• Tuesday, June 18, 2024
businessday logo


‘Most start-up problems can be solved by seeking professional help’

Azeez Amida Foundation refurbishes Ogun primary healthcare centre

AZEEZ AMIDA, after 18 years of experience and knowledge across a number of fields including general management, financial planning and analysis, corporate finance, portfolio management, private equity and financial advisory has evolved into an authority well positioned to guide startups and SMEs achieve strategic goals. In this interview with MODESTUS ANAESORONYE, he gives insight into his experience on how to help organisations succeed. Excerpts:

When you were younger, what were your aspirations, and how have your goals and ambitions changed over time if at all?

My aspirations have gone full circle, from when I was younger until now. Initially, I wanted to be a comic book artist. I chased that until I became an editor with a company in Michigan. It was a startup so we struggled a bit before we could get our first publication. Then I was invited to write for an anthology- “Once upon a time machine – volume 1”. We made success and were nominated for Harvey Awards. I went from there to being the editor of Wedding Planner Magazine. Back then, we were the largest print magazine in Nigeria.

After doing that for about a year, I left anything media in 2009. I have always been a math enthusiast. It was easy for me talking to people about numeric problems. So I ventured into finance. At this point, my dream was very clear. To make it to the leadership. I got into a firm then called Rehoboth Professional Services. It was a small firm. I recall them trying to get me to join the audit team. I refused. I told them they might as well send me home if they do not have an advisory side. I did not like audit or anything core accounting. The then partner created a unit for advisory and stuck me in it. I will say, that was the moment I owe my entire career. It was from that point I started discovering my true self. When I left the company then, I had generated over N6billion in deals pipeline.

As a startup, it is important to understand the resources available to you. Most problems that startups run into can be solved by approaching a few professionals for help

I then went to Meristem, to join a training program that was meant to last a year. From there, I was pulled from the program after four months to be promoted to portfolio manager. I did not stay long in that position before moving to Kaizen Venture Partners as an analyst. At this point, my goals changed again. I spent most of my life analysing how people are doing business. Figuring out what I would have done better and how they can make more money. I did not like that. I wanted to be on the other side. I want to be the person making those strategies and let others tell me what I could have done better.

I decided to join Food Concepts as head of financial planning. It was not long before treasury was added to it, so, I stayed there for a year or so before joining Hygeia Group. I left in 2014 September to join IHS as finance manager in charge of financial planning and analysis unit. It was from this position that I worked my way through to being CEO of the Rwanda business before leaving in September 2021. Now I am authoring a book.

You have had a lot of interesting high-profile roles, and worked in different parts of Africa and around the world. What was the path that led you to where you are now?

The first thing is luck. A few people took interest in my actions in my career and helped me move up the ladder. It would have been easy for me to just sit here and tell you I worked hard, but that would be an injustice to the thousands of men and women who were my co-workers and also put in the hours. I got lucky. Sometimes not very lucky and that can be very disappointing.

The second thing is people. I have always been lucky to have teams that give 1000 percent, who understand and accept my shortcomings and me. These things seem subtle to say but they matter a lot to one succeeding in any role.

Read also: 5 Nigerian start-up entrepreneurs get €120,000 as part of Orange Corners Innovation Fund

From your over two decades of experience, what characteristics do you believe every business leader should possess?

Listen. Understand. Act. Anything outside that order would lead to rebellion. The journey of a business leader is a balance of many conflicts. You are worried about your team, targets, shareholders, family, and even personal income. You need to balance all these by doing all you can to make people feel comfortable around you. I can tell you; this is very easy to say than do. Most leaders have to battle daily with the balance of these three factors. But life is a journey so we can only keep learning.

As a trailblazing growth expert who has helped set up structures and processes that propelled businesses, what have you observed about the startup scene in Africa especially now?

As a startup, it is important to understand the resources available to you. Most problems that startups run into can be solved by approaching a few professionals for help. I have had to advise friends on strategies without charging a dime. It is because they spoke up. You have to speak up when you are not clear on the way forward. Go to forums, ask questions. Sometimes, call friends and ask them if they know anyone that can help, you will be surprised how much help is out there.

Secondly, do not get carried away with the success. Starting with an idea does not necessarily mean it has to be that idea. Companies change. Many companies have changed. So would yours. You have to understand this and evolve with the world. There is no point holding on to an idea the world has moved away from. In addition, with the way technology is these days, things can change rather quickly. Startups need to understand this.

Finally, it is important to understand the addressable market. Many times, an idea that is meant to fill a need may only have an addressable market of 5million people. If you are still setting a 10x growth when you are at 4million users, you are in for frustration.

With over $270 trillion worth of global commercial capital out there, how can Nigeria attract more private equity that is impact investing?

Capital will always flow towards value. Investors are rational people and they will not just invest for the sake of it. If you had money and you had the option of picking between two countries that had the same levels of return, what would you consider? Rationally, it will be how easy it is to do business in that country. The government needs to start seeing its role in this sense. Attracting investment is a derivative of succeeding at creating an enabling environment.

What are you currently working on?

I am working on a book titled EPE Principle: understanding the opportunity cycle. EPE stands for Enter Perform and Exit. It is a book borne out of a decade of research. It highlights the principles I used in moving from Egbeda to being the CEO of a multi-million-dollar company. It speaks on issues like corporate politics; how to identify opportunities; the role people play in your career; and how to make the best of it; and finally, how to know when it’s time to walk away; and how to prepare for it. It is scheduled to be launched early second quarter.

I am also setting up a foundation focused on helping underprivileged Nigerians with Education, Clean Water, and Health. I believe that you do not need to have it all to give back to society.