Nigerian entrepreneur and investor Tony Elumelu is one of the key Africans actively committed to the mission of transforming the African economy and building a sustainable and enabling environment for young African entrepreneurs to thrive.
He’s the chairman of Heirs Holdings, the United Bank for Africa (UBA)) and Transcorp, a publicly traded Nigerian conglomerate with interests in hospitality, agriculture, oil production and power generation.
His non-profit organization, Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), founded in 2010, has empowered 15,847 African entrepreneurs across 54 countries on the continent.
Here are excerpts from Elumelu’s recent interview with the NewAfrican magazine, in which he made salient points that business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs can learn from.
1. No easy way out
The road to success is not linear, it is up and down. You have to be very determined and be prepared to do whatever is required for your success. And you have to know what success looks like in your chosen field.
2. Go hard or go home
Ask yourself what does it take to succeed? And what I tell people is that you must have laser focus, be disciplined, realise that sacrifices need to be made and I repeat, be prepared to work very hard.
3. Don’t be shortsighted
Of course, you must have ambition. You must seek out opportunities and have a platform on which to start implementing your vision. You should think long term, 10 years ahead, not just for tomorrow.
4. Prepare for opportunities
What is important is recognising opportunities when they come up and preparing yourself to take advantage of the opportunities – and making sure you achieve meaningful success. Opportunities don’t come twice. If you miss it the first time, you might have missed it forever.
5. Take action!
My advice to budding young entrepreneurs when I interact with them is to be hardworking, don’t be scared to dream but know that dreaming is less than 1%; the 99% is about translating your dream into action, translating your dream to reality. That is what makes the difference.
6. Make sacrifices
The Tony Elumelu you see today has not always had everything. In the past, for example, I have decided not to buy a car and planned instead to use the money to make investments and wait for the proceeds of that investment to help me buy the car, and that happened!
7. Don’t make emotional decisions
My advice to young entrepreneurs is to take a step back, understand your business, look at the forces, the factors that shape your business and dispassionately reassess and see what you need to do differently. Quitting is not something I advise people to do but please don’t make a sentimental or emotional decision. Think it through very well; if you have mentors, sit with them. Also, the new world we live in is a world of information and knowledge – with just at a click of your device, you can have access to so many things in terms of knowledge. Find out what’s happening but please be dispassionate in your business decisions. A lot of businesses fail because people are not being dispassionate when they make business decisions.
8. Think longevity
I think the key aspirations for every business in the world, should be building a business that lasts and not be one you live and die with. I believe that when you are gone, the business should still be there and grow better, that is what Steve Jobs did. Steve Jobs has changed the world through his wonderful devices. Long after his death, the company he founded was the first to cross a trillion. I like that guy because in addition to all the other aspects, the discipline he showed and everything he has achieved in the short period he was on earth.