L-r: Founder, Centre for Values in Leadership, Prof. Pat Utomi, the Founder, Slot Brand, Mr. Nnamdi Ezeigbo and Deputy Vice Chancellor, Development and Academics, UNILAG, Prof. Folasade Ogunsola, at the higher education mentoring programme held at the University of Lagos…recently

The founder of Slot brand along with other successful individuals in different fields of endeavour at the University of Lagos, recently shared their experiences with UNILAG students with the aim of inspiring them and to broaden their minds on different approaches to pursuing a fulfilling career in different fields. Peace Obi reports

For every successful individual, there is always a place for the little beginning, disappointment and even failures. Surmounting same challenges when they reared their ugly heads had businesses and dreams submerged, leaves them distinguished. They stand tall anywhere they go, making their experiences serve as tonic for successful businesses or career life. Interestingly, in between their story lines are traces of  courage, diligence, resilience and tenacity. Oftentimes, when reviewed with a view of tapping from their experiences, one realises that these individuals are somewhat ‘unwritten books’, people desirous of joining the league of successful people train in any field may consider ‘reading’.

The founder, Slot Systems Limited, Mr. Nnamdi Ezeigbo to the chagrin of most students disclosed that he never set out to be a businessman. The graduate of Electrical/Electronics Engineering from Yaba College of Technology, after graduation, just like any brilliant young man had his eyes fixed on securing a plum job with any of the oil companies in the country. A dream he pursued for two years after graduation without a success.

And sighting a seemingly ray of light and hope flashing his path when invited for a job interview by Mobile eventually ended up being a dashed hope. Ezeigbo who was one of the guest speakers during the Centre for Values in Leadership’s (CVL) Higher Education Leadership and Mentoring Programme at University of Lagos recently, told the students that a review of his career plans brought him into IT business. According to the Slot CEO, losing out at the very last stage of the interview process and being the only candidate out of the 21 candidates to be dropped by the panelist got him thinking. Taking the bull by the horn, Ezeigbo went into a review of his career plans and choices. A step he said led into an inward search and discovery of his strength and passion.

“I never thought of becoming a businessman just like most of you in this room, mine was borne out of necessity. After my service year I wanted to work in an oil company just like most of you would love to. But interestingly, I spent two years looking for my dream job and it never happened. Even when I attended an interview in Mobile, it was very close and at the last stage, I was the only one that was dropped out of 21 people.

For some people may read many meanings into it, but I took the bull by the horns and so I looked inward and said to myself ‘what can I do for myself since I can’t get the job that I wanted.’ So, it was like looking inward to find my strength and I based that on my passion,” he said.

Speaking on a topic, ‘Apprenticeship to Entrepreneurship’, Ezeigbo disclosed that with his new discovery on the career path to go, he was confronted with some take off challenges such as capital and other logistics. Leveraging on his course of study at the higher institution, Ezeigbo decided to pull resources from his knowledge bank (engineering) and ventured into entrepreneurship through apprenticeship. To him, seeking a more enduring capital – knowledge was what mattered most to him at the onset. Combing his certificate with practical hands-on work experience made possible by a friend, he soon became a sought after in fixing computers. “So because I studied Electrical/Electronics Engineering, it was very easy for me to learn computer engineering with a friend who has a computer engineering outfit at that time. What I did was to work with this friend like an apprentice. I invested in knowledge, because outside there, it is very competitive. You need to upgrade your knowledge to actually make impact as an entrepreneur or a businessman.”

To keep himself abreast with the needed knowledge in his chosen field, Ezeigbo did not only obtain an additional degree in Electrical/Electronics, he obtained his Masters in Information Technology, an alumnus of Lagos Business School and Harvard Business School. Speaking further, the business mogul encouraged the students to get the right kind of training and skills and it should be done in addition to discovering their passion. To him, though Nigerian business environment may be unpredictable and riddled with uncertainties, he believes that it offers unique opportunities to investors. According to him, the ability to study the environment, identify problems and provide solutions would give any intending investor an edge over others in any competitive business environment. “Let us look at Nigerian business environment, it is broad, unpredictable and full if uncertainties. What makes it attractive is the fact that so many people are not interested in looking inward. So, if you understand the business environment, the people, their needs and you are able to design something that is able to meet their needs you have solved a problem. Solve problems and when you do, you have become an entrepreneur. So, look for a cheaper and efficient way to solve problems,” Ezeigbo advised.

And on the best way to start off as a young entrepreneur, “do not start your business as a trader, start by rendering services. If you are a software designer, what you need is your brain. So there are many services you can render. And in all, you need technology to make life easier for you.”

Stressing on the power of competencies, relationships and integrity, Ezeigbo said, “More importantly build relationships, it is like building an empire. I started my business in a very small office space with a friend. And I learnt to fix computers very well. And the fact that I was very competent, attracted people to my small office space. And I also demonstrated integrity that also helped me to attract more people. The easiest form of advertisement is the word of mouth advertisement. If you treat one person well, he tells other people, if you treat one person badly, he equally tells others. I was very competent in my delivery and that helped me to grow my business from the scratch.”

Identifying lack of managerial ability as the bane of short-lived businesses, the Slot brand founder disclosed that a good businessman needs capability, strategy and capital to run a thriving business. “You need a combination of capacity and ability to achieve competence that can enable you create value. But most people do not care about ability, they run and work with their capacity alone and that is why you see people who despite having good business ideas, yet they do not last in business. You need the combination of the two,” Ezeigbo said.

The Convener/founder of CVL, Prof. Pat Utomi, earlier in his remarks had hinted that the higher education mentoring programme among other things was designed to enhance the entrepreneurship and employability skills of the participants. “The programme focuses on developing undergraduates’ leadership potentials, employability skills, entrepreneurship skills, training and other values transmission activities that will improve the technical quality and competitiveness of Nigerian university graduates in the labour market.” Challenging the students to rise to the leadership challenge in the country, the Convener said that it lies in the hands of Nigerian youths to build a nation they can be proud of. And with an array of seasoned professionals and successful entrepreneurs lined up as guest speakers and mentors, that it is hoped they would learn from the various experiences and possibly spur them into championing a new order of good leadership and governance. “We have assembled from various fields of endeavours, people who are doing exceptionally well. We would like you to learn from the experiences of these people. We need you to develop a version of Nigeria you will be proud of. At the end of the programme you should ask yourself what kind of world do I want to see and how can I impact my world and generation,” he said.

Representing the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Rahmon Bello, the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Development and Academics, Prof. Folasade Ogunsola noted that the institution is committed to raising and nurturing leaders who are not only academically sound but also leaders with strong character. And that despite failures in leadership in Africa and Nigeria inclusive, “we have beacons of light and hope; men and women of honour that we can point to as our role models for what is good, what is achievable and what is fair in our country. These people are here to share their experiences and inspire you, also to challenge you to live better than you are presently.”

According to the VC, UNILAG in recognition of the need to build strength of character, provides an enabling and conducive environment for learning to enable it produce inquisitive, innovative and creative leaders that can influence their generation, the institution has continued to work together with public and private sectors towards realising its goal. Other speakers include, the Acting British High Commissioner and Director for Operations at Uk Trade and Investment, Mr. Ahmed Bashir, Consul General, German Consulate, Lagos, Mr. Ingo Herbert, agriculturalists, Mr. Victor Okoro, Rev. Fr. Fortunatus Okeke, Somachi Chris-Asoluka, Tosin Otitoju, among others.