Leading Ivestment Company in Africa

Expanding the family: Welcoming new members to HH

Throughout this week, I have spent a few hours each day with our new staff as part of the Heirs Holdings Group induction programme. Like I often reiterate, to run a successful business, a business that lasts through generations, leaders must get the ‘people equation’ right.

To build a business that lasts, leaders must have time for their people and can’t be too busy. Leaders should identify with their troops – how we lead and work with our people makes the difference between inspired staff and employees that are disillusioned and distant.

During my Q&A with inductees, I was asked about my business secrets and the drivers behind our varied corporate accomplishments. I summarised it as follows: consistency, purpose, people, and most importantly, God. If certain things about your business are in place – the right processes, procedures, corporate governance, eagerness to interrogate the status quo, and keenness for innovation – success is only a matter of time.

However, be alert to complacency- the fastest killer of progress. You must keep refining and improving your processes because the systems and tools that brought you to a certain level may become the obstacles preventing you from reaching new heights.

On staying focused: I often tell people that I don’t spend time worrying. Upon receiving news, I dimension all aspects and envision the worst and best-case scenarios – and then plan appropriate strategies for each. We must realize that it’s not enough to simply want or desire something, nothing happens overnight or just because you want it to. Everyone can dream, to dream is easy. It is the execution that separates the doers from the rest.

Another useful tip is this: History is by far the best teacher. Study history – what has happened in your industry in the past, who were the major players and where are they today? This will give you a better understanding of current and even future trends, and enables you to gain the foresight that allows you to predict the future.

When success finally comes, you must be careful lest arrogance sets in. You begin to feel that you have the Midas touch and the narcissistic complex creeps in. One must be vigilant against hubris and complacency.

After your first big break, how do you replicate your success? By embracing disruption. In an organization where people are lukewarm or hostile to new ideas, there is never much growth. When people are overly defensive and protective of their areas and departments, when they don’t want others to get involved, these organizations generally don’t make progress.

Despite my own successes, I am quick to let people know that it’s not been roses all through. My team and I have experienced our own share of failures. In 2010, we set up a financial payments venture. It was a failure because we misread the market at the time. After a while, we had to acknowledge our assessment was wrong and reverse our decision. We exited the industry even though some members of the team at the time felt it would be too embarrassing to publicly admit defeat in this way. But I am very firm about excising leprous fingers immediately they are identified. If you realize a business mistake, reverse immediately.

I have never been ashamed to say that I have made mistakes. What is more important is that you work hard to make the positives outweigh the negatives at the end of the day. From the wrong hiring and business investment decisions I have made, I have learned valuable business lessons.

Finally, I believe in young people. The turnaround of Standard Trust Bank (STB) was mainly orchestrated by a team of young people. We were ambitious, committed to our purpose and focused to accomplish our set targets. We were on a generational mission. In the same way, Heirs Holdings is driven by our mission to improve lives and transform the African continent. We welcome ideas, encourage innovation and work hard to do transformational deals.

STB democratized banking, spearheaded online realtime cash transfers within Nigeria through our vast branch network at the time, parents could transfer their children in universities in a matter of minutes, and as a result, almost 90% of all Nigerian students had STB accounts.

At Heirs Holdings, we are transforming lives in Africa by investing in diverse sectors for the long run. We are clear and bold about our purpose. We are passionate about sharing our vision with the world. As we share our story, we will continue to nourish and fortify this purpose in our people. The reality we understand all too well is this: No one but us will transform Africa.


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