BUSINESS LESSONS FROM SERIAL ENTREPRENEUR SIJIBOMI OGUNDELE MD/CEO SUJIMOTO AT 39
Known as the disruptor of modern luxury real estate in Nigeria, the young and dynamic Sijibomi
Ogundele, MD/CEO of Nigeria’s fast rising Luxury Real Estate Company, Sujimoto Construction, has turned 39!
The legal luminary and Entrepreneur, whose foresight, resilience and ingenuity in project
execution is evident in Sujimoto Construction’s meteoric rise over the years as the premium
luxury real estate brand in sub-Saharan Africa, has decided to share 9 business lessons to help
young and budding entrepreneurs, navigate their path in the murky waters of Entrepreneurship.
Here are the 9 lessons.
Do NOTHING, if you are not PASSIONATE about it!
You big dream is just a dream without the fire of passion. In the words of Steve Jobs, ‘the only
way to do great work is to love what you do.’ If I wasn’t passionate about real estate, I would have
given up and relocated to saner climes with the barrage of challenges I faced. The truth is anyone
can have a dream or dream up ideas but it takes a man of passion and conviction to bring that
dream to reality.
Dream can get you started, but passion will keep you going on. And if you don’t have the passion
for your business, don’t even dream of starting.
Success is not served a-la-carte, it’s a buffet! You have to go for it!
Forget the hype and where you are coming from. To succeed in this clime, you can’t sit and wait
for the right opportunity. Success won’t be served to you on a platter, you’ve got to work for it!
You have to create your own opportunity! It’s called hustle 101!
Like the woman who sells by the road side and is never absent irrespective of the weather
condition, because she knows her livelihood is dependent on each day sales, so also, you have to
see every day as an opportunity to make a difference and give it your best shot!
Don’t sit and wait for opportunities to come, see every new day as an opportunity to make a
difference and take FULL advantage of it!
Your dreams will be tested! Before things get better, they will first get worse.
Like Jesus, your dream will be put to test and if you are not convinced or passionate enough about
your journey, you might crumble like a pack of cards like Peter and betray the very dream you
swore to protect! How you respond to this test will determine the future of that dream.
Let me take you on a journey. 2016 and 2017 were probably the most difficult and challenging
periods of my life. I had conceived and developed the biggest project in my life, over 90 Million
USD to build the tallest residential building in Sub-Saharan Africa – the LorenzoBySujimoto. I
invested all my money, time and passion into this project.
Unfortunately for me, the government policies and the economic recession made my Saudi
Investors pull out. It was so bad that I had to refund hundreds of millions of naira to off-takers
and let go of some of my best hands. But in the midst of it all, I conceived the GuilianoBySujimoto
project in Banana Island. 20 Months after, the Guiliano has metamorphosed from a proof of
concept into a proof of product! Fully sold-out 6 Months before Completion.
Don’t be deceived into thinking things will get better when you start. It is usually darkest before
dawn! Don’t disregard opportunities to learn.
Choose Value Creation over Immediate Gratification
Create sugar and ants will follow! When I started by business, one of the major challenges I
noticed in the Real Estate Industry was one of a wrong mind-set. A lot of developers were
fixated on immediate gratification that they forget to see the need to create value. Their quest for
immediate gratification supersedes the need for value creation.
I saw a need to develop the real estate sector and move it from the ‘quick fix – quick gain’
syndrome, which will continue to leave us in the backwaters of world-class real estate
development. For the first few years in business, I wasn’t making profit. In fact, I was even
spending my own money just to ensure I create value and leave my client satisfied. It is a
venture that has finally yielded result because my clients now associate me with innovation,
quality and excellence.
Don’t make that mistake at the early stages of your business. FIRST, focus on creating value and
gratification will come! Define the value you are bringing into the lives of your clients and ensure
it is something they will be willing to pay for.
When you negotiate the price of greatness, you pay the full price for mediocrity.
I have sold crap before and I can tell from experience that it is easier to sell luxury than crap. When
you sell luxury, you sell peace of mind and you can afford to go to bed at night knowing that your
clients will be fine for years to come, and you will definitely get referrals from that sales. However, when you sell crap, you are always on the run, because you cannot tell when that client will come
calling for your head.
Make Integrity the Currency of your business
“The true text of integrity, lies in doing what you say and saying what you do”
Trust is the soul of business. It is the reason people patronise you. The moment you lose it, you
lose everything. Be known as a man of your word and let your word be your bond!
In 2017, during the recession, I had to refund hundreds of millions of naira to the off takers. I
ensured everyone that invested got their money back, because I realised that if you take trust out
of business, you will have nothing left.
People may say a lot about us but no one ever will say we promised A and delivered B. We are an ambitious real
estate company that shall never lower our standards for no man.
Surround yourself with the BEST People and DROP that entitlement mentality!
Alone, you can’t go far! You are as good as the people you surround yourself with! To be the
best in what you do, you have to surround yourself with the best team, a group of people who
share, believe in and take ownership of the dream. There is an African Proverb that says, if you
want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go FAR go together!
Finally, permit me to say that the biggest issue with a lot of businesses is the ‘entitlement’ mentality.
NO ONE owes us anything but ourselves. And if we don’t make a sacrifice for whatever we want in life, what we
want will become the sacrifice.
Get a Mentor! You can’t ignore the power and foresight of experience in business.
Doing business in Nigeria takes gut and lots of courage. One government policy can put an end
to your business. This is why you need a mentor, someone who has been there, done that and
can guide you based on what worked for them.
The business world is like swimming in the ocean with sharks. It is different from swimming in a
pool. One mistake or careless statement, can be the end of your business. You need guidance to
wade through this murky water and come out stronger and better. For me, aside from physical mentors, I go as far as having virtual mentors. When faced with a
decision, I ask myself ‘What will Chief MKO Abiola do in this situation?’.
Having a mentor can be the difference between where you are and where you want to be in
Never Stop Learning! Build a Culture around Continuous Improvements
One of the things I learnt from my mentor – Sujimoto Koga, is the Japanese art of continuous
improvement known as Kaizen (改善). The Kaizen approach to life and business is based on the
belief that continuous, incremental improvement adds up to substantial change over time.
You can’t stay competitive if you are comfortable with your last achievement. The idea is to
never see yourself as having arrived or gotten to the peak. Keep tweaking your products, services
and the way you do things. Keep spicing the experience for your clients by adding new things,
new and better ways of doing things.
Business that fails to innovate, eventual dies or are bought over by businesses that keep