The Entrepreneur: From Banking To Haulage

Having worked in the banking industry for 12 years, Oriyomi Bankole, a Banking and Finance graduate with MBA masters in Finance, was inspired to setup his business when  his former employer gave a N40 million loan to an Igbo man who did not have any formal education and the man paid back as at when due. Whereas, he had seen the same bank gave loans of millions of naira to some highly educated individuals with well thought-out business plans who could not pay back.

“This Igbo man could not even write down his name on paper when he came for the loan, but the day he paid back the money with interest just before the exact date given to him, then I told myself that this man may not understand books like we bankers do, but he perfectly understands business,” Bankole said, promising himself to immediately learn a trade he would understand and set up.

The determination to succeed beyond just being an employee drove him into haulage business while still working for a bank. Today, he has left banking for haulage; registered his company and now an employer of labour, while he seeks more business opportunities in other sectors of the economy as he smiles to the bank virtually every day of the week.

Oriyomi Bankole, the Chief Executive Officer of Imagodei Global Resources, an investment company, shares his experience with FinIntell on the challenges and rewards in starting up a business.

How did you discover haulage business?

I started haulage business while I was still an employee of a bank. Haulage business involves the transportation of goods such as food items and building materials from one place to another. There is dry, liquid and gas haulage business. But I went into dry haulage of building materials.

The idea came when I was building my house in a new site outside Lagos. I started looking out for business opportunities in having your house in a new site. Then I came to a conclusion that anybody coming to build in a new place would need building materials like gravel, sand and the likes. So I asked those supplying me construction materials for my own house what it takes to start a haulage business. I asked questions relating to the cost and manpower implication of the business, expected duration of returns on investment, challenges involved, daily returns and many others.

The answers I got from those people gave me the motivation to start. I told myself that if people who did not see the four walls of an institution are doing well in this business, then the fact that I am educated should give me advantage. So I bought the truck for the business while I was still a bank employee. But because my attention was divided and I couldn’t monitor the progress, the business was underperforming.

So you didn’t breakthrough when you started?

If I tell you I succeeded immediately, it is a big lie. Initially when I started, I was still working with a bank in Lagos State while the business was running in Ogun State. But I had to learn, understand and get involved in the business myself before we started making profits. Before then, it’s whatever the people handling the business for me tell me that I get. I was in Lagos and there was no way I could verify their claims.

With the initial cash-flow analysis that we did, the business that is supposed to bring N60, 000 a week was bringing N10, 000 weekly. At times it even brings minus (-) N30, 000 when they collect money from me due to one mechanical fault or the other. And since I didn’t have choice then, I take whatever they tell me because they can afford to leave my truck and walk away.

If you have a small truck in dry haulage (worth about N1.7 million), and with a dedicated truck driver, you can make an average of N50, 000 to N60, 000 a week. But drivers who are not committed to your business would deliver an average of N10, 000 to N25, 000 a week with so much excuses of not meeting up with the target. Some might even make you spend more on the truck, in terms of repairs, than the amount they deliver to you.

A truck has about 20years lifespan and only need refurbishment every 2 years. So with a good and committed driver, within a year you can recoup your investments back with interests in haulage business. Just recently, we started recording a little above N90, 000 per week on a truck. That is what motivated drivers can do for you.

Tell us what led to the success of the business

Several discoveries led to the success of the business. Along the line, I left the bank, relocated to my new house and decided to face the business head-on. That gave me the opportunity to fine-tune some things about the business. I looked at where an average illiterate that is doing that business as failed; which is core marketing. So I told myself, since I can’t drive the truck I must get jobs for the drivers. I know if I can get jobs of about seven trips a day for them, they will be busy and won’t have time to do other shady jobs.

I also discovered that for me to succeed in this kind of business, I must be involved in the operation because the success or otherwise of it lies in the operation. That is why once in awhile you see me inside the truck. At times in a whole day I could be with the workers; gist with them and ask them questions about family, finance, and life in general. If you seat somewhere calling yourself an executive chairman when your business is just starting, your workers will finish your resources. You must be an executive fully knowledgeable and active about the operation of the business.

Another thing I do is to ensure I motivate the workers. If you don’t do that and they know they can’t make dubious money from you, they could make you spend unbudgeted money. Motivation will make your employee likes you. In motivating them, I set target for them, allow them to meet target, then give them all the space to ‘eat’ what is left on the target. If I don’t do that, the moment they see you’re trying to police them 100% –which is not possible, they’ll find a way around it. But when you motivate them, rather than allow you waste money to buy a good for a particular market price, they will take you to where they sell the same product for lesser amount.

You need to find the most critical ingredient that your business needs to succeed. There is always one particular ingredient that is very critical to the success or otherwise of any particular business. Just like in marriage, the most critical ingredient there is trust. In haulage business, the most critical ingredient is the driver.

While you closely monitor their performance and you reward them accordingly, also give them room to ‘benefit’ from you as long as your targets are met.

Is business what everybody can do?

In all honesty, the answer is not an absolute yes or no. In the first line of thought, it is not every human being that is cut-out for business. Some people cannot just withstand the pressure of business. The truth about life is that every business someone has told you about has its own challenges. Somebody said if you have not failed before, you can’t succeed. A lot of people cannot withstand that failure that is why they may not be cut-out for business.

There are people who don’t know much about doing business. As some are opting out of business so many others are coming in. When people plan to go into any business, the question they often ask is: ‘How soon can I make money?’ neglecting feasibility study that involves ‘Why are people leaving this business?’

Some people want to do business but they don’t know when and how to switch from being nice to being principled. As a business person you don’t need to be nice, you just have to be principled. When you’re principled people will give you name. What you won’t say yes to today, don’t try and manage it yesterday. Tell them know from beginning.

Some are good in business as an employee somewhere and can climb up to the chief executive officer position of the company, but not everybody is good in setting up a business. It is not everybody that can leave a paid employment to replicate such business. We have to stick with what works for us. Passion for entrepreneurship starts from while you were very young.

Using myself as an example, I started earning money when I was in Junior Secondary School (JSS) class 3. We were the first set of JSS 3 in Nigeria, so we had a long break to balance the academic calendar. I worked with a company that got government contract to be doing stamps for election. At that young age, I knew I could render service to earn money. Immediately I left senior secondary school too, I started work as an office assistant before I later got admission into higher institution.

I was not ready to seat down at home doing nothing. I knew I needed something and I was ready to do whatever it takes to get what I want. That is the mind of a business person; someone that has that kind of idea from the beginning.  If you are not a risk taker, don’t do business. If you’re too courteous, you can’t do business. What gave me my own breakthrough in terms of boldness to start business was the Igbo man that my former employer gave loan.

In another line of thought, it is possible for everybody to own a business. My pastor said the biggest thing you get from your employer is not your salary but the ability to replicate what you are being paid for.

When I left the bank, I travelled abroad to give myself space to thing. I came back to continue my haulage business and start another business in line with what I know how to do best. I read Banking and Finance and did my MBA masters in finance. So I can only function well in a finance line.

I worked in the banking industry for 12 years, and I can tell you categorically that I own a bank today because I have a credit line business. What I do is pure banking but in an unconventional way. I charge my interest rate, I do my offer letter, and I take my collateral. I learnt all these things while I was still in the bank. One can only excel in what you have an expertise on. So if someone can use his or her expertise to generate income; then in that light everybody with a skill can own a business. It could be intellectual which involves consultation. But if you can’t take risk, it is better to just seat on that comfort zone. The only danger is that you cannot live beyond that fixed income. But an entrepreneur can make N1 million this month; make N100, 000 the following month; and the next month hit N5 million. Opportunities abound for business owners because they control their time and resources. They gather in days of plenty to cushion the time of scarcity.

The fact that you have money doesn’t mean you can do business. Business is not done by money; it is done by experience and expertise.

What are your other lines of business?

Presently, we are experimenting poultry line of business, joint ventures, and property development. The moment we are satisfied with the result, we’ll venture fully into those areas. That is the beauty of entrepreneurship. You have enough time to do research and grab opportunities. Just be honest with yourself and don’t be greedy. It is not every business that you must do, but there are several others that you can do.

I learnt my lessons early in running a credit business. I tell those that want to start this kind of business today not to give their friends or family members credit. Don’t add them to your profit and loss account. If you can help them from your own personal purse, fine. If not, don’t give credit to them from your business purse unless they meet the terms and conditions like any other client. You have to be strict and principled. I can tell you categorically that all the transactions I have done on a pure business level, I have never regretted it. If you do what you have to do as a professional in credit lending, you won’t have challenges.

One thing I discover in credit lending is that some people, even at the point of negotiation, already made up their mind not to pay. So for you as a credit officer, you must be decisive on your terms and conditions. No bank will prepare to sell your property to get their money. It is better to pay your money so that they can give you more money; the relationship continues.

How has the environment impacted your business?

If I must tell you the truth, in every situation there is always an opportunity for everyone. The truth about it is that there is no conducive environment to do business. If the richest man from Africa is a Nigerian doing business and surviving in Nigeria, then entrepreneurs don’t have any excuse not to succeed.

Although, we can’t run away from the fact that we have irresponsible government in Nigeria. Due to bad roads, those of us in haulage business spend more on maintenance of our trucks. That money would have been an added income to the workers and the business in general. Also when it rains, major parts of the roads will not be accessible due to bad roads, and that affects business as well.

So if government could just do their own part, businesses will grow and more people will be employed. However, the irresponsibility of the government should be a beautiful challenge for entrepreneurs even though it results into an added cost.

When you read the story of Femi Otedola’s business empire, you may say it is because he is the son of a former governor. But would he be the only son of a former governor? The answer is No. Then there is something he has done separately.

As an entrepreneur, a business you don’t understand, you can’t succeed in it. I even warned some of my friends in the Diaspora, who wanted do the same business here, of the challenges involved. In this business, you can’t stay abroad and expect your trucks to make money without coming to face the realities on ground. The best you can get doing this business while living abroad is to invest in trucks and get paid back through higher purchase contract over a period of time.

The principle of delay gratification is important for all entrepreneurs. As you make profit, plough back into the business for continuity. The problem of many entrepreneurs is making profit and spending all the money on themselves to impress people that they have arrived. As an entrepreneur, you must learn to pay yourself salary and not go beyond that. Entrepreneurs must also learn to under promise and over deliver.

There are so many people currently in paid employments that are not enjoying the work. And sadly enough, many of them are not making any preparation for the unexpected days ahead. If they lose their jobs today, many don’t have what to fall back on. Many long-serving staff of banks and oil & gas companies still cannot boast of tangible asset like houses; despite the huge salaries they earn. My advice to them all is to start planning for the unexpected days ahead.

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