Demola Akinbola is a brand expert. And a successful one at that. He is set to launch 2 books that are a must-read for all CEO’s. Below, he spoke to City People Publisher SEYE KEHINDE about the books and why businesses fail in Nigeria.
What have you been up to for the past few years now?
I have been quite active in nurturing Brand stewards, a brand and reputation management consultancy, operating in Nigeria and the UK where we operate as Brand Niche Limited. I have done facilitated quite a lot of training, professional development. Employee engagement, rebranding, and business restructuring. I also took time off to obtain my second Master’s degree in Digital Marketing from Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland.
Tell us about your new book?
The two books aim to address the knowledge gap in the areas of branding and reputation management in Nigeria. Many Organisations are floundering and faltering because of lack of knowledge of basic branding principles. The first book, titled THE WINNING ORGANISATION, is a detailed management text that swells extensively on how to be a Winning Organisation by adopting the step by step process that ensures sustainable growth. The second book, HOW TO BRAND YOURSELF AND YOUR BUSINESS is maranta for career professionals and entrepreneurs who desire valuable insights on how to build their personal brands. People buy you before they buy your business. So, it is important that entrepreneurs take personal branding seriously.
Why did you decide to embark on this project?
Knowledge sharing is one of my hobbies. After 20 years of active professional engagements at senior management levels in the private and public sectors, I believe I have so much to share with the industry. Like I said earlier, there is a dearth of books on branding written by indigenous authors. Mine is an attempt to share my experience which I believe is quite valuable. In addition, we are inaugurating The Brand Academy, a full-fledged brand development and management school that will be based in Lagos. We want to train people ok how to become valuable brands that add value on an enduring basis.
Though the book is branding why do you think many businesses fall in Nigeria?
Businesses fail in Nigeria because of the following factors:
(1) Absence of a corporate philosophy. No well-defined vision or strategy. People just rush into a business to make money.
(2) Absence of structures that can warehouse and ventilate relevant business strategies. Structures and processes are part of robust internal branding strategy that Organisations should implement.
(3) Weak branding and reputation management efforts. Branding is at the heart of business success. We have a lot of companies but very few brands. Most companies have a short-term view of the essence of business which to make money. But, hey! Build a strong brand, be known for value creation, and build a strong reputation predicated on good Products and services. Money will naturally roll in.
(4) Dearth of the right caliber of employees. We simply don’t have a good reservoir of quality staff. I should know because I am also an entrepreneur. No business can succeed without the right depth and width in terms of human capital availability.
You’ve operated within the corporate world in Nigeria for quite a while. What are your findings? What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong?
I am privileged to have been actively involved in some enterprise change and business repositioning projects while in paid employment. I was able to discover the following:
(1) Short terminism is a serious disease afflicting Nigerian businesses. Everything is focused on today and a bit of tomorrow. We are all in a hurry to make money and impress shareholders. This mentality affects everything companies do. Profit maximization is not the primary objective of a business; the main focus is to create enduring value for stakeholders. In the process of doing this, profits will soar. We still don’t understand this.
(2) Branding is still at its infancy despite all the hoopla by companies. Most companies get it all mixed up thinking that a distinct corporate identity is all there is to branding. Not at all. It is good to have good logos, colours and all that. But a good brand goes beyond that: a strong brand is the one that delivers value to both internal and external stakeholders, creating repeat patronage and brand loyalty in the process
Is what we are seeing now a new phase in your life and career?
Yes. Absolutely. I am devoted to knowledge management. While at NAHCO, my last place of professional engagement as Head Corporate Communications and Business Development, I introduced KNOWSS – Knowledge Sharing Session – a monthly forum where we shared knowledge on various aspects of business, beyond aviation, our core business. Since 1998, I have been actively involved in facilitating training and reorientation programmes for employees. I have developed the interest over time and today, I am a certified trainer from the Irish Institute of Training and Development. So, I am an integrated brand development and management professional, focusing on all aspects of branding
What is your past prepared you for all you’ve been able to achieve in life, career-wise?
Personal development and the opportunity of working with the best. I chose my career early in life and I remained steadfast. I had a good foundation at The Guardian working with the best in the industry. I later moved to Punch and THISDAY. I spent 6 years practicing Journalism and Media management. I then ventured into Public Relations. My academic background is strongly rooted in what I am doing today. I obtained HND Mass Communications from Ogun State Poly; M.A Communications from University of Ibadan and M.sc Digital Marketing from Dublin.
So, my education, professional practice, and orientation prepared me for what I am doing today.
I joined Owena Bank in 1996 and was thrown right into the fray. I joined in the heat of the crisis over the illegal acquisition of the bank’s shares by Alaaye Investment Owned by Chief Jones Familusi. The Securities and Exchange Commission approved the deal but the management led by Rev SegunAgbetuyi objected. SEC Sanctioned the bank and froze its shares. The crisis raged on for over a year and it was a real litmus test for me. It was a baptism of fire as we had to actively engage the media and other stakeholders.
I left Owena Bank for Prudent Bank and joined just as it was converting from merchant banking to universal banking in line with CBN directive. I was the pioneer Corporate Affairs Manager and that was a lot of work with nothing, I repeat nothing to refer to. We started with one branch at Marina but the bank grew rapidly and had 45 branches within three years. The good foundation work we did enabled Prudent Bank to emerge as the lead legacy bank in the Skye Bank consortium.
In conclusion, God has been gracious. Despite finding myself in difficult professional situations, I managed to pull through. My NAHCO experience is the subject of another book on privatization and commercialisation of public enterprises. I learnt a lot in NAHCO about stakeholder engagement. We had a running battle with the staff unions and the clearing agents. It was one trouble per day.