One of Atterbury’s biggest strengths lies in its focused attention on finding and retaining the best tenants, keeping its myriad developments populated and running like slick operations. This is thanks to the hard work of the hugely competent asset management division and asset managers such as Adelene van der Westhuizen. For her, Atterbury is a family affair…
Tell us a bit about your background.
I grew up in Phalaborwa, studied accounting in Potchefstroom, and then completed my articles in Pretoria and qualified as a CA in 2009. My career kicked off at RMB Corvest as a financial manager and was followed by a time at the commercial property team at Absa Capital as a financial manager. After eight months at Absa, Atterbury crossed my path and I gladly accepted the offer. My husband JJ and I live in Pretoria with our two children, Lemay, 22 months and six-month-old JJ.
Both your mom and your brother are also part of the Atterbury family. Is that a coincidence or how did that happen?
Wessel [Boshoff], my eldest brother, joined Atterbury first. In 2013, he mentioned that Atterbury was looking for a CA to join their team as asset manager. At that stage I was one of the thousands of people travelling between Pretoria and Sandton daily and the option of working closer to home was a no-brainer, especially if it was to be for a company like Atterbury. The idea of working closely with family was nerve-wrecking, as Wessel is also part of the asset-management team,but fortunately we manage to work well as a team. Then, a couple of years ago when the Triomf Clinic was founded, Atterbury Trust indicated that they were looking for a nursing sister for the clinic. My mom is a qualified sister, and a hard worker who’d raised four strong-willed children, so we proposed that she be considered, and the rest is history!
Tell us about your responsibilities at Atterbury; what does the job entail?
The 13 assets (about 150 000m²) which forms part of my portfolio, are spread across South Africa and Namibia. This involves managing the finances, vacancies, leasing, property teams and all related operations at the various buildings. Travelling is a monthly matter to either Cape Town, Namibia or wherever else I have management meetings to attend. I’m also involved in the management of the asset management company and responsible for overseeing the valuations of the assets of the entire Atterbury portfolio.
Which specific projects that you’ve worked on have stood out for you – the highlights so far?
After being with Atterbury for only eight months, with no prior asset management experience, I had to handle the opening of the first building under my management, The Club. It was great to be part of that… so much detail goes into the planning and operation of a new building as it’s finalised, and the learning curve is steep. The benefit of being an asset manager is that you are always learning and dealing with new challenges, as you need knowledge across a broad spectrum: from developments, leasing, operations and legal requirements, to finance issues, health and safety, and marketing.
What project so far has presented the biggest challenge?
Each building has its own unique challenges, but the best story so far was the opening of The Grove Mall of Namibia October 2013, when I had only a year of experience in asset management. When the Namibian cleaning company and contractors left us in the lurch the day before the mall was to open, the property-management, marketing and development teams jumped in ourselves – we bought brooms and window cleaners and worked through the night to get the new mall clean and ready for opening.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of asset management?
For me it’s knowing that you have happy tenants who have confidence in the teams they work with, which keeps unnecessary issues to the minimum and of course constantly working to increase the value of our assets.
Can you see visible signs in, for instance, a mall if there isn’t proper asset management? Is it something that you look out for involuntarily because you work in the industry?
Yes, it shows in the operations of a mall: cleanliness and security, when lifts or escalators aren’t functional, when maintenance is lacking. Less obvious signs might be multiple vacancies or unexpected poor service, although that might also be caused by other issues in the industry. When I go shopping in a mall that’s not one of ours, I do pick up on the negatives, but I also spot the positives, for instance how a well-placed tenant can improve an area that previously had slow trading; or an interesting pop-up shop.
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn in your career – how have things worked out differently from what your initial expectations might have been?
Being a perfectionist who likes to plan ahead does come in useful, but I’ve learnt that not everything is cast in stone, nor does everything necessarily happen as planned. You have to accept that sometimes unforeseen circumstances occur and matters turn out different as envisaged, despite even the best-planned scenario, and you need to be adaptable and creative.
What would surprise your colleagues to find out about you?
I love the outdoors especially the bushveld, camping, and even hunting trips.
What do you consider to be Atterbury’s most unique qualities as a company to work for?
We are a family-focused company and it’s good to know that if you have family responsibilities, it won’t be frowned upon, as long as you ensure the work gets done. It almost feels like working with your family; we’re more than just colleagues and our friendships extend beyond working hours. We work hard, but we can play just as hard. As a company, you also know that what you see is what you get; at Atterbury we don’t say one thing and do another.