Disruptor: Marc Wachsberger

Written by Vernon Cheung

January 18, 2019

After completing a BCom in Accounting and Finance at the University of the Witwatersrand, followed by qualifying as a Chartered Financial Analyst, Marc worked in a boutique mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance firm. It was there that he noticed hotels were overpriced and residential apartment leases were cheap.

“For example, at the time you could rent a decent apartment in a sought-after area for R15 000 per month, but hotels were charging R2 000 per night. Hotels were wasting money on things that business travelers don’t care about – like chocolates on pillows – but weren’t providing the things that business people did want, like free Wifi, in-room work stations and the ability to prepare their own meals if they were away from home for an extended time, and tired of catered food.”

Marc says he was inspired by this market inefficiency, and started his new business by leasing apartments, furnishing them to a high standard, and then sub-letting them on a per-night basis to compete with the hotel sector.

“I did everything myself at first, from negotiating leases to being the porter for our first guests. Doing so has made sure that I’m still close to every element of the business.”

‘Disruptor’ is a buzz world of late. In your opinion, what characteristics make up a distruptor?
Disruptors are inquisitive and question everything, seeking to understand the ‘why’ behind every decision and every result. I believe that this relentless questioning of the business environment, and the status quo, is the best way to nurture entrepreneurship and to disrupt traditional industries that are crying out for fresh ideas.

How do you ensure you stay abreast of the latest developments within your industry?
I read extensively, and I talk to people wherever I go, to make sure I know what people are really saying about the various issues at play, rather than trusting media for the full story.

What have been some of your biggest successes?
Our biggest success is growing the group from start-up to opening 12 properties and currently owning and managing nine upmarket, successful apartment hotels, with more under construction. The apartment hotel sector is ripe for growth because business executives travelling for short trips or long stays increasingly prefer apartment hotels as they are more spacious but more cost-effective than traditional hotels.

Any advice for others aspiring to have a career the property sector?
Always look for opportunities where others see challenges. There’s more to investing in property than identifying when the price is right – take a pragmatic view of market volatility, and balance your natural optimism with a healthy dose of reality. Protect the downside first and watch the upside second, and anticipate whether your business has the capacity to ride out the storm of unexpected market conditions.

Quick-fire Q&A

What books are you currently reading?
The subtle art of not giving a f*ck and Measure what matters (OKR)

Who or what inspires you?
My father is/was a successful entrepreneur, and my family debated business issues around the supper table from when I was a child. I learned so much from him, and he inspired me to start out on my own.

If you could invite any three people for supper – alive or no longer here – who would they be and what would you serve?
Richard Branson for starters
Elon Musk for mains
Donald Trump for humble pie

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