Entreprenuers to me are the hope of the future;they innovate, invest their time, energy and money to keep their dreams growing and employ individuals at the expense of risks which can either be sucessfully addressed or end up ruining the business. To manage and keep a business going successfully involves full concentration and focus of a business owner. With a random chat with entreprenuers who own startups and matured businesses, i got to know that self employment takes more time than a paid job ,but as an entreprenuer one can manage ones time efficiently and at the same time build ones dream.CEOs dedicate task to surbodinates of close ranks to them but till get to review and approve most projects and transactions, with this they still tend to have lots of files on their tables to treat aside their main duties and responsibilities.
Its a productive monday, and Temmy Balogun’s Blog brings to you an insightful interview ,we had with a highly knowledgeable and experienced entreprenuer in business management. I met Abdul-Lateef at an entrepreneurs programme tagged #MeetTheExecutives, we were grouped together with few others for an exercise and that gave me an opportunity to know a little about him and what he does , his perspective and knowledge about business management got me amazed and i later got to know he has under his command six businesses running across different sectors. I was wowed! because i know what it entails to manage just one business effectively.
Abdul-Lateef is the founder and CEO of Kobowyse Store;the brand name his six busineses fall under. To me he is a ‘superman’ kind of entreprenuer who got broad professional experience and knowledge in managing business across all fields.
For every individual out there with an entreprenuerial mind, this is a perfect way to start the week! Read on and enjoy!
Good to have a vibrant entrepreneur like you here, lets start with a brief biography…..
My name is Abdul-Lateef Ayinde Carew (Jnr). Born on 31st October 1974. I am a Lagosian from Olowogbowo area of Lagos Island, Lagos State. Started my education at Baptist Nursery School, on Broad Street, then proceeded to Saint Georges Boys School, Falomo, Ikoyi, Lagos. Had my Secondary education at Methodist Boys High School, Lagos. I hold a B.Sc (Hons) in Political Science from the University of Lagos after a stint in Banking and Finance at the Ordinary National Diploma level of Lagos State Polytechnic, Isolo, Lagos.
I have about 20 years post qualification experience which cuts across Civil Service; Out-door Advertising; Banking; and hand on experiences in Agriculture (crop farming); Bakery; Textiles; Real Estate; And the down stream activities of the Oil and Gas sector of the Nigeria economy. I am an Associate member of the Nigeria Institute of Management. I am the Group Chief Executive Officer for Kobo Wyse Store, aside being a board member of some companies and offer advisory business development to few others. Happily married with kids.
You presently have six businesses in different sectors, tell us about them and
what informed your decision to start each of them…
Micro credit lending: It came about to create a quick fix approach to financial needs of people working in paid employment. The worker simply have no worries when they are cash strapped. They simply keep working and can afford to draw a cheque of their next salary on us. Also, someone in paid employment with assets needs for immediate use will be allowed to have same and might wish to spread payment for same over a period of time.
Our micro credit platform takes away the rigors of bottleneck associated with salary domiciliation as a basis for conventional bank lending to such categories of our working population in Nigeria.
Agriculture (Crop Farming): There is no doubt that farming will ultimately hold the key to future. Having formally trained at the Farm Service Centre of the Lagos State Government, based on the prospects of holding unto the future, we set up a cultivation of 40 Hectares of land at the Ibaro Dam farm settlement of the Ogun-Osun River Basin Authority. We got involved practically in maize cultivation. We intend to consolidate on our successes via irrigation activities.
Bakery: Arguably, bread consumption remains one of the major food that cuts across class, and taste. It remains a staple food whose seasonal alternatives for most homes will be yam. However, giving the over dependence on fast track meals, the demand across the year for bread remains so large that the players have not been able to adequately capture the market. Hence, we set out to further close the gap.
Textiles: We actually look inward to spending patterns of individuals and cultural relevance to dwell into the sector. A cursory review of societal schemes showed that every weekend from January through to December of any given year is activities filled of social parties where “uniformity” in clothing is usually the norm. Thus, we focus on African Prints mode of textiles and run an outlet for all forms and shades of “Ankara”. We also facilitate the customization of same for political; religious and even branded social events. That way we provide a form of clothing.
Real Estate: Most properties in certain axis of Lagos are regarded as ancestral or better put, family land which if not redeveloped or renovated by a neutral firm as a developer will be balkanized. Thus, with the current phase of our generational shift from extended family and compound family to strictly a Nuclear family orientation, we stepped into the process to redevelop and even renovate properties under operational base of short to medium term lease. That is what in most parlance of business is called BOT (Build; Operate; And Transfer).
Oil and Gas : We currently have 3 retail Channels in our downstream activities. It’s no gain saying that service Stations are still not enough to distribute petroleum products to end users in the public space. Most importantly is realizing the need to instill some measure of confidence for users to truly have the value of a litre for every litre paid for. It’s all about service to the people.
Managing one business successfully is a very hard task that needs total dedication,but you presently manage six simultaneously,what are the strategies you’ve been using to keep them running ever since operations started ?
Business Management is all about process. For each of the business under my command, we have established processes. Cultural values are set and all employees are made to key into it. We offer a very strong reward system for compliance and a very effective sanction process. Each business has a clear mission and vision driving it’s emergence in the service space. Employees are made to understand that rules are made for men to follow and not that men exist for rules.
Risk is inevitable when doing business , bringing six businesses together obviously involve higher risks, which are the frequently occurring risks you witness in running your businesses ? What are the strategies you’ve been using to mitigate address them?
Risk exist and mitigating factors are developed to address them. Each business has its own risk and we don’t shy away from same or just dump it on spirituality. Generally, operating any business in Nigeria is faced with a common one involving taxation. It could be multiple in nature and can truly undermine the real reason for existence in running a business. We strive to ensure a central system to address all as they surface. Also, the human resource for each business portend a higher risk. Getting the right person for the job is one key element. However, trainings and role switch to areas of competence or bias has helped to mitigate such worries.
Do you encourage boosting finance of a different line of business with profits from another when managing multiple businesses ?
We don’t mix up accounts as a standard policy for the group. Also, no form of bail out is allowed nor encouraged. No matter how pressed, every business is made to sort itself out. However, maybe a cross guarantee of sort to lenders are done in the normal cause of business relationship with our bankers. More often than not, they tend to see the success story of a business venture as a tell tale signs that nothing will go wrong when they lend to another arm of our business.
With the increasing awareness and use of social media ,what way have you used it to drive your products and services sales?To what extent is branding and customer service important to your businesses?
What’s your total staff strength? What are the programmes you have in place to promote staff welfare and personal development? What effect does this have on your business growth?
We run a modest chain that has 35 people in full paid employment. We ensure they are on the PAYE scheme of operating business location and also have them on health scheme of an HMO. We are considering a pension scheme for all cadre by mid year of the current year. All we are scheming is to make even the lowest in the cadre to have a sense of safety with us and deliver more on job expectation. Also, we have a scheme to assist staff as it relates to educational goal. Such approach has made us attract best hands and we hope to soon become an employer of first choice for businesses playing within our niche of the market.
What have you enjoyed so far as an entrepreneur?
I have enjoyed the privilege of having a dedicated and loyal staff strength as an entrepreneur. I won’t be able to have recorded any success in any of my businesses without the support of the staff. They remain my true hope of building a greater business empire. I am proud of them and always demonstrate that in so many ways. One thing for sure too is our quick disposition to promptly excuse those who don’t key into our vision without having to be sentimental.
What are some of the major challenges you have encountered in the businesses so far?
What keeps you going despite this challenges? What are your business ethics?
I have a personal philosophy that does not make me lose focus on any goal I set out despite any challenges I encounter, there is no food for a lazy man. Also, by virtue of my missionary schooling orientation from my nursery education to secondary school level, I picked the biblical teachings of any man that is diligent in his works will stand before kings and not before obscure men. Thus, hate me or like me, the goal must be met.
What would you say is your biggest achievement since you started out?
The greatest achievement I have recorded since I started out has been having a wonderful team to run each and every business venture with. Ability to pull an excellent human resource team together for each enterprise is key as that has made me have no failed venture. Even when we opt to suspend operations during herdsmen crises, the team was fused into the bakery project without hitch.
What are your future plans for the businesses? Where do you see your businesses in another 5 years? Do you intend venturing into more?
After the successful entry into the entrepreneur world, our process has ensured a fixed date salary payment from the first month of the year to the last month. Staff are advised of pay day and date in January and we keep fate with it. As an Entrepreneur, my operational model is weekly revision of activities and in some chains daily. We don’t await a month end to fix any shortfall in achieving targets. Staff deliverables to enable us meet up periodic goals are measured on the go. The only moments I have a feel for anything going wrong is when I am not engaged on a task for any of my business unit.
Do you welcome investors? Any mentor (s)?
For those who are interested in operating more than one line of business, what candid advice would you give?
My honest advice to anyone desiring to operate more than one business at a go is to ensure you have a process that is not easily subjected to waivers without grave consequences as sanctions for breach. Also, you must have a sound knowledge of how to delegate authority without delegating responsibilities.
You must be seen as knowing it all even when your employees will always bring the various options to the table. Information is key to running multiple businesses. You must have access to every minute details of what is happening to your businesses without necessarily encouraging report line jumping.
Words to inspire aspiring youths with entrepreneurship zeal…
Thanks for sharing with us Mr Abdul-Lateef.
Contact Abdul-Lateef Ayinde Carew (Jnr) ;