By CHARLES KUMOLU
THIS is a story that cannot fail to inspire not just pessimists but optimists. It is such that reempahsises the importance of making choices that will yield enduring results.The narrative commenced in Ajegunle where the Chairman Executive Officer of WYLOUT Designs Limited, Mr. Victor Amosu grew up, and got nurtured by his penchant for pushing beyond boundaries. In discussing his life and career, Amosu, who heads a multi-million naira construction firm in Lekki, Lagos provides nuggets for everyone.
In the beginning:
I am the first son in my family. I grew up in Olodi-Apapa, popularly known as Ajegunle. I attended primary school at Olodi-Apapa, while I attended Federal Government College, Idoani. It was a boarding house. I attended Federal University of Technology, Owerri, FUTO, where I studied Material and Metrological Engineering.
I will not say that I was not born with a silver spoon but things changed at a particular point. I am an engineer, a father, and a husband.
End of silver spoon
At the time I passed out from secondary school, funds were no more available the way it used to. But when one lives in a family where education is paramount, the family will still ensure that paucity of funds does not become a challenge to the person’s educational pursuit. That was what happened to me. Thus, having a university degree is the least anyone can have in my family. It was just compulsory.
I wanted to study Electrical and Electronic Engineering or Aeronautic. But we found out that there was no institution offering it at that time in Nigeria. I had to switch to Electronic. I later studied Material and Metrological Engineering.
My parents were strict and religious but I am not religious. I see religion as an escape route which people have used to misguide and mislead.I believe Christianity is a way of life, not religion
I would not compromise
I am a Christian, but being a Christian does not change my opinion about it. If I have to choose between common sense and religion, obviously, I will choose common sense. It is only when moral, scientific, and mental approaches to life have failed that we can depend so much on religion. I don’t believe in waking up and start disturbing my creator over problems I can solve. When someone has a headache, the person should take Aspirin instead of bothering God.
There are different ways to go about things without harping so much on religion. If someone is hungry, he should work for his money and get it. People should not pray and expect manner to fall down from heaven. People should not spend 12 hours praying and work two hours and expect to get rewarded for the 12 hours they prayed.
Lazy man’s mentality
Christianity is not a business transaction where people are told to give and reap fruits. In that process, some will give and start calculating their expected gain. That is a lazy man’s mentality. If I am having a business transaction with anyone and the person brings a religious perspective to it, I get irritated. Anyone that thinks he can have access to me through religious and tribal sentiment is wrong. I am not moved by such. Rather, people should be realistic and approach life from that point of view. I understand the three basic languages in Nigeria. I speak Igbo, Yoruba and I understand Hausa. My best friends are from the North, my members of staff are from the East, my family members are predominantly from the West. I am a balanced person. But that does not change my worldview. There wasn’t any incident that gave me this perception. As much as most people will say that there was an incident that made them start thinking in a particular way, it was not like that for me.
Push beyond boundaries
I had many loud encounters. But a certain experience I had in primary school remains evergreen. There was a child who always got the first position in our class while I got the second position. And it continued like that from primary one to five.
There was a time I asked for a bicycle, and my parents said they will not provide it until I come top of the class like my classmate. I saw it as a challenge and told myself that the first position is not the birthright of that person. I did push myself beyond boundaries and eventually emerged as the best student. I went straight to my mother’s office with the report card. The distance from my school to her office was far but I went to the place to show her that I emerged the best student that term. When I gave her the report card, she was not even the person that bought the bicycle but her boss.
If anyone pushes himself beyond boundaries, despite the odds and trend, the person will always succeed in whatever he does.
Doing well as an entrepreneur
I do not see myself as a Chairman Executive Officer, CEO, because I do not single-handedly own the company. Legally, I own the company, but the entire members of staff are part of the ownership of the company because they contribute to the growth of the company. WYLOUT Designs Limited is a construction company that is into remodeling, innovation, interior and exterior finishing.
We build and have done quite a lot within and outside Lagos. We have done jobs for different companies. We are more like a solution providing company.
The name of the company was derived from my university days. I belonged to a musical rap group then. The name of the group was WYLOUT crew.
Being my own boss
When I graduated I asked myself if I was going to start distributing my Curriculum Vitea ,CV, or start writing applications. It was an important question I asked myself.
First, I was already working with a construction company in my second year. I was working with them not because I wanted to get paid. I told them that I wanted to learn that they should not pay me. They were surprised .
The company didn’t have much. It was a one-man business. The owner gave me transport allowance since he was not paying me. He made sure that I learned everything.
Some people thought the man was being unfair to me because I was forced to learn out of the box.
I learned how to paint, scrid, and tile. That was my second year in the university. In my third year, I was already supervising those who were learning and tiling. And that was the period of my Industrial Training, IT, when most students prefer places where they will make money. I used that period to learn how to work, because, I knew I was going to be my own boss in future.
I learned furniture making
In my third year in school, I found out that I never had a chance to learn how to weld. I went home and learned how to weld at a roadside welding shop.
In my fourth year IT, I workedwith a furniture company. It was not really where I was supposed to work but there was no job at the one-man company I earlier worked. They pushed me to that company. I learned furniture making. The man paid for my auto card training. He also sent me to an architecture firm where I learned architecture.
The man is a Quantity Surveyor, by default, I learned how to do a bill of Quantity and Quotes.
I was still writing my final year examination when he asked me to come when I conclude the examination, adding that there was a job for me.
I had not gone for My National Youth Service Corps programme. When I joined the company again it was still the way it was. What he was paying me was not much but I saw it as a learning process.
It was the best he could do for me. Those experiences groomed me for what was ahead. At that time, my wife who was my girlfriend was already working. She was earning N187,000, monthly while I was earning between N11, 000 and N17,000. We met in my year one. We grew up together. We started from nothing to when something started coming.
Hit the bottom
WYLOUT was born out of the fact that I needed to set up my own business. Before the company was registered, it was already in operation. In 2008 and 2009 we were doing skeletal business. After registering the company, I had to leave my comfort zone. There was no godfather or chairman. Everything came as a result of hard work.
My first customer was one Mrs. Chukwuma and I made a profit of N14,000 from that job. When I was opening the account of the company, the opening balance was N2,000. I remembered the Account Officer emphasising that my account balance was N2,000. I told her to watch the account, adding that it would grow. At that point, I remembered the favourite phrase of my wife which is: “when you hit the bottom, you have nowhere else to go but up.’’ I did hit the bottom and had nowhere to go, so I went up.
12 personnel and 28 sub-contractors
WYLOUT started with me as the director and my wife as an adviser. My members of staff were casual workers. Because I could not foot the bill of paying them salaries every month, I kept them on retainer ship. After the first one year, we grew from two people to six. And from the second year, we grew from six to twelve. Currently, WYLOUT has staff strength of 12 personnel and 28 sub-contractors.
In our first year, we did not have more than three clients, but we have many clients now. Stability is not time-bound, as one grows in business, stability comes in that process. There are times that overhead cost is a lot more, but consistency is the key to stability.
People should not bring in a module or a concept or a business plan from the US and expect it to work in Nigeria. Nigeria is unique. The next person will say that Nigeria is a bad place to do business, but it is false. Nigeria is the only place someone can come in with a $100 and will leave with $1,000,000 if he does the right things.
Everybody comes on air to say that people should quit working for others and become an entrepreneur. But everybody will not be an entrepreneur. If we are all entrepreneurs, who will work for another person? Some peoples’ strength is in offering services, while other peoples’ strength is in entrepreneurship. People have different areas of competence.
People should not be forced to be an entrepreneur, being an entrepreneur is now an escape route to wealth. For every successful entrepreneur, there are nine others that have failed and they will never get up because they are not destined to be one.
WYLOUT is like a duck in a stream or river, on the surface, we look very calm and unruffled, but beneath the water, we are paddling like hell. No matter the current that pushes us, no matter the economic policies or how hard it is, we always appear like we are all good and unruffled but beneath the surface of that water, we are paddling like our life depends on it.
On the scale of one to ten, I rate myself, score myself nine points intellectually, nine points morally, and six points spiritually. When one is in a profession where he encounters different people, the person needs to have wisdom.