Feb 2018 – We recently sat down with Marjorie Ndesi, General Manager of The Business Exchange, a provider of fully-serviced office space in Sandton, Morningside and Rosebank, to understand a little more about herself and her role in The Business Exchange.
Marjorie, can you please tell the readers a little more about your first job and how you acquired it?
My first job was at Prosper Communications, a telecommunications company that worked closely with Cell C and Vodacom. I was employed by them in 2006, a year after completing my course in Business Management, initially as a Receptionist/Office Administrator and promoted in 2008 to the position of Personal Assistant to the CEO. During 2009 I was further promoted to the position of Office Manager.
When did you feel that you first achieved success in your career?
Firstly, I’d like to explain that to me, success means personal fulfilment. I would say that I first achieved success when I realized that I was happy with the direction that my career had taken and I was content with what I was doing in my daily work routine. I also now have the confidence to know that nothing limits me from exploring my strengths and sharing the knowledge which I’ve gained over the years with other individuals. In fact, I find it incredibly enriching to do this.
What was your biggest mistake or regret that other entrepreneurs can learn from?
I would say that I initially made the mistake of doubting my capabilities and strengths, which is something most of us tend to do at some stage. However, having an inspirational boss like David Seinker, our CEO, has shown me that there are no limits to your capabilities when you surround yourself with competent people who believe in you. I don’t have any regrets because I know that I am on a journey and one will always face challenges during a journey. What is important, however, is what actions you take when faced with these challenges to prevent any regrets.
What is the most important advice that you can give to young entrepreneurs?
Integrity is everything. Doing what you say you will do really goes a long way and earns you credibility.
How and when did you first become interested in working in the serviced office space industry?
Honestly, when I first started working for TBE in 2015, I was not necessarily interested in the type of industry but more about the growth and the experience that I would gain. However, my interest in this work model grew as I began to better understand what TBE was all about. The realisation that I was employed by a company that has redefined serviced office space, brought me a sense of fulfilment as I began to understand that, not only would I gain the experience which I desired, but that I would also be exposed to some excellent mentors during our networking sessions and gain an opportunity to learn about different industries from our diverse mixture of tenants. In the process I would also be able to enjoy and gain a better insight into the serviced office space industry.
The serviced office space must present many daily challenges. What would you say is one of your greatest challenges here?
I would say that a regular challenge is housing such a variety of entrepreneurs with so many different requirements under one umbrella. Each entrepreneur has different principles and expectations. Yet, they all require a unique service from us that not only speaks to their brand, but also represents their clientele. It has been a very interesting path and I must say that I am still in the process of mastering this. One of the Business Exchange’s main principles is to ensure that we build a professional relationship with each one of our tenants in order to better understand their needs and this is a priority for me.
To what do you attribute your success so far?
Determination on my part, as well as encouragement from various mentors in my life.
The office space industry is quite competitive. How do you retain your high-quality, key staff?
I believe that one can retain key staff through motivation and appreciation. Employees really love to know that their efforts are being recognized and simple words like “well done” can really go a long way. Each of our employees needs to identify with all our values so that they can truly carry them across to our Tenants and I believe that this speaks a lot about the type of person whom we hire.
We discussed that the office space industry is very competitive. What benefits does TBE have over its competitors?
That is a very good question and I would firstly like to make mention of our Values to bring more clarity to this question. We are driven by four main values; Creativity, Drive, Professionalism and Collaboration.
In one of your earlier questions, I mentioned that TBE has redefined the serviced office space industry. This has been done through these four values which I have just mentioned, and to which all our staff believe in and portray.
These four values are our foundation; we live, we act and we know that everything we do at TBE has to be aligned with these values. Having these as a foundation provides us with an opportunity to understand that the entrepreneurs whom we house, not only face their own set of challenges but also have a need to grow and develop themselves. We use our creativity and drive to constantly come up with and implement unique ideas that allow our tenants to collaborate and grow their businesses.
Through our professional and personal approach, TBE has successfully organised several monthly business events that give our tenants an opportunity to network with each other and to learn more about business. We also afford our tenants an opportunity to meet Angel Investors when they are ready, and it is here where they are given a chance to pitch directly to these investors for business funding.
On a much lighter note, we understand that everyone needs a good start to their week and so we bolster our tenants by providing them with a free barista-served coffee between 8 am to 10 am on weekdays. TBE also has onsite gyms at some of its properties, and these are freely available to our tenants and accessible 24/7.
What has the reaction been to the TBE office space model as it has grown?
I would say that the reaction has been very positive and I believe that this can be attributed to that fact that not only have we managed to grow our business centres, but we have also been given opportunities to house start-up and mature companies, as well as some international brands.
What type of tenants looking for office space does TBE attract?
As I mentioned, we attract start-ups as well as mature companies and international clients. However, our types of tenants vary greatly encompassing anything from Financial Advisors and Wealth Managers to people from industries such as IT, Recruitment, Airlines, Attorneys as well as Media and Marketing companies.
What is TBE’s long-term office space goal?
Retainment of our clients is our main priority and we aim at building genuine, professional business relationships with each of them to attain this goal.
In your opinion, who is the most influential South African business leader and why?
(Laughing) Only one? If it were not that this would be seen as biased, I would have said David Seinker, our CEO and I mean this honestly. He has been a great inspiration to me and helped me to grow from strength to strength.
However, for the purposes of this interview, I would say Patrick Motsepe. He is extremely influential and worked so hard for his wealth – yet in 2013, gave half of it away to charitable causes. I am big on charity and I love lending a hand whenever anything speaks of giving. It really touches me personally because of my own past experiences.