Akpoveta: Businesses Must Constantly Reinvent to Stay Relevant


The Chief Executive Officer of Olive Blue, a global change management consultancy firm, Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta spoke to Goddy Egene on what leaders of companies can do to survive the challenging environment and the forthcoming leadership retreat in Toronto, Canada

The current business environment is posing serious challenges to many chief executive officers (CEOs) of companies. How do you think these companies can survive?
Simple as it may sound, the survival of organisations will require strong leaders. Leaders who able to successfully lead change, innovate and diversify, be responsive to change, mobilise, engage  and motivate employees, are swift in making critical decisions, and many more skills and focus. That is why we are putting together the ‘Change Leadership Executive Roundtable’, which provides a forum to help and equip leaders to successfully lead change in times of economic uncertainties, and achieve higher levels of success, growth and market leadership in their respective sectors, and increase return on investments.

How receptive are Nigerian companies or CEOs to Change?
There is the saying by Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher that change is the only constant in life. Whether or not we are receptive to change, has never stopped it from happening.  In my experience Nigerian companies understand this philosophy of change. From the banking to the telecommunications industry, taking on tremendous change in the past 10 years, constantly reinventing themselves to stay relevant and some doing so successfully over the years.

While some may fall through the cracks or struggle to remain relevant and successful, by and large every organisation is in the business of succeeding, and therefore needs not only to be receptive to change, but embrace it. This roundtable is an opportunity to bolster our effectiveness in leading change to drive higher returns on investment and collectively move the Nigerian economy forward. And one of the ways this can be done is through effective change leadership.

You have a programme on to empower leaders and organisations, can you tell us more about?
The Change Leadership series is a Pan-African corporate and entrepreneurial sequence of events that is held annually,  and is aimed at driving positive change by empowering leaders, entrepreneurs and corporations to become effective change leaders and to lead transformational change.

For successful change to occur, it takes strong leadership and commitment, and strong leadership requires growth and continuous learning. ‘The Change Leadership’ series meets these needs and provides a forum to help leaders and organisations become more effective in driving results, achieve higher levels of success, growth and market leadership in their respective sectors, and increase return on investments.

Does your programme recognise the fact that change management involves identifying and adjusting to some form of cultural norms from country to country? How do you adapt that to individuals or companies from different regions of the world?
The Change Leadership series definitely recognises the need to tailor our content to fit the respective nuances and culture of its participants. The aim at the Executive Roundtable being held for Nigerian business leaders in July is to strive for the leaders to learn from one another on how they have been able to achieve success and manage challenges within the Nigerian context and culture.

Your firm OliveBlue is a global change management consultancy, which notable companies have you worked with previously and what did you help them achieve?
OliveBlue Consultancy and our consultants have worked with JPMorgan Chase, Loblaws, General Motors, Delta State Government, Phillips Consulting, Royal Bank of Canada, Deloitte & Touche, The Project Management Institute and British Telecom to deliver training, as well as strategic and business critical projects. These include transformational projects such as organisational restructuring, mergers and acquisition, business re-engineering, regulatory, and technology implementations.

The change leadership executive roundtable is billed to hold in Toronto this year. Can you tell us more about it?

The Executive Roundtable holding in Toronto will take place from the 6th – 8th of July, 2016. It is an exclusive event that will bring together 50 executive and business leaders to mastermind with each other on leading change, innovation and exploring opportunities for diversification, and to also learn from the number one global leadership expert, John Maxwell. Other notable guest speakers include: Foluso Phillips, CEO & Chairman, Phillips Consulting Nigeria; Jeremy Gutsche, award winning Innovation expert; Segun Agbaje, CEO GTBank Nigeria; Honourable Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Senior Special Assistant to the Nigerian President on Foreign Affairs and the Diaspora; Arole Oodua Adeyeye Ogunwusi, the Ooni of Ife and an astute Real Estate mogul; and Samuel O. Oboh, an accomplished Architect in Africa and Canada, and 2015 President of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) who is the first Canadian of African descent to occupy this position in the 108-year history of the Institute, and President of INSPIRARQX.

Why did you decide to have it Toronto. Doesn’t it seem a bit far from global cities like New York, London Lagos or Johannesburg?
Toronto was chosen as the location for the executive roundtable to provide something different, as well as provide untapped opportunities. Also, Toronto and Canada provide the following:Toronto is the business and financial capital of the country and one of the world’s largest financial centres. Nigeria is one of Canada’s largest trading partners in Sub-saharan Africa, with growing opportunities for bilateral trade.

Canada has cultivated relationships in Africa for over five decades working with countries to boost development outcomes including promoting economic opportunities.Canada is the best country in the G-20 to do business with according to Bloomberg. Canada led all G-7 countries in economic growth during the past decade according to the World Bank. Total business tax costs in Canada are the lowest in the G-7 and the country offers the lowest business costs in the G-7 for Research and Development intensive sectors according to  KPMG. -The World Economic Forum has declared Canada’s banking system to be the soundest in the world for the seventh consecutive year. In 2015, Toronto was ranked the best overall city in the world and the fourth most livable by the Economist. It was also named the hottest luxury real estate market in the world by Christie’s International Real Estate.

Who is the primary target for attending this event?
The executive roundtable is primarily targeted at bringing C-Suite executives together. This encompasses a range of leaders from CEOs, executive leaders, and senior management of organisations to senior public sector leaders in Nigeria focused on leading transformational change. In attendance also at our opening cocktail reception and dinner gala will be Canadian business people and government officials, and members of the Nigerian and African Diaspora.

Give us a brief background on some of the major speakers that will be at the event.
We have a great line up of speakers but we would like to emphasise that this not a conference where speakers talk to you from a podium. This is a roundtable focused on bringing to the table, hands on strategies and experiences to create a collective agenda to move their corporations and the Nigerian economy forward.

To this effect our line up speaks to individuals who have over time through experience gained strategies to lead change and innovative practices that work in our unique environment. These leaders are here to share and impart knowledge as well as receive from their peers so there is something for everyone. On that note we have  John C. Maxwell, who is a number one New York Times bestselling author, coach and speaker and is called America’s top leadership authority. He is founder of the John Maxwell Company, the John Maxwell Team and EQUIP and has trained more than five  million leaders in nearly every country of the world.

Foluso Phillips is the CEO and Executive Chairman of the Phillips Consulting Group Nigeria, a business and management consulting firm with offices in Nigeria and South Africa. He sits on the board of several organisations and companies including the Nigerian Economic Summit Group. Jeremy Gutsche is an award winning Innovation expert and CEO of Trend Hunter, the world’s largest and most popular trends and innovation website. He is also author of a New York Times bestselling book, Better and Faster: The Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas.

Segun Agbaje is the Managing Director and CEO of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc Nigeria. In addition, he sits on the Boards of Guaranty Trust Bank Ghana, Gambia and the UK and is a Director on the MasterCard Advisory Board for the Middle East and Africa. Honourable Abike Dabiri-Erewa is the Senior Special Assistant to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Foreign Affairs and the Diaspora. Prior to her appointment, she served for 12 years in the country’s House of Representatives representing the people of Ikorodu division and chairing the House Committees on Media and Public Affairs and Diaspora Affairs.

  Arole Oodua Adeyeye Ogunwusi is the current Ooni of Ife and the Founder and Chairman of Gran Imperio Group, the holding company of Real Estate and Construction, Manufacturing, Facilities Management, Leisure and Tourism companies in Nigeria. He sits on the Board of several companies and is also the Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.  Samuel O. Oboh is an accomplished architect and was the 2015 President of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, the first Canadian of African descent to occupy the position. He has successfully designed and managed projects of significant magnitude in the public and private sectors in Africa, Canada and globally.

How can Nigerian companies take advantage of this event and how will this event help to attract investments to Nigeria?
The event provides not only the perfect platform to collaborate with other forerunners on how to effectively lead change in periods of economic uncertainties and drive higher return on investments (ROIs), it also provides an opportunity to meet with Canadian government officials and businesses who are keen to work with emerging markets such as ours.   The Change Leadership invites notable and forward thinking leaders who desire to explore investment and diversification opportunities, innovate, and lead their organisations to achieve remarkable results in spite of the economic uncertainties.