It is all about people
William (‘Bill’) Rawson is an entrepreneur from Cape Town who has built himself a successful property business from humble beginnings into a national household brand name and money making machine. In 1978 he started his own estate agency called Bill Rawson estates employing a team of 25 estate agents which today has grown into one of the leading South African estate agencies called Rawson Property Group – the rest is all history.
Current position: Founder & Chairman, Rawson Property Group
Education/Qualifications: Associate of The Institute of Chartered Secretaries
Family: 4 children of which two are male and two are female. 3 grandchildren (boys)
Books currently reading: Quantum Economics by David Orell and Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
Life motto: Treat and respect others as you would like to be!
Favourite quote: “Look after others and they will look after you!”
He incorporated his passion for the property business plus the will to make serious money for himself into the Rawson Property Group which he founded in 1982. Today they are now affectionately known as ‘The Rawson Family’ a nationwide ‘family’ of property professionals who are connected by the same values and culture throughout South Africa. This is what makes them different as it is mainly about people and the endeavour to make you feel a part of it.
Rawson Property Group through Bill’s vision and guidance has developed into a property company which offers various elements of property services. They first started in residential sales and letting and then later expanded into auctions, commercial and industrial sales and letting (including selling farms and smallholdings). They subsequently expanded into residential developments when he created focused on building and selling quality residential property developments.
With the support of an inspired and enthusiastic team, Rawson Property Group has entrenched itself as one of the market leaders in property sales and letting. In 2004 Rawson Properties was nominated as a Superbrand by the Independent Superbrand Council of South Africa.
Where it started
Born, bred and educated in the Cape Town southern suburbs, Bill grew up going to boarding school from the age of five until 14 after where he eventually became a day scholar. He was raised by a single parent who had limited earnings so Bill had to learn how to earn an income at an early age to afford the things he desired.
His foray into business started by selling fish bait and then diving and recovering lost fishing sinkers and selling those from the age of 14. He then qualified as a physical training instructor in the South African Navy.
He started selling property in November 1971 while studying part -time to complete his CIS after failing his finals many times. In 1971 he started selling vacant land as an estate agent to earn a living.
He learnt the art of managing people at the age of 24 and how to build effective sales teams which he did during difficult economic times. In hindsight this stood him well in building all of his businesses.
The launch of Rawson estate
At the age of 32 he already accumulated 12 income producing properties and that is when he decided to open his first estate agency office and challenge the older established real estate agent players in the market. Simultaneously, with the launch of Rawson Properties he continued investing, developing property, going from strength to strength and building teams of people who supported him.
In 1991 a large commercial bank made Bill an offer to buy his property agent business which he refused to accept as he felt that the business had not matured yet. In 1998 he converted 15 Bill Rawson estate offices into 15 Rawson Properties Franchises. Today Rawson Properties has more than 150 offices and over 200 franchises throughout the country. He believes that the building of technology needed to support their residential franchise businesses is among the best in the industry.
The Rawson property development and construction business are still going from strength to strength having built in excess of 3500 residential units in the Western Cape already. Currently, he has a property development pipeline of some R3 billion depending on their appetite for risk.
Bill’s Business Philosophy
• Lead by example.
• Have partners that add value and share the work and profits.
• Always have business plans and goals.
• Keep a very watchful eye on cash flow and financials. I still check bank balances daily.
• Treat people fairly.
• Define each problem in writing and then write down all the possible solutions and choose the one you feel is best.
• Continually study trends and get up to date with current events both financial and political.
• It is important to make a profit so that you can continue to build the business. It’s not important to spoil yourself with luxuries.
• Keep a written daily diary where you capture your days meetings and opportunities. This has helped me more than my electronic diary as I can write all over the page to remind myself or clarify my thoughts
Bill the property investor
Bill’s first property investment he bought for himself was a piece of vacant land he bought in Kommetjie, Cape Town which he resold shortly thereafter. After doing all the calculations he realized that it was a poor investment as there was no proper income stream. Although he had made a profit on the capital growth of the sale, it took him a bit of time to get his cash back, so the risk and reward didn’t make any sense to him.
From the proceeds of his first property earnings in 1973 he started embarking on investing in property, buying vacant land and then investing in houses which he renovated, sold or rented out. It was through this that he learnt how gearing and borrowed finance can accelerate and improve income to purchase property.
Bill has always kept educating himself to stay abreast of the latest business trends, politics and economics today. His journey to make a difference in the game still continues and he has not switched off but aims to only work three days a week. However, he still gets very enthusiastic when he comes across great investment opportunities in the form of good people, good ideas, lucrative property or business opportunities.
Some of Bill’s best experiences include investing in great properties after doing thorough research on their value and its opportunity for either investment or redevelopment and negotiating the most favourable terms when possible.
His worst experience in investing was in what seemed like a great opportunity at the time when he miscalculated the potential for the area to improve as he had based this on incorrect assumptions. Ten years later he sold the property for the same price for which he had purchased it.
Don’t over-estimate Mr. Market which is extremely difficult as an optimistic property person who has seen the values of property particularly in the Western Cape just continue to increase year after year since 1971.
Most important investment lessons
Always have cash and energy reserves and a Plan B that can be put in place should the economy change negatively so that you are never forced to sell.
Bill has always invested in his own businesses and property. He has not understood the share market, offshore property or equities market. He has adopted the philosophy that you must not invest in what you don’t understand and what you can’t control.
Property in both residential and commercial sectors has treated him well in all of his businesses of property franchising, property development and investment. He has always invested equally in residential and commercial properties which generate income for his investment portfolio.
Bill has created a successful business through creating good systems, building teams that lead, teaching and employing 1000’s of people who feed families every day and look after customer’s needs. Bill says, “The success in uplifting people so that they can look after their needs has fulfilled me as a person and given me a purpose led life.”
I am always encouraging people to start their own businesses or I am challenging their thoughts that they can do it.
Opportunities going forward
Bill says there are many opportunities going forward in the SA property market. As the population of Africa and South Africa continues to grow so will the need for housing. He says opportunities are on the sections of the market that is the most profitable and affordable.
Technology if used correctly will hugely enable a very competitive real estate industry so stay up to date or just employ a service provider that is. We will still need to make our own decisions and lead our own lives and businesses but hopefully through technology we will have reliable information should we need to make calculated decisions. Bill is excited about the technology that they have continued to invest in that enables and improves their buyers, sellers, landlords and tenant’s experiences.
Bill’s vision will be fulfilled if company continues beyond him to serve all of its partners and clients in the best possible way so that they can continue to add value to the many lives daily. They are also very excited about their new property developments that they are bringing to the market very soon.
Bill’s life philosophy is be to be happy by helping others so that we can all live a peaceful and meaningful life. He says the biggest impact he would like to make on the world is to help and encourage others to do the best they have with what they have been given.
Bill’s Top 10 Property Investment Tips
• Define the property investment market you want to invest in and study it in depth.
• A good investment is an income producing property which appreciates.
• Invest in what you know you can afford and control.
Photography Credits: Ian Engelbrecht the photographer and Property Professional