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Pam Golding: Agency greats recall challenges faced in the early days

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Estate agency entrepreneurs who started out soon after Pam Golding in the industry say she moved effortlessly in a section of society that unnerved most people.

Estate agency entrepreneurs who started out soon after Pam Golding in the industry say she moved effortlessly in a section of society that unnerved most people.

Bill Rawson, Bill Rawson Estates founder and owner, and Anne Porter, Knight Frank chairman, remembered the early days.

Rawson says Golding started as an estate agent with a financial services company that soon closed its agency doors. This gave her the chance to open her own business, and soon she became the top selling agent in the southern suburbs, specialising in the more expensive areas.

“She had the courage and personality to charm and negotiate with those buyers and sellers, who are the most demanding. While we younger opposition agents were intimidated by these established and successful business people, she wasn’t and knew how to work with them.

“Success breeds success, and she attracted people to join her successful business. She started opening branch offices and we watched her business grow. It may have seemed easy to an outsider, but it was really challenging as I was doing the same in the lower end of the market.”

The economy was tough and it was extremely difficult to get funding for this type of business as one had no real assets to give to a bank as security for an overdraft. 
“We had to grow our businesses from profits derived through property sales commissions.”

Rawson describes Golding as “extremely courageous” for investing huge sums in advertising and marketing. But this paid off as the business grew, becoming a national brand of note.

“She took huge risks but she had the courage and vision to be the best marketer of property in South Africa. Her determination, vision and courage was again evident in the late 1990s, when she handed the management reins to her sons while she took on the role of chairman.

“I know how difficult that is as she would always have wanted things done her way, but she had to have confidence to let her younger generation take over. The business continued to flourish under their leadership and is still South Africa’s leading estate agency brand. Well done, Pam, we salute you!”

Another early competitor was Porter, who first met Golding in 1974.

“I was a young rookie agent and Pam had already established a reputation as an agent who had an instinct for matching properties to clients. We operated in the same areas so there were many occasions when we competed for the same mandates and clients. Finding property and the names of sellers involved detective work and determination. There were no cellphones, computerised records or any of the aids agents take for granted today.

“You did your own research, you spent hours in the deeds office pouring over old records to establish property ownership, and eagerly awaited the occasional publication of the latest sales in newspapers. Bonds were difficult to obtain and you had to find a matching investment from family or friends before applications were considered.”

In the early days the ownership and management of the industry was male-dominated, says Porter. The agents, on the other hand, were seen as bored housewives working part time.

“Nothing could be further from the truth. To be successful it was a 24/7 job. Show houses were from 10am to 6pm. In theory you could work your own hours – in practice your clients dictated at what time of the day or night you had to be available. Husbands put up with interrupted meals and cancelled engagements and supported us. Our children thought the telephone was an extension of their mother’s ear.

“Despite this, all our children are involved in our businesses today.

“There was no training. Common sense and a moral compass were the guiding principles.

“Through the efforts and leadership of industry stalwarts like Pam, the late Geoffrey Seeff and the Institute of Estate Agents, the industry is now regulated and professional.”

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