Having founded his letting business whilst still in university, Denzel Matsaudza wasn't a veteran in the property market. However, what he lacks in experience, he more than makes up for in drive. He talks to BQ about leadership, motivation and his goal to improve shared living space for young professionals around the UK.
What is it the company does?
Like-Minded Living aims to help young professionals with jobs in the city find the right place to live with the right people. Our vision is to build a flat-sharing community where people can find properties that are affordable, good quality and share their space with decent housemates. We want to expand beyond accommodation to provide complementary services aimed at making renting easier for our customers, such as essential food delivery drops and more.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
When I first started the business I adopted the traditional managing director position and distributed the remaining roles with my team. However, I found that this was not enough. On a busy/stressful day, one can easily end up doing a bit of everything so our team needed to be adaptable and agile.
To meet these business demands, I adopted the role of business mentor to my employees, and I see each of them as business partners/owners. I spend a lot of my time encouraging and developing their skills so that we can continue to serve the growing demands of our customers. Besides mentoring, I spend the remainder of my time working on strategy, finance and business development.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I completed a 4-year Economics degree at Bournemouth University, with a year in industry in 2016. For my yearlong work placement, I was at L’Oréal in their Luxury Products division based in Nottingham. I did not settle well being far from home, so the following summer I joined JP Morgan as a summer intern for their Custody & Fund Services business in Canary Wharf.
I was successfully offered a graduate role that began after I finished university. I joined JP Morgan in their markets infrastructure team, but soon resigned after a year to follow my dreams and start Like-Minded Living. I’ve now been working at Like-Minded Living for 1 year and 4 months full time, although I founded the business 3 years ago whilst still at university, and I’m excited for what the future holds!
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Emotional intelligence. Whilst I’m only really starting to understand the power of Emotional Intelligence, I have seen first-hand that being able to grasp how your employees, customers, and suppliers are feeling towards events, is critical in managing a business from the ground up. For the most part I’ve seen people can be highly reactionary and emotional, and a truly great leader learns how to respond to each of those people, irrespective of how you feel, for the greater good of the company, employees and customers.
What has been the biggest challenge in your current position?
The hardest thing about getting Like-Minded Living off the ground was the sheer lack of experience in the lettings sector I had. My team and I basically started without ever having granted a tenancy, or held a property in our books. Our only desire was to do things differently in the property sector. My inexperience, however, actually turned out to be a positive. I had an added level of fearlessness, call it naivety or ignorance if you want, it meant we took chances when we probably shouldn’t have and placed big bets in tight scenarios. And whilst there have been some lows, the pay-off has been amazing! – everything becomes significant, there are even rewards in the mistakes and seeing it all come together has truly been remarkable.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I love to get away from the business and take part in activities that I have an interest for, especially activities that I genuinely find fun. Outside of work, I like to teach at my Church's Sunday school, and once a month I help with food delivery drops at my local food bank. In the coming months I’m hoping to start working with homeless charities. Each extracurricular job I take on helps to remind me that running Like-Minded Living is but one facet of my make up as a person.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a rapper! In fact, if you go across my social media you’ll find remnants of my old nickname ‘YD’ scattered about here and there. The highlight of my career was performing at a local nightclub in front of a 1000 people, and I think there’s a YouTube video of me rapping still up...
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Without trying to sound cliché, I have a pet hate for sub-standard work. Work that is produced without care really ‘grinds my gears’. I ensure myself and my team follow a ‘gold standard’ when it comes to producing work, and we’re continuously looking for ways to improve how we work daily.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
To be one of the market leaders for flat-sharing in the country, such that it is one of the mainstream ways of renting your property in major hubs across the UK. We hope that people who would have never been previously able to rent a property due to affordability issues, will gain access to these properties by renting as a group, and we want to take this concept beyond the UK to major cities in the world. We also place a great importance on corporate social responsibility, so we want to continue growing the network of charities and food banks that we work with.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
As cliché as it sounds, the greatest piece of advice I would pass on to any entrepreneur is to be yourself! – In this world, there are resources we can only unlock when we are ourselves. Nothing is as unique as you are, nor can you be duplicated or be re-made. Make use of the comparative advantage of being yourself and diversify your skills, broaden your strengths, and improve on your weaknesses. No time is wasted when it is spent on improving yourself.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
‘Take it Slow, there’s no rush’ – When I first started my business I remember putting myself and the business under pressure, with my irrational view of ‘success’. I would not tolerate my weaknesses, and I was very hard on myself and team whenever we failed at tasks. I almost expected success on the first go. I wish someone would have told me ‘to take it slow, there’s no rush’, the speed at which success comes does not correlate with the length of time you will be able to sustain that success. All good things take time, and the challenges we face today, prepare us for our responsibilities tomorrow.
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