Dr Ayo Ogunsan is a man of many parts. This year, he is celebrating ten years of robust business and building of relationships that span many industries and social groups. A pioneer of sort in the advancing of higher education in Africa, Ogunsan shares some of his success secrets with PAUL UKPABIO.
Congratulations as your organization Executive Trainers marks its tenth year in business, how are you celebrating the landmark?
It’s been a decade of advancing higher education in Africa with serious emphasis on Nigeria, our great country. The celebration of the successful and impactful ten years of adding value to human capacity development of higher education practitioners in Nigeria is absolutely dedicated to God; He is the reason for our celebration and we will continue to give Him the first place in this great service to the nation.
Looking at the business terrain in Nigeria, what would you say have been the factors that have influenced the success of your organization?
There are a lot to celebrate. We are celebrating a result-oriented and transformational impact in capacity development of our higher institutions, academics and non-academics. We are celebrating the exposure of Nigerian higher education leaders to what is obtainable in developed institutions of the world. We are celebrating productive collaborations and synergies between Nigerian institutions and their counterparts in developed nations. We are celebrating staff transfers and transfers, double degrees, institutional grants, post-graduate trainings and placements, knowledge and equipment transfers. All these are made possible through the Executive Trainers platform. You will agree with me that there are a lot to celebrate.
Over the last ten years, did you on any day feel the need to give up on continuing in the business? The business terrain in Nigeria is very rough but dynamic and so, only the rugged and innovative business people can navigate through it. I have been in private business for the last 13years and I understand the Nigerian business climate very well. All I do is innovate new ideas, sustain the good ideas of the moment, motivate my staff to do more and keep offering my clients world class service and give them value for their money.
So with such situation, is there a need for you to celebrate ten years?
Business is full of challenges and I have that understanding before venturing into it. Challenges don’t alarm me because I know they sometimes must cease. I know better things await me when I overcome any challenge. The most recent and disturbing one is TETFUND’s decision to stop patronizing indigenous higher education training outfit with reputable and longstanding relationships with renowned institutions across the globe for their foreign training needs. That singular policy killed almost all the training outfits in Nigeria. I thank God that I am into many other business interests. So, I could survive the unfortunate policy. We cried out to the present government to reverse the anti-entrepreneurial policy but nothing has been done. Only recently, I read that all trainings will now be domesticated by TETFUND. That is a good policy but I hope they will patronize local and indigenous higher education training outfits.
Has there been any time that you have thought of giving up?
No, no thought of such. I can’t give up and I will never give up to business challenges God helping me.
Looking around, one notices that not all men run their business concerns with their spouses. Tell us what motivated your wife’s involvement in your business? Was it out of the love you had for her, or did it go beyond love?
The most interesting and memorable times I have had in my life, be it business or otherwise, are the ones I share with my beloved wife. I have always dreamt and desired to run a business with my partner. It has worked for me for the last 13years. She is an excellent woman. She is the stabilizing factor in the business, always willing and ready to run with me. She is the most
Reliable and dependable stakeholder in the business. And for a restless businessman like me, she is the only one I have access to anytime of the day to discuss about the business. I love it and enjoy it.
Does that mean that she has been part of the major factors of growth for your business and in what ways?
Yes, in all ways.
So using your wife as a parameter, would you say that women have found their feet and definitely come of age in the corporate world?
I totally agree.
Today you are the Chairman of Executive Trainers Limited, was it always your dream to be a business man even from childhood?
I am the Chairman of Executive Trainers. My wife is the Chief Executive Officer. Yes, it’s been my dream to be a businessman from childhood.
What influences in your immediate environment gave way to you in business and gave you your desired future?
My parents were the greatest influence I had in choosing business as a career. My father was an aeronautical engineer with the defunct Nigeria Airways. He lived purely on salary which most times did not sustain us in the family. So my mother decided to go into business to support my father. That helped us to pull through a bit. The business I’m talking about was a very small scale one, which could not sustain us all through. While in the secondary school, I had to venture into a tutorial coaching business to support my family. I also ventured into selling of kerosene and drawing sheets for my fellow students when I was on campus. These experiences contributed to my passion to go into business in a large scale, which I am doing by the grace of God today.
How about your educational background?
I started my educational career at Ibido Primary School in Agege, Lagos. I later attended St. Joseph Secondary School at Idi Mangoro, Agege and later Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti . I later graduated from the prestigious Yaba College of Technology. I studied Business Administration and Management. I had my postgraduate study at the Peugeot Postgraduate Training School. I have attended capacity building courses and programmes at Harvard Business School; Brunel University UK; Oxford Brookes University UK; University of Wolverhampton U.K.; Management Development Insttitute of Singapore; Georgetown University US; University of Houston US, Stellenbosch University South Africa; Zayed University in DUBAI; American University of DUBAI; Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration and many more.
Why did you choose to invest in the educational sector? And are you into other businesses?
I did not just choose education; I concentrated on higher education because of the years of neglect of that area in the educational sector as a whole. We have a lot of private interventions in the elementary and secondary education in Nigeria with capacity building efforts for their workforce. That is lacking in the higher education. So, we started Executive Trainers 10 years go to train the trainers, to teach the teachers and to lecture the lecturers.
You travel quite a handful of times, what are some of the things that you have learnt from your trips that you can share with us?
My business interests require constant travels within and outside Nigeria. I hardly travel for pleasures; my travels are strictly for business. Traveling by air for example affords me the opportunity to appreciate God for His awesome and creative powers. He is a mighty God. The works of His hands are better appreciated when you are up in the sky. It’s also a time to appreciate other nations and see how to make ours better. It’s always a time to fellowship with my Creator, to meet new people and strike new deals. I am also into automobiles sales and services with specific interest in Peugeot vehicles.
Is there any way TETFUND can do better?
Improving on funding for higher education is not the problem in the recent times, rather the judicious use of the allocated funds for education in Nigeria. Having said that, I will plead with our government still at all levels to prioritize education in all the budgetary processes and spending. The chief executives of all the tertiary institutions in Nigeria should also look inwards and evolve strategies for internally generated revenues.