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Eltec: Hillel Eschur, Brian Chernotsky & Mark Mitchley

Three real estate mavericks bring a breath of fresh air to the industry

Monique Verduyn

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Hillel Eschur, Brian Chernotsky & Mark Mitchley of Eltec

Hillel Eschur, Brian Chernotsky and Mark Mitchley, the founders of Eltec Properties, have created a multibillion rand property company in just seven years. Before establishing the company in 2000, the three had been in property for several years and used their combined experience to create their own business. “We were frustrated with the way the industry was being run from a professional stance,” Eschur says. “Many estate agents do not treat their jobs as careers and the clients suffer. Our goal was to create a company that offers personalised service, training and absolute back-up for our agents.”

The three combined their research, wrote a business plan and signed their lives away to secure a R1,5 million loan from the bank. “We worked according to the sales forecast in our business plan, so we were able to wipe out our overdraft in the first year of the business,” says Eschur. Today Eltec concludes deals worth a total of between R150 million and R300 million every month. In a market crowded with competitors, Eltec thrived by taking a non-conformist approach. The company nurtured a “corporate” culture from the start, in contrast to what Eschur views as the amateurish approach taken by some. Brand strategists were employed and over R25 million has been invested in marketing the company. Noting the opportunities a website presents, Eltec spent a further R1,6 million on this resource. A primary driver behind Eltec’s achievements is its training academy – all employees undergo a rigorous education programme before approaching the public. “We only employ people who have a work ethic and are open to being taught new ways of doing things.”

In 2006, Eltec went the licensing route as part of its growth plans. “We believe that owner-managed businesses are far more likely to succeed, so we went for the licensing model. It’s also less stringent than franchising for the person who buys the licence, giving them more freedom to do what they need to create the business they want.” This path means Eltec management does not have to deal with an unwieldy branch structure. A misconception is that selling property is easy. “We make sure our licensees know what they are getting into,” says Eschur. “Industry experience is important, as is a solid business plan and some financial backing.” With seven licences in place, Eschur and his partners plan to have between 120 and 150 licensees operating within five years. They are excited by the prospect of enabling many more people to earn a living through the Eltec model. “We employ 250 people. Imagine if each licensee employs a further 20 staff,” Eschur adds. “Franchises have invested millions in their brand and business model. Why go it alone when you can have access to that kind of backing?” The company has moved into property development, with a focus on affordable multi-unit residential developments. The founding partners and joint managing directors of this arm called Eltec Projects, Marc Zlotnick and Kevin Fine, are experienced in this field. “Again, we wanted professionalism, so we are working with people who know this sector well,” says Eschur.

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+.

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