Rising to the Top: In Conversation with Beketele Maziya – CEO of Lionheart Properties

By: Phesheya Mkhonta         

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience in property. How did you start your career?

A: I am a firm believer that every piece of the puzzle of your life contributes to what you will ultimately become. So my career in real estate began with a career in television (with Channel Yemaswati, formerly Channel S). This is where I learned the art of storytelling and not being shy in front of people. I then accepted an offer to work as a rental sales agent at AVIS. Here I learnt the fundamentals of customer service and sales principles. From as far back as I can recall, I loved the idea of beautiful houses. I did not know how I would enter that space, or what role I could play. All I knew is I was obsessed with seeing people’s homes and I was intrigued by what they did with their spaces. One day my husband walks into the house and casually tells me he’s had a conversation with Mr. Lyle Hutton who was the franchise owner of REMAX at the time and he was looking for a rental sales agent. I was then called for an interview and the rest is, as they say, history. I started as a rental administrator, then got promoted to being a rental letting officer, then a rental letting agent. Soon after, I became a Sales Officer and eventually became a Sales Associate and received an award at REMAX Global for being in the top 5 real estate agents in the SADC region. The award came with an induction into the industry’s prestigious Platinum Club.

Q: Can you tell us about your business Lionheart Properties? What is your service offering?

A: Lionheart Properties is the brainchild of a husband and wife team namely myself, the realtor of the pair, and my husband who brought his knowledge and understanding of property law and contracts. We wanted to offer our clients more services, more expertise, and more attention. We had observed that most agents (though certainly not all) got away with doing the bare minimum but charged premium rates and, yet the client at the end of the day did most of the work themselves and did not enjoy or learn from the process of purchasing or selling a property. In essence, Lionheart Properties is a boutique real estate brokerage firm that acts as a bridge between property owners and potential buyers or tenants. Our aim is not to just sell houses, but homes, we don’t sell commercial buildings, we sell assets, investments, and financial freedom. As a service offering, we sell assets, facilitate rentals, and property management and provide property advisory.

Q: Which sector of the property industry are you mainly focused on – rentals, sales, commercial or property management?

A: Our history would dictate that we specialize in the commercial space. Over the past 7 years, we have facilitated the transfer of well over E100 million in assets. From commercial buildings to luxury homes and Greenfields.

Q: You and your husband are co-directors in the business. How challenging is managing the dynamic of working together as husband and wife, and also separating work from home?

A: My husband and I have always been best friends. Real Estate is a passion for both of us. We live, eat, and breathe real estate. I guess if there is a challenge that needs to be managed, it’s the discipline of learning to switch off. Learning to put work aside and not be discussing pending action items in the middle of husband-wife time. (Soooooo I’m kind of slacking in that part) Beyond that, it’s been wonderful to see our marriage grow together in this space.

To set our goals and ambitions together we assign roles according to our strengths. Over time we have come to witness our last born grow as a direct result of our sweat and blood. Lionheart feels like an extension of our love story.

Q: Sounds beautiful. Being in an environment that typically has long work hours, how do you create a healthy sense of work/life balance?

A: What healthy sense of balance? (laughs). Okay let me be serious – The principle at work is that we don’t answer calls that are not from existing clients after work. However, the truth is, for the most part at least, there is nothing like a work/life balance. It is an area we will need to grow in. Perhaps what has contributed to this “unhealthy” work/life imbalance is that the company is in its 7th year, and this is when most businesses either crash and burn, or become a success. We have taken onboard new hires to allow us a better chance at delivering optimal service to our clients as envisioned in our Vision and Mission Statements. Ask me this question in 2025. I’m sure by then we would have mastered it. For now, our typical work day starts at 4 am and can easily end well after 8 pm.

Q: As a young woman running her own business, what are some of the hurdles you’ve had to face and overcome?

A: This is a question I am passionate about. As a woman, the one hurdle I face on a day-to-day basis is that some clients often assume that my refusal to deviate from the policy is based on emotions when they are dealing with me, but characterize it differently when dealing with my husband. Sometimes clients will try and take a chance on cutting our commission on the assumption that as a woman it would be an easier conversation to have with me than it would be with my husband. Even how seriously I’m taken differs, at times. I am learning though that these are some of the social constructs that we accept exist, and overcoming some of these has taken years and it comes with earning client’s trust and proving your craft and worth in the industry.

Q: Let’s talk about marketing. How do you differentiate yourself from the competition?

A: Now you’re trying to get me to share our IP. (chuckles) Look, we are a young non-franchise real estate broker. For us marketing isn’t just a function within the realm of sales, it’s an identity. It’s our soul. Our colour is predominantly yellow, and as a result, this means we are youthful, playful, and fun in our approach. We stand out by not taking ourselves too seriously when dealing with our clients. Whether it’s our “LaughALittle” Fridays, or our “MotivationalMondays” on our social platforms, we always try to share our personalities, hopes, and aspirations and facilitate their transfer to our potential clients out there. We also go to the market aggressively and do not hope the market comes to us. That’s an entire chapter in our sales philosophy and is perhaps a topic for another day.

Q: Please identify one trend currently happening in the local property market.

A: The rate of urbanization is ever-increasing, for rental properties, but more people are building their homes in the rural areas or away from town to take advantage of the lower prices of land and avoid entirely the cost of rates.

Q: How does this urbanization trend affect your business?

A: It forces us to ignore a huge part of the market, namely Swazi Nation Land transactions. Only until this part of the market is ‘legalized’ will we actively participate in it. For now, it carries too much risk for us.

Q: Can you tell us about a particularly positive memory that stands out that you’ve had with a client?

 A: It has to be our first commercial transaction. We were given the sole mandate to sell our very first commercial building at E27.5 million. Saying the number out loud gave me dissonance, but this gentleman (FYI, we pride ourselves in being confidential in all our transactions) took a chance on us and even rounded up our commission to match what we had manifested. The story still gives me Goosebumps because it’s the kind of leadership we aspire to be for the generation coming up after us. That is, give people a chance and when you get to the top, send the elevator back down for others.

Q: What are your plans, medium and long-term, for Lionheart Properties?

A: In the short term, we want to contribute to the amazing work done by a few of our colleagues in the space, such as Mr Musa Nhleko of Mgilija Properties, and Mr. Ian and Sam Lapidos when it comes to formalizing this industry. In the medium term, we want to develop talent that carries our DNA. Long-term we want to become a developer that develops assets that meet both the aesthetic and the financial expectations of the majority of clients that knock on our doors.

Q: What advice would you give someone, particularly women, who would like to venture into the real estate business?

A: Don’t come into this industry expecting a soft life, the real estate business is not always pretty. It will test your character and your desire. It will break you first before it builds you up. But if you stick around long enough, with resilience, you can reap just rewards. In my view, as women, we should detest being passengers in this life. We have so many powerful women who are leaving an indomitable mark in life, taking up space and it’s so inspiring to see.

Thank you, Beke for your time, and all the best in all your future endeavors!

Thank you Inside Biz!

Lionheart Properties Contact Details:

Office No1 Malandela’s Lifestyle Centre, Malkerns, Phone: +268 7639 2566

Photo Cred: Daniel Dlamini

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