Shanaaz Trethewey knows first-hand how quickly the rental process can go from a peaceful dream of passive income, to a nightmare of debt collection and emotional stress. As a property owner herself, she knows how time-consuming and risky being a landlord is, and she is passionate about spearheading RentMaster, which makes tenants and landlords’ lives harmonious, fair and stress-free. We chat to Shanaaz about starting her own business, and the value of providing ease-of-mind.
Q. How did you get started in business, and particularly in the property sector?
I started my career at Deloitte as an audit clerk, had fantastic exposure to a diverse client-base, and travelled to New York where I experienced working in the Big Apple. I returned to South Africa, because being out of the country made me feel more South African than ever before, and I knew that my future lay here.
I worked in Corporate Finance, valuing companies, performing listings in Africa, and I realised that I valued building businesses, understanding structures and working on strategic business design. I had the privilege of working with the PwC executive team for years as I assisted Suresh Kana who was the CEO at that time.
All of this allowed me to gain experience and grow a consulting firm with my husband servicing the financial services sector. Now, with experience in finance, organisational design, strategy and work flow, I bring this knowledge with me to my current role as CEO of RentMaster.
Q. What value does Rentmaster offer?
I understand the reality of renting properties – I am a property owner myself – and in past struggled to collect rent. If I knew then what I know now, it would have made things a lot easier and saved me loads of time and money.
Landlords are exposed financially. RentMaster knows how to handle this problem well: collect rental efficiently and effectively. It makes a massive impact by giving property owners the comfort and security that their cash will be in their bank on the 1st as expected.
Most of us have jobs and families. The extra activity of following up and collecting rent is just a burden. Rentmaster outsources this stress. It does what is right for all parties, providing ease in owning and renting a property. The legality of leasing has the potential to be a minefield of legal jargon and can be extremely costly if the correct documentation has not been completed and kept up-to-date. RentMaster is an easy way to mitigate the stress of uncertainty and offering peace-of-mind that should something need litigation, all the necessary processes have been followed.
It gives me satisfaction knowing that my business delivers value financially, legally, and emotionally to the landlords and tenants under RentMaster’s custodianship.
Ease is a personal value that is probably the least mentioned one, but when we think about it, it really is one of the most valued. Through our work at RentMaster, we hope to offer landlords a sense of ease and assurance, be a trusted partner and help them grow financially by securing their rental income and protecting their investment.
RentMaster delivers the comfort because we are experts in rental collections and know legally the next steps for acting quickly when collections don’t go according to plan.
And even better still – I always enjoy the conversations we have with our clients and those moments when a property owner reaches out because they see they have a partner in RentMaster. Talking through considerations when crucial decisions have to be made; Is this the right tenant?; Have all the checks been done and all the risks being considered before signing the right documents?
Clients appreciate knowing that from the outset that the vetting is thorough, the documentation is sound and then the collections or legal process is handled in the right way.
It’s very seldom that those clients who have signed up with us, leave. Over the years, many have recommended us to family and friends. Once our clients experience the ease of handing over the financial management – being the collections and vendor payments – they realise what an easy solution it is. They also realise our RentMaster team is actively monitoring the status of their tenant’s risk. Our clients expect and get used to knowing their rental payment is in the bank timeously.
Q. What was it like re-launching in South Africa?
As much as re-launching in the current environment was tough, I also believe it gave us the unique opportunity to state undeniable facts of the matter: we have survived an unprecedented time when others businesses haven’t. And it was by using our own cash to pay landlords. We are now on the other side of the hard lock down and can tell this tale. It wasn’t easy, but it was by taking action when it was needed.
RentMaster continues to be 10% above the industry average on the Good-Standing ratio of tenants, demonstrating the quality of our book, ability to collect rental and our vetting standards. It’s a proud moment to launch with that statistic. The work behind it was hard, but being able to share that continues to be amazing.
Our clients and new clients value having partners to work with, especially when next steps are in an unfamiliar industry and legal framework. We took over this business during the harshest economic time we have seen, so it reinforces how much I believe in the product, our team and the value we deliver.
I have experienced extreme emotions during this time and the distress runs deep. But now I know we can bring these recent experiences to our every day interactions, and strengthen our relationships.
Q. What is the number one business and customer problem you see? And, how do you resolve this?
Change. People seek consistency and predictability.
As much as RentMaster is seeking to provide this to them, change is inevitable. We have to learn how to see risks in our changing environment and then adjust expectations to manage those.
So, in the case of rentals, it’s about limited affordability by tenants and remaining relevant. And we also have to ask difficult questions about how tenants and landlords can reach agreement.
Another factor is the growing levels of compliance. And that goes to the topic of personal information or the management of tenant deposits. RentMaster is rolling out digital platforms that allow for tenant applications, and collection information to flow to us directly without the need to disclose this via email. We have tight controls around deposit trust accounts. We want to ensure every party in this relationship has dotted their i’s and crossed their t’s. At the time it may not always feel necessary, but RentMaster can attest to being incredibly important as we cannot predict the future and when we will have to draw upon the information to resolve unexpected situations.
Q. Can you share three business tips to other business owners to learn from?
Each step counts. Before you know it, you are far ahead of where you thought you’d be. At that point celebrate the progress – and keep going.
Problems aren’t a problem – they are statements of opportunities of where you can make a difference to your clients.
Authenticity is the greatest business/relationship building tool.