YOUR LIFE, MONEY & INVESTMENT QUESTIONS ANSWERED
MUST I RUN MY OWN BUSINESS TO ACHIEVE FINANCIAL FREEDOM?
Once in a while, we shall be featuring responses to questions from readers that are related to our subject of discussion. For instance, a question that has been asked regularly in different forms by readers is about how to achieve financial freedom without necessarily setting up a personal business.
In this edition, we present views from three distinguished members of our league of coaches who have attained some levels of financial comfort without necessarily setting up personal businesses. They share their experiences on how they made it happen.
CHIEF OLUSEGUN OSUNKEYE
Chief Olusegun Osunkeye, former Managing Director and Chairman of Nestle Foods Plc., worked in the company for 27 years in an executive capacity and 14 years as the company’s non-executive Chairman, a total of 41 years of meritorious service. He shares his experience in wealth creation as an employee:
From the onset, I was determined to be a person of character and integrity. This must be your credo alongside your competence in your work. Whatever the work you are given to do, pursue excellence in your assignments and this involves diligence and continuous learning and improvement. In this same vein, try your best to develop a savings culture. Like the richest man in Babylon said, “A tenth of what you earn is yours to keep.” Your accumulated savings are the seeds of future investment. Integrity, too, is a big asset. In due time, it can and does attract and create other assets. Let me expatiate.
Under the 1976 Indigenisation Decree, foreign companies were required to sell at least 40 per cent of their shareholdings to Nigerians. So, a close friend and I wanted to benefit from the indigenisation exercise, but we had no money to back up our wish. So, we approached the General Manager of United Bank for Africa (UBA), Mr John West, and he agreed to give us a loan of N60,000 each to buy shares in any company of our choice. The loan was repayable in five years. No collateral was required, only self-recognition (Integrity at work!). That was how I started the process of wealth creation as an employee. I repaid the loan within three years.
In life, opportunities come in waves, and it is beneficial to have a discerning mind and to recognise or perceive the wealth potential in some event, activity or hearsay. Let me paint an example for you. Please pay keen attention:
After securing the line of credit from UBA, we searched for companies selling shares. One obvious place to go was an Issuing House. We approached Nigerian Acceptances Limited (NAL). Two of the officers handling the issues were friends (the power of networking!). They included our names in one particular issue – Imperial Chemical Industries Plc (now known as CAP Plc). The 50k nominal value shares were sold at 18 Kobo in 1976 when I bought the shares. Note that the share price was determined by the Capital Issues Committee (now known as the Securities & Exchange Commission).
When the list of names of prospective buyers was collated and sent to the Chairman of the Capital Issues Committee who incidentally had his own list, he perused the list with our names as submitted by NAL and retorted loudly to everyone’s hearing, “Who are these small boys?” He then crossed out our names, including those of the NAL officers. Eventually, we were offered the crumbs because the shares were not fully taken up. In my case, 10,000 shares of 50k each were offered to me at 18 Kobo per share.
My friends at NAL got angry at being called ‘small boys’ and declined their offers. I told them that ‘I am a small boy’ for this purpose. I accepted and paid N1,800 for the 10,000 shares. A year later, ICI declared a dividend such that I received N2,062.50 net! In the second year, ICI again declared a bonus issue of three for two and I received 15,000 bonus shares. One of the NAL officers who had earlier declined his offer offered to buy the bonus shares at N1.50 per share and paid me N22,500. I learnt later that the officer later offloaded the shares at N2.25 per share within months! A win/win for all concerned. Wealth creation!
DO IT EARLY
Build up your funds by imbibing a savings culture early in your career by regularly saving between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of your monthly salary. I imbibed this practice by setting up a monthly standing order with my bank, and in some years, the entire portion of my annual salary increment went into savings.
The accumulated savings over the years is a form of investment waiting to be deployed into human capital investment in your children’s education when they reach secondary school or university age. This is a primary responsibility that a parent must perform when the time comes, and it cannot wait as time waits for no one, especially when the children are growing up. It helps to have a “nose” for investment opportunities in your networking, followed by rational thinking and thorough analyses.
Yemisi Shyllon is a successful investor who made a large chunk of money through investment in stocks, real estate and other instruments while in paid employment. He also shares wealth creation strategies for people in paid employment:
CHOOSE A PATHWAY THAT FITS YOUR TEMPERAMENT
There is one common mistake I see people in paid employment make. Without evaluating whether they have the qualities and temperament required to build a business, they often resign prematurely to start ‘their thing’. In most cases, the ‘thing’ ends in regret.
You don’t have to own a business if you don’t have the temperament to run one. The truth is that generally, wealth-builders must always avoid copying and pasting what others do. Copying others is not the way to success in life. People in paid employment must identify their innate traits, strengths and weaknesses before deciding whether to remain employees or become self-employed.
This is because these three elements, as defined in Robert Kiyosaki’s quadrants, require different inherent natures and talents to help navigate the pathways to the success of wealth builders. An employee should better be advised to remain an employee if he is someone who cannot very well withstand strong business risks.
In such a circumstance, an employee should remain employed and have his money work for him by gradually building a solid investment portfolio from his salaried savings. A naturally trusting person would eventually have himself to blame if he went into self-employment or business systems.
I knew from the start that I was too trusting. I rely on people a lot and delegate with less than necessary monitoring. Sadly, with these attributes, it is better to remain an employee in the Nigerian environment where trust and integrity are generally lacking. I knew from early on that I would have my fingers burnt if I left my employee quadrant for self-employment or the business system fully.
Even as an employee, I tried to restrict myself to remaining an employee but performed to some extent in self-employment in Robert Kiyosaki’s second quadrant. At those few times when I mistakenly ventured out of my best employee quadrant, I had my fingers burnt by deceitful, low integrity and low reputation people. This is why I prefer to remain an employee and technocrat.
Because I was conscious of my weakness of trusting and relying on people, I chose to keep myself safe from reputational predators. Notwithstanding all my attempts to avoid the predators, I still had my fingers burnt many times.
REFLECT ON YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES BEFORE JUMPING OUT
It is critical for success that a wealth builder knows and appropriately identifies his strengths and weaknesses. In my case, since I have a weakness of excessively trusting people, cannot take too much risk, and can be easily affected by the tensions involved in personally running a business, I took the route of being in paid employment for a long time and this has served me well.
I have succeeded in meeting my aspirations and needs and playing my philanthropic roles, both in Nigeria and outside Nigeria. I am fulfilled in having built my aspired referential legacies, which will outlive me many years after I must have departed this world.
I decided to majorly play in the employee quadrant after my first few failed attempts at entrepreneurship. For instance, as an employee, I invested in a finance house and got my fingers badly burnt. Even my personal life was endangered by the person who collected my money to run a finance company. He made me a non-executive chairman of the finance house, in which I thought I was investing for my future.
In the end, the person defrauded the company and its depositors, ran away from Nigeria, and left me to bear the brunt of his actions. Another attempt at investing in a proposed bank while I remained an employee ended in sorrow. The chief promoter of the bank had approached me to invest in the proposed bank and to serve as a non-executive director. I later discovered that he had personally converted and defrauded us of the funds borrowed from parties meant for deposit to obtain a banking licence. These and other life lessons were responsible for my decision to remain in a comfortable quadrant as an employee.
I, however, took advantage of my strengths to invest and build investment portfolios while remaining in my comfortable employee quadrant in my long career life. To this end, I concentrated on investing in viable and good investment portfolios that were within my control and avoided the risk of being defrauded again.
My advice to employees, therefore, is for them to carry out a self-examination exercise to determine whether they have similar weaknesses as I have. My strengths are my ability to gather knowledge, identify and gradually but continuously make and build solid investments while remaining employed. With this process, I built solid investment portfolios that have become very fruitful.
Tunde Lemo left the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2014 as a Deputy Governor after completing his 10-year term. He was poached from Wema Bank, where he had been the CEO for three years. Lemo was recently appointed Chairman of Titan Bank. Below are his wealth-creation strategies for employees:
YOU CAN ACHIEVE FINANCIAL FREEDOM WORKING 9-5
Although I do not regard myself as wealthy by any standards, I am comfortable and content with what I have. I did not at any time decide to continue working for others throughout my active life. I started my career in 1985 as a staff accountant in an international firm of chartered accountants – Arthur Andersen. I moved into banking four years later and remained consistent until my appointment into public service in January 2004, after running Wema Bank as MD/CEO for three years.
I am one person who concentrates 100 per cent on assignments given to me, believing that no matter what happens, hard work, honesty and godliness pay, whether you run your own business or work for others. It is fallacious to think you can only build wealth by working for yourself. James Dimon, Chairman/CEO of JP Morgan, has been in that role since 2005, although the bank is not his. He was appointed like any other employee and is worth $1.4 billion today (about N600 billion).
He achieved this by dint of hard work. We also have many other successful professionals today who have built their wealth on hard work. I am not saying ‘stepping out’ to run your business is unwise. You also need to understand that we probably have more people today who have built their wealth working for others than many years ago. This is because compensation globally is more performance-driven today than before.
WHAT INFLUENCED HIS CHOICE?
I cannot vividly remember why I took the decision, but I was influenced by many factors, one of which was my background. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon, and I started being responsible for others very early in life, not only to my immediate family but to my parents as well. The fear of failure was a factor. You may be very good at what you are doing. Your success when you are self-employed depends on many other factors outside your control – the economic climate, among others. You cannot quantify the protection you get from your employers. So many of my friends that veered out early regretted their actions because they ‘saw the real world’ when they were managing their businesses. Some swallowed their pride and ran back to paid employment.
The critical success factors for succeeding and building wealth while working for others are as follows: Ensure there is significant career progression in the employment that you have. Some jobs are limiting. You cannot grow above the sectoral limit, etc. I remembered sometime in 1991, I got an offer to become a financial controller in a company importing and distributing air conditioners. I was offered twice my salary as a banker, in addition to an official car and driver. I turned down the offer because I didn’t see much scope for significant growth in that sector.
I was not carried away by the initial rise in income. All I am saying is that you need to be strategic. You need to think long-term. You cannot afford to mortgage long-term career growth for immediate benefits. Besides, you will do well in a very structured environment where the reward is based on objective criteria that are clear and fair to all. The company’s values must be world-class, open and transparent. Otherwise, you will just be gambling, and the consequences may be daring.
There are many land mines in career progression. While your values, which are authentic ingredients for accelerating your career, are desirable, you may also be vulnerable because there are so many competitors who may not be as good as you are but may be desperate. In my career as a banker, I came across many colleagues who were equally upwardly mobile, good and well-behaved.
Unfortunately, at one point, they began to see me as a threat, and their attitude changed. If you move fast in your career and get promoted ahead of your contemporaries, getting their full cooperation may be very difficult as they may become envious of you. You must beware of ‘banana peels,’ intrigues and outright hatred. In our clime, you may become a victim if the Lord is not on your side. I thank God because He protected me throughout those challenging years.
PREPARING FOR LIFE AFTER WORK
Preparing for the years after work is for you to realise that you start preparing for retirement from the FIRST salary you collect while working. Many should realise today that they will spend long years in retirement than the number of years they spend working. Most people today do not start a serious career before age 30 and may retire before they are 60.
If they lived beyond 90, as many do now, they would have spent more years than their working years. You also need to review your portfolio as you go along. Keep minimal cash because of its fungibility. You are also likely to do impulsive buying if you keep too much cash. Besides, with high inflation in this clime, money market returns always trail inflation. You will therefore be losing the real value of your hard-earned wealth. Hard currency and real estate (in choice locations) will better preserve your assets’ value.