• Sunday, July 21, 2024
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John Ajayi: Be bold to leave your comfort zone

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The idea to be my own man or simply put become an entrepreneur originated from the inner thoughts and a can do spirit. As a matter of fact, while growing up in the early days, I never envied nor admired those who work in government institutions or civil service. I also did not admire those who work permanently with a particular organization or are satisfied or contented to being employees. I always looked up to a future where I will be one of the change agents.

I envisioned a life where I could be privileged to be an equal opportunity provider. It is a future which I strongly believe will afford me the opportunity to impact lives and contribute to promoting the dignity of labour and also helping to ensure the well-being of others.

I have always been driven by this passion. As a goal oriented person, I believe this future is possible. My dream for this future got a boost when after graduation, from the University of Lagos in 1991/92 and upon completion of my NYSC in 1992; I got an editorial job as a proof reader with The News/Tempo magazines. This job gave me the singular opportunity to work under very versatile and hardworking top journalists like Bayo Onanuga, Dapo Olorunyomi, Kunle Ajibade among others. These were young and dynamic individuals who just left paid jobs as employees of their former publishers to set up their own publication. They were dogged, passionate and hardworking. I must confess, my role model is Mr. Bayo Onanuga, the Editor-in-Chief and Chief Executive Officer of The News. He gave me inspiration to be a passionate journalist and one with an eye to become a publisher sooner than later.

When I left The News around 1995, I was already seeing myself as gradually becoming a bold and daring person. I was offered a working opportunity again at Thisday newspapers where I was one of the pioneering staff. In those early days at Thisday, it was a real learning curve for those of us who could dare. When Thisday started, the Publisher, Nduka Obaigbena, again another role model in the area of his entrepreneurial acumen and can-do-spirit, never had all it would take to start a major newspaper.

Not even was the Thisday office located on Norman Williams Ikoyi sparsely furnished, the newspaper had few tables and chairs for some of its employees. Also it had no printing press of its own, yet, it set the pace in colour newspaper publication in Nigeria. Today, twenty years down the road, Thisday Newspaper has become an iconoclastic newspaper brand having pioneered robust journalism in the country. Older newspapers later emulated Thisday by printing in colours. Those early days were indeed challenging, but Obiagbena managed the process creditably. At Thisday, I was priviledged to go round most of the editorial beats before I was finally saddled with handling columns on marketing and advertising.

At a time, I was doing two to three or more pages on marketing and advertising per week. It was all a new experience for me as I was made to acquire new registers and skills.

Here, I developed a new passion for marketing and advertising reporting which then was a relatively unknown genre of journalism. The love and passion for this industry, coupled with the array of contacts and networks I built as marketing and advertising reporter over a decade fired my zeal to publish a specialized stand alone magazine for the industry. In other words, my Thisday experience and the way I witnessed how Obaigbena wangled his way through the teething problems of owning a newspaper publication encouraged me to soldier on.

Advise to intending publication entrepreneur

Like I always tell my colleagues who asked me how easy or how difficult it can be to be self employed, my usual response is that the initial hurdle is for one to be able to overcome the challenges of leaving the comfort zone. If you can brave the odds, and be focused, you will definitely achieve your goal. One thing is sure, being your own man, or trying to be an entrepreneur in this particular clime may not be all roses, yet it is not all hell. I learnt this much while working with The News and Thisday Newspapers. The resolve on my part to live a legacy in the marketing and advertising world informed the MARKETING EDGE idea. We publish not out of ego, nor a me-too kind of adventure. It is an idea deeply rooted in passion and a clear and undisguised vision aimed at promoting the brand idea. Though we have had our own share of frustrations, disappointments and in fact rejection by some of our friends, we never gave up. At a stage, we were written off by those who were to share our vision, yet, we soldiered on.

The road, I must confess has really been rough, but the encounters and experiences have been captivating. These have been part of the equity we have attained in the market place.

Let me also confess that the publishing business isn’t an immediate money making business in Nigeria, but I must say it gives you all the boldness to confront life freely and squarely.

As we grew the business, we diversified into Marketing Consultancy Services, PR and media relations. The best that has occurred to us as an entrepreneur is not limiting ourselves to just one business. Rather than being contented with core competence, we have schooled ourselves in multiple competencies. This is the secret of our survival, and the thrust of achieving our original goal. We are proud of our humble contributions to the growth and development of marketing and advertising business in Nigeria.

Cost of starting up

We cannot readily put a cost to it. It is a business, so you do your feasibility study, you estimate N20 million depending on your projected scope and size but where will you get it? Who will give you? Who is that patient investor that is willing to trust in you? If you are lucky with one, within a year that you have not broken even, he either quits or closes shop. This is the reality in the Nigerian publishing world. As the owner of the vision, when the investors quit, you cannot quit because if you do, that is failure. Then what do you do? You need to focus on survival at all costs. A lot of deprivations, but do not lose the focus, keep doing whatever you are doing the best way you can and one day, you will find the road. That I know for certain.

Being a successful media entrepreneur is not about the money you have but the passion driving the business and that is the main key.

SMES in Nigeria vis-à-vis government policies

My view about SMES and government policies is that we are not there yet because we still have a long way to go. Which government are we even talking about? Do we have policies in Nigeria? It is a very frustrating experience trying to set up business in Nigeria. Where are the incentives? When you first register your company, it gives you some tax holidays say a year or two. Whether you have been making profit or not, within three years you have started operation struggling and hustling, the same government will send its tax people after you.

This is a government that does not provide you with the basic infrastructure such as roads, good housing, health, electricity, water etc. Yet, the government is after you trying to collect what it has not provided you. It is a very disappointing and discouraging situation. Though there are opportunities in the country, it is very difficult to harness these opportunities. The financial institutions are also not helping matters. They are mere deposit collectors. When you are just starting out, the banks will not look your way. They create all manners of obstacles and hurdles but the moment you begin to record some profits, they swarm around you like bees.

Greatest feat as an entrepreneur

Our greatest feat so far is that twelve years down the lane, we are still waxing strong. We are learning faster and getting used to the dynamics of the Nigerian business environment.

More importantly, we have been able to build MARKETING EDGE into a brand in the Nigerian marketing and advertising sector. It is a publication that enjoys high rating and acceptability by all the players and gladiators in the Nigerian integrated marketing communications sector.

Number of staff

I want to believe we have a moderate team of dynamic, aggressive and result oriented people. Today, we have about 18 permanent staff members, but from the various services we render, we empower many others. It is also not the numbers that matter but the value we can add to our business and our client’s business individually and collectively as a team and the fact that jobs are being created to a lot of those at the bottom of the food chain. It is an interesting challenge, I must confess.

John Ajayi is Chief Executive officer of Media Edge Limited. He is a Journalist and also an advertising, marketing and public relations expert with over 25 years experience. Ajayi is a Fellow of National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria and a member of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations.

Mabel Dimma