Hashim Bham traces his management skills to the mentorship he received working in his father’s hardware shop for a three-year period soon after completing his high school studies at Swaziland’s Waterford Kamhlaba College in 1972. This environment prompted him to seek further studies in the Built Environment at Wits University.
Of the options available, quantity survey sounded most interesting to him. Being of Indian descent, it was difficult to obtain a permit from the apartheid government to study this discipline at Wits instead of at Durban Westville University. However, Hashim obtained the permit after a three month wait and after graduating he decided to pursue a post-graduate qualification in town planning at the University of Natal.
He served an internship at a quantity surveying firm in Johannesburg before teaming up with Imtiaz Tayob to start their own firm in 1984. It was a difficult start given that most government and private work was preserved for their white competitors. Tayob moved to Durban in 1986 and the firm was later joined by Thembi Matunda based in Port Elizabeth and Nazeem Khan based in Cape Town.
It is now a fully-fledged national practice with offices in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, King Williams Town, Umtata, Pretoria and Polokwane.
Hashim was interviewed by this author in June 2016.
How has the company fared in terms of meeting its business growth objectives?
The practice experienced phenomenal growth following the ushering of a new government in 1994. There was also a significant amount of work in the lead up to the 2010 World Cup. The projects we have been involved in include the Johannesburg International Airport, the Port Elizabeth Stadium, Ellis Park and Cape Town International Convention Centre among many others. Things have since quietened down in South Africa since the World Cup but we are thankful that we have never had to retrench any of our permanent staff. We are also shifting our focus to include work outside our borders in the rest of Africa including projects in Ghana, Senegal, Lesotho, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Mauritius. We now have international clients such as the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation.
How comfortable are you that the firm is providing quality customer service?
We have achieved an ISO Quality Standard rating which is something that few in our profession possess. We are audited annually in this regard. We are also a small enough profession that if there was something wrong, you would hear about it. I am the CEO of the company and clients are welcome to phone me whenever they experience any issues. I rarely get calls about any problems. We also ensure that we make site visits and that checks done by staff are also supervised by a senior person. These checks and balances ensure that we maintain our quality standards.
Is transformation a key objective for your firm and if so how is it attended to?
We are a firm of black professionals with a level 1 BBB-EE accreditation. We also take on students from previously disadvantaged backgrounds and give them proper training. It is costly because more often than not they leave after we have spent a significant amount of time and money giving them a good solid internship. Many have worked with us and gone on to start their own companies and we are proud to have contributed to that.
How has your firm contributed to the quantity surveying profession?
Thembi Matunda is the immediate past president of the South African Association of Quantity Surveyors. Nazeem Khan sits on one of the sub-committees of the same organisation. I on the other hand sit on the awards committee of the South African Property Owners Association which is a representative body of the commercial and industrial property industry in South Africa.
What has been your firm’s contribution to the community?
We try to work with small contractors many of whom come from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. We assist them with their work as well. We also contribute about R50,000 per year to the South African National Zakah Fund which is a bursary fund for needy students. We are also active in providing services at no cost to community based facilities including churches and mosques.
What is the firm’s view of ethics and integrity in the professional services environment?
It is sad to see that collusion and corruption is rife in the built environment including the process of professional appointment. People think that this is only a problem with government but it is also a problem with the corporate sector in recent times. I come from a strong religious background where morals are an essential part of everything I do. As a quantity surveyor, you are required to make assessments of how much of a client’s money should be paid to a contractor. My view is that you should treat that money as if it is your own money which is not to say that disbursements should be to the detriment of the contractor but all payments should be fair. I take a long term view that we have to be ethical and all staff know that. I recall trying to secure work in Angola and refusing some unethical practices. They were asking what is wrong with us South Africans; to them bribery and kickbacks are part of the normal business process.
What accolades has your firm won?
We received an Impumelelo Certificate in 2002 as part of South Africa’s Top 300 Empowerment Companies and since 2004 we have won various PMR Awards in the small and medium company category every year.