Last week, I brought you Zain Asher of CNN sharing the story of her journey to the top and the obstacles she surmounted plus lessons learnt and success tips offered. Today, I bring you the big one: Africa’s No.1 telecoms giant who was 69 yesterday on the journey to 70 next year by God’s grace. What’s his story? How did he make it to the top?
Attempting to capture the full trajectory of Dr. Mike Adenuga’s road-to- success story will take a full-fledged management book in the making. Meanwhile, I am writing this piece for all those young people bothering me for a how-to-do it book on Adenuga which will inspire them, which they can read, dissect and apply his success secrets and strategies. From my research on this enigma who owned two banks in his thirties, the Adenuga success secrets and strategies can be distilled to include each of the following bullet points: *Have a dream and work hard to make the dream a reality. *Get a good education. *Think big, think different, think like an entrepreneur. *Trust your gut instinct. *Look for opportunities everywhere. *Have passion for what you do. *Have a winning strategy. *Leverage on latest technology. *Don’t be afraid to shift the paradigm. *Know the business you are going into. *Get a good product and brand it aggressively. *Build a good team around yourself. *Factor in God and pray always for divine blessings.
Now, let’s hear it from Mike Adenuga, in his own words, as he answers some of the above points:
I came back home from the United States in 1974 after my university education in North Western State University, Oklahoma and Pace University in New York. When I came back home, there were a lot of opportunities. It was in the era of Udoji Award when workers were paid some big bonuses and there was a strong purchasing power. At that time, a lot of vehicles were coming into the country without air conditioning and car stereos. I saw a window of opportunity there and I seized it by deciding to import car stereos. As soon as we started importing car stereos, a new problem cropped up: thieves were breaking into people’s cars to steal their car stereos. This problem created another opportunity for us. We started importing removable car stereos. You can detach the stereos and carry it along with you when going out of your car. And they sold like hot cakes. This was where I had my first major break in business: in the area of this imported removable car stereos. I was able to bring them in far ahead of competition. And that gave us a strong edge and mileage. And as you grow in business, one thing leads to another.
Sometimes, success comes through having a lucky break. I flew Swiss Air and luckily I sat next to a man who owned one of the biggest lace manufacturing factories in Austria. I sold laces for a while. After that I started importing tomato, vegetable oil and all sorts of things. That was how I started. In those days, you had to be a generalist, a jack-of-all-trades to survive.
Venturing into telecoms
I have always been keen on investing in the telecoms industry. Before coming into telecoms, I had done all sorts of business from trading to construction to banking to oil exploration. I needed fresh challenges. I was looking for that business opportunity that will be very challenging and an opportunity that will address that particular segment of the population where there are some deficiencies. In those days, NITEL’s monopoly of telecoms sector had crippled the growth of the industry. To get a telephone line was an arduous task riddled with corruption. People were kept on waiting list for years on end. It was obvious that privatization of that sector was the solution. When the government finally embraced privatization of the telecoms sector, we saw a big window of opportunity to actualize our dream of becoming a key player in that sector. We decided to go into telecoms to provide affordable telephones and efficient delivery so that Nigerians can talk to themselves and to the rest of the world. That was the driving force. The Globacom proposition was founded more on passion than economic returns. It’s all about empowering Nigerians. We believe we should meet customers’ expectation in a very affordable manner. That was why we introduced per second billing, which is about exactness, which became a game changer. That is why we deployed the latest state-of-the-art technology from the onset, followed by the Glo 1 submarine communications cable. Another advanced Glo 2 submarine optic fibre cable is in the offing.
People say I am a slave driver. I believe that for you to achieve success in life, you have to drive hard. There are no two ways about it. Then you must have passion for whatever you do. For me, Globacom is driven by passion. I love this process of gradually building a brand and the brand growing into a bigger, global thing. I believe in hard work. The secret of my business success is hard work. Hard work and God’s blessings. Any business I want to go into, I try to know the business, because without knowing the business, it is easy to be hoodwinked.
Another philosophy is not to shy away from what I love to do. When we lost $20 million in the CIL GSM saga, some people were urging me to walk away from it all but as an entrepreneur I felt that walking away is the easy part of it. If I walk away, who will do the job? I am always willing to take challenges that would benefit our people. We must be here, we must develop the country and add value to the lives of Nigerians. I believe strongly in adding value. If you can add value to the lives of Nigerians, if you can contribute to making Nigeria a better place and making Nigerians do those things, which were hitherto believed could not be done by Nigerians, that is fulfilling for us.
Everything I have achieved in life, I give glory to God. Like everyone else, I have two hands and two eyes. But what we have been lucky about is that we put a lot of premium on making sure that when we go out there to resource a company, we look for the very, very best. And I think we have been lucky in that area. We have highly competent people, devoted people and honest people you can trust to run those businesses.
Achieving is a thing of resolve and persistence. It is the state of attaining success as a goal through sustained consistency. Essentially, running a business is similar to leading a military operation or orchestrating a political campaign, or performing as a great athlete. The fundamental principles are the same. The overriding objective is to outperform the competition; to outwit the other guy—to achieve.
I thank God for how far he has brought us. I am a staunch believer in the Divine Presence of God, and recognise the necessity of human decency and goodwill.