Estate Living Magazine | Careering ahead through COVID, one managed property at a time

08 August 2022

Careering ahead through COVID, one managed property at a time

One woman’s journey from a fledgling enterprise to a booming business in the middle of a catastrophic pandemic – By Marian Geddes

Imagine starting a new division of a property management company, only for Covid to set in a little over a month later. That is exactly what happened when talented entrepreneur Chanet Muller took over the reins of Devmark Property Group’s property management arm. Imagine then the tenacity and dedication that it must have taken to drive this fledgling business through one of the most challenging times of our era, and turn it into a thriving concern that is growing exponentially, a mere two and a half years later. Imagine, further, being a woman while accomplishing all this.

Undaunted by the challenges ahead, as soon as Covid struck, Chanet got to the negotiating table and relentlessly hammered out workable agreements between tenants and landlords across sectional title, commercial and retail spaces, with impressive results. Having spent an hour with the dynamic female founder of the Devmark Property Management division, it is not hard to see why she has managed to turn most people’s worst nightmare into a brilliant success story. Entrepreneurship within an established family business

Chanet completed her education at Stellenbosch University, earning a BCom in Entrepreneurial Sciences, before joining Devmark Property Group, a successful family-run property business. With over 30 years in the industry, Devmark Property Group has grown from its humble roots into one of the foremost property developers in the country, having won several awards. Having spent 15 years in the trenches, Chanet was given the opportunity to take an internal business function and start a completely separate standalone company called Devmark Property Management (also known in the industry as DPM) Division. Adding her name to a growing list of strong female leaders in the property space was something Chanet looked forward to.

Taking a hard look at her seemingly endless skill set and analysing the market, she identified a critical gap in all property management models and opted to bring in someone with property maintenance and construction experience as managing director. She fought for two long years to get her younger brother, Heinrich Ehlers, out of the construction side of the family business and into the property management company she was now in charge of. One of the biggest expenses in the property management arena is maintenance. Chanet maintains that having someone with specialist skills in this aspect of the game is what enables her to manoeuvre effectively and cost-efficiently through the intricacies of successful property management.

The power of word of mouth

Word spread of Chanet’s finesse at the negotiating table and soon developers, homeowners associations (HOAs) and landlords were on the phone calling on her expertise. Where before Devmark Property Management had its sights on the commercial and retail spaces, the influx of residential business meant that they now have a three-pronged business that caters to all kinds of property management segments.

When asked what contributed to this success over and above the brilliant negotiating tactics, Chanet speaks about one of the core aspects of her entire business strategy: the personal touch. On every marketing brochure, email signature or compliance document, you will find Chanet and Heinrich’s cell phone numbers.

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Whether you are a sectional title holder in a large estate or a small retail client, you have access to the brains of the business who are on hand to help in whatever way they can. This is over and above the capable team of account managers who assist in handling the day-to-day operations. Additionally, Chanet speaks with reverence of her vast network of world-class contractors. Devmark believes in paying a premium for exceptional quality, and the standard of excellence trickles down into all facets of their business.

What does the future look like?

With massive growth comes a need for caution. The vision for the future of the division is not to become a behemoth organisation that holds tens of thousands of properties under its management arm. Rather, the focus is to maintain their ability to always offer a personal touch and to build on their growing reputation of quality service delivery across all their service level agreement categories.

Chanet is a quintessential example of a woman in the property industry who is breaking the moulds with her compelling approach to how she manages her team. Having a workforce that enjoys job security and has a sense of belonging is important to Chanet,and her focus is never far from her team. She cited demonstrating appreciation as one of her key values and recognises that the business is nothing without its talented staff. Industries across every segment have demonstrated that having dynamic women in leadership can deliver game-changing results.

Chanet is certainly such a woman, and there is no doubt that the future of Devmark Property Management, and subsequently its clients, is in good hands.