By Ebele Orakpo
Mr. Yinka Olaito is the Chief Executive Officer of Michael Sage Consulting, a brand and digital communication service outfit. In this chat with Financial Vanguard recently, Olaito speaks on digital communication business, challenges of doing business in Nigeria and lots more. Excerpts:
After obtaining a degree in Religious Studies in 1997 from Ogun State University, Mr. Yinka Olaito did his one year national service at Lagos State Governor’s office and later proceeded to Delta State University, Abraka for a post-graduate diploma in public administration. He also got certifications in public relations. He is presently working on a master’s degree in communication and media studies.
Going into business:
According to Olaito, he had always wanted to do something on his own but needed to gain some experience so he worked with a few of his mentors for about three years, before starting his own business in 2006.
In the course of getting certifications in public relations, Olaito discovered a gap in the communication industry which is digital communication and he was determined to fill that gap.
Olaito said his background, exposure and the kind of people he moved with motivated him to go into entrepreneurship.
“All I had was the money to register the company, no office, no computer, nothing! But we had the brains. So to keep money coming from different sources, we were developing corporate profiles for companies, registering companies, doing proposals etc. Along the line, we saw the digital aspect coming up so we began to position ourselves for the future. We couldn’t afford internet at that time but I had friends who had cybercafé so I’d go there to do research on digital communication and how it applies to business and communication.”
“I saw an opportunity in a trade journal. I started writing about the use of digital communication. That gave me a little exposure,” he said and advised entrepreneurs to find ways of creating exposure for themselves. “I created a web site so each time I have an article in the paper, I direct them to the web site and before you know it, people began to see what I was doing locally and internationally. One day, I got an email inviting us to be as part of an international project. That really gave us the exposure we needed within the African continent. Knowing how to leverage on the internet really helped.
“At that time, people didn’t know the internet will be part of communication process and I said ‘well, it is already happening abroad and it will come to Nigeria in the next five, 10 years.’ Look for what is happening globally in your industry and see how you can domesticate it to suit your environment. Learn globally but think locally. Become a star in your environment.”
“The environment has not been what we wish for but I have discovered that staying in Nigeria is good if you are focussed. The first three years were really difficult. We were living from hand to mouth but things are better now as we get better offers and consultancies from within and outside Nigeria which are paying but it can always be better.
“So being an entrepreneur in Nigeria has a whole lot of issues. You may not get income for three months. You need to go out there, plead, develop relationship skills, business development skills and know how to do a lot of things on your own, particularly when you are starting fresh.
“It is easier for those who had worked in multinationals to leverage on the relationships built over the years.
“When we started, we did not have laptops so if we needed to do a proposal, we went to a business centre, typed and printed out the proposal and go and drop it, trusting that somebody there will love what we are doing and call us.
“In the digital communication field, you may have a client who does not want to understand whether you have light or not, you are doing online reputation, the internet is misbehaving and there is an issue online that affects your client that you need to work on and sometimes you need to stay awake to monitor issues particularly in this area. You need constant light and internet access to be sure that your client does not have issues that you cannot resolve.
“Within the technology environment, a crisis in a second or two, can take months to redress unlike the offline environment. Again, crisis online is global, so you keep thinking, ‘will I get the best internet access provider?’ You may be using three or four providers, paying money for nothing. But if you are going to be on top of your job, you need to make sacrifices.
Corruption: “The level of corruption in the society can dampen your morale. Most people want a good job but always want a cut and you are wondering why these middle level managers who are well paid, will encroach on real service? People give bribes to get jobs; the society permits it unfortunately; it’s all about the end justifying the means. We should begin to raise awareness about the level of integrity that the society needs. We can do our bit in our little corner. So as it is now, the Nigerian economic environment is a bit harsh.
“Entrepreneurs need to know that it is not always going to be rough. There were times I felt like going to pick up a job and then when I have made some money, I could come back and sometimes I feel happy that I have made the best decision especially when money starts coming in.”
Stable family good for business:
“Over the years, we discovered that consistency, determination and the will to succeed always triumphed over everything. I had asked myself how I was going to run my family and meet all my expenses. Having a stable family that believes in you is very vital. Even when you cannot bring in money, people understand and know you are going somewhere. ”
Advice to entrepreneurs:
“An entrepreneur may have money today, and may not get another breakthrough in the next three months, so money management is really important particularly for a start-up or medium scale organisation. When you have money today and think that is how you are going to have it tomorrow, it may not happen so you need to know how to manage money and how to be law-abiding. Within the industry, you will have offers to do a lot of things. Integrity is important. You need to know the values you hold dear. You may get a company saying ‘oh, this is how much we are offering but this is how much you must write.’ You must make a decision on what you can and cannot take. If you want to stand for something, you will lose a lot of jobs which is what we have done but we are happy because at the end of the day, we can go home and sleep with two eyes closed even though we did not make all the money. That peace of mind is priceless. Nobody is after you because of a bad business deal.
“Entrepreneurs cannot afford not to read, whatever business you find yourself in, read as if you are going for Cambridge exam because trends keep changing. Internet is there so read. The more you read, the more you see possibilities, build relationships, don’t think about today alone, treat people well no matter what. The more the relationships you build, the better for your business because people do business with people not with companies.”
Speaking on the number of employees, Olaito said he relies on outsourcing. “When we have a job, we look at the services we need and bring in the skills we do not have. As soon as the job is done, everyone goes. If somebody gets a job and they need our skills, we partner, do the job and go our separate ways. This is something that people should consider.
“Start a company and do outsourcing. Don’t gather unnecessary number of staff that you cannot pay and they will be shouting on one another. Develop a skill and at the same time, don’t look for N10b to start a business because you may not get that N10b,” he advised.