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We attach value on manpower devt, says Shobanjo

By Moses Nosike & Nnamdi Ojiego

The Managing Director of Nigeria’s foremost advertising agency, Insight Communications, Mr Biodun Olusina Shobanjo, was recently honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria, NIMN, for his numerous contributions to the growth of communications industry.

Shobanjo: Within any economic environment, there will always be challenges.

Though, he has received many awards from reputable organisations, this one seemed to be unique. Saturday Vanguard Business cornered him shortly after he received the award and he spoke on a number of issues including his secret of success and the future of communications industry in Nigeria. Excerpt:

How would you described the award given to you by NIMN today?
I feel happy and grateful to God. You see, when a group of people or a body tells you that they want to give you an award, a lifetime achievement award, it basically shows that whatever it is one has been doing over the years is being recognised.

So it means that my efforts have not gone down the drain. This particular group is the one I have had the privileged of working with for the past 39 years, building grounds and creating wealth  together. At the end of that long journey is recognition. What else can you ask for? I think I feel personally grateful and I feel assured that my efforts have not been in vain.

How did you see leadership mentoring in Nigeria?
I think in my case, the evidence is there. I have mentored quite a number of people and I feel very proud of those I have mentored. There are challenges of course, one is that you cannot interface with as many people as you would wish to. in other words, how many of those who work in your organisation have the privilege of working closely with you and how many of them do you really impart the knowledge as much as you wish, that’s the first question. the second question is that even those that you want to mentor, are they sufficiently patient to serve  that tutelage? then, you  find a situation where when you lose those you want to mentor, it hurts internally that they didn’t exercise enough patience to benefit from your experience.

But by and large, when I look round and see those who had worked with me, some of them have gone out and they are doing well. They are so many and have done so well. Therefore, you should allow the success factor to blur the challenges, because there are a lot of challenges.
Talking about challenges, tell us some of them?

The truth of the matter is that within any economic environment, there will always be challenges. If you use Insight Communication as an example, the company started when there was a downturn in the country. If you cast your mind back, shortly after we started, people were queuing to buy what is called essential commodities, that is the fact.

For one and half years, we literally did not have any business and guess what, I had 18 young people with me who need to be paid salaries every month. What that means was that we needed to work hard to source out and in the process, I was also training them. Now one of them is the managing director of the biggest advertising agency in the country today.

In terms of training, we know that if we didn’t train them, they won’t be able to develop to add value. As we were looking for businesses, over time, businesses started coming in and we didn’t bother at all about the environment because at that stage, we were  looking to survive. Today, we have employed over 18,000 people, to think that we started with only 18 people, it’s incredible.
Where do we see the industry in the next few years to come?
The first thing I see for the industry is manpower, it is critical. Though, we must complain about the quality that are coming out of the schools, no doubt about it but in that circumstance, what have I got to work with? What I’m suppose to do?  What I will do is to select the best that I can from the ones that are trainable and focus on them, that is the secret of our success as a group. We placed so much premium on manpower development because, people are the heart of the enterprise, that’s the greatest asset you have.
So, the day you stop training them, they are dead. For me, the future lies in our ability to train our people, and we must keep on training them. The problem with a lot of enterprises is that they put money first, they want to make money. But we don’t do that. It is not our focus. Our focus is to do a very good job. That’s what NIMN President  was saying  that one thing he knows for is consistence of good work. So, if you train people, they will be able to do good work. If you do good work consistently,  money will come, fame and fortunes will come.

Talking about practice in communication industry, what would you say was a correlation between what is being taught in schools today and the real practice in the industry?

Last year, I was invited to deliver a lecture at the University of Ibadan where I chose the topic, “town and gown”.  When you come outside of the four walls of a university, you now hit the real world and begin to practicalize and actualizing  most of the things you are told theoretically in school.

So, there is a wide difference and particularly the way our schools are being structured, ideally, what should happen is when somebody is in school, he should have the benefit of interfacing and interacting with those outside the walls of the schools to see how it is done in the real life.

When you go to most other part of the world, part of the curricula is for you to benefit from those who are walking the talk so that you can understand whatever it is that you are learning, how it is done in real life. People who are in the real world must be coming to interface with those in schools so that when they leave the university to start work, they will hit the ground running.

What is it that made you the man, the icon brand you are today?
I have principles that continue to guild what I do. One is professionalism. The second is people. I was clear in my mind that if I work with the right people who are passionate about what we want to do, they will think deep-tongue nothing but advertising. Again, everything is enveloped in integrity. In other words, our word should be our bond and I know the sky will be the limit for us.


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