Mandla Mlangeni Identified the Right Sector to Bring in the Bucks

Mandla Mlangeni Identified the Right Sector to Bring in the Bucks

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Vital stats:

  • Company: Mandla Mlangeni Quantity Surveyors (MMQS)
  • Player: Mandla Mlangeni
  • Est: 2002
  • Contact:  +27 (0)11 243 1900
  • Visit: www.mmqs.co.za

Mandla Mlangeni was only 24 when he started his business, having gained a few years of post-varsity experience. Between 2002 and 2005, Mandla Mlangeni Quantity Surveyors (MMQS) concentrated on the public sector, providing services to the Department of Public Works for projects like the building of schools, ablution facilities and fencing.

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“Up until 2005, our only client was the Department of Education,” Mlangeni recalls. “In that same year, teachers union SADTU embarked on a nationwide strike that lasted for a month. The financial impact of that mass action was the equivalent of approximately seven months of non-payment. MMQS was on the verge of bankruptcy and strategic decisions had to be taken.”

Building a diverse client base

Those decisions, which included no more dependency on clients, no more relying on the public sector, actively targeting the private sector, and bedding down strategic projects, were to propel the business forward to where it is today. MMQS now employs 53 people and has grown its turnover by 150% in ten years.

“I started growing the private sector business simply by reading the business news every day to scan for leads,” he says.

“When it was announced that South Africa had won the bid to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup, we targeted the companies involved in staging the event. When I read that MTN was expanding its data centre infrastructure, we went for that business too, and the same happened when Barclays and Absa combined their Africa operations.

“More recently, we have been involved in Kumba Iron Ore Sishen Mine and Transnet’s R300 billion capex programme. When companies announce expansion plans that specifically require cost containment, we make contact.”

 

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Creating long-term partnerships

Mandla-Mlangeni-Quantity-Surveyors

Mlangeni also attributes the company’s growth to building long-term contracts with clients. “We are not interested in the tender business as we are focused on sustainability and continuity, rather than once-off projects.”

This allows MMQS to sign master contracts with blue chip companies that are renegotiated every three years. With a master contract, the parties involved agree upfront to most of the terms that will govern future projects. They can then quickly negotiate future transactions or agreements, because they can rely on the terms of the master agreement.

“We sell partnerships which are renewed on the basis of our performance, rather than deals which are over once a project comes to an end. I’m a great believer in relationships that rely on more than paper.”

Planning for tough times

Mlangeni adds that it pays to be young in this industry. “Much of our competition is grey-haired. When clients want new ideas they are attracted to MMQS because we are a young, progressive team with lots of energy.”

And the most important lesson he’s learnt? “Be responsible with cash. Don’t spend all the money you make. Be sure to budget and save for a rainy day, because it will happen. If you don’t make any provisions, your business will fold. ”

Questions to ask yourself

  • Are you risking your business by having too few clients?
  • Do you have a balance of private and public clients?
  • Is there too much emphasis on small short-term or unsustainable projects?
  • Are you saving sufficiently to safeguard the business in the event of a crisis?
  • Are you keeping up to date with industry news for leads?
Monique Verduyn
Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.