to a drinkable state? Little is known about this doomsday scenario so the setting of Day Zero must be somewhat theoretical and I presume a safety margin has been incorporated in the Date. At Day Zero, all taps are turned off with the exception of key sites – hospitals, homes for the disabled and, informal settlements. The latter is very interesting as many claim the Poor have been gathering water from taps all along and it is just the Rich who will feel the pain. For those on boreholes, we trust the boreholes will not run dry. On the other hand, Cape Town foreshore hotels are pumping salt water from their foundations which are built below sea level. Now, this water is being run through in-house desalination plants to supply the hotel with pure water.

Of course, Capetonians are running for cover. A family member has installed a 5000 litre tank and has filled it with drinking water. Others have moved into Hermanus, for example, and begun to harvest water. Some interesting facts:

  •  Last weekend, looking for 5 litre bottles of water at the Spar for my son, firstly, there were none by Sunday and the manager informed me that of an order for 500 bottles, only 8 arrived. The reason is that the supplier “is servicing Cape Town first”.
  •  Rentable homes have dried up [excuse the pun] as Capetonians have rented homes to have available on the weekends for showering, washing etc and to live in permanently, if required. [Anecdote or true, the mind boggles.]
  • The Hermanus municipality has requested vigilance of your garden tap as people are filling water tanks with your garden hose and selling it in Cape Town and surrounds.
  • The Hermanus dam is just over 50% full and we have been informed that at 40%, penalties will begin to be imposed. Not too cool!

 

Who supplies water? To be honest, I thought the municipality supplied but they only purify and deliver from dams which are owned by central government. Key to this understanding is that Provincial government is practically only able to apply for a state of emergency and then, if they want the Defence Force involved, a national state of emergency needs to be proclaimed. Only the President can do that. In all of this bureaucracy, the use of power predominates. If the province is on the president’s side, you get action. If not, you risk abuse. There is a sense in the Western Cape that the latter applies right now. Hopefully, CR will be a better go-to man than the most recent resignee. We shall see. Point is every city in the country needs to be assessed given the recent experience and all the global warming warnings. Beaufort West ran dry and only some new boreholes saved it. Just because a town is small that does not mean it can be ignored; water security is a constitutional right as opposed to electricity which is obviously considered a luxury in terms of the Constitution. So Cape Town needs water truck aplenty immediately and the Army to keep guard and the peace at 200 water-collection points. When we’re through this mess, we need more dams or better still, water desalination plants. The aquifers are just too deep and the risk of salination of the aquifers just too high to continue to rely on deep-level boreholes. Government will need to find money for desalination plants but the PPP’s proposed by the likes of PSG seem to hold powerful promise; let’s hope sanity and competence prevail soonest. Talking to a friend in Sydney, he tells me that a “corrupt Labour government” put in a desalination plant there many years ago and now it’s a white elephant. Boy, could Cape Town do with one spare plant right now!

 

The political fallout has been most notable. As the Day drew near, the knives have gone out. Cape Town municipality has not covered itself in glory by any means and too-little-too-late has become the order of the day. Of course, money was a problem from the get-go but even if it was available, little was done until panic set in. Now the blame-game predominates and fingers are pointing outwards. Listening to CapeTalk for a day is enough to realise the knives are out. Mmusi has written a great article Arise, Cape Town, Arise but it truly feels like oration in the face of a possible power shift. Between Patricia de Lille and the ANC, we could see serious fallout politically.

 

Against this backdrop, the people of Cape Town are very interesting. There have been outstanding examples of community in the face of calamity. The school Smart Meter water saving initiative has saved millions of litres of water. Initially sponsored by Shoprite, 100’s of businesses have come alongside to fit Smart Meters at more schools across the province. A lady I heard has installed a catchment tank from her roof and then sponsored two poorer homes to do the same. How’s that for community!? However, there is something else I hear beginning to rise in Cape Town and that is Stoicism. A stoic person can endure hardship or pain without showing their feelings or complaining. That spirit, so prevalent amongst the veterans of the Wars, is beginning to rise in Cape Town. “We better get on with it” has replaced “What the hell is going on?” And you can feel its influence. Want a pedi or hair wash, take your own water. No more showering at the Virgin just get into your bucket at home as part of your 50 litres and pour the grey water on your plants you care about. To that point, businesses are deciding now to close down and let their staff work from home and be able to collect water supplies daily from the water-points – pre-planned and communicated; not last-minute panic. The farmers of Grabouw have released 10bn litres of water from their dams to Cape Town. Voluntarily and simply because they have been blessed with good watered crops so, through the danger-point of crop failure, they are taking the risk of releasing possibly next year’s water to a community that needs it now. Stoic actions displayed by people who share their compassion and grit; stoical people. I believe that that spirit will carry Cape Town through this catastrophe. Don’t under-estimate the stakes or the potential for rebellion, but somehow people are beginning to see Others as they face their own fears. I believe in that “stuff” even if my readers may have a different view. In crisis, leadership arises and people do extraordinary things. And remember, if dams normally enjoy, say, a 50% top-up to overflow by the end of a Winter, getting a 50% top-up off zero, is very different. In other words, if dams have a normal top-up this Winter, it could still occur that Cape Town runs out of water again in the Summer of 2019. Scary indeed!

 

As a consequence, property values will be affected. But to what extent nobody knows. So far the slowdown has just been the inevitable drain of a struggling economy and few articles I have read have evidenced the paucity of water as a reason. To that point, tourism has perceptibly been hampered and will be so until water supplies return to normal. My sense is that catastrophe will result in property price declines. Just logically this will occur. However, anything less, coupled with an improving economy on the back of recent political events, will not cripple property values. Put another way, a return to good rains this Winter will make the current slowdown a blip and a good desalination plant PPP will even raise prices slowly. Semigration will continue as few employees would walk away from a promotion to Cape Town if water is at a manageable stage.

 

Then, for those of us who have faith, we trust the recent rains and the political events spell a turning point in the state of affairs of our beautiful, tortured country.

 

Hope you enjoyed the read as much as I have enjoyed aggregating some of my thoughts about this current state of affairs. I trust that all the Doomsday scenarios will be spared and that water sustainability across the country will be part of the Marshall [Ramaphosa]Plan to get South Africans working again. Who knows so let’s just keep watching this space? As for Homeloan Junction, we understand stoicism. Anyone who came out of Sub-Prime really does.

 

Yours in Property.

THE ELECTIVE CONFERENCE

Well, it’s happened!!

Just sitting here listening to the de-brief of what took place has caused me to rise and write this blog immediately.

I am still to write a synopsis of the property market in 2017. Those who have been reading me during the year know that I will be positive. Not in the sense that that is the stance I take as a rule but rather, that the end of the year is better than expected after our president turned the Treasury on its head for the second time in as many years. In doing so, he ignored any common sense that may have prevailed locally and internationally. His view was his view, no consultation, no permission just Guptanomics applied brutally. In doing so it feels as though he cooked his goose and has paid the price. In his own words in his scathing last speech, he is a soldier and he will march on. Man, has he left a legacy of unity at the cost of principles, and best of all, free education for all [well, 90%], which we cannot afford! Guess who is going to pay for it? – the wealthy and the Poor.

But this Elective conference which I must say has delivered the candidate I prayed for, has delivered a mixed-up unity like none other. There are people in senior Secretarial positions whose own province could not stay out of court for branch and PEC electoral distortions. Other people who have played the game of politics for politics itself – the amassing of votes in a democratic society but who probably have no one in mind but themselves. Self-centred individuals who triumph on the backs of well-intended people.

KZN could implode. What that means I do not know but I’m sure unless the leaders of the ANC pull together, that province could well continue with their low-intensity civil war. My sense is that whilst the Eastern Cape is bereft of competency and leadership, KZN is bereft of values as well. Without values, killing your tender competitor is sanctioned and if that means revenge killing, so be it. Heaven help the leaders there as they take unity to the ground and make it happen in the hearts of the people. I cannot help but think Jacob Zuma has set alight the province where he scored his greatest victory, namely, to quell the warring IFP/ANC factions in the 90″s.

The one thing I have seen all my life is that people follow leaders. Watching Colin Maine, the ANCYL leader, it was amazing to listen to him change his tune and welcome the unity that the appointment of Cyril Ramaphosa brings. What rubbish! He hated and slated the man in favour of his beloveds – jz and ndz. But how fast the change occurred as he saw his salary and his prestige swiftly flowing out the door. Will he survive the next election? I don’t know but I must say, I have seen the same shift of position happen often in Corporates. Human systems adapt to leadership. Leadership can lift the games of their followers. Or, leadership can sink their followers to the lowest common denominator. Jacob Zuma has done just that and in case you thought he’s going away, remember, he is still president of our beautiful tortured country.

So a couple of points for the property market:

  1. The Rand strengthened prior to the conference on the buzz that Cyril Ramaphosa would win. Now it has crashed through barriers last seen 2 years ago, especially to the British Pound.
  2. This strengthening movement is probably over-stated and we will need to see if it continues and then sustains. It will literally take the first few words of the new President of the ANC to shift it one way or the other. Even as President of the leading political party in the country, his stance will determine the short-term value of the Rand. If he favours the country overtly and the ANC secondly ie in private discussions, he will win us kudos.
  3. We have a downgrade from Moodys in the wings. I think Cyril Ramaphosa has just won us a reprieve.
  4. The downside, for those who wanted to win the 2019 elections, is probably that the ANC will consolidate and even win back metros they have lost. Joburg, prepare yourself for change. It will take a huge amount of scepticism and a massive amount of compromise with the zuma faction, to foresee the ANC losing in Gauteng again.
  5. Speculation aside, the win by Cyril Ramaphosa is good for property:

– The 1% growth that we lost out on this year will materialize as 2% next year.

– The drain of the SOE’s on the economy will begin [very slowly, however] to recuperate.

– It will be very interesting to see if anyone goes to jail, but I think there will be some sacrificed lambs who will do time to satisfy the populace.

– When the economy rises, jobs will be prioritized and COSATU will be manifested in all their glory in the new-birth of the tripartite alliance. That happy band of vote-winners will be in unison again. Tonight’s manufactured unity will be realized and expounded to the Press.

In summary, property will benefit and rates will decline as long as the Rand holds onto its new-found value. Slowly but surely, property will rise in price. Don’t write off that Gauteng, on the back of positive politics in a winning streak and with the fresh feel of abundant water, don’t be surprised that prices rise well above the average of the last three years. “Prepare to meet thy boom”, was how the late de Kock, the Reserve Bank Governor, expressed it.

What a Christmas present for South Africans of every walk of life! Jobs will be at the centre of a conference that Cyril Ramaphosa pulls together with Business and Economists and Others. Prepare for a Grande Plan that mobilizes for jobs – probably the most precious thing besides water in our economy at the moment.

More to come but in the meantime,

Yours in Property

DISTRACTION’S COST

In our previous blog we explored the notion of Distraction and its associates, “Procrastination” and “Important”. In this blog we’ll discuss an old term, Opportunity Cost.

On BBC, there is a programme, The Chase. It is a quiz show with a panel of normal people who pit themselves against a brilliant expert in general knowledge. At a point in time when the panel has come up against the expert, one person on the panel is chosen to pit themselves against him or her but with a twist. Let’s say the panel has scored UKP8000. The chance is then given for the panel to win, say UKP60000 or, if the expert progressively answers correctly, the panel loses, say, UKP2000. So, if they lose, they get UKP6000 but, if they win, they walk away with UKP68000. Of course, the panel can choose if they risk UKP 2000 or they try to win the additional UKP60000. This is an example of Opportunity Cost – if you play it safe and then beat the expert, your opportunity cost is UKP60000. Just to put that in our terms, that’s a whopping, R1000000! But, if you lose, UKP2000 is taken off your current winnings.

Opportunity costs exist in almost every decision to a greater or a lesser degree.

Opportunity Cost occurs as a result of having alternatives in a set of decisions. If, by doing one thing you prevent yourself from doing another, you may have just caused yourself a cost of opportunity. We do it all the time, negotiating our way through life’s complex paths. Risk-taking always implies opportunity cost. As in The Chase, you walk into one thing and leave another. Of course, it may be possible to do both or to undertake a hybrid of the two but, it is always the chance of upside or the downside that drives our decisions.

Here are some examples:

– You choose to marry Jane and not Sarah. Time tells if you made the right decision, remembering that your opportunity cost, might be measured in opinion only.

–  You chose to remain in a Corporate and retire on a pension rather than set out on your own and create wealth. Here, if you succeed in business, you score but if you fail, your opportunity cost would be the pension you could have had.

– You decide to have children. The cost is measured in Rands of education and care. The alternative may have been loneliness and the absence of familial care in old age.

And so it goes. The thing you left behind as you made the call to proceed in a particular direction, is the opportunity cost of the decision. Sometimes it is great and sometimes what you chose could prove much better than the action from which you walked away. Time tells in real life. In business decisions, the decision-taking is a lot more mathematical and models of forecasts, discounted cash flows and the likes are used to aid the decision. But even the richest of companies makes decisions to leave one thing and do another, always probably based on a reduction of expense or an increase in profit.

Where does this leave us when it comes to Distraction? Well, distraction either causes the wrong or a delayed decision or, distraction may cause a particular route to be followed when it was obvious to the focussed observer that the other should have been chosen. In such a case, the opportunity cost of delay or an incorrect decision could be significant. One area where I am feeling huge opportunity cost at the moment is in our SA politics. The current leadership is not putting us back 8 years being the two terms of the president, but rather a decade and more. Pravin Gordhan speaks about 10 years to recover from a full junk status and if that occurs before Christmas, that means 8 years of Zuma and another 10 years of recovery. In all of that, we all get poorer and the Poor become completely destitute. If we embellish on that with some of the social unrest scenarios, the ruin is unimaginable. I have recently read Jacques Paauw’s book and in the course of it, I stepped back and began to think of the reading that I have been forced to do to stay abreast of the scenarios in our beautiful, tortured country and the negativity contained in these books. I thought about the effort that it has taken to investigate and expose the “bad” and the amount of Distraction that it has caused a nation. Imagine if the only books selling at the moment were studies and success stories of green energy, water purification initiatives, farming methods, advanced financial planning and wealth creation, inexpensive building technologies, self-driving cars for public transport, etc, etc. – just imagine!

You see, the Distraction that corruption has brought has induced an immeasurable Opportunity Cost for our nation and her Peoples. Thus the travesty for me of the current leadership crisis is not even what we have lost, but what cost we have foregone with the amazing opportunity that democracy and the former leadership engendered for us. We live in hope that something occurs in the next year or two that completely changes the trajectory we’re currently plotting. In this regard, Zimbabwe has just got interesting and we wish a better outcome for her Peoples.

But back to us and what we can individually control. The cost of Distraction is immeasurable even in our own lives and circumstances. We need to be mercenary when considering what we spend our energy on. Time is of the essence when we choose, by design or default, to focus on the Unimportant in our lives. By pursuing a senseless decision or strategy, we waste the actual time expended but we also may bring about setbacks that last much longer. In your business, the relationship with your children, your marriage, Distraction and its associate, Opportunity Cost, lurk to waste your efforts and impede your success. Take control. As we’ve made the point before if you don’t, somebody else will. You don’t need to get paranoid about every decision but just take one or two “big rocks” and begin to practice Focus as opposed to Distraction, and estimate the Opportunity Cost of your alternate decisions. Great strategies are as much made up of what you do not do, as they are of what you do.

Homeloan Junction is practiced in these issues and no doubt has examples of where Opportunity Cost went against them over time. We learn from our mistakes and sometimes learn best from them, unfortunately. Point is a discussion with those who have been before you can always help when you are making decisions with uncertain outcomes. Strength to your arm as you manage the choppy waters with which we are faced. Hopefully, as we’ve discussed before, you will continue to enjoy the current level of activity of the market as it certainly feels like Property has held its own in difficult times.

 

Yours in Property.

DISTRACTION

A blog for the honest readers amongst us 🙂

Who doesn’t know this word? It is the cousin of Procrastination and the bedfellow of Important. In fact, anything in life, personal or business, which takes more time to perfect than a morning cup of instant coffee, can go from Important to Distraction in seconds. If you still don’t believe me, sit to down to pray and “focus your thoughts” as you begin to worry about the “Sunday roast” – no wonder that ministers have a hard time of it!

Important often takes it out of you. You need to place it front of mind and concentrate on it over a period of time. Whatever’s important probably has a combination of thinking and executing, over time with a sense of discipline and consistency. Stephen Covey, in First Things First, uses the matrix we’ve discussed before, around the issues of Urgent vs Important. For most of us these days, Urgent [Urgent/Urgent in the matrix] things are emails and WhatsApp; the frenetic activity first thing in the morning to clear the stuff before work so that I can, well….work. But that is work, we say! Juxtapose that against building the character of a child or teaching a teenager to become a man – the Important/Important block [at the top of the matrix], and we are talking the real stuff of life rather than the froth on top of our next beer. Are we distracted as much doing emails – No? But a teenager –  different story!?

Enter Procrastination. I find most of us talk about time-wasting rather than the wasters of time. Procrastination is normally the big English word we all know. Putting things off, from mowing the lawn to fixing the lamp to writing the email that is not pleasant, to sorting out conflict etc, etc, is well-covered ground if you’re human and involved in relationships. Oh, how we sidestep the issues and just “wait for something to happen.” What are you doing about it? Nah, I’m just waiting for something to happen. Well, sometimes your patience and stillness pays off, but normally, two weeks later, that shrill voice says, “When are you going to fix the lamp?” And, so it often should, to awaken us from our wasting of time! Procrastination is well-known in business and a major reason why businesses become complacent. There is nothing like a cashflow crisis to shake everybody from their business-as-usual slumber and to get them going and understanding that things need to be done. I have used the analogy before of a 4X4 entering mud. You go in with a measure of confidence and eventually you find yourself sinking deeper and deeper until you’re just wheel-spinning. Such is the complacency of low to zero growth as we’re currently experiencing – you just don’t feel it for a while and then when you wake up and stop procrastinating, you realise there is serious work to be done to keep the business moving forward. Hopefully, it is not too late. A great leadership trait has always been to shake-up the business in the good times by reminding people that salaries are not guaranteed and getting them is a combination of hard work, application and customer service; the rules never change in business. Frankly, things never change in families either and we often need to feel hurt in order to change and even, progress.

So, we’re adept at procrastination but what are those time-wasters, those distractions, that steal the capability of any determined person to accomplish what is Important? Rather than give you a list, let me cover one thing that is common to us All. That one thing is invisible but real to each of us – our thoughts. It is hard to believe that thoughts can hold such sway over us – completely intangible but very powerful. They can make you smile and make you sweat. They make a man a boy and a boy, a man. They are the bedrock of bravery and the sinking sand of weakness. They are unique to you and I – each thought in its own time and place – and yet, so much of our human experience is driven by common ground no matter who you are and what your standing in life. Thoughts take place in the pre-frontal cortex [PFC] of the brain, just behind your forehead bone, where the stage of life plays out your day. Sitting here looking out the glass doors at a windless Spring day, yes, even now, my thoughts are racing. What to write next, what to prepare for tomorrow’s boards, remembering the farmers’ protests across the country [hopefully totally peaceful and effective], wondering what time my wife will return from her Soup Kitchen and her tea with a friend – thoughts pulsate in and through my PFC. Some take root, some dance like butterflies and move on; none have stopped me to waste time..yet. What about you as you read this and nod your head? What is wasting your time as it seats itself beyond the PCF. Some are physical [so go to the bathroom], some are mental [so check your bank account balance to see your monthly commission] while others are emotional [apologise for that harsh word with your child] and some may even be spiritual [a sense of fear of the unknown in this beautiful, tortured country of ours]. Whatever thought takes root in your mind just beyond the PCF can be or become the time-waster, a Distraction. So what is just beyond the PCF? Without the big names, it is the seat of your emotions and experiences. You see [and experience], when a thought takes root in the PCF, our stage of mental activity, if we allow it to rest there we will quickly make the connection with our emotions and/or experiences. Simple example: you see a red rose and before you even bend down, you smell the scent of the rose in your imagination. In fact, you may even smell again to check if there is no scent “like last time”. Take something less trivial: you have a fight with your spouse in the morning and the whole day, you break away from what you’re needing to do, to replay the fight and the response, in your mind. Emotions running wild or previous experiences reinforcing a current thought, play havoc with your ability to focus. And focus is what’s needed even for quick, yet important, things. No wonder the Book of Joy by Desmond Tutu and The Dalai Lama, reminds us that joy in any sense of the word, begins with Perspective. If you want a distraction, have a negative perspective on an activity. I often think Attitude [the positive one] is half the battle won. You see, a long time before you make another cup of coffee, get up to check the weather, sit back and think about something off the point, you’re thinking. No wonder the Good book admonishes us to, “take our thoughts captive.” Nothing like thoughts wastes our time – thoughts are the genesis of Distraction.

Once again, for some of you, this is old hat. But for some, a jerk of conscience may just be the medicine you need to re-focus and get on with the Important things you need to deal with. Homeloan Junction is made up of people just like you. We need to take Distraction to heart just like the people who read our blogs. If this reminder has helped you do that, goodie. If not or if not required, well done and be radically successful in what you want and need to do.

Yours in Property.

MENTORING

Just for a break, let’s look at and consider one of the oldest learning forms known to Man. I believe it has enormous relevance in a modern day, South Africa.

Let’s check out the trusted Wikipedia for the definition and then unpack it for our and others’ benefit.

Mentorship,, [the art and skill of Mentoring…my words], is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger than the person being mentored, but he or she must have a certain area of expertise. It is a learning and development partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn.

You cannot deny that South Africa is loaded with older people who have vast knowledge. Knowledge, often founded upon theoretical qualifications but also, for many years, bolstered by vast levels of experience, both bad [learning by mistakes] but mostly, good [learning success by becoming successful]. And the fields of expertise are enormous – Water, Marriage, Business of Every Kind, Politics Both National and Corporate, Artisanships, Construction of Every Kind, Consultancies [None the Least our own Property Industry[, Finance, Insurance; for Every Resource – Fuel, Water, Sewerage and, in Every Organisation, NPO or Not. Deep and wide lakes of skill and experience stored behind a dam wall of what – laziness, nonchalance, don’t-care-less? What’s your reason not to find a Mentee [as they’re commonly known] and begin to impart your skill?

In the good book, there is sage instruction to us around this very issue, Titus 2:2-3:

The aged women likewise, that they be in [good] behaviour …….be teachers of good things……That they may teach the young women……..

You see, mentoring, even at the more obvious level of motherhood, does not always come naturally to us. We have to be reminded that we have the experience and because we have been blessed with that, the duty, to teach and mentor others. I almost want to say, it is our Civil duty to mentor someone about something.

This argument lends itself to the need to understand how people learn. One of the most well-known researchers in this field is Kolbe, as described in his Experiential Learning Model. According to Kolbe, learning is not just an active, self-directed process but also a process where knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. In essence, his model is:

Concrete experience – learning by Feel or Touch;

Active experimentation – learning by Practice;

Reflective observation – learning by Observing, and;

Abstract conceptualizing – learning by Thinking.

My quick sense is that I use all of these methods to learn something but Kolbe is, as many quadrant models do, referring to a dominant means of learning. Most of us who went to school have had “talk and chalk” learning drummed into us and then we cemented that learning by homework, which equals practice. But what about the bricklayer? Would she be in a classroom or in the field, so to say? Point is, if you are to mentor, the question you can ask is simply, How do you prefer learning a subject or skill – listening or practice or just by watching me at work? The answer informs your mentoring style.

Two things before we conclude with the benefits of mentoring. One is Role-modelling. Watching someone chair a meeting or negotiate a deal is huge learning. The trick is to have the person or persons upon whom you intend to role-model decided upon and in your sight. It’s really difficult to role-model someone you cannot see. On the other hand, TV gives you a good observation platform – take public speaking and President Obama; excellent material for a mentee to learn the art of public speaking. We learn to role-model as a child and watching our parents and siblings has a huge place in our childhood development. How much more, as we grow into Corporates and our own businesses. And remember, learning from the positive and the negative is quite possible if you have the right attitude. You can learn how to putt and how not to putt just by watching the British Open.

Allied to role-modelling is Visualization. It’s told that Gary Player would play the Masters in his imagination while flying to America. Face it, you can go to the beach, love your wife, speak to an audience or write an exam right now just by closing your eyes and focussing, or visualizing if you prefer, on the event. Imagination rules the world, said Albert Einstein. And, how did he not know that, when he posited the famous E = MC2 equation before it was fully proven. Teach your mentee to visualize and you have taught a gift of a lifetime.

Mentoring is not for me, you might think. Well, here are some of the benefits:

 

  1. Mentoring is good for business. Call it what you like – feedback, discipline, training or development – mentoring grows your people. You cannot delegate a task to a person not capable of it – mentoring would have prevented that and saved you hours at the office especially on those days where “I should have done it myself in the first place.” Mentoring establishes rapport, that secret ingredient of relationships. You’ll know it as trust or emotional reserve or just “liking my boss”, but it is the stuff that gets people to work when you’re not watching and to care when you’re not there. We relate to people we know and we consider people we see and who see us in the psychological sense. Sharing is indeed, Caring, and nothing beats mentoring, as an element of your leadership style to let people feel and be part of a growing team.

 

  1. Mentoring is good for our country. Heaven knows we have a need for skills transfer and for people to do well enough in their endevours to be able to employ other people and continue the virtuous cycle of employment and growth. We often hear the lament that there are no longer any role-models in the townships. If all you woke up to every morning was your Naope-smoking sibling or an abusive, unemployed father, where would you be today? Talk about emulation, you would hardly help yourself but to do what they do and wreck your life in the process of wrecking many others. You and I can sit in our cosy lounges watching TV hoping that Gigaba will sort out social equality in his Medium-Term Budget speech on Wednesday but beware; inequality is becoming the buzzword of the Globe. Mentoring, like the starfish story, may be the best you and I can do to make a difference in a few lives, but it’s worth it. I love the advert on TV where the Indian man has planted 1400 acres of forest in the past 38 years to prevent soil erosion by just planting a few trees one at a time. An amazing story, best understood in the result. None the less, a couple of people testifying that your mentoring made a difference in their lives, is a gift to this beautiful, tortured country.

 

  1. Mentoring is good for you. If you have any sense of Purpose, those you mentor may go onto great things knowing you touched their lives along the way. Not a big deal, but loaded with meaning. Starting with your children and moving outwards, people grown under your wing can give you a huge sense of meaning and purpose as the years unfold. Be kind to yourself, consciously go out of your way to mentor someone and watch them grow – it will bless your soul.

 

In Homeloan Junction, role-models and mentors are aplenty; people who have been there and done that. Grab them and turn them into your role-model or mentor to help you grow and mature as you feel the need to. Willingness abounds so taking the step to go from “I respect you” to “will you please mentor me” is sometimes just a matter of asking. Be or find a mentor today and begin to visualize your success and let your imagination draw you into new worlds and ways that you desire. You deserve it! Yes You!

 

Yours in Property.

PERSONAL EFFECTIVENESS [PART8.2]

In the previous part of this 2-part series, we covered how others face you. In accordance with your personal definition, people face you every day and create impressions of you simply by listening and watching your every move. Many opinions are not important to you or your career or business, but many are.

In this blog, in which we finish our series on Personal Effectiveness, we explore how we face others. In other words, what are the traits and attitudes by which we define our interactions and relationships with others?

I trust you will be challenged and motivated to change as and where required.

HOW YOU FACE OTHERS

We have written 7 Personal Effectiveness blogs in the past few months. I do not intend to repeat all of the content which you can find on www.homeloanjunction.co.za, but just state the headings:

Part 1: Perspective

Part 2: Altitude vs Attitude

Part 3: Purpose or Default?

Part 4: Focused or Frazzled?

Part 5: Passivity or Risk?

Part 6: Problem or Possibility?

Part 7: Choice or Chance?

I put to you that your response to these important foundations of character is a major determinant of personal definition. It would be very hard to display either side of these traits without having an impact on others. Fair to say, that we probably all display some of them and have a natural state which is dominant. Think of them as a continuum from 0-10 and score yourself honestly. Then take the scores, add them and divide by 7 to get a [average] picture of these foundations in the way you face others. If you’re happy with the result per trait and together, keep it up. If not, there is room for improvement so renew your spirit of self-development. You’re never too old to learn.

The only point I wish to make in totality is that we face others with our whole being, physically, mentally and spiritually. Especially to those who know you best, you cannot hide what’s deep inside. Beauty may be skin deep but it need not be – it can radiate from deep within us. We each have the capacity for personal beauty in our personal definition. The Good Book says, “Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” [Proverbs 4:23 ]

Here are some other thoughts pertaining to how we face others:

  1. Academic or practical?
    Some individuals are academic. Professionals have no option, an accountant or doctor need professional qualifications in order to practice. Most graduates have a broad-based degree and then work in fields of interest or skill. Others have a trade and ply it in their own business or working with an institution. Some never qualify with any academics and simply learn to be who they are by experience. In the past, apprenticeships were very popular and produced many near-engineers and technicians. Interesting now, that trades-men and -women emigrate with ease because their skills are scare almost worldwide.

    Whatever level of academics you have used to get to where you are has little bearing on your personal definition. You may not agree, but as much as it is not possible to be an engineer without the requisite qualifications, being an engineer is not your persona. The sense of importance you place on your academic qualifications and the degree to which they “make you” who you are, requires caution. Academics are nice but not necessary in your journey from human doing to human being. They help to make you competent but so does experience; they do not make you important. I often ponder the difference between qualified and educated. I have met many qualified people but education needs no introduction; the application of education that brings with it the confidence of competence is obvious. The corollary is this, do not lament that you do not have a degree just be yourself and improve what and who you are.

  1. Showing up or showing up others.
    Personal definition does not require you to be big in the presence of small. Psychologists talk of projection – blaming others to avoid blame. It is cheap and nasty, lacing in abundance mentality. Abundance mentality became well known many years ago as an acknowledgement that “there is room for everybody.”  You do not have to squeeze out others to make a space for yourself; you can enjoy your space while others enjoy theirs. We often hear of dog-eat-dog and it has become the formula for some careers. Get to the top on the shoulders of others if that’s what it takes. Show up others and you will show up.

    Rubbish! Short-sighted nonsense! If you want to lead, you need to win the hearts of followers. You can get hands and even some heads by inducement and fear, but you will never get powerful motivation in unison with a carrot-and-stick mentality. The Lions did not become a dynamic winning team with the promise of a bonus; they drove victory after victory on passion and pride and technical skills of the game. At the helm was Johan Ackerman and they even played for him in the end. Imagine if he was the “important coach” and they were the “paid rugby players”; they would be bottom on the log.

    Want people to show up? Then you show up and give them the credit they deserve.

  1. Relentlessness and resilience
    I was on a call with a friend the other day when he spoke about being relentless. He may have read it in a self-help book but knowing him, I don’t think so. He is relentless. Obstacles produce other routes, failure is a “how not to” for the future, money is spent on R&D without regret and from every failed attempt comes a new learning. I have seen positive people, but I have never known anyone this relentless. Always driving, always learning, always thinking, always questioning, always progressing. With it, comes resilience. Even if I say he should think again, he comes back with an answer – what we have got from where we have been and what we still intend to do. A night of discouragement, followed by weeks of resilience – one business life stage after another. I wish that all his desires are realised one day; someone is going to buy his business for a huge amount. And what will some say? He’s lucky. Balderdash, he’s relentless!
  1. Can you say No?
    Some of us are only learning to say No late in life. We have been “approachable” and “there for people” for decades. Even to the point that many times others had our attention while those close to us lost out.

    There is really no excuse for that behaviour in a good personal definition. There is a formula for time management:

W + F + RE + S = T, where:

W = Work;

F = Family;

RE = Relaxation and Exercise;

S = Sleep, and:

T = 24 hours.

That’s what all of us have, 24 hours. No more and no less. That’s it, and multiplied by the days of our lives, that’s really it. Time management is not optional, it’s critical if you want to maximize personal effectiveness.

  1. Adversity

You will have it come hell or high water. It’s tough, relentless and draining. It can be short, like an accident or long like a disability. It is always associated with pain, physical or emotional. And, it is no respecter of persons.

Steve Jobs dies of pancreatic cancer with all the money in the world. And somewhere in a remote corner of the town other dies in poverty and of hunger. Adversity is a condition of Man.

I am always reminded that our right to choose is our choice of reaction. Given the same malady, one will crumple and another thrives. How many have entered business and failed, some to rise from the ashes and others to collapse in despair? Both faced with similar circumstances and both only left with the power of their reaction. Personal definition is hued with the way you deal adversity. The power to empathise with others is often born from our own grief. We understand what we have personally endured and survived, we identify with what we can imagine and hear from others. Spare a thought for those nearly broken in their adversity; before you criticize be aware of your own frailty in adverse circumstances. But, always use adversity for the better.

I wrote this to someone I love dearly and trust you will find it meaningful:

My prayer for you is that you will experience hardship with dignity. Hardship is the bedfellow of life. An illness, an untimely death, an accident, a retarded child are all sent to test the mettle of which we are made. Dignity and courage raise us to godliness in the face of confusion and pain. It is in the face of opposition and hardship that we record our finest hour and demonstrate our finest character.

  1. To believe or not to believe, that is the question

Sex, politics and religion were taboo when I grew up. I’m so glad that has changed and that we can discuss these topics in the open.

Religion is often suppressed in personal definition as something private. In fact, I am beginning to find that atheism is being raised quite early in conversations. “I am not religious”, I find, is an early statement in the formation of friendships and a noteworthy part of personal definition. In turn, in this modern world in which we live with all its personal and Press freedoms we hold dear, we should be able to say, “I am Christian or Buddhist” etc so as to define an element of our humanity and therefore our personal definition.

Whether it’s faith or fancy, the point I would like to leave with you is that your belief systems matter. Whether to guide a decision to be made or to serve to beacon a wrong or right decision already made, what you believe is a fundamental driver of how you face others.

A sense of personal definition demands a sense and even, display, of what you believe. Whether you speak it or remain silent, live it or default to it under pressure, your faith will shine through and will define you. Don’t allow a default setting to define you – define yourself and provide others a degree of certainty in your inter-personal dealings.

We all face others every minute of the day. Putting your best foot forward can work for some but eventually, the real you will reveal itself. No matter what that looks like, you will self-analyse afterwards and form your own impression. Others will be doing the same, rightly or wrongly, instantly and over time. Personal definition, like I have once described for Purpose, becomes the boundaries in which you are you. Most times you never think about it intentionally but over time, you will have become known to yourself and others in a particular way. If what you and they see is authentic and down-to-earth, good for you. If there is any plasticity, you owe it to yourself to improve. At the end of the day, you were born for a purpose and no matter how much or how little greatness has been thrust upon you, you have a responsibility to yourself and to others to be the best you can be.

In conclusion, as  coach I am often asked for my opinion of a particular behaviour. Should I stand up for my rights? Should I eat humble pie? Is what I am doing right? What could I do better? Questions that require an affirmation or an alternative approach from me. My answer is always: “Is what you are going to do effective in achieving what you want to achieve?” You see, we can do whatever we want to do but unless we achieve a desired outcome, what is the use? Surely, it is better to understand what we want to achieve, what is sustainable and meaningful and how these outcomes would best be achieved? Then we advance and we manage the process as things unfold trying our best efforts to achieve what we want. In such a  case, my way or opinion is unimportant in the scheme of things. And so it is with personal definition; what you wish people to think of you and how you wish to face them is all that matters. And the questions is not whether you are right or wrong but rather, is what you are going to be defined as effective for the way you want to live your life? Will you achieve what you want to achieve?

It truly is up to you to be the man or woman you want to be.

Great success, as you drive to great success!

Yours in Property.

PERSONAL EFFECTIVENESS [PART 8.1]

All good things have to come to an end. At least that’s what my Mom used to tell me. Coming out of World War 2, I can imagine such a view but it does not really have to be true.

However, this is the last of the Personal Effectiveness series that I have enjoyed the privilege of writing. This last one is unapologetically long and therefore divided into two parts. The reason is not that it’s a summary of what’s been before because that’s accessible to anyone interested in a re-read, but rather, because it’s about a topic of huge proportions – Personal Definition [which, I may abbreviate to PD]. Just page 1 of cell phone Google, gave me 13 sites and 8 related articles. The temptation is to read one and regurgitate its content as my paraphrased version. But, as I’m wont to do, I’d like to cover a few of my own thoughts coupled with 60-something years of experience, education, and travel; in short, Life. So throw your thoughts into the imaginary ring and let’s share together.

If you wondered about Wikipedia, “Personal branding is essentially the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual…….. [and]………often involves the application of one’s name to various products.” If you wondered, Personal Definition is mentioned as personal branding, but the reason I use the term is simply that in our minds, branding can be quite hazy. The fact is, those who know you and matter, have a very distinctive view of who you are and what you do, as it relates to them – indeed, you are defined as a person in their mind.

YOU Inc

For some of you, thinking of yourself as a brand is strange. On the one hand, it’s not like you “to put yourself out there” and for others, it’s too “American” or simply “not something you would ever do; it’s vain”. I hear you but as we interact, sell, serve, get married, participate in sport [or not] and just go about our daily business, we are creating a brand, a way people know us, a sense of predictability [or not!] and a knowing, of ourselves and by others. Why else would your dog hide when you’re in a bad mood or alternatively, Mugg n Bean have a doily reading: “Be the person your dog thinks you are.” You see, you can ignore the heading and just think of yourself as “Me” but others, if asked to describe who you are, would have much more to say about you, good, bad and indifferent. You simply cannot ignore your brand. Call it what you like, you leave a stamp on humanity every day and over long periods of time. You are known no matter what. Silence and self-deprecation is brand building; haughtiness and know-it-all is brand building and being authentic and confident in your own skin, is brand building.

Every day, everywhere you show up, get held accountable, and get watched. You build your brand no matter what until the day you die and briefly get remembered, or lovingly get buried in the hearts of those you loved and who loved you.

What a responsibility and what a great thought!

Of course, the definition includes attaching your name to a brand or product. In our property industry, Seeff or Chas Everitt, Berry’s amazing Dad. Or, “I am Pam” to celebrate 40 years of a great lady. Many years ago, the now-late Clive Wiel, drove the concept on our new advertising media, TV, for a much smaller Checkers as it began to fight it out for grocery retailer dominance with Pick n Pay in an ad that started something like this, “Hi I’m Clive Wiel from Checkers. Trolley for trolley we will……” and the rest is history. Not an owner, but like the modern Samuel Seeff ads, my name = my brand = my company and, most of all, = My Promise.

Welcome to YOU Inc. Embrace or reject it, every moment of the day you’re being it and building it.

What does yours look like and how is it developing? Beeg question!

HOW YOU FACE OTHERS

In 2010, we did an exercise in a Coaching class that I will never forget. We were asked to term ourselves as Dogs or Cats. The end result was good for a laugh but loaded with truth. The moral of the story? Each of us has characteristic traits and, together with their own views, others see us as they believe we are.

The question of course for personal definition, is: Do we validate ourselves in the opinion of others? Yes, I think of myself in another person’s estimation or, No, I am my own person. I believe all of us at some stage have validated through others. Just think of when you fell in love; the fact that she loves you makes you feel very good. In fact, you think, she has good taste choosing me! Hopefully, we grow to maturity from that thinking but wanting recognition and affection is very often a need for the admiration of others. Many think the human race has this basic need; just read parenting books to see it, though balanced with consistency and discipline. The opposite is also true. Criticise me, break me down and see no good and I could take on that persona. Sad but true for many.

As an aside for the latter, an anonymous quote: “What you think of me is not my business.”

From this comes the issue of dependence, independence, or inter-dependence. No better author than Stephen Covey comes to mind on the subject and you are encouraged to read his books starting with Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Dependency is fragile and very dependent on the stronger party. Dependent upon you, if you let me down, I am broken; unable to “find myself” from under your shadow. The person trapped in this state is unable to be their own person until they recognise their own worth and manage the relationship accordingly. An old book, I’m Ok, You’re Ok, covered this relationship very well. In turn, it highlighted the benefits of not being dependent, being able to be “Ok” in the presence of any company.

On the other hand, is independence. It is not freedom but rather an attitude of not requiring the other party, from government, your employer or an individual. Being “off the grid” is popular these days – no Eskom, Rand Water and even food Retailers – as we “go it alone”. Not needing others may have limited appeal but sooner or later, you need someone or something. So independence is a pipe-dream, desired but never found.

The only sustainable state is interdependence; that realization deep down that we or things, are dependent on each other. In fact, we are not only dependent but also strengthened by association. “Think team, see individuals” is an old management adage that recognises the power of people together and encourages the team as superlative to the individual – Messi and Ronaldo are good, but nothing without the ball they’re passed. So too, we exist in an ecosystem in our families, our workplaces and our communities that give as shelter, encouragement and nourishment. Alone is nice sometimes as we take the space we deserve, but extended too long, it becomes dysfunctional. Get up, pick up and show up is the mantra for success; be ready interdependently, to take the opportunities passed to you. And, pass some to others so they and experience the joy as well. Covey summarises the matter for us before we have to move on:

“Independence is the paradigm of I – I am responsible; I am self-reliant; I can choose. Interdependence is the paradigm of We – We can do it; we can co-operate; we can combine our talents and abilities and create something greater together.”

“Interdependence is a higher value than independence.”

And, very important…..

“Interdependence is a choice only independent people can make.”

If you buy what I’m writing, then this leads us to a few life skills or, interpersonal relationship skills:

  1. Relate or transact?
    As you build personal definition, do you relate or transact with other people. Transaction is simple – we do a thing and “no consequences”. You give me what I want and I’ll give you what you want. Take the till at Checkers for instance. I’ve shopped, you man the till, you ring up, I pay and we part. Frankly, if I never saw you again, that’s okay. Thousands of transactions occur every day in our lives and we even have a plethora of virtual transactions now occurring on WWW.

    If only life was that simple or that shallow. But my experience is that those who sustainably succeed make Relating a habit. Nobody it too “small” and the “big” are placed in perspective – respected but not revered; such emotion belongs to very few. Relationship is long-term and premised on the importance of every person as a human being. Employees are not units of labour but associates in the business, whether it’s yours or shareholders. People matter and profits are a by-product of people rather than an expectation of management. Relationship changes your perspective of significant others. As much as we realise we cannot be responsible for everyone, we do take personal responsibility for ourselves and in doing so, are able to bring something of ourselves to many in our life’s journey. Check this out as a summary:

HLJ BLog

 

  1. Smirk or smile?
    I’m watching MKR on most nights now and Josh is bugging me. He always has a smirk at anyone’s fault. I heard him refuse another team help in a mass cook-out whilst his co-inhabitants of the kitchen container helped with pleasure. You know Josh’s – independent, clever, competitive and correct [always] – they adorn the hallowed halls of institutions. They rise on the backs of others and enjoy the view from the 7th floor and above.

    I never forget an initiative in Nedbank where, as part of our Values initiative, we awarded monies to worthy causes of our staff. One man, 20+ years in the bank and a Grade 8 for all of it, told the story of how he coaches disadvantaged children soccer on a rough field in Soweto. He has done it for years, keeping them off the street and giving them physical, emotional and spiritual sustenance in the process. We gave him the money to buy the team their first kit of football attire. I wondered as we signed it off – who was the hero in the story, the ones who signed off the gift or the man who would have been back on that field with the kids on Saturday even if we didn’t. I later saw a picture of the handover; he was smiling from ear-to-ear. Enough said, hope you get my drift?

 

  1. Help or break?
    In similar vein, do we help people or break people? Breaking people is so easy. A bad word, finding mistakes, silence in the light of performance and the famous one, pointing out what still needs to be done. “Never good enough” can be the message communicated in so many ways. Just a nod of the head is often all that it takes. It is said, that we listen to words for 20-30% of communication and feel the body language for the rest.

    Help involves involvement. It is probably the main reason for not helping. “Don’t get involved” is the mantra of many. Kind, considerate and even listening, but not involved. In fairness, I would not like to take the moral high ground on this. Sometimes the need, the time and emotional commitment is just too great and we need to be supportive but, ultimately, not get involved. However, the question is is there a point to which I could be involved? We heard it said that when one hurts, we all hurt; but is it actually true? I guess the purpose of this line of thinking is about whether I am for myself or for others and where the break-point lies. If not all about me, is there a word of encouragement or a helping hand in my sense of personal definition? I know some are committed to animals, others to the poor and homeless, others to their immediate and broader families – all giving something of themselves and, certainly from a time point of view at least, even hurting a little in the sacrifice.

 

  1. Teach or take?
    As far back as high school I learned the principle that teaching cements learning. So my formula was learn then teach and I even used this process when someone wanted to copy my homework; I would simply offer to help them with theirs. It often worked for both of us.

    At the heart of this question is attitude. Do you take what is given and use it for yourself? Or, do you use it for yourself and teach others then learning as well? Never mind the obvious application; I see the principle so often in Corporates. Information is power and he who has the most is the most powerful. So letting go of your information, your foreknowledge, can reduce your power [by the way, called Informational power]. So you see power held and dispersed only to the “important” people. The premise is anyone not receiving information doesn’t need to know. This power is so childish but very effective. Of course, no one exercising it would ever teach; rather “need to know” becomes the practise of these people. Now, I’m not implying confidentiality is not important [remember, “slipping” something which is confidential makes the person doing it appear even more powerful and “connected”] but the sharing of knowledge is inclusive and directional; in the end, people who feel they belong are more motivated and are willing to be lead. Leaders share information.

Rightly or wrongly, we frame who we are in the perceptions of others. For some it is validation but for the mature, the opinion of others of us is tempered by our own self-worth. I love graffiti and always read the back of Hulletts sugar packets. A recent one says: “If you know yourself, then you’ll not be harmed by what is said about you.” Sage advice from what is apparently an Arabian proverb. On the other hand, if the shoe fits, wear it. Allied to this is the humbling experience of asking a friend how they see you and listening carefully to their insights. It is also very important to realise that often what we think is our truth and the same goes for others’ opinions; truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder so be circumspect about what you let in or ignore. A lot of “truth” especially from parents and other respected people can be the source of our self-limiting beliefs.

Personal definition involves facing others. Whether it’s a glance in a train or a long-term business relationship, others define who you are in their own minds. Is their definition to your liking? If not, change it. It is in your hands.

Yours in Property.

PERSONAL EFFECTIVENESS [PART 7]

Some serious property news on the wires at the moment!

Wasn’t the news of the rate reduction good news? On the one hand, as is the case in America, a reduction in rate can mean the economy is not firing well but, as so in our case, we had good news on the Inflation front which convinced enough members of the SARB MFC to reduce the rate. Inflation has been just over 5% in the last two rounds and that is within the target band of 3-6% as well as indicating some stability in the Rand. Point is that the situation allowed the SARB to signal a downward trend and, goodness knows, we need it. Whilst we remain in recession and, I think, will be there for another quarter at least, we’ll take what we can get.

On the political front, things seem to be moving in the right direction. It seems some brave ANC MP’s have found their voice so let’s see. The solution for SAA by selling Government’s [read PIC] stake in Telkom is a shocker of immense proportions. PIC is the government pension fund and it has a good stake in Telkom on behalf of millions of pensioners, current or future. To sell that to bailout SAA is madness, throwing good money after bad and keeping a dying dog alive. Already our new Finance Minister has had to tuck into the Emergency Fund for R2.3bn to pay out Standard Chartered who refused to roll their bond and continue funding SAA – a good credit call for a bankrupt company if not financially, then managerially. In doing so, with hours to make up his mind, he had to do what he did. BUT, the solution for SAA is to not renew the contract of its CEO in a few weeks’ time, fire the rest of board, reinstitute good governance and then sell the company to private investors [Ethiopian Airlines comes to mind, believe it or not] and recoup all or most of the capital and sureties that government has issued to borrowers. Why is this part of a property blog? Because, if this kind of miracle cure was realised, it would mean sanity is prevailing in the State-owned enterprises and a huge economic turnaround is beginning.

 

As a final thought, imagine a government of President Cyril, Justice Minister Thuli and Finance Minister Pravin et al. We would be a great nation again. To full circle, the other good thing about declining inflation rate is that it gives us a snowball’s hope in a fridge, of getting some real house price growth in 2017.

On the property side:

  1. Knight Frank and Wealth-X conducts research that concentrates on high net worth individuals and is about to release its report about the world’s wealthiest people and luxury items.. Cal led the Knight Frank’s Global Wealth Report, the 2017 report will be released in South Africa in August. Last year’s report placed Cape Town as third globally in terms of the annual price of property growth. However, in 2017 it seems Cape Town may have dropped from third to the fourteenth spot globally. In 2016, the City of Cape Town was ranked third in the world for the highest housing prices, falling behind only Shanghai and Vancouver. According to FNB’s latest survey: “In the 2nd quarter of 2017, the City of Cape Town’s estimated average house price growth rate remained in a double-digit territory to the tune of 13.8% year-on-year. However, while still very strong, this year-on-year price growth rate represents the 5th consecutive quarter of slowing from a 10-year high of 15.7% revised rate recorded in the 1st quarter of 2016.” Sorry for the home owners but the news is good in my opinion – being such an outlier in the context of South Africa could simply be a bubble waiting to burst.
  2. The latest FNB house price indices have indicated that house price growth is declining at increasingly similar rates. The outliers were the High and Affordable markets. No surprise there as the one has money and the other needs housing. In fact, what I hear is that the developers have a backlog of construction for already sold houses in the latter market. I don’t think that would continue but it’s good while it lasts.
  3. What will 25bps do for interest? Very little seeing it’s only a 3.6% reduction in interest costs. But we live in a country that needs good news and this reduction is good news. Will confidence flow? No, it will take more than a rate reduction to instil game-changing confidence and for that our “good” politicians are responsible.

With a few property points behind me, a further Personal Effectiveness insight. It’s brief this time but hopefully hard-hitting. Not as direct and clear as the previous versions but written from my heart. Remember, if you are striving for the pinnacle of success in your personal effectiveness, then learning from the lowly examples is good “medicine”. So read on and between the lines to be challenged once more. The Japanese used the word keizan to mean “continual improvement”. A facetious part of me wants to say, which part of continual…improvement don’t you understand? Relentless, persevering, ongoing improvement and all held to a higher-and-higher standard of performance. If you’ve just watched Froome win his 3rd consecutive and fourth out of five Tours de France, and Spieth bail himself out of a down-and-out mess in The Open, [and the Lions beat the Sharks in the dying moments of the game…. had to throw that one in!!] then you know what I’m talking about.

CHOICE OR CHANCE?

Here’s the story. One week ago I stood in for my wife at our church’s soup kitchen. It was cold and, far more than normal, 40 people arrived for an orange, 2 slices of bread and the customary cup of soup. About 10 women and 30 men, some neatly dressed carrying themselves with dignity and others dishevelled and obviously hungover or even, recently drunk. All well behaved, for in this environment to misbehave is to miss out on the precious, hot cuppa soup. Perhaps though, being in a church ground also called a higher standard from each present; perhaps a sign that we are all human and in another Presence, we cloth ourselves with a higher attitude than normal. Some were old and others younger. Living testament that age and social standing don’t really bear any correlation – you can be poor young and poor old, it really doesn’t matter. Some were neatly shaven and/or their hair washed. I thought to myself, where in heaven’s name do you find the water and soap to look good when the difference between a meal or not was this soup-line? What dignity drives such cleanliness or was it just luck that found an ice-cold tap that day? And there they stood, each with a story no doubt and few with anyone to listen or even care enough to pass the greeting of the day. And once they had their first helping, they immediately joined the queue for another cup of the hot brew. Eventually, even the 4th large pot ran out and people slowly went and sat on the steps to eat their bread and orange. After one hour, everyone departed; back onto the streets to whatever they called “home”.

Fascinating and sobering that one soup kitchen in our town. What made it so was not the people in the line but the fact that I was there. Being present, I wondered if choices had anything to do with their plight or if chance had just played its hand differently for them and me.

I looked at these folk and wondered where our lives were different. If our lives are the sum total of our choices to any point in time then any chance, which in and of itself, is also a choice – to do nothing, to go with the flow, to follow wherever – got added in, how did we end up where we are? Was it good parentage, the silver spoon, discipline and education, a sense of higher purpose, the decision of a Higher Being, addiction to substances, debilitating poverty? What made the difference other than choice itself? How do two people live in the same township and one becomes a successful electrician and the other finds themself in a soup line? Surely, it is not a function of race or intellect or drive or luck. Surely the primary life skill was simply to be able to identify the forks in the road and take the majority of right directions? If you think about it, how do you travel from Joburg to Durban other than by not going the wrong way and choosing the right way? Simple, you say, just choose right and wrong never enters the equation; after 40 years the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

True, but here are some closing thoughts for your consideration:

– You may have made the right decisions nine times out of ten, but be grateful that you did. There are many times if we’re honest with ourselves, that the possibility for incorrectness was just as real as the right choice. Be humble and spare a thought for those who made a mistake.

– Mistakes are only failure if you allow them to be. Mistakes are learning and knowing what not to do is often as rich as having known what to do. Life is often complex and not binary – If, Maybe, Perhaps etc are also part of decisioning. The margin for error in some decisions are so small that a slightly different direction could cause a huge mess of the end goal.

– The two bedfellows of wrong choices are guilt and regret. We all have some and we all need to deal it. Sweeping the feelings under the carpet may feel safe but sooner or later, we need to face the issue. Our weakness, our self-limiting beliefs, our arrogance or our subservience may all be reasons for failures and mistakes but learning from them is powerful.

– In the circumstances, I describe above I am always struck by the fact that one is not better than the other. As humans we spend a huge amount of time comparing – I mean let’s face it, in the morning you look in the mirror, compare yourself to the image you have of yourself and bang! it hits you :-). Perhaps, the issue is not “better” but simply, “different”. You see, if you boil it down, that man in the queue standing for his daily bread is only 24 hours removed from where I am. In a day, if I don’t lose all my money in a bad business deal or sign a surety that sours, I could develop an attitude of supremacy and privilege because I am above him. And as I do so, I become impoverished of spirit and soul, haughty and disdainful, bereft of any humanity and emotions. Sick and tired of being sick and tired.

So, the challenge goes out without further philosophical intent. Are you making choices that are enriching and true, full of integrity and a love for others? Are you getting rich in character and not just money? Is your effort worth the reward and has the reward enough depth to weather a life storm? Are you building emotional reserves in your relationships from which you can draw when you screw up and hurt another? Are you a tree providing shade and sustenance or the root that sucks everything from the ground around you?

Pretty serious stuff but worth a thought. Choice or chance – which is you and is there any need for change?

We have come through trying times of late as we have evidence of our beautiful country having been raped by greed. HLJ continues to thrive and, I would hesitate to say, because of people who demonstrate the power of good choice without the arrogance of knowing it. For the issue of continual performance in the face of economic adversity, they have a plan and a desire to be better and, if not, only to fail trying and never by giving up.

Yours in Property