You just can’t beat the person who won’t give up.
– Babe Ruth
It was in the late 1990s. Nnamdi, an electrical engineer in his late twenties, had just failed to secure his dream job of working in a multinational oil company. It was disappointing, but he was determined to press on. He approached a friend who ran a computer repair shop in Computer Village, Lagos to learn about the business. From there – with a meagre start-up capital – he began an incredible journey that would lead to the creation of one of Nigeria’s most successful technology brands. Not long after, he parted ways with his friend; Nnamdi was uncomfortable with the practice of making money by ripping off customers, and was told he was ‘spoiling business’. He decided to open his own repair outfit, and operated it out of the corner of a bookshop. Word about his credibility and competence soon spread around Ikeja; he became known as the guy who would fix your computer at a reasonable cost and deliver on time. As a result, his clientele grew rapidly. With the opportunities and funds that came from the increased business, he branched into selling computer parts. He began making trips to Dubai to buy parts, which he sold to retailers and repair shops in Lagos. Soon, the bookshop corner became too small for his operations.
It always seems impossible until it’s done.
– Nelson Mandela
His breakthrough came from selling a consignment of printers that had been given to him by a customer. With this, he was able to lease a large office space, and he put up a huge signboard: SLOT LTD. At a point, Nnamdi Ezeigbo realized that the growth of his business had stalled. It would later become clear to him that his business had fundamental problems. Firstly, the company was being run without any clear vision, plan, or governance structure. Secondly, many of the employees were family members he hired because he believed he could trust them. Finally, he lacked the knowledge and skill to make the structural transition from a sole proprietorship to a corporate enterprise. On the advice of a friend, he decided to go back to school to learn more about business management. He enrolled at the Lagos Business School’s part-time MBA program and was enthralled by the knowledge he gained from their brainstorming sessions. He felt like his business was being dissected like a surgical procedure. According to him, the experience was akin to a blind man seeing for the first time.
Fresh out of the MBA program, Ezeigbo began to restructure and reposition his business. So he replaced redundant employees with experts. He hired a consulting firm to set up a comprehensive financial, operational, and corporate governance system, and a board of
directors was also constituted. Before long, the reorganization began to bear fruit. The business expanded rapidly, and new shops were opened in Lagos and Abuja. When the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) was introduced into Nigeria in 2001, SLOT was well-positioned to profit massively from the new technology. MTN, the leading Nigerian telecommunications company at the time, approached him to allocate space in his shops to sell their SIM and recharge cards. First, traffic in his shops exploded. Second, MTN paid rent for space. Third, he got a commission on every SIM and recharge card sold. Not long after, MTN decided to expand into the sale of mobile phones with the introduction of the Locked Sim Nokia 3310. While MTN’s mobile phone business was booming, Ezeigbo observed that customers were unhappy that the phones were locked. On one of his trips to Dubai to buy computer parts, he stumbled across the unlocked version of the phone. He sold each phone at half the price of MTN’s locked version. Customers were thrilled and his entire stock sold out in a matter of days. This began his transition from the computer parts and repair business to the mobile phone business.
Ezeigbo soon spotted another opportunity when he noticed that Nigerians had to carry multiple phones due to the patchy service of GSM operators. At the time, the telecom companies had more subscribers than their installed capacity could handle. Ezeigbo and his team began to explore solutions. He met with a Chinese company and convinced them to partner with SLOT to develop a smartphone that would carry two SIMs. At the time, the dual SIM phone concept had not gained traction anywhere in the world and it was a huge risk to design and manufacture a phone with the Nigerian market primarily in mind. This led to the birth of TECNO and, later, Infinix products. The rest is history. Today, Nnamdi Ezeigbo has created wealth beyond his wildest dreams. He is now widely recognized as one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Nigeria and controls a business empire that is worth billions. SLOT currently operates more than six hundred shops nationwide, and the company has expanded into selling computers and electronics as well as entrepreneurship training.
Ezeigbo’s story captures the essence of this book. My purpose for writing is to help millions of young people who are disillusioned or frustrated, or who just need guidance and encouragement. I am passionate about sharing my experience, as long as it can help other people, and I believe that the ideas and stories in this book will be helpful to young people who want to make a success of their lives in Nigeria and other developing countries. Our youth are smart and energetic and given the opportunity, they can move mountains.
What were the factors responsible for Ezeigbo’s success?
The first is integrity. When others around him were ripping off customers, he resisted the temptation, even though it would have brought him a lot of profit.
Second, his resilience. Building a successful business requires a large dose of tenacity. Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
Third, his quest for knowledge. He took the bold step of enrolling for an MBA during a period when his business was demanding a lot of his time. He also attended the owner/president management program at the Harvard Business School.
Fourth, his financial discipline. When Ezeigbo’s business really began to take off, he resisted the urge to acquire luxuries. He chose to put much of the new cash back into the business instead.
Finally, his ability to continually innovate. According to him, the MBA program broadened his thinking and sharpened his creative skills.
Like Ezeigbo, there are thousands of wealthy and successful entrepreneurs whose stories can inspire Nigerians, especially the youth, in their quest to be successful and prosperous. These entrepreneurs span every corner of the globe. Their stories prove that wealth creation is universal and cuts across geographical, racial, religious, cultural, and gender barriers. I hope that the knowledge gained from this book will encourage you to believe that your situation is not hopeless, and I hope this book will inspire you to act to change it.
Importantly, you do not have to be a billionaire, or even a millionaire, to be considered successful. The simple criterion is that you own investments (in businesses, assets, and other wealth instruments) and your net worth generates enough income that can sustain you for a long time without having to work for money. In other words, your money works for you. With this, you can afford the basic needs of life without ever having to struggle again.
It is my firm belief that this goal is within the reach of millions of Nigerians, if they apply the principles discussed in this book. Wealth creation is a matter of choice and commitment. Rich people are committed to being rich. Poor people want to be rich. What is keeping you from being wealthy? In most cases, it is simply a lack of belief. In order to become wealthy, you must believe you can do it, and you must take the actions necessary to achieve your goal.
What qualifies me to write this book is the broad knowledge and experience I have gained while serving in both the public and private sectors for more than four decades. I have also had extensive and close relationships with some of the wealthiest people in the world, and I have observed their lifestyles. I have read countless books on wealth creation and learned valuable lessons that I have practised in my own life. I have drawn on these to develop a blueprint for wealth creation.
The next few chapters are devoted to defining wealth and poverty and analyzing the major reasons why only a few people end up attaining the financial freedom that everyone craves. The subsequent chapter explains the difference between just making money and actually creating wealth. There, you will see that it is possible to make money, even lots of it, but still end up being poor!
The subsequent chapter deals with what I believe are the foundational principles of wealth creation: a positive mind-set, your habits and thoughts, dreaming big dreams, finding your passion, having a mentor, financial discipline, and keeping the right company, among others. This chapter is followed by the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and a simple guide to best practices in managing a successful business.
Next is the chapter on investing in equity and real estate. This chapter focuses on the leadership lessons I have learned over the course of my career as both a corporate executive and a politician.
The last chapter deals with how to climb the wealth ladder in the midst of a global pandemic or economic recession. I have been privileged – personally and professionally – to have had some really great experiences. I have been fortunate enough to have met amazing people who inspired me to make the right choices, set proper goals, invest in the right businesses, and, in the process, create significant wealth. Now, I want to inspire others to do greater and bigger things with their lives. I want to motivate you to change your thinking and lifestyle, so you can create a better future for yourself.
The general tendency is to allow the sociopolitical and economic situation in Nigeria to dampen your spirit and discourage you from doing amazing things. This can affect your thoughts and actions, creating negative emotions and energy. You must program your subconscious through positive thinking. You must adopt the mindset of wealthy people, who are usually determined to succeed against all odds. You must live by the principles of honesty and integrity. You must be resourceful, innovative, passionate, and visionary. You must learn how to think big and dream big. Getting started can be overwhelming, but you must make up your mind to succeed.
I strongly recommend this book to everyone who desires a prosperous life, particularly young people between the ages of twenty and thirty-five. There is no age limit to wealth creation, but I believe the young generation will find these principles easier to adopt and apply.
Femi Pedro is an investor and the Chairman of SMEDAN. He was a seed investor at GTBank at 32 years old. He became MD of FinBank after acquiring it in 1998. He was the Deputy Governor of Lagos (2003-2007). Their administration re-engineered the entire revenue-generating mechanism, which Lagos enjoys today.
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