Who can best give business lessons than a veteran business person who has seen it all and done it all? Someone like Oladele Fajemirokun, who has passed through the business fire and come out as gold. He is an entrepreneur, investor, venture capitalist and philanthropist who became a billionaire at 29.
In his autobiography titled “The Making of Me”, he revealed his life story and different business experiences and lessons that shaped him. In Fajemirokun’s books, calling someone who hasn’t created wealth an entrepreneur is an abuse of that appellation.
He asserts that you have to conceptualize ideas, plant them, nurture them, and birth them to create wealth. Here are some business lessons from Oladele Fajemirokun.
Be smart and plan ahead
As a business person, you need to be smart in your dealings. Recounting his experience, he said when the Nigerian government wanted to sell AIICO Insurance shares, they did not want an individual to have autonomy over all the shares in the privatization. Knowing this, he bought 11% share through 11 shelf companies. This means he used each shelf company to purchase 1% shares in AIICO. This made him the second-largest stakeholder behind the American Insurance Group (AIG). He knew what he wanted, and he planned for it. He waited until almost a decade and bought AIICO Bahamas’ 40% investment, making him the company’s largest stakeholder.
Don’t let fear control you
Oladele Fajemirokun never lets fear or anything of sort come in the way of his business. Not even the Bosnian-Serbian war could deter him from doing his business. He travelled to the war-torn Zagreb four or five times for business, bringing “his own stock of good whiskey”. Also, in the process of building a multi-million dollar company, he has had to overcome several commercial and personal hurdles.
Your network is your net worth
He is well-known for leveraging his contacts and friendships to form exceptional business collaborations, reducing his business risks and increasing his benefits. Most of his most significant breaks in business came as a result of partnerships. Some of the investments he leveraged his network to secure include AIICO Insurance, Food Concepts and Entertainment (Chicken Republic/Butterfield Bakery), Johnson Wax (makers of Baygon and Raid insecticides), First Hydrocarbon Nigeria Ltd, Kings Guards Limited, FSS Gases, Multishield Limited, Xerox HS, Blue Chip Communications, DF Holdings Limited, among others.
Have a nose for opportunities
Where people saw risks, he saw opportunities. According to him, “One of the greatest things that a man can do for himself is to make the best out of what providence has bestowed on him. While weak men wait for opportunities, strong men make them. The best men are not those who have waited for chances, but those who see and seize them”.
He exemplified this when he gave an American firm, T-CAS, a bridging loan of N50,000 to help sustain the company in exchange for a 51% stake in the company and the position of Executive Chairman. He then used his single piece of landed property as security to obtain the money from the bank as a loan. Soon after, T-CAS was reimbursed the millions of dollars owed by the Ministry of Communications, which had the firm battling to stay afloat. Fajemirokun received $11 million as the largest shareholder. Due to this, he became a billionaire at the age of 29.
The road to business success is paved with thorns, and only the dogged can survive. Even though Oladele Fajemirokun inherited many debts from his father, he found his way around the situation. When he stepped into his late father’s shoes, there was nothing to hold on to, because his father had used all his properties but one to obtain loans from First Bank and Union Bank.
He overcame this by securing an extra loan of N200,000 from First Bank, giving the organization a fresh beginning. He paid off all debts within the following 10 years. Although some of the companies in the group folded up, the Henry Stephens group survived.
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