The Problem With SMEs In Nigeria – Helen Emore

Helen Emore is many things rolled into one almost superwoman. She is an agribusiness specialist, business and project development expert, a faculty member of the Enterprise Development Centre, Lagos Business School, Pan-Atlantic University as well as the CEO Aunty Helen Foods Processing Limited. Aunty Helen Food Processing Limited.

In this interview she has a word or two for Nigerian entrepreneurs…you just have to read it…

Coming from the advertising industry, you made a major leap and founded Aunty Helen Food Processing Limited in 2017, what inspired this choice of business?

Hardship and Recession. There are no two ways; it’s the recession. I have left the advertising for a while – about 11 years now – I really haven’t done advertising since like 2008 or thereabout. Then I went into the public sector and did project management for Delta state government. Then what were required were leadership skills, so I was the project director of Warri Industrial Park and that entailed attracting businesses to Warri. If you know anything about Niger Delta, that period was very tough but we had to try and sell hope to the people; first to the host community and then to the business world and to other parts of the world to come and invest in Delta State. In the course of that, I had cause to interface with multiple sectors; construction, real estate, finance, legal space, public private partnership, a lot of things. And what that did for me was that it opened my eyes to so many things.

I also began a PhD programme in entrepreneurship and Innovation which I hope that by this time next year, I would have completed that PhD, all things being equal. I have always believed that Nigeria is an underperforming economy. A country of 180m people having an official GDP of $424bn is seriously underperforming compared to states like California that has about $ 1.8bn and has less than 40 million people. It means that we can do more across all sectors.  But starting Aunty Helen Food Processing Limited was actually an accident. I didn’t plan to start it. What I always wanted to do was to go into mass production of a commodity. Whatever it was, I didn’t know. I wanted food or fashion. And why I wanted food or fashion was because I had a vision of selling one million of any item every day. I wanted a business where I could sell one million units every day. I was tired of writing proposals. I was tired of making pitches. I was tired of making presentations, knowing that even though you had the skills, knowledge and ability, you still had to convince people, I was tired. So, I was on a project with the Enterprise Development Centre and in the course of doing that I saw a lot of entrepreneurs doing little things, with very minimal resources but they were creating value in poultry, in farming. I saw people making spices, I saw people, doing different things. And I saw someone doing something in the oil value chain; I said yes, why not, I can do this as well. Then I reminded myself that my father was an oil palm farmer before he died and he started very little. Therefore, I partnered with somebody who was in the oil business. I decided to start branding my own oil and selling.  I started with groundnut oil now I am exploring coconut oil and I am also exploring the honey value chain and I am exploring rice in partnership with other people. So, it was just the recession; business was dull and I was just looking for an opportunity that was retail-oriented. I didn’t plan it.

So, how has it been?

It’s been very tough. I can tell you.  I do a lot of social media publicity and promotion. Someone recently called me expressing amazement and I looked around and told myself that I wished these people knew how much palpitation I was having. It’s so bad that everything I have, and I mean everything and all proceeds of every work I do is going into the business just to keep it going. Why? You just want to try and put things in place. Now, I understand why a lot of small businesses struggle and why small businesses fail. If you start a small business, maybe a small cottage industry and you want it to grow there are many things to consider.  One, you are not going to get your returns, maybe, for three years. Two, you require resources to build an infrastructure that would help the business grow and that takes a lot. So, what I have been doing with the oil business is, teaching, maybe a little consulting and then you put the money in the oil business. I have one or two of my friends who have also invested. I have a family member who gives me interest free loans. So, I use them and then I pay back. I have tactically mortgaged everything I have to build a small factory. And it is still not there yet.  I am exploring more opportunities. I am trying to get more investors into the business because now I understand how business works. To get more investors is hard. By the time you see an entrepreneur who is all over the media looking good, know that that man or woman has gone to heaven and come back like 10 times. To get to a sustainable level where you are now getting a regular income is tough. I don’t even pretend about it. I don’t mind what anybody says. People say I am a big woman. I say, ‘sorry, in this space, I am not.’ This is because it is a new venture and I am learning on the job. I have also gone to study agribusiness at the Lagos Business School and it’s a very practical programme. So, that also helped my perspective in rolling out the business. It’s tough. Let nobody, man or woman, tell you that entrepreneurship is cheap. I am speaking from the bottom of my heart.  It is hard work.

What would you say is your biggest challenge?

What’s my biggest challenge? I think my greatest challenge in entering this business was that I underestimated what it required.

In terms of funds?

In terms of everything. You need knowledge. You need experience. If you have knowledge and experience you can structure the business in a way that would allow resources flow. Now, money will always follow a good business. People will look at you and will say, ‘let me put money in your business; let me invest in your business.’ I have a few people doing that to me, because they believe in me. But I just needed to understand how to run the business first before I take other people’s money and before I even say I want to expand. In the last 14 months or so, I have fully done that. Now I understand the business. I have made very bad mistakes and we have learnt from them.  Now we are checking everything. Manufacturing and production are different from service. In manufacturing, one line can destroy the entire business. I will give an example; when we started this business we were just doing it on a very micro level. We were able to build the small facility, get NAFDAC approval, and then we said, ‘yes we can go and look for the market,’ because it’s not about the product you have, it is about the market. So, we went to look for the market and the shocker we got was that our labels were not scanning.  We had done about 5000 labels, and had produced maybe about 1000 bottles, labeled, packaged, and then the labels were not scanning and so, the stores would not take them. It was devastating for us. I asked my partner the reason the labels were not scanning. The cost of that mistake was that for about three weeks we couldn’t do anything. We had to change the design to make sure that the label could go on the coding machine. We had to code our manufacturing date, expiring date on the batch number. For me that was a major turning point. You see, we had checked everything because we have check list; we have work flow, we have operations manual and we have SOPs. But in all of these, nobody checked to confirm whether the bar codes were scanning.

So for me, it was like a light bulb just came on in my head; we were underestimating this process. You see, I also train on operations management but the production environment is very detailed. Talk about operations management, talk about project management, it’s about checking every minute details. But because we are also human, it is possible to overlook one item and that one thing can cause so much – so much. That’s what I have learnt. So, when I say you need knowledge and experience, those two things are more valuable than the money you have. This is because if you have money and you don’t have knowledge and experience, you will spend maybe like 10 times what you ought to have spent on anything. So, knowledge and experience make a lot of difference. I can tell you, it makes a lot of difference.

You have talked specifically about your experience but generally speaking now, what can you say are the major challenges facing Nigerian entrepreneurs?

You see, it is not generic. The challenges most businesses face are not generic. Why I’m saying this is because different entrepreneurs have different individual experiences. They have different situations that they are dealing with. Some even have marital problems and just because they have marital problems or domestic issues, they can’t think straight. They can’t even meet customers or supervise their businesses. They watch everything falling apart because they are not happy at all. Somebody may have a sick child and that automatically changes everything about what that person does. I think that first, from the general perspective, the individual orientation is the first challenge they face. So, whatever domestic or personal problems you have can usually translate to your business.

I have trained thousands of entrepreneurs in a formal structured programme, and I have seen different people with different things. Outside of their personal limitations, personal challenges, the other thing that’s also a problem for Nigerian entrepreneurs is knowledge – knowledge. A lot of them do not know about the businesses they run; they don’t know their customers, they don’t know what their customers want, they don’t understand their customers, so they produce and offer services their customers don’t want. Or that their customers are not willing to pay for.  Sometimes you hear someone say, ‘hey, I have this fantastic product’, and I will tell the person this product is available for free all over the place. And they will be like, ‘I thought I was the only one doing it.’ Then I say, ‘excuse me, check your environment, check your competition, check what your competitors are doing.’

So, knowledge is a major challenge with Nigerian entrepreneurs. They don’t know. Many of them have not done sufficient research about the industry they want to claim. Until you do that, you wouldn’t even know how to differentiate yourself. You wouldn’t know how to position yourself so that you can sell. So, knowledge is number one. Two, experience. Why do I say experience? You will probably read many glamorous stories about people who dropped out of school to build successful empires. I tell people, you see those Americans, when they drop out of school to start business they get private equity. They start with angel investors. Once the angel investors begin to give them money, they give them an experienced person to support them. So, it’s not just that entrepreneur who is young in the business. You have experienced people behind him. But in Nigeria, what do we have? We find somebody who says, ‘oh, I want to start my own business. I have worked, and then you start running it yourself. You don’t have angel investors. You don’t have mentors. You don’t have experience. You don’t have professionals supporting your operations, even if it is on a part time basis; you don’t have anyone. So you struggle for so long and you see businesses stay for five years but never grow. They continue struggling. Then an experienced person comes on the scene, takes on the same market, offers the same product and does well. So, a lot of the things that the man who has no experience cannot deal with, the gentleman with experience and resources will deal with them successfully. So for me, if you want to be an entrepreneur, you need experienced person to support you. Nigerian entrepreneurs need to understand that.  I mean, when you train people who are sincere and open to learning and you share with them, they suddenly realise that they really need somebody to guide or support them in that space.

It is only when you have dealt with the knowledge gap and you have gotten good and experienced members on your team that you can make effective use of resources – that you can even access resources. Resource will include your money, materials, equipment and promotional things that give you access to the market that help you produce the product by yourself. So, if you ask what the three challenges are in the order of their importance, I would say; knowledge, experience and resources before you start talking about financing.

Of course, it is common knowledge that we don’t have a credit system in Nigeria. It’s very poor. Nigerian banks have not really done credit lending for the past 30 year or so because there was a lot of cheap government money circulating and then we have a lot of charges that we pay and there is no incentive. But you see, banks do not fund startups, it is private equity that funds startups. You cannot start a business with a loan when you don’t have a regular cash flow yet. Therefore, I think it is a weak private equity industry that is affecting entrepreneurs; it is not the fault of the banks. Bank cannot give to start-ups anywhere in the world. Banks will give money to people they know can pay back. But when you are just testing a concept you don’t even know whether the product will do well, you have to do that with private equity. Then the founders take a risk, fund investment and when the product becomes successful, they get premium. It also comes from knowledge. The gap for financing has to be closed by creating a robust private equity industry. That’s the way I see it.

Nigerians are urged to return to the farm, are there other things you think the government can do to make farming more attractive?

Farming and agriculture will not grow in Nigeria until we develop the value chain. What happens now is that during harvest we have abundance and surplus farm produce. Once the harvest period is over scarcity comes. Why is that so? It’s because we have not added value to anything. Even our export we talk about, we have increased exports in the last 10 years, but what are we exporting? We are still raw materials. A lot of value addition is being done by some companies in Ivory Coast and these companies buy from Nigeria. Go to some parts of Nigeria like Ogbomosho, part of middle belt and Kaduna, you will see people buying up ginger, buying up cashew and those cash crops. What do they do with them? Just export them. They don’t process. But if we process our cash crops that we have in Nigeria, you can use each of them for four different finished products. Why are we not doing that? To start up a small-scale factory, to start the process, you don’t need up to N1million. There are locally produced machines that can work for you that are worth from N200, 000 to N250, 000.

Now let’s take a group of professionals and by the time they all put together like N30 million, they can start a factory or even put together N10million and they can start a factory. Everybody does not have to have a sachet water factory, everybody does not have to own water bottling factory. That’s such a common commodity. But we have a lot of other things that we can produce – a lot. We can do a lot with our ginger, honey, sugarcane, sorghum, millet, corn, rubber, oil palm, cocoa, cashew, yam and others.

The other time we exported yams in cartoons; how does that work? You put yams in cartoon and put in on the high sea? Of course it will be bad before it gets there. Can’t we think of somebody processing those yams into chips? I don’t even talk about Plantain; that’s another issue. My campaign now is that everybody should get involved in the value chain and let us start processing. Let us begin to bring our professionalism, whatever space you are in, and explore how to add value to a product? If you are in ICT, how can you create whether it is software or a system that can enhance the production process or that can aid the way service is being delivered? Innovation occurs in different ways. It can occur in packaging of the product itself, distribution, financing and it can occur in the way you deliver it. Someone said she didn’t like the way pap is sold and she decided to make clean pap that would be packaged.  Now she is selling Grandios Pap. Somebody who used to work in ICT decided to start doing shopping for women and do all the cleaning process and all they have to do is get it delivered to them and start cooking, without having to start scraping fish and all that.

What about education? Who is teaching farmers? Who is teaching their children? Who is teaching people in the rural areas? Who is making clothes for them? What kind of clothes should they be wearing? We have discovered that our Ankara and made in Nigeria clothes are more comfortable for our weather. Can somebody make clothes that I need to go out and buy for N2000?  I just think that for you to get more people to go into farming, whether it is animal farming or crop farming, they need to have off takers – constant off takers. And it is only when we have a huge demand that there will be a real incentive to have all year round farming and people will be encouraged to invest in irrigation. Now we still depend on the weather. We have to have off takers because every change we want in that industry costs money. Even if you are going to get development agencies to fund it or development loan to fund it, you have to pay back somehow and you won’t be able to pay back if we are still using the same system where we have an eco-system that says during this period to this period, you will have abundance and then for another six months there will be scarcity. We need to be able to produce every time of the year therefore, processing and value addition should be what we are preaching.

You just talked about finance and you mentioned private equity, why do you think that industry is not developing? Is there anything government can do to help it?

I agree that the government has a lot to do in creating a conducive environment but the flip side to it also is that the people have to place a demand on the government. The equity space is money and private equities depend on trust in the sense that I expect that you would give me my money when I want it. And if for any reason you don’t give me my money, I should be able to get justice. We always say that government has no business in business; however, government has to create a conducive environment. So, all the key stakeholders, the judiciary, the police, law enforcement, infrastructure, and the things that I need to support my business, the government should ensure are working properly.

When we look at the history of finance all over the world, the development of people comes in cycles. Sometimes you have hardship and difficult situations that only government can fix. At times, you have hardship and difficult situations that the people have to fix. A group of people will arise and take leadership positions.  These are people who can’t sit down and watch things go wrong without doing something about it. That’s the same way I think that when it comes to private equity people have to arise and say, ‘we want to fund private businesses, we have got to grow businesses.’  I always say to myself that, ‘you can’t do everything, but I know I am going to do something in that private equity space to mobilise funds because people really need money.’ I spoke with someone who was a fund manager of one of these foreign countries. Let me not call their name. And she said, ‘oh, we want to give about $200,000’ and I said to her that if they really want to help Nigeria’s economy, you should look for people who are looking for $10,000, $5,000, $20,000, $50,000 for those are the people that really need money and they don’t have anything to put on the table. By the time your business needs almost $50million or $100,000, then that business is stable. I am talking of people who just need N1million, who need N10million, who need N5m those are the people that if you give them N1million it would just catapult their business to another level. Their business will never die again. In fact, those people are in the majority in Nigeria. So, I am saying to myself, ‘can’t I do something? Can’t I mobilise people to give me N200m and I will tell them that don’t worry, you will get your money in two years plus interest and I will give it to small business owners?’ That’s the kind of money people are looking for, that’s the kind of money majority of Nigerians are looking for. They are not looking for N100million. The N5million here and 10million there is what they need to grow their businesses. And why am I emphasizing this? I have seen a lot of business owners who need just N1million.  That N1million will allow them buy raw materials, they will sell and they will fill orders. Of course, initially the label may be bent, the bottle may be bent, don’t worry, just keep buying that’s how the business will grow. In six months, the label will become straight. In another six months, the bottle will stand right. In two years, you will enter there and you will be amazed.

But the problem is that we don’t have a long term perspective, we don’t have a long term mindset. Nigerians just want things to work but it’s a process. It’s a journey. And that’s why I am saying that most of the entrepreneurs that will grow are those who need N1m, N2m, some N500, 000; that’s all they need and you will be amazed how it’s going to change many things.

But, you explained earlier that the funds with banks are not theirs and they cannot afford to support small business with the funds….

I used to be very angry with banks but now I understand why they cannot get involved in financing small business because they are not the owner of the funds in their custody.

How then do we build the trust required to build a functional private equity industry.

I think for trust to enter that equity space, you must always study whatever you want to invest in and understand what they are doing. Take time to understand what they are doing. You need to see them at work. When you see some people at work you understand the reason you need to give them money. I met a lady who does shoes and she was crying, telling that she was tired. I told her to calm down and ask her how much she needed, that if I gave her N100, 000 would it make a difference.  She told me that she didn’t even spend up to N100,000 monthly and that if she got N100,000, she would keep producing. She told me she would spend N40, 000 on training and use the rest to buy materials. I got to know that was because I interacted with her closely. Sometimes when I meet people with small businesses I just buy things from them. I just want to do things with them because I love their courage. It takes a lot of courage to say I want to do this.  You can just buy N50, 000 worth of goods from some of them and it keeps them going.  So to engender trust, you have to walk with them very closely, you have to understand them. It’s always good to know people who know people, because when you are investing in most of these SMEs, it is the character of the promoter that you are really betting on. That he would do what he says that he would do, when he says he would do it and how says he would do it? Not that somebody collects your N500, 000 now and the next thing is go to buy one shoe he has been dreaming of. Or he would buy ticket N200, 000 and goes to Dubai and then he comes back and start trying to struggle with whatever is left. So, that trust Is key.

So, it now behooves on those looking for private equity funding to engender trust?

Yes. They must demonstrate capacity. They must demonstrate competence. They must demonstrate that they are disciplined. Sometimes when you ask these SMEs about a bank account they would say they don’t have. When you ask them to show you their clientele history, they would say they don’t remember. Many of them don’t have any structure or any system. Nobody is going put money in that kind of business. But if you can demonstrate that there is a system, that you have a good product, that no matter how rustic it is, you are organized, you are trying to make sure that you sell more than you produce, then people can support such a person.

What do you think this administration can do to make the environment more conducive for entrepreneurs?

The rhetoric of the administration is change. The rhetoric means to change from corruption, from what past administration did wrong. They have got to sell the positive vision of this administration for Nigerians. Where is the administration taking Nigeria to? What hope are you giving to the people? What are you selling to the people? What are you willing to show that the vision or the position you are selling is going to materialise? That’s what we need. We don’t need tales of woe. There is nowhere in the world that bad mouthing the country, the people has attracted investment. I mean, go and check history; it never works. What works, is that people say we want to move forward and this is how. Look at Rwanda, I mean which day was it that we were watching the genocide on TV in 1994, now Rwanda, a nation of less than 15 million people is overtaking us in so many areas. Rwanda has a policy of no sand on the streets. Rwanda is the first city in the world that has a global Wi-Fi city – first country in the world. Rwanda has positioned itself as the ICT centre in Africa. Look at Ethiopia; it is becoming the hub of for aviation. What do we want to be? There was a time, Dora Akunyili brought the Good People, Great Nation concept. Can we go back to that so that we begin to do everything that good people would do, so that we can begin to do everything that a great nation would do? I am not saying the government should not fight corruption, I am not saying that the government should not prosecute whoever they need to. But we need to change the narrative. We need to change what they are beaming out.  It’s even affecting us as a nation. Some people look at you and they see you are a Nigerian. And they say we know Nigerians are corrupt.  When you say you are a thief, people will call you a thief and you won’t be angry. The government needs to sell hope. I am not seeing hope. Instead, I wake up and I’m confronted with things that make me despair. When you wake up and you read news of one person who stole 1trillion and you say to yourself is there any money still remaining.

Such statements are making people lose consumer confidence. People are losing confidence even in their own country. You ask yourself, ‘should I still be in this nation.’ And everyone is filling out forms to go to Canada, America, London; people are leaving Nigeria and they are our best brains. Some of them are taken with scholarships and how are we going to grow when we don’t have intelligent people around?

You once wrote the article, Lessons From My Father; your father must have had a major influence on you?

My father was a good man as far as I am concerned. He was a very good man, a hardworking man. He was also not a stagnant person. My dad was a Supreme Court clerk who later went into beer business, but even while he was doing that, he was buying land and farming. He had yams in his farms and he tried to do fish farming and even poultry. He did a lot of things. And by 1983 when austerity measure started, he decided that he was going to diversify fully into agriculture. He had about 100 hectares of land and he wanted to take a loan from Union Bank then but his manager asked him if he had done fish farming before and he said no. He then asked him what he had done before and he said that He said that he had tapped rubber and that he understood rubber and cassava. The manager then advised him do cassava. That was how he metamorphosed from being big man beer distributor to becoming a cassava farmer. As soon as he started cassava farming, another friend told him, ‘why don’t you go to the oil palm firm in Benin, why don’t you go there? He went. They gave him oil palm seedlings and told him how to do it. And he started planting palm seedlings while he was planting cassava. As the oil palm was maturing he was increasing the hectares for cassava. He continued until he had a very large oil palm plantation. Not only was he planting, he also started processing the palm oil and today even when he is dead, the oil palm plantation is there and now some of us children are trying to continue where he stopped.  My father was also a politician; he had a very active political career from the days of NPN to SDP. He was the party chairman to PDP in our place. So, he was ambidextrous, he didn’t just restrict himself to doing just one thing. He was working with both hands and he was doing quite well. He made sure that he was a high performer in doing what he could do with the education limit he had. He only secondary school education and he stopped there. I see him as somebody who is to be emulated. He was a very hard working man – extremely hardworking. My father would wake up by 3am and before 5am he is already on his way to his farm. I remember when we first went to Warri; we were sleeping at the back of the store in the early 70s. The store was in the front, we were living at the back. He was a contractor and every opportunity he had, he created relationships. Wherever there was business opportunity, he did it and he was also into his community activities. I tell people that I have not done one tenth of what my father did at my age. That means I have not performed well like my father. I need to do more and I have better resources than my father because I have access to information. He was a good man.

Human capital is a big challenge for small businesses, how do you think they can tackle it?

Again, for me, it’s about change. You see most times, some of us who have small businesses have come from large organisations. When you are running this small business in a four by four room or whatever and you expect your staff to behave like the staff of that large organization? Do you know that that person in that big organisation has pension, training, promotion and other perks? The truth is that over 90 per cent of the staff a small business doesn’t believe in your business. They are just there for the pay and they don’t even respect your vision. They don’t respect your business. They are not programmed to care. It’s only very few people who buy into the vision. So, what do you do? There are certain types of staff that you shouldn’t take. If you own a small business, then look for people who have experience to deliver your job and employ them.  Don’t focus on paper qualification. Apart from professional businesses like Law, Engineering, Pharmacy, do not retain the services of the professionals. You can get professionals to work with you on part term basis. They come they deliver the result, you don’t have to pay them salary and they go. Get people who are ready to work.  They don’t need to be graduates and pay them well. Ensure you structure your business because it is a two-way thing too and some bosses are not even organised at all. Yet they expect their staff to be organized.  Many small businesses don’t put structures and systems in place because they are small. They don’t give clear instructions and then they expect the staff to perform magic.  So, it is a two-way thing. But if all things are equal and you are an organised entrepreneur, put a system in place, put a structure in place, you don’t have to employ many people.  I always say to people that when you have a small business you start with the functions, you don’t start with the roles. For instance you know that you are supposed to have a supply chain, human resources management, administration and financial services roles; you know you are supposed to have a compliance unit and a procurement unit. It is not about filling those positions; it is about having a system that ensures those functions are performed and be clear about it. So, you can have a business where you have three people and all these functions are performed, using those three people and maybe some external consultants. For instance, you don’t need to have a resident HR person or finance person. You can buy software, get one of your staff to do basic book keeping and then the consultant will come after one week or two weeks or every month, depending on your volume to deal with it. So you don’t need to carry huge overheads. The way you design your organization has to be in line with your current realities.

But, what do you see? Most people want to have people.  Right now, I don’t have people. I have only three people working for me. I mean you can sort the rest. You partner with people who already have the competencies. We have to improve our sharing in economy, and collaboration or our support base and support data; that is how we are going to grow if we have to grow. Most businesses with HR challenges themselves don’t have structure because if you have a structure, you will have a clear picture of the functions to be performed. It is not about head count. But once as a small business owner you just go for the head count, as against getting the functions done or getting the tasks done, you spend a lot of energy quarrelling with people who are not interested in the business, you hire people that you cannot pay well who will be comparing you with other bigger organizations, so they will never even put in their best. That, for me, is something that entrepreneurs have to deal with. That’s why if you look around and you ask what the major challenges of entrepreneurs are, it starts from knowledge then you now go to experience before you now start talking about the business.

What motivates you?

Myself o. The reward I will give to myself because when I remember that if I don’t do this now, I would be able to get good life, I would wake up because there is no food for a lazy man. That’s my motivation. I cannot say because I want to change the world, I can only change the world when I am in my sound mind, and I cannot have a sound mind if I cannot take care of my basic needs. So, I motivate myself. I want the world – just like we are talking about Winnie Mandela – to know that I come, that I was here. That’s my motivation. I want to make a mark. I don’t want to be popular, but I want to impact. I want people to know that there was this person. I’m also motivated by my father and to a large extent, I look like him. So, I motivate myself. I want to make real good impact that even 200 years after I am gone, my company will still be alive. That’s my prayer. I look at people like Procter and gamble, Unilever, Mark Spencer, Heinz, people whose companies have been around for over 100 years. What did they do? How did they build their systems? We have to have long term perspective if we want to build organisations that will last. So, I am motivated by the combination of myself and my dreams. I hope that I can be like Procter and Gamble.

What keeps you awake?

It’s money. If you are broke you will not sleep. (Laughs).  Then of course, if you have a serious challenge, definitely you will not sleep. So, for me I do a lot of introspection; I look at myself and say, ‘you are not doing well in this aspect or that aspect.’  I keep trying to improve myself. Recently I got an accountability partner and it has changed a lot of things for me. I looked for a mentor. I do a lot of introspection and I asked myself why I was under-performing and I discovered that I wasn’t accountable to anybody. So, I decided to get a mentor and working with her for the past two months has really changed a lot. It’s like taking me back to when I was much younger. Now I am trying to aspire to do things, the kind of things that I see around.  I want to build a business that will last for generations like Proctor and Gamble and Heinz.


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