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Tribute to Howard Betts

From the management and shareholder team of Betts Townsend Taylor

As we grieve the passing of Howard Betts, we would like to take this opportunity to honour him for his contributions to the lives of those around him, and to the industry. Howard was a husband, father and grandfather; a businessman, mentor and friend; a keen biker, seasoned pilot and a determined supporter of all things South African.

Howard was known for his great personal energy and drive. In 1995, he started a business and, through his investment in partners and staff, as well as his commitment to providing a quality project management service in South Africa at a time when the profession was only nascent, he built Betts Townsend Taylor into one of the country’s most respected construction project management consultancies. At age 65, he had no plans to retire any time soon and still loved the work he did.

Over the course of his career, Howard was integrally involved in the successful completion of a great many construction projects. Some of those of which he was proudest include the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, the Peter Mokaba football stadium in Polokwane, the Zimbali Fairmont Hotel & Resort in KZN, Hemingways Shopping Centre in East London, Baywest Mall in Port Elizabeth, Rosebank Link and Southern Sun Hyde Park in Johannesburg, among others.

John Townsend, director and joint partner in the business since 1996, comments: “Howard was a great friend and business partner for nearly 30 years. His zest for life was infectious, and his enthusiasm and leadership brought out the best in everyone around him. He will be greatly missed.”

Lisette Keightley, who has been with the firm for 15 years, also a director and partner, adds: “Howard had a keen eye for opportunities and led his team with fearless optimism, inspiring drive and with a vision to keep perfecting the delivery of projects. He also had a big heart and always looked out for his BTT family.”

Howard’s contribution to the construction and property industry has been immeasurable. He was at the forefront of advancing construction project management as a standalone profession in SA and often sought opinions from, and shared knowledge with, other respected figures in the industry. He mentored and developed many young project managers over the years, helping to launch them on their own paths to success. Howard believed in empowering and investing in people – both within and outside of his own business. The loyalty of his staff and long-standing relationships with clients and service-providers are a testament to that.

Michael Taylor grew his career within the company and is currently a London-based director. “Howard was a great mentor in my formative years. Under his guidance, I developed confidence in my ideas and abilities, and grew my skill set,” he comments. “His innate enthusiasm and mantra of ‘it can be done’ inspired so many people to excel. Looking back over 26 years, he was the best of mentors, a great business partner and friend.”

Howard gave freely of his time, serving as committee chairman at the airfield where his plane was hangered and taking on other similar roles over the years.

He was also an incurable optimist – especially when it came to South Africa. Born in Kenya and schooled in England, he had experience of the developed and developing worlds early on – and he travelled extensively throughout his life. Despite that, he was adamant that he would never want to live anywhere other than South Africa. He had no illusions about the troubles facing the country, yet he balanced that out with a deep appreciation for the lifestyle that we have here, and with an optimism for South Africa’s future despite its challenges.

It could never be said of Howard that he did not live his life to the fullest. He was a keen biker and loved taking road trips around the country. He was passionate about flying and was a seasoned pilot. One of his all-time highlights was flying his new Skyleader plane from the Czech Republic (where he bought it) all the way home to South Africa. If he had ever seen fit to retire from full-time work, there is little doubt that he would have spent much of his retirement time in the air.

Howard’s zest for life, sense of humour and generosity of spirit were his hallmarks, and in our hearts and memories, he remains full of life.

Betts Townsend Taylor has a diversified shareholder and management structure, with active projects in East and South Africa. The team intends to build on Howard’s legacy with the same drive and optimism going forward.

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