Retail & Hospitality Property News South Africa

#LockdownLessons: Communication is key, keep talking, says Galetti's John Jack

As part of our #LockdownLessons series, Bizcommunity is reaching out to South Africa's top industry players to share their experience of the current Covid-19 crisis, how their organisations are navigating these unusual times, where the challenges and opportunities lie, and their industry outlook for the near future.
John Jack, CEO for Galetti Corporate Real Estate
John Jack, CEO for Galetti Corporate Real Estate

We chatted to John Jack, CEO for Galetti Corporate Real Estate to get his take.

What was your initial response to the crisis/lockdown and has your experience of it been different to what you expected?

John Jack: Our initial reaction to the crisis was to investigate and prepare the company for what eventually became level five lockdown. We paid close attention to the psychology as well as the basics - does everyone have internet at home etc. We continue to evaluate and refine our business strategy at each stage of the lockdown.

Comment on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on your organisation or economy as a whole.

Jack: Our business is largely agile with all of our systems in the cloud already, but the sector has been hit quite badly with the Deeds Office closing and then, secondly, not being allowed to visit any buildings, which is obviously critical when appraising the value of the same.

How is your organisation responding to the crisis?

Jack: We talk all the time, communication is key! Even if it’s just to touch base on a Monday morning for five minutes or have a daily coffee or beer at 5 to catch up. The interaction is important for everyone’s mindset. Ideas are shared, successes and failures are highlighted.

Comment on the challenges and opportunities.

Jack: Firstly the opportunities. The opportunities will exhibit themselves largely in the shared workspace and corporate advisory space. We have spent the past five years building our IP in the advisory space, so we are well equipped to expand this service line. Shared offices are going to be in high demand with tenants not being able to commit to high capex outlays when signing a new lease, as well as their desire to remain flexible in the event of a repeat of Covid-19.

Our biggest challenge to date has been the closure of the Deeds Office and site viewings. Now that the Deeds Office has been opened, all transactions can take place and we are urging the government to relax regulations on site viewings which can be very well managed from a health and safety point of view.

How has the lockdown affected your staff? / What temporary HR policies have you put in place regarding remote working, health & safety, etc.?

Jack: More of a protocol than a policy and it’s largely based in logic, distance, sanitisation and various other factors.

How are you navigating ‘physical distancing’ while keeping your team close-knit and aligned?

Jack: Microsoft Teams and Zoom are a wonder for staying in touch. This has kept our team closely aligned and engaged.

Have you had to change the way you operate?

Jack: To an extent, yes, all of our meetings are held virtually, whereas in the past I would say only 30% of meetings were virtual, the balance being face to face… It’s saved us a fortune in entertainment!

Any trends you’ve seen emerge as a result of the crisis?

  • Tenants taking advantage of the market and locking in excellent terms from their landlords on a long term basis where they are already in occupation of a building.
  • Occupiers paying close attention to space utilisation.
  • PPE is the new gold.

    Your key message to those in the sector?

    Jack: Keep talking… Everybody wants to talk and you never know who might need to!

    What do you predict the next six months will be like?

    Jack: We will see a number of business failures, not only in the broader economy but also in the property sector, as highly geared property owners are unable to service their debt. This will create opportunity for those with balance sheet and a long term vision. We are in South Africa to stay, as a fully South African business, which can only mean there are others with the same vison. This means growth is inevitable.

  • About Sindy Peters

    Sindy Peters (@sindy_hullaba_lou) is a group editor at on the Construction & Engineering, Energy & Mining, and Property portals. She can be reached at moc.ytinummoczib@ydnis.
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