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How Tyson Properties punched among the heavyweights

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Tyson Properties started as a single office in the Durban suburb of Morningside just more than 10 years ago. Agent Chris Tyson and his business partner and mentor, Gavin Cunningham, set out to create an upmarket agency which delivered exceptional services not only to its clients but also to its agents.

Due to the industry being exceptionally competitive, both in terms of getting mandates on stock as well as attracting the best estate agents, Tyson says the strategy was to create “exceptional offices and offerings to attract the top agents in the industry”.

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It seems to have worked. Today, with more than a decade of business under its belt, Tyson Properties has expanded to 23 offices in three South African cities, and employs 270 real estate agents.

Tyson says a big part of the company’s success has been due to keeping their “why” front and centre, and never settling for second best.

“The real estate industry is a very competitive one, and so we always strive to be the best that we could be; always working as a team to accomplish our goals,” says Tyson, CEO of the company. “It is always difficult to start a brand from scratch but we knew that if we created a happy work environment then we would succeed.”

Tyson’s business partner, Cunningham, has also given him the freedom to do what he believes are in the company’s best interests, as well as provided a touchstone for him when faced with tough decisions.

“Although Gavin [Cunningham] is a silent partner, I continually consult with him on situations,” says Tyson. “This has allowed me to make good decisions and grow in the right direction.”

Year in reviewrear view mirror

It has only been 12 months since Tyson Properties expanded its footprint nationally, establishing exclusive real estate offices in both Johannesburg and Cape Town simultaneously, and the decision has proved successful for the brand.

“This was a massive undertaking; the most ambitious of Tyson Properties’ history,” says Tyson. “Our goal was to expand Tyson onto a national platform, laying a strong foundation in both cities which would enable us to springboard the brand to new heights. We knew we had to make a big impact early on, which we did, through the establishment of some of the most exclusive offices in South Africa, alongside new marketing initiatives and branding.”

The 2015/2016 year saw 113 new members joining the Tyson brand, 59 of whom were from KwaZulu-Natal, and with the inclusion of the two new offices, the company increased its sales by 38% with the KwaZulu-Natal sector alone reflecting a 24% increase.

“These figures represent our commitment to exceeding our clients’ expectations by offering quality service and building our brand through innovation,” says Tyson. “This is made even more remarkable by the fact that most companies are experiencing recessionary conditions.”

Forging new marketsforging iron

Although the Cape Town office only opened its doors in April last year, it reached office capacity in nine months while hitting record sales within the group, topping R68m in sales for February. This success prompted the opening of a second office in Cape Town’s City Bowl in May, called Own the Night.

Likewise, the Johannesburg office, which opened in June 2015, has experienced great success and has just extended its current offices, allowing it to accommodate the largest Tyson Properties’ branch in the country. Plans are already underway to open a second office by the end the year.

Going forward, the company’s long-term plans include opening another 22 offices in strategic property areas nationwide over the next five years, as well as doubling the current staff complement to over 500 members, and more than tripling current sales.

“We don’t aim to become the largest real estate company;, what we’re looking to do is establish ourselves as a niche market in the real estate sector in some of the most important property areas of South Africa,” says Tyson. “We grow our business by partnering with the right people who share our values of innovation, forward-thinking and hard work. These elements are also embraced by our staff, who outperform the competition because of a happy, professional work environment. We are extremely proud of our accomplishments to date and look forward to what the future holds.”

5 minutes with Tyson

Tyson Properties CEO, Chris Tyson.

Tyson Properties CEO, Chris Tyson.

 Q How big a part did your ego play in your business’ success – or did it end up having the opposite effect of getting in the way of success? 

A I have never had a big ego. The opposite is true. I have always believed in building a business not only for myself but also for the people I work with.


Q Your business is as much about high level business as it is about people. Did you know from the start what you needed for your business in terms of skills and personality characteristics, or was it a lot of trial and error?

A Opening your own business can often lead to a lot of uncertainty about your own skills and the ones that might not have developed yet. I truly believe that sometimes you make mistakes, but it’s how you deal with those mistakes that make a great leader.


Q As a business owner you have to delegate and hand over aspects of your business if it’s going to grow successfully. What was the hardest aspect of your business to hand over to someone else and what were your instructions to this person/team upon hand over? 

A When you are used to doing things yourself it is hard to let go, but you have to in order to grow. The only way I was able to do this was to make sure that I only brought the right people on board; people I knew were more than capable of doing the job.


Q What advice do you have for people looking to start their own business? 

A It’s hard work but if you stick to your goals and continually work to improve and grow your business, with your staff and clients in mind, you will do well. Always have enough cash available for rainy days – the reality is that markets fluctuate and there is nothing worse than the stress of not having cash-flow.


Q Are you mentoring anyone outside of your business? 

A No. I am continually mentoring people within my business. We take partners on in different offices and guide them to be great business men and women.


Q If you started today with what you know now, would you do anything differently? 

A No. I did learn some very hard lessons along the way, but I am very proud of where we are today and excited about the future prospects of our business.


Q If you could replicate yourself, what else would you focus on achieving? 

A The most important thing for me is a happy and balanced life. It’s not only about goals and making money. To be happy in every aspect of one’s life is the greatest goal.


David A Steynberg, managing editor and director of HomeTimes, has more than 10 years of experience as both a journalist and editor, having headed up Business Day’s HomeFront supplement, SAPOA’s range of four printed titles, digimags Asset in Africa and the South African Planning Institute’s official title, Planning Africa, as well as B2B titles, Building Africa and Water, Sewage & Effluent magazines. He began his career at Farmer’s Weekly magazine before moving on to People Magazine where he was awarded two Excellence Awards for Best Real Life feature as well as Writer of the Year runner-up. He is also a past fellow of the International Women’s Media Foundation.

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