Here on Whoot Africa, we not only showcase brands, but we also talk to the people behind those brands and have them share with us their back stories as well as give tips on how to successfully start and run a business.
Welcome to Whoot Africa’s – Inspiration Africa interviews with the CEO.
Today, we will be talking with Josiah Igoni, CEO & Founder of Brenthforth Energy & Oilfield Services Ltd
Can you tell us a little bit about Josiah Igoni, the individual, the businessperson, and Brentforth Energy & Oilfield Services Ltd.?
Josiah Igoni is a self-motivated person who is also very passionate about the creation of value and services which brings benefits to the lives of people (as this is what I consider to be a genuine justification for expecting a grandiose reward in life). I help businesses with their technical and project management needs in the Oil & Gas service sector; particularly in areas such as – Valves & Pipeline Maintenance, Repairs of Pumps, B.O.Ps & Pressure Vessels/Tanks, Fabrications and Engineering Designs. I’m also open to business opportunities in other areas — as I am currently involved in a new venture called GRAVITY SOUNDS (in the Entertainment Industry); and I hope to also delve into the hospitality industry sometime in the future. In all, there is more to Josiah Igoni than just Oil and Gas.
What inspired this move into the oil servicing industry?
My first employment as a graduate was in the Oil & Gas sector — thereby giving me the exposure & confidence I needed to start something in the same industry, even though I consider the Oil & Gas industry as a natural place for me in line with my Mechanical Engineering background. However, I was inspired by my believe that African Entrepreneurs should be making more impact and playing more lead roles in the Global Energy Industry, considering very few players in the global field were Africans.
The services offered by Brentforth Energy & Oilfield Services Ltd require highly specialized and trained personnel. For a relatively young company like yours, how do you manage to keep your best hands from being prized away by much bigger competitors?
First of all, we get it right by recruiting and retaining only personnel that are committed and passionate about what we do and what we stand for; as it is almost impossible for any employer to keep an employee that is lacking these two qualities, no matter how hard you try. However, our shared values, vision, and work culture makes it a worth-while journey for everyone at Brentforth. To add to this, we also offer an atmosphere of job security, and a platform that encourages creativity, innovation and the pursuit of personal development which is a rarity in order to compete with the bigger players in our sector.
Clients’ trust and acquiring clients is one of the most difficult things to gain for any new business. How were you able to convince potential clients of your competence considering the fact that there are bigger companies who have been in the same field and serving for years as your competitors in the oil service field?
I was already in the industry before establishing Brentforth, so I leveraged on the network I had built over the years, and also worked towards securing our place as a trust worthy business platform. I understood what we were bringing to the table as a new Company; new perspective, technology and business attitudes towards solving oil and gas services related problems unlike what the industry was used to.
As a company, we communicate uniqueness early with our every interaction with people and clients; in order for us to show them the extra value & capacity we bring to the table, as well as creating the right impressions which truly represents what we do and stand for. They say: “In business, you don’t have to be big, but you have to be remarkable, to win”. And we make efforts to be remarkable, in every opportunity we have to do something.
As a business CEO who operates within the oil and gas industry, what’s your take on the dwindling price of oil globally and falling demand for our oil? Does this current trend affect your business in any way?
This really signals a period of change, and we are adapting our activities as necessary. Eric Hoffer, once said: “in times of change, the learners will inherit the earth; while the learned will find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists”. So, we have our eyes on what is happening in the global energy industry which goes beyond oil, and we are ready for whatever the future brings. The problem with the Nigeria’s Oil & Gas industry did not start with the drop in oil prices, but rather a long-term failure of our political, legislative and community leaderships to consolidate on the gains of previous administrations due to ethnicity & greed. This has resulted in a serious decrease in new investments into the industry.
If you trace the developments in the Nigerian Oil and Gas Sector, you will realize that after the constructions of facilities such as NLNG and ESCRAVOS, there haven’t been any new investments of commendable levels in the Oil & Gas industry in recent times.
There are a lot of investment and research going on towards alternative energy sources like bio-fuels and hydro-fuels. If the researches pay off in the long term and these other sources become viable, what effect could this have on your current business? And how are you planning to stay relevant and in business when this trend catches up in this part of the world?
As I hinted earlier, Brentforth is beyond Oil & Gas as our full name indicates. Actually, we have already positioned our brand and activities for the future, and in preparation for any major twists in the industry. We have our eyes on global trends in the entire energy industry, and are ready to expand our businesses into any of the emerging energy options that are currently being worked on and hoping to incorporate the capacity and experience we’ve built over the years into that field.
But for now, Oil & Gas has more structures to support its viability; so once the structures for any of the emerging energy options become more prominent, the game will change.
What are some of those challenges that are unique to your field and how have you been able to overcome them?
The Oil & Gas business is a capital intensive business in terms of equipment, structures and finance; so when we started, those were real challenges. But then, those are never the most important capital or assets needed in business, as every good entrepreneur will tell you.
When we started, the first thing we did was understanding how we could start and grow with the right strategic alliances and partnerships, understanding that passion and competence were key assets to us as a company, but they were not enough to bid and win massive contracts. So with these assets in mind, we were able to win contracts in partnerships with bigger companies who had what we did not have back then and with these Critical success factors in place we were able to plough back profits into capital investments in order of priority.
When I look back at our challenges, it wasn’t a walk in the park, but I reminded myself everyday of this phrase “In business or any venture at all in life, you don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great”. And I also believe that in any position that you find yourself in life, there are things God has already put in place around you, to enable you move to the next level, it could be the people, resources, abilities, talents and opportunities you have; so what we have to do, is to raise our level of awareness and take appropriate actions. But take note, that the next level I am referring to here may not be the exact place you wanted to be, but if you keep taking appropriate actions, you will keep moving closer to where you want to be.
Your line of business is dominated by foreign oil and gas servicing companies; most indigenous young people complain about the lack of opportunities for them, but somehow you are making it work. What would you say to young people who want to work in this line, what training’s do they need and how do you recommend them finding work placements in this field?
I will say this; there is no shortage of opportunities in anything you do in life. Business and life in general, is all about exchange of values, abilities and assets. As we speak right now, I believe that somebody is currently looking for me and what I do; while I am also looking for certain people to come into my life and business as well. So, what we have to do is to network and put ourselves in spaces where we can be found.
For younger people looking to work in this field; pay attention to both Hard Skills and Soft Skills early in your pursuit i.e. those Technical/Physical skills required on the job and the Administrative/Communication skills needed too. Though no one educational system equips one with all the skills needed in the industry without having to undergo further training on the specialized skills required on the job; but competencies such as: passion, commitment, honesty, creativity and residual knowledge gotten from school can set one apart.
To be self sufficient in the future, please learn, learn some more and learn a little more after that, opportunities make it clear whether we are competent or not, you can have all the opportunities in the world, if you are not competent to use them, they are what they are, useful or useless opportunities.
What are some of the business lessons you have learned over the years? Also, which common mistakes do you think first time entrepreneurs should avoid?
One of the most important business lessons I’ve learnt, both from my own personal experiences and from the study of thriving & failing businesses, is that: “The most successful businesses are those who know how to create good products or services, and most importantly, also knowing how to put them into the hands of customers because one may have the best product in town, but if one does not know how to put that product in the hands of customers, the product remains with you”. So marketing is really at the heart of any business.
The most common mistake first time entrepreneurs make, is to start living the life of their dream so early, even when their business is not yet healthy to sustain it (perhaps just to impress people, or out of a sheer desire to achieve personal goals, ahead of company goals). Entrepreneurs should realize that achieving company goals gives you more worth and satisfaction as a person, especially if you plan to stay in business for a long time; if your business fails even after achieving personal goals you would realize that your are miserable. Another common mistake is the belief that what works today will always work tomorrow especially if you’re already hitting success. As Marshal Goldsmith advices in his book titled: “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” – that we should keep improving and re-inventing ourselves to stay relevant in business. This involves creating new visions, new goals and most importantly the capacity to achieve them.
What’s your dream for the Nigerian oil industry and how does Brentforth Energy & oilfield Services fit into that picture?
My dream for Nigeria’s oil industry, is for the indigenous companies to hold more leading stakes in the industry, and quickly building capacities on the manufacturing & technology division; also, in preparation for the post-oil eras looming ahead of us, as this would be a good take-away for us whenever the game is going to change. I also hope that the government would make the best out of every opportunity which the Oil & Gas industry is offering now. Honestly, now is not the time for politics of ethnicity and greed; we need to get the job done and maximize results, by attracting new investments into the industry before it’s too late. At Brentforth Energy & Oil field Services, we are committed to this vision, and are also making investments along these lines.
Looking at the political dispensation we are in right now and the current reforms to the oil sector, what are some of those things or policies you would like to see the government implement to see this sector grow beyond the common traits plaguing it?
First of all, the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) should be passed as quickly as possible because no serious investment will come into the industry when the statutory laws guiding the industry is not yet in place, as no reasonable investor will invest money in an industry bedeviled with so much instability and unpredictability, with respect to the laws and operating systems guiding it; we all know oil and gas business is one of calculated and smart risk moves. I also believe that the government needs to open-up more space in the industry for local content to come in, by legalizing the so called “illegal refineries” which they are vehemently clamping down on, as they offer a huge opportunity of domestic market for Nigeria to sell her crude to, and also meet up with the domestic demands for refined products, while we’re we are having a hard time at the international market. However, the government has to set the Quality and Safety standards required for them to operate in the industry through agencies such as the NNPC or the DPR. Remember, the Oil & Gas industry started very dirty back then in America, before it grew to the level we see today. But most importantly, is the eagerness and creativity which Nigerians are showing in this sector, it is obvious to me that, if they are encouraged and allowed to operate, they will offer an opportunity for Nigeria to unleash her inherent technological capabilities and take ownership of the industry.
Sorry, I got most of my best advices from the books I read (somehow I consider myself to be more of an introvert than an extrovert, though the business world is gradually reshaping me). The best advice I’ve ever received so far, came from a book titled: Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. I came across that book during my university days in level 200; and after reading that book, my mindset totally shifted. It shifted from the dream of building a long-term career with a company as an employee, to the dream of building my own company and applying my abilities into whatever field I find interesting. The entrepreneur you see today, was born on that day and ever since, I’ve made conscious efforts to build my career as an entrepreneur, even while I was still a student and also as an employee – after graduation. Right from my school days as an engineering student, I was seriously studying books in Accountancy, Management, Entrepreneurship and Marketing in preparation for where I am headed as I realized very early, that these are the four cornerstones needed to succeed in business.
30 years from now, where do you see Josiah Igoni and what would you want to be remembered for?
I see myself leading multiple organizations that are very successful in what they do, with a global outreach in the services we offer. I want to be remembered as an Entrepreneur who helped advance the cause of man by investing in technology and also offering services that make far reaching impacts.
Catch up on previous inspirational interview on Whoot Africa – The CEOs