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Money not only resource needed to start business — Omowunmi Olalere

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I think it is a reflection of how I was brought up. As a young girl, I was very industrious. Right after I completed secondary school day, I took different jobs, including receptionist, sales representatives, and after-school teacher.

Also, society has been quite kind to me. Upon graduation from the university, I did not have to unduly stress myself before I got a job, despite not having any connections. Everything I got was on merit; and I worked hard, until I started my own business.

When society has been nice to one, one also ought to give back to the society by creating employment opportunities for to work and add value to themselves.

Before I left my bank job, I usually told myself that before I turned 40, I should start growing my own business at a time that I am still very active and agile.

That is where proper business structure and culture come in, especially in terms of people management.

I also make use of different tools, such as closed circuit television cameras to monitor activities in the supermarket. I can also access the cameras right from my phone wherever I am.

There are policies in place too, and we have senior managers, who are implementing the policies, reviewing the business structure and culture. All members of staff know what not to do, because they are familiar with the organisation culture cross board. Regardless of the business sector we are operating in, there is a code of conduct that every employee abides by.

We are in the digital era now, with information flying around everywhere, so it is quite easy to follow up on latest developments. And, social media has been very helpful in this area.

Now, everybody is talking about artificial intelligence. No matter how out of touch one is, one must have been hearing about it. Even uneducated people know that there is a technology that can do practically everything for one that is impacting on businesses.

Also, I make use of several software, which help in monitoring, accountability and compliance. We have even built our own software, which is tailored towards getting customers the information they need. We always sample the views of our customers, so that we can know what they want and how they want it. Our relationships with our customers also help in this regard. It is good to always engage one’s customers.

Even with the current economic imbalance and inflation, we make sure we still send messages out, keeping our customers abreast of latest developments.  Even if the prices of certain goods are to be increased soon, we inform our customers beforehand. That makes our customers trust us.

I would not say I have challenges, other than the normal issues that most businesses go through, either in terms of human resources or issues with vendors.

As regards gender-specific challenges, there are times I come across male business partners, and they tend to see their sisters or spouses in me. They initially have the misconception that I am weak because I am a woman. And, that reflects in the ways they try to engage me. However, I always prove them wrong quickly.

In my businesses, there is no time for sluggishness. Everybody is on their toes, working.

By the time things start moving smoothly, those business partners even ‘forget’ that I am a woman.

When I go for business meetings, it usually boils down to one’s intellectual strength. People value quality and professionalism.

Whenever I am in a business meeting, people always know that I am on top of my job, by virtue of the things I say. And that ultimately leads to respect.

It is not even about having 81 employees; it is more about managing different kinds of people with different personalities. That is actually one of the most interesting aspects of being a CEO.

I cannot be everywhere at the same time, so I must ensure that people run the show. Irrespective of the business structure, one must have highly-skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers.

With the salon, one deals with an entirely different set of people.  In real estate, one deals with bricklayers, electricians and other artisans. It is my job to understand all of them, and relate with them based on their peculiarities.

For my senior managers, I always tell them that the way they handle my employees matters to me a lot. Whenever anyone comes into the organisation newly, the first thing I teach them is people management.

I want my staff to be able to deliver to the best of their abilities with good intentions, even when I am not present.

My employees can actually differentiate between being strict and being wicked. Usually if a boss is strict, people would say that the person one is wicked, but we’ve been able to shape their mentality to differentiate between those two things.

I keep my lines of communication open. I talk to them all the time, and sometimes, I play with them. I have a cordial working relationship with my staff, irrespective of their positions, and that is what is working. People must be able to love and enjoy what they are doing; they must love working with you.

I wish I had a mentor. However, God is my role model and mentor. He is my all-in-all.

The decision to actually contest for that role was inspired by my passion to give back to society. I wanted to go beyond just donating to really empowering young talents, and helping them discover themselves and become proficient in whatever field they are in.

There are many talented people in Nigeria, and it is sad that many of them are wasting away. I then decided to go for a sport (gymnastics) that was not that popular, and work on making it popular.

I was opportune to sponsor the first ever Southwest Gymnastics tournament this year (2023). Many talented kids participated, and they were very happy about it. They tested their abilities, and even though it did not meet the international standards, we could see that some of them were really passionate about it, regardless of whether they have tools or equipment to practice.

We try to provide them with some of the equipment they need, though they are quite expensive. I am using my platform to send out proposals to some organisations to see if they can partner with us, though there hasn’t been any tangible result. I hope more companies will incorporate that into their corporate social responsibility.

On my own though, I have put aside a small fund generated from all the companies I manage to support them. We have subsidised the training fees of some coaches. However, this is not something I can do alone. It requires more funding, and a lot of engagement is being done underground. I am in talks with different people. I am optimistic that before the next tournament, there would have been tangible contributions to make this a better and more impactful venture.

Don’t ever be comfortable with one stream of income, because if anything happens to that one source of income, you would find it difficult to start all over again. Explore every opportunity in your business niche. Unfortunately, there is a lot of wastage in this country. We waste resources and ideas.

Human resources is a big deal. Many people keep saying that they don’t have money to start a business, but all they have done is push forward a limiting factor to justify the reason they cannot do something.

Many don’t know that intellectual capability is enough to start a business. It is not all my businesses that I had enough money to start. Some businesses took me up to a year to float. But, in the interim, I would be carrying out research and determining the methodology of running the business. In cases where I need to partner with people, I would do that.

I exercise regularly. Anytime I am feeling drained or stressed, I make sure I eat well.

I don’t have a mode of relaxation. Once in a while, I could go out with my family members, though I rarely do that. My schedule is still very tight. I practically work from Monday to Sunday.

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