Sandi Mbutuma has been appointed as managing director of SVA International (SVA), one of Africa’s leading architectural companies. SVA is a member of the GIBB Group of companies, part of GIBB’s Property Delivery Unit.
She was previously a director at Pentad Quantity Surveyors and a partner at Brian Heineberg & Partners. Mbutuma then established her own practice, Azzaro Quantity Surveyors, where she served as the managing director.
During the transition period from Azzaro to SVA, Mbutuma will continue to fully discharge her responsibilities towards clients in relation to her role at Azzaro. She holds a B.Tech. degree in quantity surveying) from the University of Johannesburg (UJ), and completed the Programme for Management Development at Gibbs, and the Property Development Programme at the University of Cape Town (UCT) Graduate School of Business.
Personal approach to a professional career
“Professionalism lies in your ability to be accountable,” says Mbutuma. “When it comes to business, you need to embrace whatever opportunities come your way, irrespective of your salary or what you get paid. That’s what got me here. When it comes to a project, you need to be solution-driven and as a leader you need to be the light in a space of darkness. It’s crucial to remember that respect comes from your ability to deliver on what is expected from you.”
She says it is absurd to ask what someone’s five-year plan is. “You constantly need to question yourself and spend time with business-minded people. Unfortunately, we have a complaining culture which we need to steer clear of,” highlights Mbutuma. “Why are people so receptive of bad news? It took me 19 years to get where I am today and this is because I thrive on challenges. I am open to change and live a rich legacy.”
When it comes to balancing her professional career with her personal life, Mbutuma states that she doesn’t believe there is balance in life. She simply prioritises her tasks and has always worked with a wonderful team, whether it’s family or an office team.
Challenges faced by the building industry and keys to success
“The general economic outlook is negative due to policy uncertainty and the political landscape,” Mbutuma explains. “We have experienced the most devastating cycles in the industry, where large construction companies have been closing down, resulting in a huge pool of unemployment. The developers still experience challenges with local municipalities getting their schemes approved due to a backlog and shortage of experienced personnel at our municipal offices.”
Mbutuma explains that people must approach this industry with a long-term view, because there’s never a right time to enter the market. That is how she is approaching her role as managing director at SVA, with her first call to action of reviewing and re-assessing the business strategy, policies and operations with the quest to align them to the board’s mandate.
Leveraging off her experience from working with municipalities, together with SVA’s extensive years of experience and good reputation, she will work to optimise on opportunities to work closely with municipalities and ensure the efficient turnaround and best outcomes for all partners. “Depressed market conditions have taught us to be resilient and find opportunities to outweigh the market conditions.
“During the boom, we tend to overlook/not make provision for the future when market conditions change,” she continues.
According to Mbutuma, two approaches need to be taken when approaching new projects and when serving as a female in a male dominated sector. “Firstly, when pursuing new projects, there needs to be a clearly defined brief, a good balance and a credible professional team, as well as a legal agreement/conditions tailored to suit the development, taking into cognisance any social economic factors for the geographic landscape,” she explains.
“With regards to women in male dominated sectors, I think it’s a norm for all industries,” Mbutuma concludes. “I’d encourage women to work hard and persevere and not make the mistake of trying to be manly simply because they are outnumbered. They can remain feminine and still be successful. Most of all, create and join a network of like-minded individuals who can mentor, empower and exchange skills for their advancement.”