Olayinka Braimoh is the CEO and Founder of Hall 7 Real Estates; Hall 7 symbolises a hallmark of excellence and perfection in the Real Estate sector. Olayinka Braimoh is a man whose life and business journey is also everything but ordinary. In this interview with Whoot Africa’s Inspiration Africa, Olayinka Braimoh shares about his passion for delivering exceptional value, using his work as a platform for serving humanity, supporting the next generation of achievers and how his faith plays a big role in his life and work.
Read excerpts of his inspirational interview after the cut.
Outside of the press interviews you have conducted prior to Whoot Africa, when you think about your business journey, how would you describe Olayinka Braimoh today?
As of today, I would say, I am a young man in business whose life is purposed towards the greater good of humanity, and service to a higher calling and Power. I see myself as a channel of blessings to many and my faith plays a big role in everything I do.
My inspiration every morning is seeing Hall 7 as a ministry and not a business. I look at my life as an assignment and if I fail, then I have failed in my calling. In the initial stage, making money was priority, but after a while, you start to find a purpose. You wake up and ask yourself, why you are here and what is the bigger purpose?
My inspiration comes from choosing and hoping that God would use me for greater good through my personal and business life. I understand that the way things work, if you are not of use to greater good, someone else would take your place.
Looking through your business journey; from the church as a struggling young man and then to Abuja where you worked for free to gain experience in real estate, putting all of these into perspective, would you do things again the same way?
If someone told me they were going to work for free like I did, I definitely wouldn’t discourage them. I would ask what their motivations were for a start? When I look back, I understand I was being driven by a rare kind of determination. There was this positivity about Nigeria’s future in my vision, I knew I would make it here in Nigeria, but how soon was what I didn’t know at that point. I knew I needed to learn, and no one was taking a chance on me, so I gave myself the chance at a better future and an opportunity to learn by working for free.
When I look around and see young people who are not flexible in their approach to learning, it saddens me because they lose out on opportunities to advance themselves. If you are sure of what you want in life, you will go the extra length to be exceptional. I wanted to get into a field that I wasn’t qualified for and I knew there was only one way in, and that was to offer my services for free and learn pricelessly in return, and it paid off. My journey is unique to me; but I will still say it over and over again, if you can’t find a job, go to that dream organisation and offer to work for free, be so good at what you do that you cannot be ignored.
My faith in a higher power made me understand I was on the right path and I knew my needs and provisions would be met because I refused to be idle and lazy around. I was rewarded by being able to understand how things worked formally and informally in the field I had my heart set to.
As crazy as it sounds, if you want to do business; money is the least of the capitals you need, once you are able to identify what you want to do and you are able to go for it, somehow the universe aligns and something happens in your favour.
How important is mentoring and having mentees in your business considering you started more or less as an intern?
Mentoring is very good; you are able to impact the lives of people. I tell my associates, learn everything you can here, and I support a lot of them. I have people who work with me who are also employers of labour and that makes me absolutely proud, to me it means they are dreaming and working towards bigger things and not just being my associates at work.
For me the focus is, if we are able to empower many more, we will have a safer society as against wanting to be the only one up there. I tell the entrepreneurs in our midst; when your business grows to a certain level, exit and go do it full time so someone else can also get a chance to come in, learn and grow.
The aim is to train and equip people who will be greater than I am. I follow up on my employees with an open-door policy and I encourage the ones that need to leave to step out in faith.
Your first partnership failed, and you took the effort and initiative to document the reasons behind your failure, rather than springing forward quickly like most young people would? Vital lessons?
One key lesson that I learnt from my mistakes was the fact that my focus was on money and not on value. Focus on giving value to someone else, forget about money. You need to ask yourself, how can I add value to someone else’s life? How can I add value enough to solve a problem? Once the focus is on value and not the money, trust me, you would be able to move to the next stage.
This resolve affects your whole decision-making process. When your focus is on money there are certain services you will not be able to offer like you should; your eyes will be focused on making enough profit for yourself, but if you are looking at the outcome and necessities you will be able to control your activities because it’s geared towards a specific outcome. If your focus is on money, there are a lot of things you would not want to do because you are considering the cost implications, at the end of the day you lose out on delivering value to someone else.
For anyone thinking about giving up, you don’t have to give up. You don’t have to give in to failure. When people talk about recession in Nigeria; I look at the number of Nigerians in this country and then think about the opportunities. You need to retreat, think, strategize and then advance. It might be difficult, but once your focus is clear, nothing will stop you. I said to myself; no matter what I see, my focus is clear, I will work through it. That is the spirit and this is how we work.
Thinking of real estate, it’s a capital-intensive business to get into and for the average person thinking of going into real estate, how did you manage to get to this point of doing what you now do?
I started out running as an agency connecting buyers to sellers. The first set of properties I sold in Abuja had the land bought on credit. Once you set your eyes on what you want to do, everything else will fall into place.
I was confident in my approach based on some of the things I had learnt when I worked for free. I realized while I was at a negotiation that one could confidently make offers even without having the full resources needed for the project just yet. The most important thing is focus, you don’t want to start making that money and automatically think it is yours when you have agreements on ground and obligations to fulfil, at this point discipline is very key.
For those interested in going into real estate, you need to have that capital in your mind that everything is possible. During my first negotiation, I had the land owner laugh at me. I was much younger and I didn’t have the money, but I went with confidence. I sold myself and my plan confidently, and even though he didn’t say yes immediately, I had sold my company and plans passionately and he changed his mind later on.
Local players vs the Multinationals. Should local players be protected over foreigner players in real estate?
We had a scenario with some expatriates who are supposed to work with us on a project. When they sent their quotations, we decided to give a portion of the construction to our local players in hopes that they can learn a few things from the experts, and hopefully replicate what they have learnt in future projects.
It is really sad that excellence is lacking out here. A lot of people are more interested in the money than in creating quality work and that affects us because they cannot focus enough to deliver value, which is very frustrating.
There is hope for us; it takes one person to lead the game. Right now, there are lots of qualified Nigerians in construction, and the ones who are really good are not jobless. We need to invest in our human capital development; we have sent delegates to development conferences only to find out both our delegates were the only Nigerians in attendance, and they were excited to come back and teach what they learnt.
This is what we focus on as a company, developing human capital. We divide our projects between the expatriates and our local construction companies and so far, the home-grown players haven’t let us down, considering we create a healthy environment and foster competition that bring out the best works on both ends. Sometimes our local players even do better because they want to prove a point with regards to their capabilities. Our people often get complacent when left alone to do the work and this worries me a lot, but I get them to understand that when you do great work, you will always be considered first when other opportunities arise.
The cost of real estate to the upcoming millennials? many cannot afford houses based on the current prices, are there plans for low income earners?
Hall 7 is strictly premium development; we know a lot of Nigerians go out there to buy houses in different countries, they don’t invest here because of the quality they get out there. This is based on our research. In addressing this, we decided to set up another company, “Step 1 projects”, the mission of Step 1 project’ is getting you started. We recently signed a deal to develop 10,000 units of homes in Abuja within the next 36months and the idea is to ensure those who earn as low as 100,000 a month are able to invest in these properties in the form of a mortgage.
The good thing is, the Federal Motgage Bank has been repositioned and has become more efficient and effective than it used to be. We encourage people to take advantage of that; the interest rates are between 6 and 10percent per annum. A lot of people don’t have this information and we are going all out to ensure as many people as possible benefit from it.
For those who don’t want the mortagages, we have investment plans that will help them get on the property ladder based on their income and our offering plans to suit them. We are not just about building and selling houses and we are also helping to create investment platforms.
You are clear about your vision; how do you motivate your people enough to carry that vision along with you?
For the set of people that we have here, even from the interview stage, if I perceive that you don’t have a vision for your life there is no way I will bring you on board. If you don’t want to be great or a successful person, then I don’t want you around me. I want people that want to be successful, the issue of why will come later, but I don’t compromise on my quest to do great things and that means having people who share my vision on board.
In motivating them, all I do is constantly remind them of the vision we are working with. There is nothing that I am asking anyone to do that I cannot do. I constantly develop myself, I know what I want and what I need to achieve the different task needed to run and manage a successful real estate company. I am constantly updating myself in order to be able to engage productively and know what my deliverables are.
I also take interest in their personal goals because people don’t care what you know until you show that you care. Getting people committed and motivated is care, knowing they are not just helping you push your vision, but also growing along with you.
You have come a long way and done remarkably well, looking at your journey so far, what words come to mind in describing your entrepreneurship journey?
It’s intriguing. Even with my faith and looking at the bible, when prophesies come, no one tells you how it will come to pass and that is where the intriguing parts comes in.
Taking the step towards the vision will open up the next level for you, but if you don’t take the first step, you will never get to see and unlock the next level.
That is why it is so important to take action to be able to advance. Don’t be in one place, do what you need to do with integrity, the world is moving and things are moving, crawl, walk, run, jump if you must, but don’t stay in one place, just keep moving. Don’t stop!
The role of his faith in business and how it influences his business decisions?
My faith is one of the reasons I don’t go around looking for contracts. That is why I said it from the beginning that my work is a ministry. I set out to do the things that I need to do and what I need comes through the recognition of the work I have done before. I don’t help God in anyway.
We have over 100 staff members, and somehow everyone gets paid unfailingly because God has never failed. I don’t leave God out of my business, God is the business and we work around his graciousness and the empowerment that he grants us.
There are no obstacles and boundaries, except the ones I create for myself. The human brain is described like a petal, when you say something is possible, Ideas begin to spring up and it begins to bloom, once you open your mind up to possibilities, the ideas will keep coming. The confidence to be able to move forward, is something the power of belief and prayer gives to us.
What would you like to be remembered for, after all is said and done?
Value. I added value to people’s lives. We are working on skills acquisition centres where we plan to empower people in different ways.
At the end of my journey, I hope the lives God enables me to touch become valuable people who add value to the lives of others. I can look back after all of that and smile. That’s what I want to be remembered for.