Abimbola Adeseyoju is a blunt, forthright, perpetually optimistic entrepreneur who feeds on finding solutions than focusing on problems. Call him Nigeria’s Compliance poster bloke and you wouldn’t be wrong. Though a man of unsung glory, as the Managing Director of Nigeria’s premier Credit Rating Agency and Compliance firm, DataPro Limited, Adeseyoju has got a resume to kill for. He tells Adedayo Adejobi why money means nothing to him, how his parents and Gani Fawehinmi were a huge influence on his career, his mentoring the next generation and how his life revolves around family
When you graduated from the University, you didn’t apply for jobs like everyone else. Why?
I Like everyone, life ticks and tocks like time. It stokes salient passion on which dreams come true. This is same for the birth of DataPro Lmited, which was founded in the year 1995. I had worked under the tutelage of industry experts in consortium, financial publications, research firms and other industries for over nine years. DataPro was birthed out of dire circumstances beyond my control. I said to myself, if I can do this, managing a company for somebody and doing very well. I could as well do this for myself. I’ve always had this interest of understanding what the present challenges were within the sector I was working and what I could do to close those gaps in terms of service because that’s essentially how entrepreneurship develops.
You are known to speak glowingly about how your work as a Compliance Professional has changed your life. Can you share this experience with us?
Working within the Compliance landscape comes with what we call the soft requirements such as integrity, honesty, very high ethical standard and conduct, transparency, accountability and good governance. My contact with Compliance changed my life. Compliance as we say is preventive not curative. What it means is that it is better to prevent the occurrence of any negative repercussion of non -compliance than to solve the consequences of non-compliance. Non-compliance could actually kill you and your business. It’s better to prevent the consequences of non-compliance than figuring how to survive when the damage has been done. It might be too late. So personally that is my guiding principle. I avoid the negative consequences that come with some habits and tendencies in life by avoiding the risks elements. Compliance should start from the family units. If we are not compliant at home, we cannot practice compliance at our work places. Compliance involves walking the talk and leading by example. You cannot be smoking at home and preaching to your kids that smoking is bad. Children learn by what they see not what they hear. So for me, the major problem we have in Nigeria is that of non-compliance. If we all try to be compliant, Nigeria will be a better place. As a county, we have all the laws and regulations to make Nigeria a better place. It’s just that we have decided not follow the rules and regulations. Compliance simply means ability to obey rules.
If you could turn back the hand of time what would you do differently?
Maybe I would have started earlier because I’ve always had the spirit of being different, right from when I was young. Maybe I would have tried to go solo earlier and maybe I would have gotten married earlier too before l was 30. Perhaps by now, I would no longer be paying school fees, but just enjoying life with my lovely and supportive wife.
I’m always hopeful that things will be better and that’s what has kept me here. I’ve never talked about getting out of this country. This is where the opportunities are for me, this is my home. Maybe if I’ve come in contact earlier with the discipline of compliance, that would have helped me a lot. Had I known the advantages of doing things in such a way that you’re always conscious of the impact on the third party, maybe it could have been a different thing. Compliance has changed my life, it has helped me to be more focused and to look at things from a problem-solving perspective. It has reinforced my integrity and also shown me that honesty pays. What has also helped us is that we have zero-tolerance to unethical practices.
Asides your father, you were quite close to your uncle, the late Gani Fawehinmi. How influential were they in your career?
My father was quite instrumental to my career. Like me, my father believes strongly in the maxim that says “walk-the-talk. My maternal uncle, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) also helped with lots of encouragement. My mother is not left out on the rung of the ladder I climbed here, as she was instrumental to moulding a man out of the boy I was. She was a strong influence on me. Coming from a very elitist family, I was lucky to have good mentors that could give me necessary background I needed. My wife has also been very supportive. Since we met, there’s been no drama. When you’re married to someone who has no drama, it gives you some level of comfort to be able to do your job. Distractions could come when you don’t have a settled home. I’ve been lucky. I’ve been able to manage my affairs. It has never affected my work. God has also blessed me with very good children who are also doing well in their various fields.
What were you like as a child?
As a child, I was very playful, but somewhere along the line, life caught up with me and a positive change garbed me.
What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?
Unfortunately the only thing I think about is how to solve problems of my client. From what I’ve learnt from Gani, the more you can keep thinking of a problem, the more you take totality of yourself into your job, the more successes you have. The more you turn your job into your life. the more you see solutions. I’ve been able to strike a balance though. Once I leave the house, the only thing I think about is work. I thank God for my wife, she can handle herself. She is also an entrepreneur and she is very busy running her company. We have just three kids and the two out of university can sort themselves. When I wake up to see the brightness of the new day, the only thing that wakes me up is new ideas for my customers’ goals. I go for the kill. With me, there’s no grabbing the bull by the horn. My mantra is simple, ‘Kill the Bull and let’s Move-On’!
What’s your favorite 90’s jam?
It has to be Frankie. I can’t remember who sang it. I love the song, because my wife’s name is Franca. So when I met her, what struck me was that song. And that was the song I sang. It was love at first sight. The nostalgic moments still rings like a bell in my mind.
What inspires you?
Solving problems and acquiring knowledge.
What do you look for when hiring?
Integrity and adaptation are a foundation, a lifestyle you must imbibe. Laziness would definitely take you out of the door. But basically, just work hard, be a great team player and be ready to adapt.
If you’re to write the annuals of your life what will you title it?
The title would be, the man who doesn’t believe in procrastination. Anything I’m convinced about, I do.
Do you think your mindset has anything to do with your success?
Yes, definitely, because you can only be an entrepreneur in this kind of environment if you’re resilient. If you always see the bright side where people see challenges, there are opportunities. We need to focus on the solutions. I don’t lament. I just look at solutions. I’m a perpetual optimist who feeds on finding solution than focusing on the problem.
What have you done to keep a healthy lifestyle?
Over the years I’ve been able to train my body, as one of the regrets I have is at a point in my life, I didn’t pay attention to my health. For about 20 years I didn’t do exercise. I just woke up, wore my cloth and jumped into the car and start working. But in the last 10 years, I’ve been able to change my lifestyle. Every morning, I gym, do press-ups, skip and exercise for an hour. I must sweat. If I don’t sweat in the morning, my day is not complete.
My diet has changed. I don’t eat red meat again. I eat a lot green vegetables, beans and I don’t take fatty foods, alcohol, sugar, milk or smoke. My health has witnessed a turn around, and I’ve focused on my business.
Now I’m so healthy. Today, I eat, drink and live healthy. An attestation to my healthy lifestyle is that I haven’t been sick nor have I visited the hospital in the last 10 years.
What do you enjoy most in your role and are you planning your succession?
What I enjoy more is mentoring. After running the business for 25 years, my role is to mentor and set policies. I do more of oversight functions because I have a succession plan which is already in place. We are already grooming the successor. A succession plan is in place and we hope the company exists for the next 100 years.