Since I started this amazing, roller coaster visionary journey, it’s been a truly mind boggling, soul searching and will testing ride. Every new step in this journey posed a new problem that needed urgent solutions. Every resolve in me was tested to the maximum and just when I got comfortable that it was done and dusted something new pops up and wouldn’t go away. One lucky day I hit a near permanent solution to my many ups and downs which occurred mostly in the private space between my head and my mind. So someone asked Jim Rohn at a conference what he thought the next 10 years would look like. For him it was an easy answer, he said ‘same’! The next ten would be just as the last Ten! Deep! What I took away was that life can be considered a cycle of events, which has a capacity to be vicious. The good decisions you take however determine if the cycle would be vicious or the wind would blow to your advantage. In other words YOU control your wind. I control my wind! Once I got this info and hit this spot I was done with down days. I realized I could rise above every wind. So just when I get very comfy with my new found freedom it was time to feature on the front cover of this magazine. The struggle was uncomfortable because I knew what I had to talk about from the get go and I struggled. In the last few years I’ve done so many interviews. I’m always the interviewer. I’m the one asking all the questions. Hard or not I wanted answers! Now I get a good dose of my own medicine. Once I remembered my ‘whys’ though I get comfortable. It’s got to be done!So the first ten years of being the CEO of Ashers Clotheline, has been radically different from the last ten. Business started informally during my time at The Nigerian law School Bwari in 1999. Shortly after law school I got my first store in the zone 6 area of Wuse in Abuja. Somehow, I really don’t have all the details why, business was a hit from like day one. People came, they bought, they were happy and they returned and brought more people. Business was good, really good and this went on for a while. I sourced for most of the goods from the Uk then and at the London end the doors just kept opening. The goodwill was unimaginable. The door kept getting wider and more doors kept opening. This too went on for a while. Then life happened to my very naive self. My marriage crashed and big time. My son was only seven months. Survival was nowhere in sight. But I survived! This significant episode or looking back now real life soap opera was a defining moment in my life and future. This brings me to my first G in my 4G story.
- Gut. As in gut feeling. I was never a student or fan of Murphy’s law. As far as I was concerned Mr Murphy was a pessimist and I was a die hard optimist. So his theory that everything that could go wrong would go wrong was not my business. Or so I thought. Or maybe I was just naive. Whatever the case here I am, 29years old and Mr Murphy was right. Everything had gone wrong. Everything! I had lost it all. More painful was the fact that it could have been avoided. If only I had gone with my GUT feeling. So I failed and big time. Marriage failed, money gone, business closed down, Murphy’s law was starring me in the face. It wasn’t looking good and I could not figure a way out. Or so It seemed at the time. You don’t learn about how to respond to your gut feeling in school or even at home but you can’t do without it. You have to master your gut feeling. From the get-go I knew my gut feeling was not to go into that marriage but I surrendered my gut feeling and betrayed myself. Some mistakes are so big you never forget them. They would always be a compass in your life. This is one of them for me. How? Why? Who? When? I had to answer all the questions and more. The last place you want to be is in a rut but this was my present location so I had to get out and fast too! So I get back to my gut to find out what it’s saying and the signal I got sounded good. My gut feeling was if I got up, tried again I would win! This time around I’ve learnt obedience from the things I suffered so I’m going with Mr gut. I wanted Mr Murphy out for good. Failure no matter the kind was not the end of the story as long as we learn the lessons. So with my head and my heart all fixed I buy a new ticket, jump on the train again and I plan to win big time and I did! This one sentence took the next six years. I was back! Till now I’ve learnt to cooperate with Mr gut. Never joke with your gut feeling! Master it! This brings me to my second G, growth!
- Growth is a truly beautiful thing and a wonderful place to be. Growth is about shedding the old and recreating the new. True growth starts from within and works it’s way to the outside. It’s often been said and rightly so that you cannot solve a new problem with the current mentality or ideology you have. No! You’ve got to come up higher, read the books, get the information, do the research and many times do the unthinkable. It’s now public knowledge that doing the same thing and expecting a different result is insanity. So I used my down days wisely. I read all the books, did the research, got the info, I was ready to do the unthinkable. I had changed. So I attracted a new breed of people. ‘Quality people only’. (QPO) You tend to attract what you carry. So down the road I reconnect with this amazing, old friend from school, we hit it off and the rest is history, we said I do! This union multiplied my growth exponentially in many different directions. What I had not achieved in almost 10 years he made happen. His business acumen was top notch! He just had it. Lucky, blessed or both it worked for me. I was behind the stairing wheel of this car and I was on top speed. This was good for a while, but as with every other driver at top speed it’s easy to lose control. From about 12 outlets of the business literarily overnight more than half had to go! So many lost their jobs. The feeling was devastating! The Sanusi bank merger revolution rocked the banking world. So many bankers lost their jobs. They were my customers. Their problem was my problem. Their boat literarily collided with mine. Downsize and right size were the only options left. I took the only way out! Meanwhile other internal issues were brewing. The good, the bad and the downright ugly kept playing out. So growth is good but has its downside when the growth becomes too fast. Chances of crashing at top speed is so high. Also every business operating out of the Nigerian space must always factor in our propensity to instability in our polity, fluctuations in our currency, bad, rudderless leadership and policies that discourage entrepreneurship. I saw it all! That brings me to my third G. Guts
What was I going to do about the current wind? It was either going to blow me away or I would ride it out. The turbulence, the shaking, the discomfort is excruciating. Do I have the capacity to survive? Do I have the guts to get back to the drawing board to plan afresh, begin again but more intelligently this time around? What if it doesn’t work? What if I fail again? But then what if I succeed? I’ve always had guts so I’m going the guts route. Dogged by nature I don’t take no for an answer. If there’s no door we build one. On shaky knees we get back to the drawing board and the business not only survived but is thriving big time. The rebuilding process has led me to so many beautiful places. First the Visionary Nigeria project was born, The Molly’s 1k store born. Talk about beauty coming out of the ashes. This takes me to my last G;
- Grace: Hindsight they say is 20/20. Looking back now I realize that mine has been a journey of grace. So far so good! Like seriously? Good? Yes good! Talk about change and metamorphoses, what I called bad just a few short years ago, I now realize were all learning curves. You never really graduate from the university of life. You just keep learning, getting better and hopefully becoming a master at life. Grace has a way of insulating you, the noise of the naysayers doesn’t get in and the cheers of the fans doesn’t distract either. Focus! There’s a race and there’s a prize and I plan to win. The sound of GRACE is truly amazing! The race is on and I’m still in it.