As a qualified accountant, helping people to manage their money more effectively influences everything that Thandeka Ndlovu-Mngomezulu touches.
She’s the founder and chief executive of Total Serve Facilities Management (TSFM), but that’s just one of her various initiatives. She’s also an adviser to the first company she created, Thasola Consulting, and her charity, the Ink Foundation. She financially supports the under-resourced school where her mother teaches in KwaMashu, her home township. She has two children and is married to her partner.
Most of her time is spent on TSFM, which manages and maintains properties in KwaZulu-Natal and is expanding into Gauteng. Before launching it, she enrolled in property and development programmes and studied facilities management to learn the trade in this competitive sector, traditionally dominated by large companies such as Bidvest.
At first she won a few short-term maintenance contracts, but it took her more than two years to win any major deals. “It was a trying time, but I didn’t give up because I knew the bigger picture would happen in the long term,” she says.
Ndlovu-Mngomezulu now has 560 employees and has morphed TSMF into a passion project as well as a business entity. She loves employing women from underprivileged communities and training them to operate successfully in property management. New employees are asked where they see themselves in three to five years, and those with a willingness to learn are enrolled in its skills training programme.
“There’s very much of a social impact to it,” she says. “A lot of employment has been created and, through upskilling, people who started as cleaners are now receptionists or administrators. That’s a more fulfilling journey than just profit-seeking.”
When Investec’s Global Exposure campaign noticed her work, Ndlovu-Mngomezulu won a visit to Germany to see how similar companies operate, overcome challenges and use technology to help them. “It was an important milestone for me to go overseas and learn what companies like mine are doing,” she says.
Her three- to five-year plan is to bring in partners, then exit the operational side and stay involved as an adviser. “I’m a person who always wants to grow new companies, and I’d like to be an adviser to property developers,” she says.
She created Thasola Consulting when she left the corporate world in 2012, and funded it by cashing in her pension. It offers bookkeeping, accounting and compliance services to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses. Its financial readiness programme prepares them to apply for loans or other external funding. It teaches people to be disciplined about their finances, because potential backers will analyse how well an entrepreneur manages their private finances before they invest in their business.
Ndlovu-Mngomezulu moved back in with her parents to economise when she started her own ventures, but the banks initially didn’t believe in her. Fortunately, when she needed cash to grow, her family and friends had faith in her abilities.
“I always say be ready, because you never know when opportunity knocks,” she says. “If anybody wants to invest in you, make it easy to do so by taking your business seriously.”
Everybody starts from somewhere. We don’t all start from the same platform, but if you are serious you will get there.