How to move from poverty to riches, Ekeh tells young entrepreneurs
Serial digital entrepreneur and Chairman of Zinox Group, Leo Stan Ekeh has disclosed that a multitude of opportunities exist for the current generation to create and sustain new wealth in the 21st Century, noting that one’s family background or circumstances no longer represent obstacles to achieving success.
He made this call on Saturday February 18th while featuring as the keynote speaker at The Harvesters Entrepreneurs Forum – a monthly event organized by Harvesters International Christian Centre (HICC) to reach and equip entrepreneurs and people of similar inclinations with the theoretical and practical business knowledge to help them achieve and sustain economic success.
Ekeh, who drew a series of resounding ovation for his incisive deliveries and copious references drawn from his experiences in business, emphatically expressed his belief in the innate abilities of the youthful generation to turn around Nigeria’s fortunes for the better.
Speaking on the topic – You, New Wealth and God in the 21st Century – Ekeh disclosed that today’s entrepreneurs have no reason to fail in business. In his opinion, considering the atmosphere of knowledge democracy and advancements in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) which has put access to information and intelligence at the disposal of everyone, Ekeh is optimistic that the youth are more strategically positioned to out-strip the achievements of the older generation by creating new wealth.
“There are many opportunities for many of you in this generation to create new wealth. Even if you were born into a poor family, you have enough resources available today to change your story and alter your destiny and that of your family. You are smarter, you have the knowledge, the exposure and better infrastructure than the older generations but what you need is up your energy level to deliver your passion. So, what excuse do you have not to make it in life?,” he queried.
“Today, you are seeing a polished Leo Stan but can you imagine Nigeria 29 years ago? No electricity, no telephone, the roads were bad. People didn’t even know they needed light yet some people think the past was better. You should be positive. The first quality in life is to be positive. If you are negative, you failed before you started. Only positive minds achieve success.
“Some of the rich people you look up to today are not as exposed as you are. Many of them acquired wealth through funny means and as such, they cannot sustain or defend it. So you must not feel intimidated. You can start small and scale up gradually. But you must discover your passion in life and follow it.”
Taking a trip down memory lane, Ekeh recounted some of the cultural, infrastructural and ethical challenges he faced as a young man struggling to make it in business after discovering a passion for ICT – a profession declared too futuristic for him to pursue an interest in by his lecturers at his post-graduate school.
“After four months at post-graduate level studying Computer Science at Cork City University, Ireland, I was counseled to change course as they innocently did not see a future for this in Africa in the short term based on my insistence to return to Africa after my studies. This was a reflection of the mindset and state of affairs on the continent towards ICT at the time. But even after completing a degree in Risk Management, I did not abandon my passion. Today, I have successfully built possibly the biggest 360-degree ICT Group in Africa.”
According to him, many young entrepreneurs struggle today as some of them put pleasure ahead of business, thereby making it difficult for them to make a head way in life.
“You must learn to start small and be ready to take pains before pleasure. Sometimes, I see young men – the first business they hit, they go and buy an expensive car. The world recognizes you as a success but you are empty. I see young men who are just starting a company printing the most expensive business cards – gold cards. They give me their card and I look at the guy and take a decision that this chap is fly-by-night entrepreneur. You must go through a structured incubation period and be morally and financially sound to survive in a highly competitive knowledge-driven economy. Are you humble? Humility is the biggest asset anyone who wants to succeed must have. You must have this asset in you to earn God’s favours.”
According to Ekeh, success in business requires a number of qualities including brain power and ability to constantly innovate, hunger to succeed, humility, a positive mindset and of course, a firm belief in God.
“When I started out in business, I took a personal decision for all of my companies to pay corporate tithe. This is usually paid even before salaries. I told my staff I am the last person to engage in retrenchment in spite of the depression. I can only sack a staff if he commits a crime or is a non-performer. I am going through the biggest pains in my life history because things are not adding up anymore due to the recession but I put absolute trust in God and have increased my hunger to survive by over 15% which I consider dangerous to my health but it looks like I have no option. I have my commitment with God and I know he will not push me to that point of major retrenchment.”
While fielding a series of questions during the panel discussion, Ekeh also offered useful insights into areas of potential collaboration between the Lagos State Ministry of Wealth Creation/Employment and youth-focused and empowerment-oriented churches such as HICC to reduce the burden of unemployment on the youth.
The well-attended event, with the theme – Crafting A Winning Business Strategy – was streamed live to HICC’s Lekki branch and had in attendance other notable speakers including the Commissioner for Wealth Creation and Employment, Lagos State, Babatunde Durosinmi-Etti; Faculty Member, Lagos Business School, Dr. Anderson Uvie-Emegbo as well as Senior Pastor, HICC and Convener of the event, Pastor Bolaji Idowu, among others.
Photo: Ekeh wows the audience