Chief R. Odubanjo, the CEO of R. Odubanjo Steel Works Limited is a man that rose from a humble background to an enviable height in business. In this interview, he attributes his success to a number of factors including diligence, perseverance, honesty and above all hard work.
What influenced your choice of business?
My elder brother was into welding and allied activities and that made me to develop interest in the trade from childhood. As a young person, I made up my mind to learn a trade and naturally welding was the preferred choice. My brother brought me to Lagos from my small village to learn the trade and to the glory of God, since I took that decision till today; I’ve had no regrets towing this path.
How long did it take you to learn the trade?
I was with my brother for six good years learning the trade as an apprentice. Upon my freedom, I worked with him for some years before his demise. It was when he died that I realized what awaits me because he had eight children with two wives. The burden of taking care of his family fell on me, but the Grace of God saw us through amidst difficult and life threatening challenges that we had to go through. I even had to reject an offer of travelling abroad because I was afraid of what will be the plight of the children he left behind. Despite the challenges, I took the business from a humble beginning to the enviable height it now occupies.
What has been the most challenging experience in running this business?
The biggest challenge that we face as entrepreneurs is getting the right human capital as most employees in Nigeria do not work with their minds. If you can get 20% of your employees to be committed, they will in turn motivate the remaining 80% but unfortunately you can hardly get 15%. Getting the right human capital has been the greatest challenge because most people are no longer interested in delayed gratification. Funding is also a challenge, what we did was that when we started, we relied on personal funds as the banks are not ready to give facility to start ups. We were able to overcome the challenge of funding by creating strong partnerships that was of great benefit to us.
What are the critical factors for Business success in Nigeria?
Passion is vital to the success of every enterprise. You also need to have an in-depth knowledge of the type of business you want to do. You can equally attend seminars to brush up your knowledge about the global business environment. Critical success factors are both internal and external, because to operate a business you need a lot of perseverance, resilience and determination because of the many high priority issues. Leadership especially, must be focused, visionary and passionate about achieving excellence. The quality of human resource is also a key competitive advantage and for us, we only engage the best people and I’m blessed to be supported by an excellent team.
What are the unique factors that stand your organisation out of the competition?
Our products are of the highest quality and can compete globally. R. Odubanjo Steel Works Ltd strongly believes in customers’ satisfaction and that is why we are keen on high-tech and development, quality materials, finishing and expert engineering design. We take time to do routine checkup of our clients and offer quick response if need arises and our works are strongly backed by standby generator/plants for prompt delivery. We believe that a trial visit to our company will definitely convince you. The need for a team of highly experienced, motivated and dedicated staff prompted the maintenance of our team of qualified engineers in the field of Design and steel structural works. All iron and steel, no matter the thickness must obey our instruction. This earned us the appellation – IRON MUST SURRENDER. Our equipment ranges from the steel guillotine which is both electrically and hydraulically operated, Rolling machine, Bending machines, Angle Cutting machine and Hole Punching machines and various Arc Welding machines, Power Drilling machines and Circular Bending machines respectively.
How do you manage the apprentice?
The challenge of getting apprentice who will be patient enough to stay is disturbing. Most young people are not patient these days to learn a trade. Some will come here and after learning how to weld, will claim to have known the work and go out and end up as quarks. The few who are patient to go through our tutelage can compete favourably with their counterparts anywhere in the world.
What drives you?
I derive my inspiration from God and nothing else.