BY ROTIMI AGBANA
Adetola Nola is an innovative entrepreneur who founded Veritasi Homes – one of the fastest rising real estate firms in Nigeria. As the CEO of Veritasi, he brings a plethora of knowledge and expertise to facilitate the growth of the Nigerian real estate industry.
In this interview, the visionary business leader with a passion for excellence shares some insights on his journey into entrepreneurship and how he got into the Nigerian real estate industry.
Tell us a little about your academic background.
I studied Chemical Engineering at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. I have a certificate in strategic leadership from Manchester Metropolitan University. I just got certifications in finance and management from the London School of Business and Finance. I am currently doing a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst – level 1). I have also attended a lot of seminars and training sessions locally and internationally.
What’s your professional background?
I worked in the PPNP department of NNPC, Ibadan for a year. Although I was an intern, I was managing a department. It was there, I understood the power of networking. After I left NNPC, I came to Lagos and started a fashion business with my friend. When I was in school, I was into designing female wears – so I understood the business. We started off buying our shirts and shoes at affordable prices from a distant market. Then, we would repackage them for resale at a sizeable profit margin. In a matter of time, our demand grew. And we started making our own shoes.
How did you venture into real estate?
While retailing shoes, I met Hakeem Bakare and sold some pairs of shoes to him. I sold the shoes so well that he felt I could sell real estate. In his words: “I want you to be on my team”.
Real estate was something that I was interested in, but I had always thought one needed a lot of money to start. I seized the opportunity and started with a friend of mine who also now owns a real estate firm.
Starting off our career in real estate, was tough. For the first six months, there was no sale, but we kept pushing. I made my first sale in the eighth month. I had given up. I wouldn’t even go to the office for three days in a row, sometimes. Hakeem (whom I still consider a mentor till date) would call me to come back. Set up a meeting to re-strategize and force us keep pushing. One day, I was reading a sales book by Brian Tracy at Neo Cafe in Sanusi Fafunwa.
A man walked in and asked: “those books, do they really work?”. I said: “I think they work sometimes,” so we got talking. He came to buy coffee. Immediately he left, the guy that sells coffee hinted me that he was a billionaire with multiple investments in real estate. I went after him and pushed till I got a deal. The term of the deal was that I should liquidate some of his properties in Lagos, and if I was able to do that, he would buy from me. I was able to sell two of his properties at premium locations. That was how I started selling houses.
How did you start your company?
Hakeem and I won the best sales team award at Grenadines with an all-expense paid trip to Dubai as an incentive. On the Dubai trip, I met a man who had a lot of landed properties in Lagos. Then, I only knew how to sell houses. So I contacted all the real estate companies selling lands in Lagos and set up meetings with them. I facilitated projects for some of these companies. We decided to start Veritasi because I had gained a lot of knowledge about real estate.
What’s The Biggest Risk You’ve Ever Taken?
The Biggest risk is selling everything I had and borrowing a lot of money from family and friends to start Veritasi. Prior to starting the company, I had two cars and a shoe factory. I sold the cars, all the machines, the generators, and all the shoes I had imported. I also borrowed money from a friend of mine called Ife. If the business had failed, I would probably have committed suicide (laughs), but then, I wouldn’t have, anyway, because Veritasi would be about the about fifth company I started.
Did all the other businesses fail?
Well, it depends on your definition of failure. All the other businesses were learning grounds for us. They failed, but they taught me a lot of things. Because when I started Veritasi, I understood business dynamics and a lot of other things. I am trying to resurrect one or two.
What’s your definition of success?
For me, success equals purpose fulfilment. My purpose is to touch lives through entrepreneurship. One of the reasons I started my travel company, Nola Travels, is to be able to employ smart graduates roaming the street due to unemployment. I would say that I am successful when I can create a system that provides help for a lot of people. In the real estate market, I would also say that Veritasi is successful when it can solve the housing problems of middle and low-income earners in Nigeria.
What’s the next big move for Veritasi?
We are providing housing solutions via Green Energy. We want to replicate noiseless and smart homes in Nigeria. We hope to achieve that in Q2 this year.
Why Green Energy?
Our company is known for innovation and pacesetting. We want to introduce fast buildings into the Nigerian real estate market, like “fast fashion” – meaning fashion that goes and comes back. Top brands like Zara sell products they can replicate in three days because they are fast. In a similar vein, we can deliver “fast buildings” in two months, while the conventional real estate company delivers in two years.
How do you think the Nigerian audience will embrace this?
Well, I think changes are very difficult to embrace in every part of the world. We have a market penetration strategy centred around creating a shift in mindset and acceptance for smart homes. These are houses that people stay in when they travel abroad. They’ve stood the test of time and have withstood different weather conditions. Smart homes are cost-effective, timely in delivery and durable. The buildings are lightweight and resistant to earthquakes. We want to develop a community that has its own electricity. Once it picks up, nobody will go back to the archaic way of building.
What sets you apart from other real estate companies?
It is innovation. We are fast in responding to what the world is saying about real estate, and we put customer experience at utmost. We’ve got a lot of clients – over a thousand. In December 2018, I was a part of the team that called them, and more than 70% of our clients were happy about our services. Of course, you cannot make everybody happy, but at least make most people happy.
What should a company partnering with you look forward to?
Excellence and best practice, if we are going to do anything, we do it the best way it can be done in Nigeria and globally. I am a perfectionist, and I take nothing short of excellence.