My Journey

you-can-be-whatever-you-wantSomeone asked what I wanted to be 10 years from now and I said I just want to be happy. That’s all I could think of after surviving chemical engineering from the University of Lagos with no extra year (trust me, this was a big deal! Don’t laugh).  Honestly, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do next. I thought of traveling, studying French, acting, anything but more books.

Then that moment comes when you realize you need money to do anything plus you need somewhere to go every day before your parents drive you crazy. This was how I began my job hunt armed with my miserable 2’2 degree. That’s how it now looked to me as doors were slammed in my face. So much for my dreams of plenty oil money! Isho. (1)

(1) Isho – A Nigerian expression of Yoruba descent, meaning nail by direct translation, but used to express disappointment or an expectation cut short.

A dear friend at the time advised me to consider a career in information technology and this was how I got my first chance with Mr. Seni Williams. Working in Tara was the best thing that happened to me then. I was full of enthusiasm, eager to learn and try new things and Seni Williams was the type of boss that would throw you into the deep and leave you. It was here that I developed research skills. You couldn’t be given a task and go back to Seni to say, I don’t know. I don’t know ke (2)!! When there were Google and Ayotunde Itayemi (genius! I bet he’ll freak out when he sees his name here. hehe).

 (2) Ke – A Nigerian expression of Yoruba descent, used as an addendum for emphasis of a sentence or phrase.

Fast-forward 2004

All the highs of Tara systems started to wear off when my take home pay could no longer take me home. Something about me (can be good or bad, depends on how you look at it), when I want a change, I want it so badly, I can’t see straight, I start to get very restless like someone is choking me. It gets really bad and at this point, nothing else matters. So although no job offers had been made from the handful of interviews I had attended, I resigned! I turned in my very first resignation letter. Bye-bye Seni Williams.

My colleagues then thought, “This girl is mad”. You don’t have another job and you resign, who does that! Oh well, I only sat at home for about 2 weeks, because believe it or not FCMB called me for a final interview, with my 2’2. The interview was with one of the Executive Directors at the time, Biodun Oyapero and I was so sure I wasn’t getting the job! You see, I had this fancy CV template I got online and copied “summa cum laude” straight from it because I thought it sounded cool, didn’t even know what it meant *embarrassed*. Well, Mr. Oyapero’s eyes went straight there and the discussion was about just that! Yikes! He asked me, were you top of your class and I say no and he goes so why do you have “summa cum laude” on your resume? Er …*blank stare*. He could have thrown me out just then (some interviewers get that nasty), but he was gracious enough to explain what it meant to me before dismissing me. So it was a great shock, a pleasant one too when I got a call to come and pick up my letter. Yaaay me!

Life skills learned

University Of Lagos – Determination, Hard work, Friendship (I met the most amazing people), Problem analysis and dare I say Chemical Engineering (hahaha)

Nobody is an Island; you need people. I survived chemical engineering because of the wonderful family I had there. Till today many of us are still supporting each other. No business can survive without people, you need a team, you need to know how to relate with, motivate and generally manage your team or else you cannot succeed.

Tara Systems – Research, Just ask (No shame in that), nothing is impossible, IT appreciation, Web design. As an entrepreneur you are constantly doing research, looking for ways to re-invent yourself, your business, keeping you abreast of trends in your industry, carrying out research on what the customers want at every point in time (because customer needs and tastes are constantly changing) and so on.

My time in Tara taught me that nothing is impossible; someone somewhere has done what you are trying to do. It’s on Google or just ask your own Ayotunde Itayemi.

Don’t just sit there and wait, make a move: You can seek advice from other people about life decisions, but in the end, it all comes back to you. It’s about you, you have to know what you want and go for it. Don’t stay on that same spot if it’s not working for you, overcome your fear!

FCMB 2004 – Baptism of Fire

you-are-capable-of-much-moreI was posted to the IT department, just where I wanted to be. The orientation for the bank’s newbies was great. Fela Durotoye was one of the facilitators, it was my first time of really considering entrepreneurship (imagine that! At a bank’s orientation training), Fela is one hell of a talker! He didn’t tell us what we wanted to hear or what the bank wanted him to tell us, he told us what we needed to hear. Well, Fela, if you do get to read this ever, just want you to know, I heard you!

I once again found myself in the midst of men, but I felt at home, I was one of the boys, more or less. It was fun fixing people’s IT problems. I was assigned to the helpdesk and loving it until aunty Kareemat (she managed the stock broking software) decided to resign! The mantle of receiving the handover note fell upon me, barely 3months from joining the team!  “Breathe”, don’t panic Mofolusade. She gave 3months notice; surely that’s enough to get a hang of the software and take it on, I consoled myself with this. Only for “aunty” to take her leave days in lieu or whatever it is they normally do. Gbaga!(3) This was how the stock broking software became my baby, prematurely. It was my baptism of fire; I thought I knew pressure till there was an AGM or IPO or Dividend payment. I lived through this till Ayo Anegbe was re-hired (I mean it, re-hired, they went to fish him out!) to take over. Life was good; I went back to the helpdesk and just did support work for Ayo.

(3) Gbaga – The sound you get when something heavy drops on the floor. lol!

 The Banking Consolidation

Enter Soludo with the banking consolidation and reforms. Banks were scrambling to survive. It was a case of acquiring, get acquired or die. We had to transform as well, we embarked on an overhaul of our IT system, moving from Kapiti (a truly ancient version of it) to finnacle, we also acquired two banks, Nigerian-American Merchant bank and Cooperative Development bank! It was a clash of cultures, software systems, and accounts.

I know everyone had their fair share of pressure but IT ehn, e no get part two (second to none, for those of you who don’t do pidgin). It was bad enough that we were already perceived as “those people that cause trouble and make our work hard” by other units of the bank, then now there was so much more to deal with. We were doing Monday to Sunday, closing very late and in the midst of this I had to deal with the mainland to island commute and be at work for 7, 7:30 and we wonder why life expectancy has dropped to 45years. Tufia! (i.e God forbid)

It was obvious we needed a new direction and a strong leader on management level or close, to save our drowning IT unit. Then came Mr. Oni, a high-flying all-rounder from Accenture. The task ahead of him was huge, but he did all he could to measure up. At this point, however, I was feeling like I was in a tornado, no purpose, no direction and no hope. The time had come again; I had to get out.

Life Skills Learned

You think you’ve reached your limit till you are stretched a little more. You’ll be surprised what you can live through (said in Yago’s voice, from Aladdin). My boss then would say, “it’s not rocket science”, I used to hate hearing this back then, but it’s true, you can deal with anything, just remember “it’s not rocket science” and if it turns out that it is indeed rocket science you have to face, then Run! Just kidding.

Be prepared! The banking consolidation favored those who saw the future. They were in the know.  It’s not obvious in the post, but I learned to “document” every single thing. I would try to tell my boss (before Mr. Oni) something verbally and he would say, “document it” by this, he meant through a mail (for mail trail) or a memo. This was a period of immense heat and you could get fired for any slip-ups.

I was on every committee you can imagine like the IT steering committee for one, it was like I had secretary written on my head. Well, I learned how to write minutes from being every meeting’s secretary and believe me, it’s a skill! Lol.

Early 2006, Exit FCMB

Sometimes you know what you need to do, but you just can’t bring yourself to do it. It could be because of fear of uncertainty, fear of what people around you would say or think or jut fear in general. This was where I was by 2005 in FCMB. I would be so miserable on Sunday night and wonder why and then it’ll come to me that it was because there was work on Monday. I was what you would describe as young and restless, I wanted to do so many things, but all I got to do was wake up, go to work, come back home and pass out.

IT under the new leadership was taking shape; I was doing my little bit to stay relevant, trying not to complain about the work pressure and hours. If I ever thought of resigning, I thought about the salary (Gold handcuffs!), the fact that I had somewhere to go every day (sitting at home can be depressing). The day came, though, the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

I was on weekend duty, Saturday and Sunday. I did Saturday with no event, then came Sunday; at the time I had recently been placed on antibiotics because I had typhoid, but in the banks (Naija style), you fall ill and you have one day at the most to see your doctor and get your prescription drugs unless you were practically dying. As a result of this unspoken rule, typhoid or not, I came in, looked around, not much going on yet, so I dashed to Mr. Biggs to get something to eat and take my drugs. Alas! I got back to meet an epistle waiting for me in my mailbox. The boss had sent me a really nasty mail and copied my direct report, Mr. Anyanwu. I remember it ending something like “This is your last warning”! “Whaat”! To say I was livid doesn’t cut it. What kind of life was this! I made up my mind right there and then that I was out. Call it pride, but I am an Ondo girl and yes we don’t take nonsense! I would rather eat sand.

Luckily, a younger cousin had told me about Lagos Business School and I was interested. An MBA expands your mind, to say the least. Besides, I was tired and needed a career change, the MBA was the only way I could think of.  So that day, I went to the site, filled the application form and started the process. At this point, I had no clue where the money was going to come from and I was surrounded by “naysayers” making comments like “What is the guarantee that you would get a good job after the MBA” as if getting a job is the main reason to go for an MBA *rolling eyes*. I also recently got married and was worried that resigning would put my husband under a lot of pressure, but my husband was tired of the crazy schedule on my behalf as well, lucky me.

Anyways, long story short, I got admitted to the Full-Time MBA program to resume 2006! I was elated until I let the “Nay Sayers” get to me again. I decided to defer, I was afraid. Thank God for family, having great support compares to nothing. On my way home, we stopped by at my parents, my husband and I, and I just mentioned to my mom that I was deferring, she jumped off her bed and screamed at me (yea, my mom is a drama queen), what! I rebuke every evil spirit! Sade, it will never get easier, do you think it’ll be better next year or the next, what about when children come? Do the MBA now and put it behind you. That was the one best pieces of advice I ever got from her. God bless Mothers!

It felt awesome when I walked into my boss’ office to hand in my letter. Good-bye FCMB!

Life Skills Learned

Whatever you have to do, do NOW! There will be no perfect time to do anything. Not that it is impossible; but I can’t imagine having to do an MBA now with my two sons, all that energy!! Naah men.

The LBS (Lagos business School) Experience

Between my husband and my father, (bless them!), my fees were paid. I sold my wedding gown and my sister’s chief bride’s maid dress and saved the money as back up money for the little things. My mother was scandalized, but every time I looked at that huge dress (couldn’t even fit into my small wardrobe) sitting there, I thought to myself, what a waste.

 If you went to a federal university in Nigeria like me and then experience education outside the country or at the Lagos business school, you would agree with me that you would wonder what on earth you spent Five years (as is the case of an engineer’s) of your life doing! If you don’t know, let me be the first to tell you that you haven’t been to school until you have been to school! Covenant and Babcock people, I am not referring to you (apart from your rules and regulations, you have a somewhat proper school experience). I am not saying that my five years was a complete waste, but you go through school like you’re groping in the dark in the most of the government owned schools. We were focused on turning in assignments and passing exams, not the actual learning.

From the gate of LBS to the classrooms, everything spoke serenity! The environment, the staff, everything was clean and pristine (clean is a big deal! We are in Nigeria). Lecturers as we knew them, were referred to as facilitators and they were, in the true sense of it. Compared to the “note hand out” style I was used to, here it was an interactive and robust style of teaching.  We had Thad take us through a brush up of algebra and basic statistics. Watching him talk alone, you knew he was passionate about knowledge transfer; every class was insightful and fun. Engineer turned Accountant, Mr. Owolabi took us through bookkeeping and accounting, he broke complex things i.e. Debit and Credit, General Ledgers and Balance sheets (Greek to me before the MBA) down in a way that even a baby would understand, well almost!

10401098_32540304071_3513_nOkay, enough of all the sweet talk, the initial excitement wears out when the real work starts and it did before we could say, Jack Robinson. We were divided into groups and I was the group leader of the most laid back and playful group of our set, Group B, we got results still, that was the point now. I wonder if they did some sort of personality test and put similar people in groups. Group A, headed by efiko (4) Blossom (she always had her hands up even before the facilitators posed their questions, lol!!), was the most efficient group of the set.  LBS drilled me into shape; we had a business casual dress code and had to be in class before the facilitator. If you were as little as one second late, you were late, finito! Try as you may with your tales of Lagos traffic, I am pregnant (I was in my second year), any of those stories and you were reminded that the world was not a fair place, besides traffic was not peculiar to you. This is Lagos deal with it! There was a time I was running late; Ajah traffic has always been a menace, my friend Pamela and I got out of the car and hopped on a bike from VI to Ajah straight. If only my FCMB Bosses could see me now! Never late for a class, hehe, even with the same mainland – Island commute. Life! It’s about perspectives about how important something is to you.

(4) Efiko – Nigerian slang for Geeks, Nerds and Book-worms

We graduated in September 2007, full of dreams and hopes and we were more than ready to take on the world.

P.S: You know the funny thing, Entrepreneurship was a final year elective and I didn’t take it as an option. Imagine that! Most of the people I know that took it, on the other hand, are working for someone, somewhere.

Life Skills Learned

Punctuality, Accounting appreciation (can’t say I became a guru per say), Business Ethics, Group dynamics and leadership skills, Communication Skills (Because every class was interactive and you were even graded on your class participation, I learned to speak up and listen too, off point participation attracted sanctions)

Me and my MBA baby!

Shell, Shell oh Shell

The Shell Recruitment day was fun. I had never experienced a more practical interview system. I bonded with one of the candidates and we are still friends till today, her name is Seun, the interesting girl. I saved money on accommodation too, thanks to my friend from way back (chemical engineering family), Emiola. She hosted us. The interview was in stages, a case study, a group discussion, and a one on one interview. I remember one of the questions still, like it was yesterday – “You are sitting in for the managing director of a company, he has left you a hand over note, a crisis with the villagers where you operate, a staff issue (can’t really remember) and something else with a supplier, how would you address the issues, what would be your priority?” This is not quite a word for word, but it was something like that. Then we had a negotiation where we had to do role-plays of three communities presenting their community’s project for approval to be the CSR direction for the year. I felt at home, this was like being in class back in LBS. At the end, they refunded our flight fares (using old rates!!) and told us they would get back to us.

I got back to the hotel to find my baby ill. He probably reacted to the water or change of environment, but at the time I was scared to bits! As much as my friend and sister tried to calm me down, I still couldn’t get myself to relax. I stayed up all night, crying and calling every doctor I knew. I couldn’t get any of the prescriptions they recommended (Oral re-hydration therapy mixes, mainly), because it was late already (Port Harcourt shuts down early) and the next day was a public holiday. I almost went mad; he must have passed stool about fifty times, no kidding! I counted the minutes and the hours to my flight back and headed straight to the doctor from the airport. Babies can make you look like a liar sometimes, because by the time we got to the hospital, this young man that was looking like he was about to cross over to the other side, was now all bubbly and stable, imagine! My sister so made fun of me ehn (5), after all, the stress I put her and Emiola through.

(5) Ehn – An addendum used by Nigerians mostly for emphasis amongst other things. We like our expressions. Hahaha

 While waiting for my Shell response, I got an offer with Dangote as a business analyst with the new Cement Chief Executive Officer, Tony Hadley. I had barely spent a month there when I got a mail informing me that I was successful! *Screaming*!!!!!!! I was asked to come in for my medicals and I did. I got a call from their HR rep asking me if I wanted supply chain management and I said that was fine. I wanted to go back to the department where I interned but I wasn’t fussed about that. Shell is Shell, wherever. Another HR rep now calls shortly after to say they wanted me at the department where I was before and would like to have an informal chat with me, she said don’t worry, it’s just protocol, to get to know you, you’re in already.

I had to find a way to escape from the office that day. I expressed my concerns about timing since I was working somewhere already and didn’t want to disappear for too long. I was assured that it wasn’t anything serious. My people, lo and behold, I get there and I am ushered into a room with three men sitting across the table. I can still picture their faces. Two fone (6) speaking Nigerians and a Caucasian, think he was Russian or something. I was distressed already because this wasn’t what I was expecting; besides, I had to rush back to the office before it was obvious I had disappeared. Of course, the friendly chat didn’t go well. I knew I wouldn’t be recommended for the commercial group but still had hopes of getting into SCM; at least this was just protocol they said. “Awon oniro buruku” (Liars, simply put).

(6) fone – fone being pidgin for foreign accents, a derivative of Phonetics

There was silence, a long deafening silence. I emailed the rep I had been following up with and she said she had been reassigned. What!! She referred me to someone else who referred me to someone else and that was how the wild goose chase began. I called Nick, German, and Beth, everyone I knew there. German had even assumed I had resumed and was settling in. Then they send me a mail saying I was being retained in their pool and would be posted to a department as soon as there was an opening. A year later (Yes o! a whole year), I get an email saying my records in the pool had expired and so I should re-apply.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this was how Shell never was! Till date, my mom still can’t get over it. We were practically already spending Shell money.  At every opportunity, she says in Ondo “Do baa shey fofi wo ti wi shell beyi, wo bati ra moto wuen”. Let me help you translate before you crack your head, “If only you were in Shell now, you would have bought a new car”. I feel her pain, but sometimes I just need her to stop, it drives me crazy. This is by far one of the worst disappointments in my life, ever! I didn’t cry then, but years later, I was having a bad day and I stumbled on one of the email exchanges we had, I broke down and wept a bucket (I can cry oo, leave that one!). I have moved on, but I must get filthy rich so I can hunt those three men down as well as the HR Rep and spit in their faces!! Call it whatever you like, I don’t care.

Working with Tony Hadley

Tony Hadley was a really great boss. I learned so much from him. He once asked me to submit a report on the cement industry, I put the report together using all the excel skills I knew and was feeling good about myself, he just looked at it and said to me, Sade presentation is everything. He showed me a similar report from someone at J.P Morgan and said if I gave you this report and your report, which one would you pick first? he didn’t need to say anymore, I got the message.

For the first time in my work career, I was in a position where I had an Ariel view of a company’s operations, right from the top. We were seated on the 9th floor, the same floor as Aliko Dangote (Not like that added anything to my pocket, but I just couldn’t resist throwing that in, *shinning teeth*). For those of you who think being filthy rich means you get to put your feet up think again, the man Aliko is one of the most hardworking men I ever met. He was always in the office, even when he traveled out of town he came straight to the office from the airport. His case was tending towards an excessive obsession, though, I wouldn’t want to live like he does, but I respect him. It is not by chewing gum that you build an empire like that, no matter how flawed.

volunteerfortherebandingofdangoteI attended high-level meetings regularly, as the secretary of course! Mofolusade the “sece”(You have to say this with a Yoruba accent to get the joke). Tony had a big vision for cement and it was clearly documented in black and white. You should see the way he documented stuff, concise and clear. We had steering committees as well as weekly and monthly Executive meetings at the head office and all the different plants. He built a team of the best professionals ever. Mr. Adeleke, a seasoned finance expert, taught me how to write minutes that were more professional and audit compliant. He was one very thorough man. Utibe! My girl Utibe, how can I not mention her; we were called Tony’s angels.  We came in at a level higher than many people who had been there for years, so we were labeled and hated by some right from the word go. Tony tried to carry all stakeholders along and most people came on board, most people except Mr. E*! He saw Tony as a rival, an enemy. He declined to attend every single meeting Tony called, creating a parallel and opposite team in his own domain.

It was madness! One time, he slammed the phone on Utibe. Utibe managed Tony’s calendar and had to send out reminders to cement executives for meetings. She called Mr. E* and he screamed: “who are you to call me directly, I don’t report to your workatdangoteboss, don’t you ever call me again!” See as our mouth wan drop (Pidgin for expressing surprise and shock). She told Tony and he just smiled and said, E’s probably stressed out, I should go see him. This was high-level politics playing out, right before my eyes. Where was Ochora, she took us in “Managing Corporate Power and Politics” at LBS. Then, it was just theory to us, now I was witnessing it live. Dangote group is such a big company with so many power players, fighting for Aliko’s attention. It was just crazy. Call it the gam
e of thrones.  We would get approvals for something in camp Tony and it would get intercepted from Camp E*. This went on and on, till Tony couldn’t take anymore. Really, how does one progress that way, especially when you are as straightforward and professional as Tony?

Tony opted out! There was some drama and I missed it because I closed at 5, but Utibe gave me the low down when I got in the next day. Tony’s angels and the professionals he had invited to join his team were left hanging. It would only be a matter of time before the sharks got us. Yawa! (7)

(7) Yawa – A Nigerian expression of Niger Deltan descent used to express trouble.

I have a few pictures from the good Dangote days here.

Life Skills Learned

 No matter what life throws at you, you have to pick yourself up and keep moving, don’t you ever stop!

Organizational skills – Tony had his weekly, monthly and yearly plans laid out for Cement.

Time management – Tony was a sucker for schedules and timing

High-level documentation and planning – I need to fish out all those Tony’s documents again; they would be useful for me now.

Presentation – Powerpoint is such a powerful tool, a lot of us under-utilizing it.

People management – If you didn’t have the right people skills in Dangote, you were “dead dead” (Double for emphasis). How do you get people to cooperate with you, give you reports as at when due and so on without this?

Meeting management – Our meetings were sharp and to the point, we sent out agendas a week before and stuck to the agendas as much as possible (there was always that one person who would go off on a tangent, lol)

How can I not add POLITICS and POWER play!!!

The birth of a dream – My first business

I know we are expecting to continue with the Dangote story, but I can’t afford to ignore the most significant part of my entrepreneurship journey, how and when Trezorlandia was born.

At the interview with Tony Hadley, he asked me a question, it was one of the questions we had rehearsed a couple of times in school, but I could not give him the rehearsed textbook answer, because he had this look that made me feel like he really wanted to know. “Where do you see yourself five years from now?” For the first time, I didn’t just blurt out the textbook type answer, I thought long and hard and for some reason I said, I see myself running an online shopping business. That was the first time any thought about owning my own business had come to me and of all places for that to happen! Lol!

I got the job and carried on happily with it but I always just had this nagging feeling, like I could be doing more. I sold wristwatches on the side, Ankara fabrics too as well as anything sell-able to my colleagues. My office was not too far from the market so once again; most of my break time was spent combing the stalls. Then one day it hit me, I wanted to help purchase and deliver gifts.  This was something I had been doing for fun back in school and even at work. I didn’t know what to call it or if it was possible to build a business around that so I hit the web. Believe it or not, something that sounded like such a novelty idea already existed as Gift consulting! I immediately knew for sure that I wanted to be a gift consultant.

When you have that aha moment, you best be surrounded by “cheerleaders” or you would never take off. My brother, Kehinde, my friends on the 9th floor, Utibe and Zainab were my first set of cheerleaders. I shared my idea with them and they were even more excited than I was. I could go on and on about this but I have a note on facebook that captures the story. I cannot say it better now than I did years ago when it really happened.  If you’d like to know please follow the link below;

When you start a business, what are the first steps to take? There’s no hard and fast rule, but there should be best practices. In my case I didn’t follow any laid down principles, I just wanted to start and I did what I felt I needed to do;

Shareholders: I knew I couldn’t go it alone I needed a team. I thought of people who I could work with on building the business and involved them, my brother for PR (Public relations), My friend, Emiola, for purchases offshore (I also felt she had a knack for selecting gifts) and my husband for IT. This was my own idea at the time. I wasn’t thinking of money, I still had a job and was financing most of the business from my salary.

Another way to go, though, would be to get shareholders to finance the business capital (money you need for the business), this is known as Paid-up Capital. Paid Up Capital in simple terms is the amount of a company’s capital that has been funded by shareholders; it can be less than a company’s total capital because a company may not be financed solely by equity (shareholder’s money). Before you go this route, however, ensure you do a proper analysis of your startup costs; ensure that you only spend money on the important things.

Logo Design: I went through a process of selecting a logo. I engaged about three different people and my partners and I looked through loads of logo designs. As simple as this process sounds, it was not that simple. Making decisions can be tasking. At last one of my brother’s talented friends, Munachi Duru designed the winning logo. I saw it and just knew! There was a connection and my partners felt it too.

Set up a facebook page:  This is a free (everybody says “Free”, free is good) and fast way to build your market. I come from a large family and I harassed and harassed everyone of them to like my page and suggest to their friends. I owe a lot of the likes I have on the page now to my brothers Adeleke and Kehinde and my sister Tolu. Till date I have never used the paid facebook adverts and I have 1,805 likes.

Create engaging content: It is one thing to create a facebook page and another thing to keep it active. My head was always spinning and I read a lot online. There’s so much information out there about anything you want to do. This helped me keep my page fresh. I also realized this was an all-new type of business in Nigeria and I had to educate the market on why they needed the services of a gift consultant. I put out a few notes and featured a few videos.

Company Registration: I immediately engaged a lawyer and registered the name Trezorlandia.  This has its good and bad parts especially if you haven’t got your accounting sorted. Now I would suggest you hold out a bit and do a pilot run before you go ahead to register the business. I say this because, at the time of registering the business, I did not take into account the tax issues associated with it. And years went by before I really started to trade officially with the already registered name.

Account Opening: It is very important to separate your personal finances from you business finance. I am just getting really strict with this. Ensure that all your transactions, as much as possible, are done through the business account. Nowadays you have to have your TIN (Tax Identification number) before you can open a company account.

Website: This I need to dedicate a whole post to, remind me later. –


The projects that saved my life

So back to the Dangote story, where were we? Ah the sharks.

Even before Tony’s last day in Dangote Tony’s angels got the memo from camp E* – “You have been redeployed to the office of Mr. K* on the 3rd floor, with immediate effect!” Lobatan(8). They were going to have us for toast. What to do now? You know what, though, when the K-switch sang, “Oluwa is involved” he must have been referring to me, because just when I was ready to move downstairs Oluwa (9) indeed stepped in.

(8) Lobatan – A Yoruba word for it is finished, literally.

(9) Oluwa – Yoruba (Nigerian tribe) word for God

Everything starts from the 9th floor, so we were always in the know. We had been seeing this man, Mr. O*, hold meetings with the telcos (Telecommunication companies) and submit reports and findings to Alhaji Aliko. A few times, he asked me to help with reports (he hadn’t built his team yet) and I did. Dangote was looking to diversify into wholesale fiber distribution; they were about to build Alheri, which later became DANCOM technologies. At the same time, Folake Ani-Mumuney had come on board and was leading a Dangote rebranding project. I had a few encounters with her as well, while on the 9th floor.

Right about this time when the roof was about to blow over, Alheri kicked off and Mr. O* had to build his team. They needed someone on the team to handle the CUG project (Closed User Group; staff members on the CUG could call each other at no charge) that was being implemented across the group. My friend Zainab told me about this and spoke to Mr. O* on my behalf. This was the project that saved my neck! He stuck his neck out for me by presenting a justification to Aliko and submitted a transfer request for me to join the DANCOM team. This was how I left the cement business unit and resumed with DANCOM.  Whew! The project was important to the group and touched every single person, so there was no way “you know who” could kick against my transfer.

On the other hand, Folake stuck her neck out and put in a request for Tony’s angel number two, Utibe to join her team.  She was planning a media reveal for the new logo and needed volunteers from different business units to partake in the planning and distillation of the new brand ethos, I volunteered. There was an intranet project as well that was to be implemented across the group which I got involved in. My hands were full, but I enjoyed every minute of my time on these projects.

There is definitely a God somewhere!!

Life Skills Learned

Service Management: We had to do a lot of service level agreements with the Telcos, we sent out RFPs (request for purchase) often and so on. I also got to go for an ITIL foundation training.

Branding: Working on the rebranding project with Folake exposed me to a lot of new things as well as the importance of branding.


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