Business lessons for entrepreneurs from Femi Otedola
Femi Otedola’s life holds business lessons and more for us as entrepreneurs
Billionaire businessman and chairman of Geregu Power Plc, Femi Otedola, is a household name in Nigeria. This month he trended twice, first for renting a $3 million yacht for his birthday, and buying a £5millon house for his daughter, DJ Cuppy. That is exactly the type of life the majority of us want.
Femi Otedola’s life holds several business lessons and more for us as entrepreneurs. His journey through Nigeria’s challenging business terrain, failures, and eventual return to fame leaves most Nigerian entrepreneurs in awe. I believe you are likely aware of some of these stories.
Background: Femi’s entrepreneurial journey, notwithstanding his background as the son of a former governor of Lagos, the late Sir Michael Otedola, did not take off on a platter. His present status had an echo in his childhood when he had his first business at the age of six.
- “It was called FEMCO. I’d offer to groom my parents’ guests’ nails, then write a receipt and charge them for my service. They paid me too. I always had an interest in business,” he stated.
This certainly set the tone for the young Otedola, whose business mind was further sharpened under the tutelage of his father, who then had a printing press. Femi Otedola ran the marketing side of the family printing press in the late 1980s, which served as a springboard to becoming a name of national, continental, and global reckoning.
Otedola’s inroad into the oil business was intentional. Being the son of a governor, Otedola had friends in government who supplied him with diesel. When the political climate changed, the supplies stopped. He made inquiries and approached a company for fresh supplies of diesel.
Otedola’s crazy ambition pushed him to approach the new management of the depot and offered to buy it for $20 million ($16 million more than its actual worth of $4 million at the time).
Bright idea born in the dark: Mr. Otedola’s eureka moment happened on the back of the perennial blackout that has plagued most African economies. The energy crises caused Mr. Otedola to see the gap in the market and supply gas and oil to power the nation. This a perfect example of turning life’s lemons into lemonade.
We all have a value: According to Forbes, Otedola’s net worth is a staggering $1.8 billion. With great wealth comes great responsibility, and judging from Mr. Otedola’s charitable investments, he is shouldering that responsibility quite well.
Nothing wrong with competition: One of Otedola’s mantras is “I do not have friends or enemies, only competitors”. To succeed in the cutthroat world of business, you need to outperform the competitor.
According to Otedola, his loss, among other factors, occurred because he did not have the proper business structure in place and the banks failed to effectively advise him on the best way to run his empire. Instead, they only focused on the profits.
Always two options in any situation: Whether you think you can do it, or whether you think you cannot, you are right on both accounts. For Otedola, his options were to commit suicide or to weather the storm, and fortunately for us, he chose option B. Remember, your perspective is vital in difficult times
Invest in assets: When he lost everything, he recovered by selling over 180 flats and houses to pay off his debt. Assets are resources with an economic value that we acquire to provide a future benefit. Spend your money wisely.