Q: you must be so proud sir, of your achievements, having a fantastic hotel like this in Nigeria. Tell me something about that.
A: [exhales] so proud? I take an exception to that. All Glory is to God. I thank God for being able to be used, but if I wasn’t there he would have used some else. That’s one thing you have to know. Glory is to God, yes, we are here, my parents are proud of me, my family are proud and they tell me.
A: How does it feel to be the CEO of west town hotel?
A: [Exhales] that’s a tough one on me, but by his grace I have being able to cope. It’s a tough job, where you have to attempt. You have about hundred and fourteen staff under you, from different background. A service industry with different departments, and I like to know my staff and call them by their first name bases, initially I found that one difficult but I was able to cope with them and it’s okay, and we are moving on and everybody is happy, I believe.
Q: Tell me about your everyday operations and how does your day go.
A: My official hour starts about 9am. I try to take from 5 – 8am for my personal time. When I come to the office, I hold briefs with my top managers, the GM, operations manager and probably get to find out what happened over the night. From there, they will probably tell me what we have for the day. As a matter of fact, I don’t like to be in the day to day activity, so that they can be free. Two hours later I do what I call the ward round, ward round in the sense that I go to every departments, chat them up, smile at them. Try to really get down with the staff, to know what they feel, crack jokes here and there. Hotel is a twenty four hour business, once you open the door you can’t close it again, it’s like the hospital and police station. It’s just a 24hours job.
Q: When did you open this fantastic hotel?
A: About thirteen months now.
Q: How has response been?
A: Before the election it was okay, but shortly before the election everything went down, because of what is going on in the country. Somewhere scared but we were not. You should know west town is basically a business hotel, so once the offices are not open, the international companies are not opened it affects the business automatically. But now thank God things are picking up.
Q: How long have you been in business?
A: About thirty years. I have been am architect, I have been lucky I have always being on my own. When I came into Lagos, the first contract I got was to design an estate. One thing you must know is that everybody likes something good, you must be yourself, and you must have your own concept. You need to identify where you are going, you need to identify who you are, your style and be consistence and also be contempt. I was able to move around the social circle courtesy my late cosine, he was always taking me to everywhere, always proud of me and that was how I got to know lots of people and today an still in touch with old contact. I rarely design now but I tell you, each time I go to their homes they welcome me.
Q: let’s talk about your journey so far, are any of your kids studying Architecture today,
A: No but I think my last child is looking at that angle and I don’t want to push anybody. My first child is a chemical Engineer, the second is part of the group, the third is a lady she is still in the university, the forth one is an economist.
A: what kind of advice will you give to upcoming entrepreneurs in Nigeria?
A: Hmmm, I can split this up into three ways, I have come across some young upcoming guys that are fantastic, but they are just too in a hurry. I will tell you that you need to slow it down. It’s unfortunate that the community or the environment is so terrible, especially the political class, they have really failed everybody. You see some people go into government and come out so rich and you just ask yourself, what am doing. Dignity of labour should be there. You must be an obedient person. No matter what happens, obedience will take you to the next level. It will take some time but you will surely get there. If you are a stubborn person you will never get anywhere. If you are not obedience, there is no way you can be patience, and there is no way you can persevere. There is no way you can even hear from God. For the young people they really need to persevere, they should be who they say they are and aspire to be somebody.
Q: What you are saying is that the challenges we have in Nigeria is not an excuse not to do well.
A: I am fortunate to persevere, I am fortunate to be a patient person. I am focused you can’t take that part from me. Everything I have done in my life, I have always listened to my father. In my entire establishment I have his picture. Look at our president, Jonathan Goodluck, he is a focused man and he is patient. What others are killing themselves for; he got on a Plata of gold. I think that should say something to anyone, his life is a massage. As a matter of fact, I have never seen government cheque in my life.
Q: If a young person comes to you for mentorship to pursue his/her dreams, what are the basic things you would look out for.
A: I will tell them that they need to be serious, focused, you may not get results the first two years, but I can assure you it’s going to boom. If a young mind comes to me, I will allow him/her to talk for 10mins; I will just listen and watch. Am looking for three ingredients in the statement and its enough to convince me.
Q: Where do you see west town hotel in the next 10years.
A; [exhales] in the next 10years, I think that answer rest with our senior partner, which is the almighty God, because he is the only one who knows what’s going to happen to me. But I pray that west town would have really gone places. By places I mean, we have our mission statement, we intend to expand more than this, have it like holiday inns, holiday express and have like boutique all over the places. By his grace we should be in London soon.
Q: Tell me some of the best lessons that you have learnt.
A: Obedient and honesty. Hardworking, you can’t take that one out. I have never received anything free. The first time I received a monetary gift in my life was when my father died four years ago, and that was hundred thousand naira. So from onset I have always told myself that you must be hard working. The first time I went for money financing was a very bitter experience. I must tell you, if you are not focused and you don’t know what you want to do, I will advise you don’t go to the bank. Am grateful my bank was there for us, but I also want to say that it was just God. All I have to say is that nothing comes so easy just hard work.
Q: What is your message to the Nigerian youth?
A: They just need to re-event themselves. They should respect money, because it’s hard to make it. Again it will get to a stage in a man’s life; you ask yourself am I fulfilled. Money doesn’t make you fulfilled. They should start and finish a profession that they have started, especially those that are into hand work.
Lara: thank you so much sir, thank you for bringing us into your lovely hotel.
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