“Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy. Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives.” – Tony Robbins
In the last 18months of our journey through exploring and navigating the business world and finding out what makes the winners and their continuity in their various endeavours in striving for achieving success, this interview stands out as one of the best so far. Not only is this interview our first face to face sit down interview with a CEO, it also resonates the power of dreams and an audacity to hope, believe and working towards dreams.
Whoot Africa met up with Mr Sijibomi Ogundele of Sujimoto Construction at one of his ongoing Medici by Sjimoto Project masterpiece in the quiet residential area of the Ikoyi axis of Lagos. We had the chance to look around the beautifully decorated living room at this yet to be completed edifice. Though 20mins late for our meeting, Mr. Ogundele graciously apologized and got right into the conversation. A whole day could be spent writing about this young, stylish and passionate businessperson. Here’s what he had to say about his business journey.
Outside of the journals, press write-ups and for those without the latest edition of Forbes Africa magazine, can you tell Whoot Africa a little bit about Sijibomi Ogundele; the individual, Real Estate giant and Entrepreneur?
Sijibomi or Sujimoto is an uncommon entrepreneur, he is a man who doesn’t accept no for an answer and whose dictionary has nothing to do with impossibility. Sujimoto is a man whose ambition is to become the TOP 3% in his industry; Sujimoto, above all is here to correct the misconception of success, and its possibilities. And that anybody can be successful; the biggest enemy to success is laziness.
Can you share with us a little about the history of business and entrepreneurship in your family and your journey so far in the business world?
I consider myself blessed because I won a business ovarian lottery. My mother who has little to no education is one of the most successful women I know; she is my mentor and my friend. Coming from that wealth of knowledge has given me a huge advantage and reduced my possibilities of mistakes.
The real estate industry in Nigeria has to be one of the most challenging industries so far and very few investment strategist and ventures capitalist go into this sector. What inspired your move into this industry? And what are some of those challenges uniquely to Nigeria have you been able to overcome over the years?
The potential of the Nigerian Real Estate industry has no match, its possibilities and capacity to grow has no match. Don’t forget that Nigeria is the 2nd fastest growing economy in the world. The shelter demand of the Nigerian Real Estate industry has not reached even 10% of its potential; when you look at the International market place and then compare our resources and our potential, you realize we are still behind in what we call QUALITY REAL ESTATE.
A 3 star hotel in Dubai is equivalent to a 5 star hotel in Lagos, this is not acceptable and we at Sujimoto, are here to stamp our seal of change in this industry. I would not comment on difficulties because I do not want to be an agent of criticism; criticism is the only option of a pessimist, but Sujimoto is an optimistic realist who takes full advantage of the lazy pessimist. Now a simply example is Lagos, in a town of about 5million or more buildings, we only have 70 10-floor buildings. This is a shame! In Dubai, commercial areas without an architectural plan work for a minimum of 30-storey building would not be approved, in Lagos, it’s the contrary. A pessimist would criticise it and adapt to its environment, Sujimoto would learn from it and challenge his environment.
You are a true come up story and your journey hasn’t been without its own set of challenges? Looking back, how would you describe the one, or few attributes that has seen you this far?
I have achieved very few things in my life without difficulties, for me, difficulties bring out the best in me; it is like a machine that wakes me up and unleashes my potentials. I never stop developing myself, I never stop learning. I just finished a business study on Mr Aliko Dangote and his Business journey; nothing inspires me more, than stories of extraordinary people who are dedicated to affecting their environment and their nation.
You are making history right now as a young business CEO, with no silver spoon upbringing and at a young age of 33 is already a billionaire, what would you want the average youth who is reading this to know about making it in life, especially the business world?
Maybe if I was born into a silver spoon family, I wouldn’t have the ‘mojo’ and the courage to have achieved so much with so little. But that’s not an excuse; Nigeria is one of the largest economies in the world and with a population of uncommon character. One of the most significant characters of a Nigerian is vision, you meet a 5year old and he wants to become a doctor, you meet a young 10year old from Oshodi and he wants to be a pilot…… Somewhere in Nigeria you would find a man born into riches but denied himself the luxury of feeding bottle but borrowed 500k from his grandfather and today is one of the richest men in the world, somewhere in this environment you get to read the story of a fashion designer and today is the richest woman in Africa.
If you continue, you would never stop learning about inspiring stories about a Disk Jockey who is making so much noise with extraordinary success and who is striving to become the most successful Disk Jockey with an MBA. Stories and people like these is more than enough benchmark for any Nigerian to become successful, anyone who blames the government or his past or his environment for his failure must be ashamed of being a Nigerian.
Construction in Africa is mostly undertaken by the Asians, is this the same with Sujimoto Construction? Are there any plans and benefits the locals are set to enjoy with your various constructions? Are there any plans for affordable housing or is it simply luxury for the rich?
Coming from a poor background, the worst I can do to my people, is to turn my back on them, God wouldn’t forgive me. We are a dynamic company with the capacity to provide both luxury and affordable homes, but we are taking it one step at the time. The middle class housing market is so rampant with mediocre developers that rushing into it would crush us. We are taking advises from International reputable companies who have done remarkable works with tens of thousands of units in affordable homes.
We have no intention to provide the Toyota version of affordable real estate; we want to provide a Mercedes Benz quality at a Toyota price. This is a primary mission and by the grace of God, we shall achieve this goal before the year 2020.
What drives you?
Success is good, but making an impact is sustainable; when I build and people look at it with the ‘WOW’ effect is what motivates me. I was somewhere and a lady was talking about my apartments, the intensity and genuine passion in her voice almost made me cry, and at the same time made me proud of our hard work. This example is like a machine that drives me to aim higher and achieve more.
From research about you, you speak passionately about Nigeria’s potentials despite its current economic climates? If you had to sell investing in Nigeria to your foreign counterparts, what are some of those things you’d like them to know about Nigeria?
Not if I had to, I am currently finalizing a financial deal with a Saudi Arabian investment firm concerning real estate in Lagos. I tell them what it is, what is real and remind them of the disadvantages of not taking the business train to Nigeria. Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa and one of the fastest growing in the world; this government and its policy is one of the most dedicated governments to the sustainability and development of young upcoming entrepreneurs. The housing deficit in Nigeria is more than enough collateral, the impact to society when you provide affordable accommodations is something words can’t describe. A lot of people I speak with are scared of Nigeria, but my passion and belief in the potential of this country is their collateral.
You are a Ventures Capitalist with over 47 successful businesses across Africa. With the current e-commerce movement and more and more creative young people thinking outside the box and making a difference, are there plans to invest in start-ups in Nigeria?
You need an in-depth analysis of what your long term and short term goals are, I was a Venture Capitalist and I loved it then, but right now, I am applying the 80-20 principle to my business approach, I believe in real estate and hence dedicating 80% of my business interest into it. I’m very uninterested in any business that has nothing to do with real estate. And what attracts me is the magnitude of the transaction; I hate and detest small deals as I cannot tolerate small thinkers. If someone today gives me a billion dollars, I would in one hour invest all into real estate.
Working in stealth and making a difference without the accolades and recognition is relatively easy in business, do you feel pressured by all the press coverage and spotlight your business is currently under?
Being recognised is not magic, it is a continuous contribution of excellence; we have been around for less than 1year and the society has recognized our hard work, even companies that have been in existence for decades are yet to enjoy this. We are dedicated to change and we refuse to accept the norms, business as usual is not our forte and unacceptable to us. The gentlemen and women of the press do not sleep, they are architects of investigations, they do not sleep and for them, it is a way of securing an intrinsic value into a business that is about to be the most successful in Nigeria and eventually Africa, hopefully the world too. Making promises to yourself is easier than making promises to the world, when we come on TV, Radio or print media and we say we shall do this, maintain this standard and challenge our environment; this declaration of bravery gives us an obligation to deliver, the possibilities of failure becomes non negotiable.
With your educational background, do you still encourage that young people acquire degrees; considering the fact that some of the world’s greatest have no degrees?
Acquiring a degree is an absolute necessity because having a sound education is like a master key to harnessing several potentials that are in you. However, I am a strong believer in “Self Improvements” a university degree may not be easily accessible to everyone but adding value to one’s self is, hence I’d say keep improving on yourself in the best way possible. Even as little as reading books and attending seminars on empowerment and improvement, it is a known fact that a man who has read 100 books in his industry is equivalent to a PHD Holder.
If you had to share words of wisdom to a conference room full of energetic and aspiring young people, what advice would you share with them on the secrets of success, based on your experience over the years?
Success is the biggest revenge; poverty is a disease worse than any other, because it affects lives and generations. You need to become unreasonable when it comes to your dream, no one said it to be easy, but when you have the right people in your life , who motivate you when you cannot motivate yourself. That if you can only believe in yourself and know that you are here for a purpose, only if you dare to challenge your environment and never to believe what people tell you about your chances at succeeding. as the opinions of others can never be and should never be your reality, then and only then can you achieve extraordinary success beyond your expectations.
Lastly, 30 years from now; what would you want the world to remember Sijibomi Ogundele for and what more should we expect from the Sujimoto Group of Companies?
I want you to hold me responsible for this brave statement and by the grace of God; I want you to ask me the same in 30years….. I would be 63 years old and the richest man in Africa. The only thing that can stop me is death.
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