Ayo Aderibigbe, Deputy Managing Director, Operations
As part of activities marking Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary, a member of the Corporate Communications team in Bell Oil and Gas (BOG) recently had an interview with a co-founder of the company, Ayo Aderibigbe, the Deputy Managing Director of Operations to discuss “Changing the Narrative of Nigerian Businesses.” See interview below:
You were abroad for many years; you had the life many dreamed of, why did you decide to come back home to be a co-founder of BOG?
I am Nigerian, Nigeria invested in me and it is only natural that I would want to pay back. I think more importantly because Nigeria is my home, there was always a desire to go back to your roots.
As a co-founder of a formidable Nigerian company, what is your experience as an entrepreneur in Nigeria?
I believe that the experience of entrepreneurs is not bound by geographical regions. I suspect my experience would be like other entrepreneurs’ experiences anywhere else. And that is that you come in with a whole load of personal belief, with laser focus on the goals you have set out to achieve and a mindset to not give up irrespective of what life throws at you. I think those are the fundamentals that ultimately lead to success. Obviously, there is also the grace of God, we cannot rule that out.
Has your experience as an entrepreneur been good, great, or challenging?
It has been good, great and challenging. They say when you start, you decide you want to embark on something, whether it is a business, a marriage, or whatever. You have a whole sense of excitement, you have a belief in yourself, if you didn’t think you’d be successful you won’t embark on it. So that’s how you start but once you start, you begin to realize that sometimes reality is a bit more difficult than what you projected on paper or even in your mind. Then you must deal with the reality of what you are trying to achieve.
The other thing you find out is that the environment is not necessarily expecting you. The people in the market are not going to just open their arms and welcome you in. You might be disappointed, you might not meet some midterm goals, you might come across some barriers. If you have got the right attitude and the right energy level and a laser focus, you just see those things as stumbling blocks. You have to make up your mind to just keep going.
Many Nigerian and international businesses have failed in Nigeria, how does one build a successful business in Nigeria?
First, you need everything we have talked about before now, but you also need to be very pragmatic about Nigeria and the Nigerian situation. You’ve got to expect that things can fail, you’ve got to recognize that the systems that other people are able to depend on in other parts of the world are not fully functioning in Nigeria and you’ve got to plan accordingly. So, you must have a very good risk identification and risk management process. You must understand what your risks are and to the best of your ability, plan on how you will deal with them. That is a very
fundamental thing that is required to build a successful business in Nigeria.
The second thing is that you need to get good advice. I suppose that’s also one of the beauties of being in a partnership. At BOG, It’s literally a case of 3 good heads are better than one. So you have a better chance of identifying the risk and you also have a better chance of identifying better ways of doing things than if you were just doing it on your own and so I would say work with others. There’s this saying that goes “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go with others”.
Ayo Aderibigbe with Kayode Thomas and John Akin Rockson.
Founders of Bell Oil & Gas Ltd
There are a lot of what I call “Me too” businesses in Nigeria. What I mean by “me too” businesses, let’s say for instance, as a marketing consultant you think because others have set up marketing consultancy practices, that’s what you too must do. A lot of Nigerians just do things because other people are doing it. So, when they hit a difficult time, they pull aside.
I also want to point out that doing business is difficult, anywhere in the world! Global statistics say it’s only 20% of businesses set up that are still standing after 5 years. It is not unique to Nigeria and the ones that succeed all succeed for the same reasons.
Nigeria is no different from any other society in the world. There are some peculiarities to every region but the similarities stay the same, you have to have grit, you have to have a plan, you have to know why you are doing what you are doing and you have to have tenacity to be successful.
What can entrepreneurs do to change the narrative of Nigeria and Nigerian businesses?
I think the first thing is that we have to accept that we have a responsibility as Nigerians. We are all responsible for the problems we identify in Nigeria right now. I feel personally responsible and people must take personal ownership of that responsibility.
Secondly, each of us needs to come to understand that it is the righteousness that exalts a nation, and what do we mean by righteousness and justice? Righteousness means doing the right thing in every situation not because someone is looking at me. I must also be just in all my dealings. If I can do that as an individual, my country will get better. As I do it, I encourage others to do it.
The third important thing is that we must start to love our country. That means we will not be abusing our country; we will see the good in our country. When we see something that is breaking, we will do our best to fix it and we will stop this habit of trying to get ahead at the expense of others.
What role has the management of BOG played in changing the narrative of Nigerian businesses
The DNA of BOG is Nigerian content. From day one, we have always believed that there is no job that Nigerians cannot do and in everything that we have done, we have tried to reiterate that point.
For a start, we are trying to build an institution that can survive beyond the 3 directors that set it up. Everybody in this organization knows what they are supposed to do and how they’re supposed to do it,
We have had processes and systems in place for quite a long time. The technical term for that is being ISO certified. We make sure that everything and everybody’s role is properly documented. We are already trying to institute an organization that can outlive us and can continue to exist and grow.
Even the services we render. When we came into Glassfibre Reinforced Epoxy pipping (GRE), there was no Nigerian GRE company. When they needed GRE piping jobs done, they would award it to a company abroad. We are proud to say at least 50% of GRE pipe installation companies that currently exist in Nigeria today all came out of BOG. We are trying to do the same thing in other areas i.e. develop and train Nigerians.
What do you think is the next step for us as Nigeria?
The next big thing I think we need to sort out education and training for youths.