Ezekiel Adamu: My Dream Is to Make Balmoral a Legacy That’ll Survive Me

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Ezekiel Adamu, the first son of a former sports administrator, Amos Adamu, is known not for sports (like his father) but for events management. He owns arguably the most successful event company in Nigeria – Balmoral. His event tents and marquee traverse all parts of Nigeria. The graduate of Computer Science from the University of Lurton, UK, speaks with Azuka Ogujiuba about the first of its kind international drinks festival held in Nigeria and how he has been able to carve a niche outside for himself

Balmoral has evolved from being just an event centre to being the biggest event planning company. How did you achieve that?
The vision was to start off as a venue solution company but it’s always been in our long-term plan to become a 360 event company and that’s what we’ve become at the moment. We have about four different segments of Balmoral: we have the Balmoral Venues which everyone knows; we have the Balmoral Life, Balmoral Exhibitions and Balmoral Hospitality. For instance, the just concluded international drink festival was organised by Balmoral Life – that’s a Balmoral Life concept. So, we come up with concepts and develop them.
On the long term, we plan on giving hospitality packages – which is the Balmoral Hospitality. For instance, at the just concluded international drink festival, we had a hospitality package whereby our international delegates and exhibitors were able to plan their hotel reservations, airport pickup, etc. We’re also looking at going into hotels and sundry services in the future.

Did you start Balmoral out of passion or as a means of survival?
For my background, I travel a lot for sporting events and it was fascinating for me to see the organisation of things and how they disappear immediately the event is over. The organisation has always fascinated me and it’s something that has always pulled me to events and I thought to start up one after moving back to Nigeria and here we are.

How are you able to deal with situations where your achievements are attributed to your father, Dr. Amos Adamu?
I’ve always had this burning desire when I first started Balmoral, where I didn’t want people to link me to my father or his achievements. I wanted people to know me as Ezekiel Adamu for what I do and not Amos Adamu’s son. In fact, as Balmoral, I didn’t want the public to say ‘Ezekiel Adamu Balmoral’. I wanted Balmoral and Ezekiel Adamu to be seen as separate entities. In Nigeria, most businesses are attached to the owner or the CEO but I wanted a business that can stand on its own and something that’ll thrive even in my absence. I feel like Balmoral is even a lot more popular than Ezekiel Adamu and that’s what I’ve always wanted to achieve and I think to a certain degree, we’ve been able to achieve that.

How old were you when you started Balmoral?
Balmoral is 12 now. I started immediately after I finished university education so it was quite early. People wonder if I’m not close to 50 while I’m not even 40 yet.

What show gave Balmoral its first big break?
When we started Balmoral, I remember telling my dad about starting a business and what it entails. He said he wasn’t giving money to go start a business instead he said the best he could do was give me a property which can serve as a collateral while I get loan from the bank and pay the bank back. Thank God the initial bank loan gave us until a year and it took us a year to even get our first customer and our first customer was Oyinlola when he was the governor of Osun State for his daughter’s wedding and from there, people started getting to know us. The name Balmoral actually connotes “royalty” and we started off by serving royalty. So that’s how it became a brand name for when royalties want to have an event; they opt for Balmoral while we also try to keep up to that high standard.

Some time ago while hosting City People Award, there was a fire outbreak, was that one of the challenges you’ve experienced in the business?
When people talk about challenges the fire outbreak was a huge challenge. We lost investments worth over N250m at the time and it was terrible but I think God has everything planned out in my life. I read a lot and I remember reading a Thomas Edison book a week before the fire incident about when he lost his laboratory to a fire outbreak and how people thought he’d committed suicide. But he immediately started rebuilding and that kept on in my head and remembered that was what Thomas Edison said. I immediately told my friend that it’s time to rebuild. Even when the insurance company came, they went on about taking pictures. I implored them to take all the pictures they wanted but we’re rebuilding the very next day. We started rebuilding that night and it took us two weeks to get back.
I remember people doubted me at the press conference when I mentioned that Balmoral would be rebuilt in two weeks. I had my eyes on the ball and didn’t want to lose any event and for us to return that fast meant that we meant business. We didn’t lose any event and I felt that was a defining moment for us. Based on that, in less than six months, we also built the Haven Event Centre. So, I felt like every disappointment is a blessing and the fire incident was supposed to happen for us to get to the level we’re at now.

Before you started, was it what you wanted to do as a young man or because it wasn’t as pronounced in Nigeria?
I schooled in the UK; so I started a car wash business there but I had issues with my partners. I had different idea but I decided to start off with this and it grew into passion but I never planned to go into events. I remember coming back from the UK to start doing events and my friends and colleagues while in school ridiculed me that I was doing ‘canopy’ business. Everyone expected I’d delve into oil and gas after returning from the UK. I actually used to work with Schlumberger but I pulled out because I’ve always wanted to do my own business. I’ve also never had the intention of going into politics or work with the government. I wanted to carve a niche for myself where we pick on different industries and areas where we feel we can help and make people’s life or the industry better. That way, we don’t have to lobby as government itself calls you for solution.
That’s why we started off with the drink industry. We heard that Nigeria is the world’s largest consumer of champagne but when we researched, we discovered that data was for Euro monitor and Euro monitor based its statistics on a survey of about 2,000 Nigerians in a country of 180 million people and in such a huge market, that statistics is a bit untrue. In the UK, France or America, most people have statistics they used in determining trends, so you don’t market to a demography that probably doesn’t like your drink. So, we thought having an international drink festival will make perfect sense to even get the real data on the business of drinks in Nigeria in an industry worth over $50bn.

Are you organising the drink festival for the first time?
Yes. It’s the first time of the drink festival.

How did you involve other brands?
It was quite strategic picking drinks. For us, we feel like events generally are mostly supported by the drink businesses. I happen to have worked with almost all the drink multinationals in Nigeria. So, it was a strategic move to work on drinks because we’ve been planning the drink festival for about five years. We’ve been travelling around the world to see how it’s being done. When we came back, we realised people wouldn’t buy into the drink festival idea if we just sent proposals because it’s never been done. So, we did a major unveiling to showcase what we wanted to do where we invited most stakeholders in the industry. The few of them that came keyed into the vision and a lot of them pulled out at the last minute because they were unsure of what it’d look like. I felt it was a fantastic event; we’ve learnt a lot and will pull it right next time.

Where did you school and what did you study?
I studied Computer Science at the University of Luton. I had my master’s degree in Financial Decision Analysis in University of Portsmouth.

Tell us about your childhood.
I grew up in a really large family: cousins and all that I can barely differentiate between myself, my younger brother and others. We were together as a family. I remember wanting to school abroad after secondary school, America precisely. But my dad insisted I couldn’t go alone that I should go with three of my cousins. When we went for the visa interview, they didn’t buy the idea of sponsoring four children at the same time in the same country. It felt like a scheme especially while you’re not their father and their parents are alive. That was the reason why I didn’t study in America. But the UK became a lot easier. So, growing up with a man like my father, who always travelled and was never around, one thing I learn from him, is his work ethics. I also learnt how to be an achiever and a family man from him because no matter how hard he works, he makes sure to return home even if it means returning at 4 am from the office. I learnt all of that from him and growing up in such a family prepared me for the level I am presently.

As a young man, what was your favourite subject?
Was there a subject? I don’t think there was a particular subject I was really interested in. While in school, I wasn’t a bookworm; maybe that’s what birthed my entrepreneurial spirit. I’ve always wanted to do things myself. My reading habit picked up when I left the university. Now, my wife tells me to read all I want in the office and I shouldn’t bring books home. I’m an ardent reader; I love to read biographies and I like to prepare myself for any endeavour I’m going into.

Is there a nickname they call you in the family?
Yes; ‘Eazi’. Everyone calls me Eazi. Even before Mr. Eazi, I’m the original Mr. Eazi.

What’s your favourite food?
My favourite food is rice and beans.

Apart from reading, how do you relax when you’re not busy?
I hang out with friends. I’m blessed to be in the entertainment/event industry because there’s always one event or the other happening. So, I feel blessed that I’m being paid for what I enjoy doing.

What are the five things you’ll take along with you on a luxurious trip to an island?
I’ll go with my wife, my books, my phone, an open mind and my Bible. The Bible should come first actually.

Where can one find Balmoral centres in Nigeria?
We have the first Balmoral Venue at Kudirat Abiola (in Ikeja, Lagos). We also have The Haven. We have two venues in Federal Palace which is the newest; the convention centre and the small one and then the mobile ones. The mobile ones are the ones we can move around. Sometimes, we’re at seven different states at a time. We also help a lot of companies and individuals to do their events. We also build event centres for people and we build call centres for telcos as well as warehouses. We’ve evolved over time to what we are now as a 360 event solution company.