Pam Golding, who founded one of the country’s largest independent property trading companies in 1976 with no start-up capital, has died at age 90.
“The funny thing about something that is larger than yourself – it’s not yours to own, it is there to pass on.”
These powerful words from Pam Golding, founder of the Pam Golding Property Group, encompass the spirit of giving and empowering that the property and business doyenne possessed – and the legacy she leaves behind.
She died on Tuesday at her home Wittebomen in Constantia. She was 90.
She was not only an icon of the real estate industry in South Africa and globally, but a role model and inspiration for women everywhere. In an article published by Lioness of Africa (LoA), a community of African women entrepreneurs, Golding was quoted as saying: “Encouraging other women from all walks of life to achieve their aspirations and be successful is of great importance to me. Women have much to gain from networking with other women who are successful, in whatever their chosen field.”
And when it came to networking and achieving success, she was a queen. After all, she founded one of the country’s largest independent property trading companies in 1976 with no start-up capital and just a sales assistant. At the time, she identified the need for a discreet and professional agency within the South African real estate market.
In the LoA article, Golding was quoted saying: “Today it might be called entrepreneurial spirit, but back then I simply dared to try, not sure quite how I would get there, but determined all the same.”
The group has since developed into a world-class global organisation comprised of a number of operating companies which cover the full spectrum of the property market in sub-Saharan Africa and internationally, and is recognised locally and globally as Southern Africa’s leading independent real estate group and the country’s most awarded real estate company.
Pam Golding Properties has more than 300 branches in Africa and international branches or sales links in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Miami, Malta, Grenada, Cyprus, Mauritius and the Seychelles. Pam Golding Properties also has a strategic alliance with Savills plc, one of the world’s largest property groups.
Inherent in the essence of the brand – underpinned by the company’s philosophy and cornerstones of empathy, knowledge, experience and integrity – is the promise of a “sense of comfort”, the group’s website states.
According to Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief at LoA, Golding built a property empire and earned her place as one of the world’s leading businesswomen.
“(And) all whilst maintaining her effortless grace and charm, and never losing sight of her exemplary levels of ethics and integrity.
“Her journey has provided a wonderful example for the next generation of women.”
In 2015, she told BizCommunity that one piece of advice for women who were looking to walk a similar path of success as she has was to: “Be determined to succeed and remain committed to your career path, retaining life’s balance. It is important to remain approachable and be empathetic to co-workers and clients.”
She also said that in addition to being passionate and working hard, they should make time for fun.
Family, too, was incredibly important to Golding, and at the centre of that – and, in fact, her life – was her relationship with her husband, Cecil, an ex-SAAF pilot whom she married in October 1953.
She also credited her “dear” husband – who passed away in 2014 – with giving her the ticket to her success in persuading her to make the business personal by putting her name on it and photograph on the advertising masthead.
At the time of the group’s 40th anniversary, Golding said her dream was for her sons Andrew and Peter, and daughter Jill, and the families, to continue to grow the success of Pam Golding properties. To this end, Dr Andrew Golding said: “The greatest reward of a 40-year legacy is seeing the spirit of Pam in each and every one of our extraordinary people. A legacy at your service.”
Among Golding’s titles and accolades are a position on the John F Kennedy School of Women’s Leadership Board, a trustee of the Desmond Tutu Peace Trust and the World Wildlife Fund, and Patron of the Heart of Healing.
In 2008 she was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administrations from the Walter Sisulu University, and in 2009 Achiever of the Year by Business Against Crime in the Western Cape and a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur Awards. And these are just to name a few.
Although Golding had retired from active management, she was still the life president of the group, and remained an internationally-acknowledged businesswoman. But even with those titles, words like “grace” and “elegance” are associated with her mannerisms.
In a 2009 article published in the Independent in the UK, Peter Bills described her as having the serenity, grace, and elegance of a swan. He also told of the privilege and honour she felt at being phoned by former president Nelson Mandela, and asked personally to find a home for him and his wife, Graca Machel.
Bills’ story conclusion revealed another side to the property icon that those close to her may hold in their memories.
“Her life and times have been a rich tapestry of endeavour and achievement, the whole containing, rather like a very naughty cream cake, a luscious filling of pure, unadulterated fun. And I discover why with my final question. What would she have done had she not gone into the real estate business ?
“No hesitation, no glance of uncertainty here. ‘A cabaret dancer’ she says, as I shake myself, as if I heard incorrectly. She smiles at my momentary sense of dislocation. ‘Why not ? I love dancing, music and singing. At heart, I like to be a bit of a showgirl because whenever we have a chance to let our hair down, I train the ladies to do a chorus girl line. Fishnet stockings, high heeled shoes and a dance routine…
“ ‘What fun’. The phrase could be her epitaph.”
Perhaps however, Golding’s spirit, legacy, and attitude towards life and business can be better summed up in her own words, spoken in 2016 for the company’s 40th year anniversary.
“Forty years later, I know that nothing worth having is made alone.”