By CHARLES KUMOLU
HIS story is not a rag to riches story but a narrative of passion, tenacity, and courage. Iyore Ogbuigwe, Chairman Executive Officer, CEO, of Ultravantage Solutions, who is of a rich parentage reveals the choices that made him a sought-after Sales and Persuasion expert for local, international and multinational corporations. Iyore’ is a candid potrait of someone, who was challanged to conquer the world by the uncommon feats he recorded under impossible circumstances. He has a wealth management background from the banking industry.
In the beginning:
I was born in Lagos. My father is a medical doctor, a gynecologist to be precise. My mother is a fashion designer. I grew up in a very strong Christian home where we were taught the word of God. I schooled in Greenspring International School. I also attended Airforce Secondary School, Ibadan. Mine was a background that taught me discipline. One of the greatest things I believed helped me is the fact that I attended a boarding school. If I didn’t go to a boarding school, I don’t know how I would have been because I grew up in a house where my clothes were washed for me just the way other things were done for me. Most stories we hear are rag to riches stories but I didn’t have that kind of story. There was a period I made things rough because I needed to come out and do things myself. It was not that we were super-rich, but we were very comfortable. The boarding school taught me discipline and independence. Of course, in the boarding school, I saw the result of the Christianity that my parents taught me because I found myself in serious troubles and God delivered me. It made me believe that this God that my parents talked about all the time is really there.
I felt passionate
I can go on but it is not everything in a man’s past that make up his history. It is those things in someone’s past that are significant to the person’s future that make up his history. I always tell people that, the kind of past they had does not matter. What is important is the defining moments that made them who they are today. For me, what made me who I am today, were two experiences I had in the university. The first one was that I felt passionate that I needed to do something on campus. I felt that it was not just to come to school and study. I felt it was important to make an impact. I identified preaching the gospel as one of the ways I can make an impact. I used to preach in buses, lecture theatres and classrooms. While I was doing all those things, I did not know that I was training myself to become a fantastic speaker. I didn’t know that I was developing super-boldness through that.
Template for my story
Some will say that they feel butterflies in their stomach when doing a presentation, but I don’t feel it. I am super-confident. Another defining moment was a visit I paid a friend. I saw a book in his house which attracted my attention. At that time, I was not a fan of books apart from academic books. But I read a particular chapter about a man, who was flying in a helicopter to an event. As he was doing that, he looked down and saw that there was a lot of traffic in the city. He was now scared that people might not turn up for the event that he had spent so much money to package, as a result of the traffic. He continued his journey and got to the venue where he discovered that the 3000-capacity hall of the event already had 5000 people. It now dawned on him that the reason for the traffic was because the whole city was coming to listen to him. After reading the story, my perception changed. I saw the man’s story as a template to create my own success story.
I started to develop myself in that direction. I started to develop myself to become a better person to help businesses grow. When I was on holidays, I used to go to my mother’s boutique and consult for her. There was a time she was not making money the way she wanted. I asked her to tell me how much it costs to make a garment to see if she was making any profit. By the time she did that, she realised she was not making much profit. For instance, when she checked how much she spent making a jacket which she sold for N15, 000 then, she realised that she was just making N500 profit. And people kept telling her that her products were expensive because her competitors were importers. After that experience, she doubled all her prices and people were still buying. Most people don’t know that people don’t buy because of prices, but value.
When I left the university, my first job was in a consulting firm where trainings are organised. At a point, I felt there was something more that I could do. I decided to quit the job and got a job in a bank. When I got to the bank, I was given real targets. For instance, I was asked to get 20 High Networth Individuals ,HNIs, in one month. 20 HNIs in one month meant that I was expected to close 20 sales in one month. These are people who make between $3million and $5million per anum. When I got to my branch, we had just a handful of HNIs. After the monthly performance review, a colleague told me that any target is achievable if I put my mind to it. At the end of that month, I got 21 HNIs. There is what we call success models and failure models in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, NLP. It has to do with the impact of language and brain on someone’s performance. If someone had succeeded before and when he evaluates the things that made him successful, if the person is confronted with a similar task, he will get the same result if he applies the same model. When I got to the office, some of my colleagues said I was just lucky to get the target. They said the feat may not be possible for me to repeat again.
All-expense paid trip
Three months later, we got an email where we were told that whoever sells 10 credit cards in three days will get an all-expense paid trip to the World Cup. The challenge was that 10 in three days for everybody was almost impossible because the target for everybody in a month was four. I ignored it earlier, but a colleague said I should give it a try. Using that same success model which I used in getting those 21 HNIs, I went for it and I got it. I went to the World Cup and had a wonderful experience.
When I came back from the World Cup, I asked myself if I really know how to sell or it was my environment that was influencing me. I was not sure of what was making me get those high targets. I, however, resigned and moved to an international bank which was a terrain I was not familiar with. It was a place where we were selling foreign bonds, and handling foreign investments. I met a portfolio of $3.5 million which is a lot of money. But if one is supposed to trade with it when his colleagues had $15 million, the person is in a disadvantaged position. But I was not worried. I used the same technique to grow the $3.5 million to more than $7.5 million in 11 months. When that happened, I had to make a bold decision. When something happens once, it could be considered as luck, if it happens twice it could be attributed to another thing but, if it happens thrice, it is character. I had to resign at that point to start my business. I had fears, but to conquer the fears, I wrote my resignation letter six months before my resignation. I told myself that when the day comes, whether I saved money or not, I will resign. And I did it on my birthday. Before that time, anytime I was on leave, I used to work with a few consultants just to have a feel of what it means to run a business. Some even gave me the opportunity to speak at their seminars and they often told me that I had a future in public speaking. I had the mindset that if I could achieve the things I achieved in the bank, I can do anything.
It was tough
During that early period, it was tough because I was just starting my businesses. My wife was in the bank but it was tough. My wife used to remember how tough things were during that early period. As I kept on telling people what I can do and giving value, things started taking shape. I have realised that adversity is a blessing because there are things one can learn in a valley that he cannot learn in good times. Now if somebody calls to make an inquiry, the deal will be closed. That was why I started a piece called converting enquiry to sales. For instance, I will be in the sitting room discussing with my wife and when a call comes in, at the end of the call an alert will follow. The way things began working out for us, made me write a book titled, How to Sell Your Way Out of Hard Times. And I explained the principles there. Things changed for good. We had a contract to train 14, 000 sales people for JUMIA, we trained all the sales people for GTB all over the country, we got a job for May One Cable. We did a job for the Lagos Business School. We did a job for one of Tony Elumelu’s companies, Rain Oil, and Property Mart among others.
Following natural trajectory
Things started working out because I knew I had value and I decided to make my own story. In fact, when I resigned, my family was not happy about it. My father had to call the bank to know if there was a problem but he was told that there was none. He thought I was sacked. People didn’t understand why I took that decision. Even my customers were surprised but I told them that the job was not something I will do all the rest of my life. My father was even advising me that I was resigning at the wrong time, but I refused to rescind my decision.
Fela Durotoye’s materials inspired me a lot. Pastor Chris Oyakhilomen’s messages also gave me a certain character. When I saw what Durotoye achieved, I got motivated. When someone identifies with people, who have succeeded, the person can succeed.
close to Durotoye but I was close to one of his protégées, Steve Harriss. There was a man abroad that inspired me abroad. In fact, he was one one the figures that inspired me to resign. His name is Peter J. Daniels. He is a Christian billionaire. He said anyone who says he is a faithful Christian should not remain on the job, but rise and build an empire. At that point, I was motivated to resign. Before I married my wife I told her that I will not stay long on the job, so she was not surprised at my decision. It was not that what we were earning was taking care of all our bills. It was a situation whereby the resignation held more prospects for than remaining on the job. When things were really tough for us, I saw a programme advert and saw that there was no one to talk about sales, I called the organisers and told them I should be on the programme because there was nobody to talk about sales. I sent my profile to them and they invited me. When I started talking, my session attracted almost all the participants. By the time I got home, we didn’t have fuel in the house and car. Steve Harris called me to say that I should download an application and record the audio of my session. He said we should sell the recording at the next session of the progtramme. We did that and made money which we used in buying what we needed at home. Till date. We still look back at that phase and laugh over it.