ADEBIYI SIJIBOMI: EARNING THE CLIENTS’ TRUST IS ALL THAT MATTERS
Makabis & Benet is a name that has gradually made an impressive mark in event management and its rise owes much to the resilience of Adebiyi Sijibomi Benet. The remarkable list of clients he has built in such a brief period is sufficient testament to that writes LANRE ODUKOYA
Like every other young person desirous of well paying job after graduation, Sijibomi’s story is a familiar one. He had roamed the streets, written aptitude tests and faced interview panels, but to no avail. It was after a few instances that it dawned on him he could do what he had always done for free to earn a living.
“Let me say that it is my calling; it wasn’t coincidental, it was divinely orchestrated or maybe I should say that it was purpose-orchestrated so that someone won’t see me as being superstitious or spooky. I studied geology and after school, I thought I would work in the oil and gas industry. After the NYSC service year, I left for Warri and picked up some jobs which were not really what I wanted but which I had to do while I was hoping for a better one.
“In the midst of it all, my mom was of great support to me; she was always telling me to leave Warri for Lagos because of the volatile nature of the city, and since many of my relatives were in Lagos. I heeded that counsel and came to Lagos.
“Aside the oil and gas industry, another one I loved so much was the banking sector. I applied for a job in some banks which were looking very promising as I was on at least second-level interviews with some top ones. In the course of waiting for the outcome of the interviews, I remembered one of the messages preached by my pastor, Rev Sam Adeyemi, who is a source of immense inspiration in my life.
He said that ‘instead of waiting at home for opportunities, why don’t you go and volunteer your service for free somewhere?’”
Indeed, during his days in school, he had been responsible for organizing and managing end-of-the-month programmes and end-of-the-year reunion parties for his church.
“So I said to myself that it would be better to give a professional touch to a gift and passion I already had. I wrote letters to three event management companies and one of them replied that they could take me as a trainee while I offered my services in return. That was how it all began.
“My former employer happened to be the only one that replied me. I was then asked to come over and allow them see what I could do, luckily for me, I passed the interview. I was thereafter asked how soon I believed I could grasp the modus operandi of the work since I was professionally new to the game. ‘One month,’ I said. They didn’t agree to one month but two. However, after the sixth week, I was already supporting and handling jobs. I became a major coordinator by the eighth week because I caught up pretty fast.
“I had a very eventful and cordial relationship with my former boss, Mrs Funke Bucknor-Obruthe but because of the hyper-busy nature of the trade we ply, everyone hardly gets the time to pay visits especially when you don’t live or work along the same axis with the other person. However, we still keep sound relationship. I believe she is a woman of great strength, influence and selflessness, I also believe she deserves every bit of success she has achieved (and even more) in the industry as well as compliments especially from us who at one time or the other got tutored by her.”
Today, there is a rich store of memory he can always recall when he considers memorable events he coordinated either by himself as the boss of Makabis & Benet or when he worked with Zapphaire Events. “It is actually difficult to say that one event is more memorable as another client might feel that not listing theirs suggests they are of less value, which is not true. All our clients are lovely people as we build a relationship first.
“To Makabis & Benet, all our events are high profile. However, I’d mention a few A-list events I have personally managed. I’d categorize them into two. The first are those that I was privileged to manage as an individual under my former employer. The second are those I managed with our team in Makabis & Benet. While I was with my former employer, I was privileged to handle some juicy events like Anabel Mobile Phone launch, Africans for Obama, Nigeria Stock Exchange Long Service Awards. The NSE event really inspired me because it made me feel that diligent service is still being appreciated in this country.
“The person who was given the longest service honour was of lower cadre yet he got every benefit that the honoured ‘top shots’ got. There was another who had died as at the time of the award but his family was given everything that came with the award and that made me believe that we can still do things right in this country and appreciate true diligence. Before I left there, I was involved in the wedding of the year (2009) between Nafisat Yar’Adua, the former president’s daughter and Gov. Isa Yuguda. I took the experience and exposure I garnered while I was there to Makabis & Benet.
Given that our services encompass events planning, event coordination and logistics, concept development, PR and events branding, we have been actively involved in big events including JP Morgan office launch in Lagos, Unilever Sunlight Detergent re-launch, the unveiling of Maiyegun College, Nigeria Communication Commission Stakeholders Forum in Lagos, GIFIC Annual Printware Exhibition (GAPE), Obiwon, the popular lyricist’s wedding and several other ones.”
But despite the success story, he realizes that challenges still exist. “I think the major challenge of the business is lack of trust as there are many neophytes out there. I think this arose from the fact that unemployment and poverty have put many people under so much pressure. This is what makes many to shun the proper training they ought to undergo.
“As an event and project manager, the first thing you need is competence and social capital. Mrs Ibukun Awosika said that when she ventured into her furniture business, she realized that one doesn’t need all the capital to start a business; all that’s needed is the training and the expertise.
For the first she got, she was given 70 percent which is normal. In our own case, most times (except in situations where you are creating a concept for promotional purposes etc) the individual or company you are planning an event for already has an idea of what they want to do; your own job as a planner is to modify, give a plan, streamline budget etc. Your consultancy fee already agreed, you are to ensure that you get the best prices from every required vendor for your client.
How do you get the individual or company to trust you with such a huge responsibility? Know that the success or failure of the event will impact on the image of the client? Many incompetent protégés who are not patient enough to go through training before they delve into the business, venture into it and mess things up.
In spite of the inbred flair and ability to manage events, I still subjected myself to the rigour of proper training and that’s why I could be trusted enough to have been given the responsibility of a week-long presidential wedding. I learnt from one of the best hands in this industry and Nigeria, and I came out refined as a finished product.
“Another challenge of the industry is not having sufficient event centres that cater for different event needs and budget. Many of the ones around are too expensive for some people. Lagos is really saturated yet you can’t take a major event outside the state. Apart from other major cities like Abuja and Port Harcourt, every other state is virtually dead as far as real time event planning is concerned. Imagine, I paid a visit to my state and someone asked me about what I do. I couldn’t say I’m an event consultant because it doesn’t make any sense to them. I told them that I am a business man.”
Does he have any recipe for success? “The ideals are simple: meticulousness, integrity, positive attitude and excellence. The vital requirements needed here are competence, integrity and diligence. When you earn people’s trust, they will be the one to help you discover some inherent abilities in you and take you to your next level,” he said.