SA Affordable Housing November - December 2018 // Issue: 73 - Page 32

PERSONALITY PROFILE throughout, dipped into her salary to help pay his workers. Without a car, he relied on public transport and hired a bakkie to do jobs. Having his wife Karen by his side is definitely his biggest asset. “If we face a hurdle, we only give ourselves one day to mope. After that, we look for solutions and pick ourselves up,” he says. He resigned in November 2016, using his pension payout to set up Sbenz Construction. Now that ‘everything was on the line’, he no longer had the option of failure. Because he believes that a good business needs to have a professional image, he invested in branding his company and building a professional image to give his business credibility. Quotes and invoices were delivered on smart letterheads and he registered a domain name rather than resort to a Gmail address. I wasn’t satisfied. I knew I wanted to go into business and, specifically, into construction. I’d been trying to do some small jobs, but things didn’t always work out. While subcontracting for one particular construction company, Esbend, he realised that the future of his company lay in the insurance sector. Repairs in response to insurance claims provided a significant and steady volume of work with reliable payments. But being accepted onto the service provider panels of large insurance companies and financial institutions proved difficult. Companies looked for a track record and references from others in the sector. He says the turning point came when he joined the Sekela Development Programme (Sekela), which develops and supports small enterprises through workshops and mentorship. This, in turn, resulted in Sbenz Construction being accepted on to the SA Home Loans (SAHL) panel of contractors that are called in to effect repairs in response to insurance claims. “SAHL opened the door for me. Without being included on the SAHL panel, I would not have been able to get on to other panels. They have given us references. Now we are doing work for other major insurance brands and big banks and can grow our business,” he says. Another game changer was the massive flash flood that hit Durban in October last year. As insurance companies scrambled to do the repairs, more contractors were needed and companies waiting in the wings were called in to assist with the excessive backlog of repairs that needed to be done. “Through that storm, we made it on to one of our biggest clients panels, we had been requesting for some time but had been rejected,” he recalls. Sbenz Construction completed about 200 jobs and has only just finished all their storm related work. Money earned was ploughed back into the business. This enabled Esbend to move to his much larger current office and employ another 20 people. With more big clients in the pipeline, he expects to grow his staff even more. His association with SAHL also influenced his decision to study further. Following a Sekela advisory board session with SAHL which covered self-development, he registered with MANCOSA for a Bachelor of Business Administration. He has on-the-ground experience of much of the study material but believes this qualification will give him a far broader overview of business and increase his credibility with clients. He is also focusing on improving his company’s Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) grading which will open doors to other opportunities in the far broader construction business. “When we joined Sekela, we were on Construction Industry Development Board’s Grade One, now we are in the process of applying for Grade Five. This is not something I even dreamed of. I thought if I could get to Grade Three, I would be fine,” he says. At present, 95% of his work is for the insurance industry and this remains his primary focus. Esbend’s long term plans include pitching for work from the petroleum industry and, in the medium term, he plans to partner with larger construction companies on major contracts as part of their Enterprise Development Programmes. CALL +27 (0) 861 727 663 TO BOOK YOUR ADVERT Angeline Martin angie@interactmedia.co.za 30 NOVEMBER - DECEMBER 2018 www.SAAffordableHousing.co.za