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Finlay: Lynette Finlay

Commercial real estate company, Finlay, attributes its success to service delivery

Juliet Pitman

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Lynette Finlay of Finlay

Finlay, a company providing commercial real estate services, was established as a satellite of the Iscor Pension Fund. The brainchild of Marshall Finlay, the business was established in 1983 as a breakaway. It comprised a small group of property people who aimed to compete with the commercial private sector.

Its current CEO, Lynette Finlay, joined the company in 1985 after qualifying as a chartered accountant.The organisation currently has 61 staff members with offices in Gauteng, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal, along with an annual turnover of R10 million and a management portfolio valued at more than R2 billion.

Clients include the likes of Resilient Income Fund, Investec Property Group, Diversified Income Fund, Paladin, Capital Property Fund, Zenprop Property Holdings, City of Johannesburg Property Company and the Johannesburg Development Agency. The retail portfolio under management includes nine shopping centres in Gauteng and Limpopo.

Finlay admits that the most challenging part of running a business like Finlay is the fact that it is a male-dominated environment and opportunities are often limited to the inner circle. “Barriers to entry have had an impact on the company and influenced our decision to employ more women,” reveals Finlay.

“The result is an extraordinary workforce whose capabilities, commitment, determination and loyalty have exceeded expectations.” She believes the key to success lies in surrounding yourself with the right people. “Meaningful and insightful people spur you on to new levels,” she claims. “A friend maintains that you should take note of your past, plan for your future, but live for the present. ‘Living in the overlap’, he calls it. I subscribe to this philosophy.”

Her attitude to leadership is that it is about creating a team and an environment where people can fulfil their dreams. “It’s about guiding the ship rather than going it alone and standing out as an individual.” She strives to create a sense of belonging and achievement. Motivation and self-discipline, she maintains, should be inherent qualities.

“Motivation comes when people are able to see the purpose and reason for the direction in which the business is going and can recognise their role in the process.” Finlay is integrally involved in Noah, an organisation that mobilises communities to take on the challenge of caring for children orphaned by the Aids pandemic.

Finlay has established the Gauteng activities of Noah and spearheaded the fundraising initiative. “I could not ignore the need to get involved. Noah’s impact has been extraordinary and it has been a privilege to be involved in something like this.”

Part of Finlay’s fundraising initiatives for Noah have involved hosting authors as speakers at breakfasts. The breakfasts have been so successful that they have grown into a business all their own. The result has been the establishment of an eventing component being added to the company’s service offering. Although not strictly speaking an international company, Finlay is part of global property services network, NAI.

“The network gives us access to global information, which adds a competitive and valuable edge to the current information mix,” she says.

Going forward, Finlay recognises that the most critical factor to ensure ongoing growth is the ability to deliver services beyond clients’ expectations. “Finlay needs to grow at a pace which is sustainable from a resource platform. We are also exploring other opportunities in the property sector,” she concludes.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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