Engineer Charles Aladewolu, 71, Chairman/Chief Executive of Teco Group of Companies, National Director of Full Gospel Men’ Fellowship International, and former Chairman of Nigerian Netherlands Chamber of Commerce said , in this life lessons interview with me, that it is possible to run a business successfully without borrowing using timeless truths.
LESSON 1: Revelation is key for business success
We all know and subscribe to the fact that information is key to running a business successfully. From personal experience however, I have come to realise that more than information, what gives you an unusual advantage over competition revelational knowledge, that is, the ability to gain insight into what has not happened. Information helps you to make reactive decisions because it is knowledge about something that has happened which you then use to build up what you think may happen.
But revelation is the mother of information because revelation has to do with something that has not happened but that spiritually you are made to understand that it is going to happen and which helps you make what I call proactive decisions.
In business, there is nothing as good as that; you can beat your competitors to it because you have the fore knowledge.
Three years ago, the Lord asked me to invest in certain kinds of machines in my workshop in the area of agro business. Initially I queried the wisdom in that because at that time people were not buying those kinds of machines. I was wondering why the Holy Spirit was nudging me to invest in them.
That of course was because at that time attention was in oil and gas-not agro business. But He said go ahead and I obeyed. We went ahead to invest heavily in those machines. Now you can see that everybody is now moving in the same direction we had been inspired to go into three years earlier. That has helped us because now we are ahead of the competition because we already have the machines and people are requesting we manufacture equipment for palm oil extraction, for chicken processing and all that for them. We finished buying those machines when we did not even see any customer coming.
Revelation is more important than information because it helps you to make proactive decisions.
Lesson 2: Building a great home demands sacrifice.
I have come to the understanding that the home front needs to be right for a man to succeed in business and in life generally. Married over thirty years ago, God has blessed us with six children, three men and three women and as of today we have many grand-children for which we are thankful to God. We are still in good health and all our children are God fearing because we had to create the atmosphere to bring up our children in a way that they serve the God that we serve. But these came at a price.
Soon after my wife and I got married and we started raising children, we decided that we were not going to allow house helps take care of our children because it’s at that young age you mold their character. We decided one of us had to resign from work. I first offered to my wife that I would like to resign and look after the children but she laughed and said since I was bringing in more money, so she would resign, because I didn’t want to force her to resign, so I offered to resign but she resigned her job, stayed at home. And we agreed that when the youngest child would be heading to boarding house in secondary school then she could go back to work. What a wonderful woman she agreed and stayed with our children, no wonder the children today are doing excellently well. All of them have graduated from top class universities all over the world and they are working with very big companies. That decision paid off as my wife is now back in school pursuing her PhD which was her original plan which she had to let go to take care of the children. It was a big sacrifice and it was worth it.
Lesson 4: Integrity has cash value
Lesson 3: Integrity has cash value
The nature of my business is contract based. You finish one project and you don’t know when the next one will come. That means at the time there is no contract; you would be paying salaries to people who are doing nothing. We prayed and the Lord answered our prayers.
There was an advert for a project. Every time we were putting in our bid, we laid the bid on the floor and prayed over it before submitting. Seven contractors put in their bids, but we won. We were happy. There was however a big hurdle: according to the terms of the contract, we were to finance the project and be paid 15 days after delivery.
For me that was not a problem; I thought I could just go to the bank and raise the money. Unfortunately, that did not happen as all the banks we approached for a letter of credit refused insisting that we must have our own cash or good collateral for a loan.
I was about going back to the customer to tell them sorry, I couldn’t raise the funds to execute the project when the Holy Spirit told me to go to the manufacturers of the equipment abroad and tell them to manufacture them and ship them to me that I would pay them as soon as the customer paid. That didn’t sound possible, especially given the negative reputation about Nigeria and Nigerians. But as a last resort I made the request and it was granted.
They did the manufacturing and delivered to us and exactly 14 days after, the customer paid the full amount into our account.
I transferred the manufacturers’ money to them and since then we have been doing business together and they have never asked for letter of credit.
That is integrity in business. Integrity is money. I have had instances where people started business without money.
LESSON 4: Don’t put too much hope on people
Sometimes people you think you can trust more or less prove themselves at the end of the day that they are not as trustworthy as you thought.
I remember there was a time I was going to start a line of business and I thought I needed help from a bank. Since I wasn’t well known then the bank requested I bring in a respected personality who would be a director of the company. I went to a senior friend who asked for a copy of my business plan and my feasibility report, which I gave him. I believe the man read the business plan and feasibility report and got carried away. I took him to the bank and introduced him. After two weeks I went back to the bank to see if my application would be granted, the bank manager said sorry, we are not granting you the loan. I later discovered that the man I introduced went back to the bank and said he was interested in that project and that he was not going to support me to get the financing.
A year later I was traveling and got to a place, I saw the machineries that I designed, the one I specified for my equipment being offloaded and I inquired to know who owned the land and it turned out to be this same senior man I took to the bank. He had money so he used his money to import all the things. The spirit said to me, go and support him. After some days of hesitation, I went to him and asked if there was a way I could help him, he said he needed a good engineer that will help him set up. I introduced a good engineer to him who helped him do the installation. After some time, the business folded up and the man went into bad debts.
Lesson 5: Not all partnerships work
When I was starting this business, I thought I would do it with somebody that I thought I could trust and so when we first set up our first company, we structured it such that it would be a 50/50 percent or thereabout in terms of ownership. But just at the point when the company was to kick off it became very clear to me that I was in the wrong partnership. And the Holy Spirit said to me at that time you didn’t ask me before you went into this and so I had to quit and I left 100% of my own share for him then went to register a complete new company. Am glad to say that while this new company I left to start at that time is prospering today, the other one I left for him has since gone oblivion. So if am going to advice people I say ‘if you must go into partnership, know very well who this other person is, is he in the same faith with you? Does he share your values? There is the need for some care.
LESSON 6: Don’t over stretch your resources
Before you go into a second business, you must build the business on ground to stand firm and have positive cash flow. Don’t run around chasing too many things because if you spread yourself too thin, nothing will work well.
When you have done that and the cash flow is positive, you must train people. You must get to a point where people will be able to do the business without you being directly involved. I know many of my colleagues they cannot go on leave because they have to be there every day. There are some of my businesses that I don’t even visit in six months and they are running.
Let that company stand on its feet. When that is done, you can move to another business.
My advice has always been, do one business and make it stand firm and then the extra profit you are making from there, you put into another business.
I invest in stocks, sometimes I lose money, but when I lose money I don’t take it out, I leave it there until it regains what it lost. That’s my strategy.
These are four areas you can invest in: Real estate, Stock market, and ICT and Business systems
Lesson 7: You are really not alone
I have experienced certain events personally that made me to conclude that we are really not alone; there is a divine plan for every one and this could come in different ways…
You can read the full lessons at http://tinyurl.com/y8bodjaa
If I were to start all over again, I would start with production instead of fabrication. The man who is producing household goods decides what quantity he can produce and put into the market, but the man who is into fabrication depends on contract, the decision is not in your hands.
- Be a good reader: you must read a lot because readers are leaders and leaders are readers. If you don’t read you would remain obsolete in a couple of years so learn to read.