Tony Elumelu
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Visionaries - September 29, 2022

Tony Elumelu Shares the No.1 Formula for Success

Tony Onyemaechi Elumelu is an instantly recognisable figure in international forums, particularly whenever the crucial topic of youth entrepreneurship is tackled. 

Not only in his native country Nigeria is the Chairman of Heirs Holdings and the Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) known but he is known across all 54 African countries.

He actively supports the restructuring of the African economy by fostering an environment that encourages young entrepreneurs to succeed. This drive and charisma is something every entrepreneur can emulate in their respective fields.

Tony Elumelu is on believes that it is at times of difficulties that entrepreneurs discover possibilities to find solutions to issues and set up their companies for success. 

During a hybrid mentorship session with many young African entrepreneurs, Elumelu emphasised the value of entrepreneurs consistently outlining their plans and establishing doable objectives. He gave a three-tiered approach that he and his team adhered to, using himself as an example.


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The three-tier plan

While starting Standard Trust Bank (STB), Elumelu came up with what they call a three-tier strategic plan. Tier one included taking over a distressed bank. 

Tier-2 involved acquiring a shut down bank that had all its offices closed and was not in a clearing house.

Back then, Nigeria’s banking sector was a crowded space with over 125 banks. This circumstance strengthened the third-strategic tier’s goal of rising to the top three banks in Nigeria. Elumelu didn’t just make plans, he also put timeframes to them.

“In the first place, we said for the first three years, let’s make it a viable firm; the second one, up to the seventh year, was to make it one of the top 10 banks and the third one was that by the tenth year, to make it one of the top three banks.”

Accomplishing the three tiers

When the first layer was completed, Elumelu and his team had the extra motivation, strength, and inspiration they required to go to the second. The second completion also aided in the transition to the third phase.

“We actually accomplished the third phase before the set target. We did the acquisition in 2004, merged in 2005; but this was a journey that started in 1997. So, when we got to that point, we couldn’t fold our hands or rest there, we had to come up with another three-year strategic intent,” Elumelu explained.

He continued by saying that the first strategic goal was to dominate the financial services sector in Nigeria, the second was to rule Africa, and the third was for UBA to have a global presence.

“Again, we accomplished the first one; for the second one, today UBA operates in 20 African countries and the third one, UBA today operates in London, Paris and New York and it is the only African bank that operates in the United States.

Positioning yourself for success

Only those who are prepared to go out and seize it for themselves will find success. Before you can achieve it, you must first be ready, be ambitious, work incredibly hard, and assemble the ideal team of people.

It should push you forward to the next stage; you shouldn’t be relaxed or complacent. When you are ready, opportunity and luck follow.

“I am where I am today because I am a product of luck not because I am the most intelligent in my set. It’s just being at the right place at the right time, being ready and when luck came, I took advantage of it. But I don’t want to be the only African that should benefit from this luck.”


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