A Chartered Accountant/Farmer/Real Estate Developer: Purposeful Entrepreneur – Ayo Adedeji

The first time I met Ayo Adedeji in Great Ife – my spirit concurred that he is a man to look out for in the future. He never disappointed us and today he carries about an aura of purpose and the drive to excel. From his University days – he exuded confidence in his ability and got some firsts. Becoming a Chartered accountant (ICAN) while studying for an Agriculture degree still amazes me till date. He is not a man to rest on his oars and his vision has seen him running successful businesses in Agriculture and Real Estate. He is a man this generation should emulate as we need more businesses to spring up if we are ever going to achieve the dream of a great Africa. As earlier promised – there will be a chance to hook up with our coaches in future. Enjoy the interview.

Who is Ayo Adedeji?

Chairman of Trucklot Nig Ltd, an Agribusiness company
Chief Operating Officer of FOYAA PDC LTD, a real estate company.

Where did you grow up?

Ibadan in Oyo state

Tell us about the primary school and secondary schools you attended

Ifelodun Community Primary School, Masfala area, Ibadan.
Was part of the first set to pass through the primary school (1986 set). Teachers were quite thorough and added in no small measure to molding me academically.
Ibadan Christ Apostolic Grammar School, Aperin, Ibadan.
Quite challenging, with a mix from relatively good primary schools. The schools library was my best experience. Was Social Prefect. Biology was best subject.

You are an alumnus of Obafemi Awolowo University, was it fate that took you there or it was a deliberate plan?

Fate I would say.
I wanted University of Ibadan (Pharmacy).
I could not secure admission the first time so I chose to ignore U.I at my second attempt.
Still wanted to read Pharmacy in OAU but ended up with Agricultural Extension.
The love for Agriculture has always been there anyway.

Your days in OAU were very active as a student union activist as a parliamentarian as well as the chairman of the electoral committee. As a cool guy; why did you decide to involve yourself in school politics which is largely a playing ground for rough individuals?

It has always been in my head that you can never clean it by standing outside of it. The only way for evil to prevail, they say, is for good men to be quiet.
I perceived from the very first year in OAU that my time would be needed in the Student Union Government along the way.
The truth is that if you really have something to offer to your polity/environment and you decide not to do anything about it, then, your polity might be missing an element of development and transformation in you than you never offered.
We all love peace and freedom. Those things come at a cost. As long as we allow people without message to organize election, lead our people, formulate our policies, run the government, we would be going around in circles.
I wanted to be part of clean up process.
The SUG do not belong to the so called ‘rough guys’, it belongs to every bonafide student and so long as good people are standing up, the bad ones would have to expression medium.
Turn on the light and the darkness is out.
Much of what we need in Nigeria right now is light. We are currently locked up in darkness (my opinion).

How did you combine politics with Christianity and maintained your integrity at the same time?

I think it is really not difficult at that level.
For most of these issues of faith and sector activities, I make up my mind ahead of time.
The only major issue was some people walking up to me to negotiate a particular SUG presidential candidate.
I waived it off without stress.
My own life vision kept me going. Where I am going is too precious for compromise of any kind.

Tell us about your experience as Chairman of the electoral committee that organized a very difficult election in OAU?

I agree it was a difficult one.
Did not know we would end up with 48 or so names on the ballot paper. Nine (9) Presidential aspirants.
The Presidency was a concern and so it turned out to be.
A particular presidential candidate wanted to win at all cost because his group had scores to settle with the school authority.
In summary, the conservative people love their peace so much that they loose their time and freedom at many instances.
We must always be ready to stand up against evil, and fight is as necessary for such is the cost of freedom.

You became a chartered accountant before graduation. How did you do that?

Time, chance and courage!
Our first two undergraduate years were characterized by strike actions, a total of about eleven (11) months.
It was the thought of making the days count and adding value to the future that made me decide for the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and training under Excelle Investment Limited.
I guess it sounded quite awkward to so many that an undergraduate in Faculty of Agriculture is aiming to be a Chartered Accountant. Those that could summon courage enough told be it would be an effort in futility. Others told me you can do that and make anything out of OAU. Others were silent but their body language was enough.
I got chartered in part IV of a five year program.
The experience has been life changing: That, indeed, our only limitations are those we place on ourselves. That once own mind is conquered, you can continue to push on regardless of opinion of others.
There were failures and references along the way, but the joy of getting to the destination far outweighs the rigor of the journey. In other words, the prize would always be greater than the price.

In your own words and experience – what is leadership?

Leadership is the courage to be responsible for actions and directions of an entity, visions and mission of a people, rights and wrongs of an organisation.
Leadership is lonely, and anyone professing to be one should thus be aware.
It is not the world of the pessimist, for leadership requires optimism at all times.

While serving, you were already involved with some extra money making ventures in Abuja. Please share that experience with us.

I was lecturing and consulting for individuals on financial issues.
The very first place was PYE, Abuja.
Then I was approached when SKY ASSOCIATES LTD was to be registered as a Director.
That experience, in practical terms, made me realize there is no need for rocket science orientation while incorporating your company and registering your objects/business direction.

You were a banker from your NYSC days and beyond. What did you learn from that experience?

Positive and Negative:
Positive: Quite a wonderful start-off working environment for a fresh graduate. Operations are streamlined and individuals are responsible.
Relationship with colleagues and customers very important for your life and fortune might depend on it.
Negative: Nigerian banking environment is a safe landing point for your Nigerian graduates and a place to bury initiatives and ideas over time.

You left a very promising banking career to face your own business. How did you make that choice?

I made an assessment of my life and realized I was exercising my passion in the wrong place.
The question was asked: “Ayo Adedeji, do you want your life to be like those other top management staff in front of you and at such an age?”
The answer was “No”.
I felt my life was more than those salaries, allowances and loans. The life of an average Nigerian bank worker is defined by loan (credits). Nothing as changed since I left (2004).
A second level staff if in operating lease for Honda Accord 2008 and his net worth is 1,500 units of First Bank Shares. No landed property, no other investment initiative.

What were the preparations you made before resigning your appointment with the bank?

I got my business interest running.
The company was incorporated. Directors were invited as subscriber to the Memorandum and Article of Association of the company.
Other shareholders were invited.
All preoperational activities were concluded at the point of exit.

Describe your first few months after starting your farm?

Quite tough, but I was willing to go through it.
My believe: it is not the responsibility of your employer to make you rich. When you have a job, you are always Just Over Broke!
The company you are craving to work with was created by someone (or a group of investors) some years ago. The children that are just being born today, would they ever look up to work in a place you created or are a part of its creation.
The company you refused to set up at 30 years of age, 35 years of age because you have a job, you might be forced to set it up at 60 when they tell you the company is no longer interested in your service.
There is no such thing as financial security in a paid employment, as ex-staff of citi group laid off at various times in 2008.

What are the opportunities in the Farming industry for young people?

Quite a number:
Snail Farming
Raising of grass cutter
Fish Farming
Mechanised Maize production
Feed mill operation
Because of the capital intensive nature of some Agribusiness operations, young people should always look at joint investment to handle finance.
There, are however a number of operations individuals can handle alone or as partnership.

How did you fund the business?

By making the company’s shares available to investors for their funds. When an extra fund was required, we had a right issue.

Many cannot leave their salaried jobs because of fear of the unknown especially if they are married with kids. How did you rise above this fear?

Overcome the fear of failure.
The question is always: What if it fails?
We need to ask the other way: What if it works?
You know what? A job deprives most people of the time to think about themselves and generate ideas. There are so many things that can make money and change how we live and do business as a people. The answer may lie with you. Why die as General Manager of a company when you are actually supposed to be creator of numerous companies.
It’s just the courage to do it.
People that have done it before are no magicians. Read up the stories. Learn the techniques. Know about your competitive advantage as you step out. Follow the laws, ask questions, it would work for you.
For most people, they have the fire in their bones. They just need to step out of the boat. You can actually carry the things that are carrying you now
People that are married with kinds need ‘soft landing’ from paid employment. My advice is always that your business and cash flow should be running parallel to your paid employment inflow before disengagement

You are married with two lovely kids. What role does family play in your growth?

My wife is a serious supporter of my ideas.
At the initial testing times, she was there – unyielding as a rock. That helps a lot

I know you are diversifying into other sectors of the economy i.e real estate. Why did you choose real estate?

Real Estate is the currency of wealth that has stood the test of time (apart from rare Gems).
It has indeed been said that rich people either make their money or keep their money in real estate.
It is also an aspect that is greatly underdeveloped in Nigeria. An average 35 year-old Nigerian has got no space he can call his own. I believe we could change this and solve the problem.
To develop family is to develop the nation. It is tough to raise a family in a hostile environment. I am therefore contributing to changing the face of accommodation in the nation.

What are the opportunities in the Real estate industry now?

Various: Buy existing structure, repair and resell
Trade in lands
Build houses and let-out or sell-off
Manage estates
However, various aspects of real estate are regulated and you would do well to know who is authorized to do what in the sector.

Are Nigerian businesses run ethically? And what is the important of ethics to a business climate like Nigeria’s?

I do not think we are up there ethically.
Honesty is the issue here. Businesses and economies thrive on honesty. People trade on it. It is lacking around here
Impatience is the other. Our business environment has little or no respect for processes. We practically do not want to hear that it takes time for the seed to grow and produce fruits.

In your own opinion, what is the cause of the present world economic crunch and the lesson for the business world?

The problem is overtrading, from individuals to corporate entities. Even money trading were done on margins and financed with credit.
The truth is that paper money is not a measure of wealth and is subject to manipulations by policies and the likes.
The world actually threw caution to the wind in evaluating credits. Stock markets were not analysed on fundamentals but on day-to-day movements.
The operators would never tell the whole truth. Panic sets in and the real forces of demand and supply set it.
Then chaos, and that of the highest degree.
The lesson: Always watch against overtrading. Equity to Debt ratio should never be less than one (1).

If there is any businessman/woman you will love to spend 4 hours with – who would it be and why?

Wayne Malcolm – understanding of aggressive business take-over perspective in the 21st century.

Fola Adeola – Set up courage and power to walk away after establishment

Mike Adenuga – Balancing business and politics in Nigeria

Bill Gates – For remaining simple while commanding tremendous wealth and influence

A lot of people are asking the tough question – when do I resign and start my own thing. What are the signs and how can they go about it?

Until you are dissatisfied with your job, it’s not yet time to come out.
You need the passion to sustain you outside for after you have resigned, you should not look back at the bridge!

What keeps you going daily?

The picture of the vision.
Nothing is worth more than the vision.
The strength from the Lord is of uttermost importance. In all these things, without His help, it would be effort in futility.

People believe that you need to give kickbacks and get involved in some sort of corrupt activities to do big business in Nigeria. What is your take about it?

I believe kickback is a bad way to make it.
If anyone is successful by way of corruption, that should be termed ‘bad success’.
I also believe it is a matter of time; nature has a way of balancing the equations.

What is your next big project?

Building 15 flats at Isheri

Do you have a political future ahead? If yes what are your plans and vision for Nigeria? If no, why?

I have a strong consideration for a political future.
I have always believed the country would need my service at the highest level some day. Some of us are close-marking the current administration and are not satisfied at the slow pace of development.
I think the country can be better than this.
We can take our place in the top 10 most developed economy by 2050 and that is my vision. Our systems can work.
I would continue to add as much value as I can mutter before the big assignment.

Looking back at the years – would you say you made the right choice to start your entrepreneurial drive?

Right choice my dear. I cannot imagine myself in a paid employment by now. I would be miserable. The content inside is more than that.
I am also enjoying the control over my time. I schedule my meetings the way I want and go to various sites according to my plan.
I am also very flexible at short notice

What are the guiding principles of your life?

• The only limitations are those we place on ourselves.
• The Word of God is the most important document.
• Learn All You can.
• You can get anywhere from where you are.
• The future has no shape, except the one you give to it.

Advice to people who are waiting for government to distribute the wealth before doing something.

The government is too busy on state allied matter to create wealth for you.
Create the wealth and catch the attention of the government!

Final word to our audience

Unless we continue to manifest our God-given potentials, we can never reach the point of fulfillment.
The creator is waiting for you to create something, for such is His nature in you.
Achieve all you want

Thank you very much for taking out time from your busy schedule. You are highly appreciated.

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