Home  |   Contact us  |   About us  |   Newsletter  |   Subscription centre  |   Advertising  |   Thought Leadership Series
   
Entrepreneurship: Releasing Brilliance & Building Small Businesses
Posted Thu, 10 Nov 2005

Presenters: Chief Michael Ade-Ojo & Mr Simon T Bailey
Moderator: Mr Mathatha Tsedu

The Chief
Chief Ade-Ojo is a successful entrepreneur from Nigeria. He runs the only Toyota distribution in the country under the company Elizade. The name of the company is a combination of his wife's name Elizabeth and his first name Ade and is symbolic of the strong bond between them. His wife is one of the people that made a great impact in his life by believing in his dreams. He considers university and thus education one of the catalysts that encouraged him to explore entrepreneurship as a viable career. He started his career in the coprporate environment after graduating from university. He later switched to a position in government where he started selling insurance part time. He was very successful at this because of the network he quickly built up within government departments. He then joined British Petroleum as a salesperson and excelled as the top salesperson in the country. He was however frustrated by internal politics within the organisation and resigned to join a Danish car sales distributorship as a freelance salesman.

When the parent company increased the number of distributing licences to encourage competition he was one of the recipients. This strategy was later reversed and he ended up owning the only licence to distribution licence for Toyota. Today Toyota Nigeria is one of the successful Toyota distributors in Africa coming second only to South Africa. The business is run within the family and his son has recently taken over as President of the company. The current focus is to grow the company by expanding distribution outlets and by diversifying into other products such as short term insurance.

The challenges he faced as a start-up entrepreneur was access to capital. The banking institutions turned him down because he had no capital. He eventually financed the growth of the business through a loan from a private investor, which he paid back within three months.

He defined entrepreneurship as doing something new that no one lese has tried before or doing something old in a new way. The emphasis in this theme is innovation. According to Chief Ade-Ojo access to resources is not the only determinant to entrepreneurial success. He believes that having a vision of your success is key and gave the following quote:

"The poorest man in the world is not the one without money but the one without a vision".

The vision must be followed through by passion and a strong desire to succeed. However he cautioned that success and risk go together and in order for one to achieve success one must be prepared to take the risk. It is imperative that entrepreneurs be knowledgeable about the business venture they want to go in. Therefore a carefully prepared business plan is key. Knowledge of the industry in which your business will operate and the main competitors in that industry will prepare the entrepreneur for challenges they will face in that space.

One's business dealings must be governed by values. The chief emphasised the importance of doing business in an honest and ethical manner and to operate within the legal framework of the countries where you engage in business activities. Lastly he discussed the importance of investing back in our communities. He believes that corporate social investment can be a catalyst to help others develop into successful entrepreneurship. Such investments can be in the form of educational institutions for the youth or bursary sponsorship. He is currently working on opening such an institution to focus on developing academic, vocational and commercial skills. He challenged other delegates to invest in such initiatives.

Mr Simon Bailey
Simon Bailey left Walt Disney as a company executive after making a "career limiting statement" in a media interview where he stated he intended to be the CEO of the company within the next few years. He resigned and turned down other corporate offers and launched the "Imagination Institute".

Simon used the above illustration to explain entrepreneurship. The employed and self-employed "work for money and physically have to be physically present to earn it. Meanwhile the business owners and investors earn passive income by having their money work for them. A paradigm shift is required for an individual to move to the right of the table.

He is a successful author of several books all on the theme of "BRILLIANCE". The rationale is to identify and release your brilliance from within. He used the metaphor of a raw diamond that is shaped and polished by a "brilliandeer". Entrepreneurs need to find their own "brilliandeers" who can shape and polish their development. Simon achieved this by putting together a team of senior advisors with specialist expertise in various spheres of business whom he consults with monthly. He emphasised the need for mentorship and positive role models. In business he advised that the most important lesson is to develop and invest in relationships. As an example 801% of their clientele is from referrals. He emphasised the importance of relationships by the following metaphors:

"Be a vitamin not an aspirin and make an imprint not an impression"
"Leaders are readers and readers are leaders"

The second metaphor emphasises the need for one to continuously seek knowledge about oneself, your business and the environment you work in. Lastly he stresses the need to give back to your community. He posited that what matters is not how much you give but the impact one makes in other peoples lives.