In Business, Nice Guys Do Come First

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Lessons and insights from Delta’s CEO

As founder of the largest listed landlord to government in South Africa, as well as a multi-listed real estate income group specialising in African real estate outside of South Africa, Sandile Nomvete is no stranger when it comes to spotting opportunities where others only see challenges.

Sandile has, as founder and CEO of Delta Property Fund, been overseeing the REIT’s phenomenal growth since listing in 2012. Today, the Fund is a formidable player in the commercial office space with a portfolio of 112 properties across all nine provinces and a total lettable area just shy of 1 000 000 m2. What sets Delta apart from its peers, however, is that it has carved itself a niche as a specialist accommodation provider to national and provincial governments.

Sandile is also a founder member and current chairman of Grit Real Estate Income Group, a multi-listed landlord specialising in distributing hard currency returns to shareholders by partnering with multinational companies on their accommodation needs in Africa outside of South Africa.

Humble beginnings

Born in 1973 in Hammersdale, a township halfway between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, Sandile credits his township upbringing and parents for his entrepreneurial instinct and drive. “My parents were very entrepreneurial. They didn’t let their circumstances dictate their futures and they both ran their own businesses, interacting with a wide range of people,” he explains.

“Growing up in that environment I was exposed to business from a very early age. I suppose I picked up a lot from that; listening and learning. The one thing that I remember from an early childhood is how courteous my father was to everyone. He always treated people with respect, regardless of the person’s status or standing in life.

“This made a huge impression on me and is something I aspire to in my personal and business life. My father always made everyone feel part of the team, regardless of the significance of their contribution.

“Today, for me it’s still not about the leader, it’s all about the team. I generally shy away from the spotlight – my leadership style is more based on the philosophy that if you lead from the front you can lose those who haven’t yet bought into the vision. What makes it work is if you push everyone ahead, not leaving anyone behind.”

With his formative years spent in boarding schools – first at King’s School in the Natal Midlands and later at St Charles’ College in Pietermaritzburg, he had to learn to stand on his own feet very quickly. Being in one of the very few mixed-race schools in the country at the time, allowed Sandile to form a perspective on racial issues that many of his generation – irrespective of colour – are still grappling with.

“I can distinctly remember moving from a township school to the boarding school in the Drakensberg foothills – the new environment and experiences, such as seeing snow for the first time – made a massive impression on me.

“Boarding school also makes you grow up fast! It teaches you a different sort of independence when you don’t have the comfort of parents protecting your interests – it forces you to interact with all your peers, even those who don’t like you.

“These early childhood lessons, and the example set by my father has allowed me to be comfortable across the spectrum which stood me well in life and in business. As a leader, you need the skill to interact will all people regardless of whether their preconceived ideas are.”

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