I had an opportunity, a rare one I think, to have a sit-down with Olamide Adedeji. It was rare to sit with him at his office because we would typically communicate via calls, IMs or SMS. And if I do not succeed, his home would be the last resort for an informal meet if I harassed him long enough.
I admire Olamide a lot. He may be surprised to read this but I have known him since he was 18 or 19 years and to listen to the successful, confident and assured man I met a few days ago (about 31 or 32 years now), inspiration swelled inside me like a proud mother (Sorry, ‘Lamide I did mean sister. Trust me!) When you watch someone work very hard and over time attain great heights, it would be impossible not to identify with him.
This meeting was also an opportunity for me to engage the CMA Group as a corporate entity and best practice for the industry. I had long wondered how the company made money, expanded rather quickly after some quiet periods and significantly raised the bar in becoming the only media company to successful run over 6 TV & Radio Channels at the same time. For me, it was important because ThistlePraxis & CMA Group have both metamorphosed into a group of companies within the creative and core business sectors that I was certain I had a few lessons to learn from my trip to Lekki.
The meeting was over in a few minutes with very good outcomes but I had to follow through with the state of the business. I love quick, 10-15 minute meetings that at first seem pointless because both parties will inevitably shake hands in agreement but then they add an icing to the cake because individuals get the opportunity to exchange warmer pleasantries and build friendships. So, an opportunity for a very short additional conversation made the meeting transit from successful to superb, for me.
Our conversation moved quickly from business to personal development especially working with co-visioners who are much older and fostering relationships that have evolved into part-parent, part-business partner bonds. Olamide spoke about his Group CEO, Tajuddeen Adepetu with passion and enthusiasm that I consider rare.
I will explain why I was impressed. From the relationship scenarios explained above, there are two (2) types. Individuals who start off as employees and become part owners and successors as well as those who start as part-owners with a minute equity then grow the business and value to become significant part-owners and successors. Most of the time these relationships are short lived but ‘Lamide looked like he is enjoying his 12th year with Mr. Taj.
For ‘industry infovores’ like me, Mr. Adepetu (or Mr. Taj as he’s fondly called) is an odd entrepreneur. Always quiet, mostly heard about and hardly seen. In an environment and industry where visibility has been juxtaposed as the proof of success, I must admit I concluded he was an anti-social guru. I wouldn’t be surprised that although many millennials are hooked on Soundcity TV yet the mind behind this brand (Remember successful sitcoms like Family Circle, Everyday People, Saints & Sinners, Treasures) remains oblivious. I have also observed other industry veterans transit the borders of consolidation of their legacies to an almost desperate show off of success seemingly to impress emerging individuals or guarantee they don’t drift into oblivion. Taj is obviously someone who understands that even in an industry that is fueled by hype, the perception of oblivion is not synonymous with irrelevance. Consequently, he has consistently unveiled new brands over a period of time without a need to position himself as the ‘Ted Turner’ of Nigeria. We stepped into Mr. Taj’s office albeit for a few minutes to exchange pleasantries and in those few minutes I could tell that his age, (I think 51 or 52 years) he is still young at heart. In front of him are nine screens each showing the different TV Channels but just before I spot him bent over a document; an array of awards, plaques and framed certificates decorate the wall as though bidding one welcome first.
I did not miss the opportunity to probe into this relationship, find out about the lure to break away or do something else. I wanted to know how he dealt with offers to subtly undermine Mr. Taj and/or participate in deals that may pose a conflict of business interest. Or even those who may be associates of Mr. Taj, from a personal experience, subtly suggesting that they can offer better opportunities or directly making offers from time to time.
I was blunt.
With a smile and then a chuckle, ‘Lamide tried to describe the relationship. It was and still is Mr. Taj’s personality and the trust that had been built many years ago, about 1-2 years into the relationship. Then, he referred to an article, one that he had written to celebrate Mr. Taj on his 51st Birthday. He asked me to read it but I was not satisfied with a piece because I wanted to hear from the horse’s mouth, I probed further….
It turned out to be another great conversation that I drew lessons from. These lessons I have shared by forwarding the article to my network of start-up entrepreneurs, colleagues, and a few associates.
Here’s why Mr. Taj & Olamide are special…
In many cases I have heard about and another handful I have witnessed, counselled or been privy to, things can go awry. Sometimes, the age gap can colour the business relationship, cause frequent misunderstanding and result in a different interpretation of risk appetite, forecasting, work style and expansion strategies. With other scenarios where both co-founders are not separated by ‘intergenerationality’, the economic climate, weaknesses and other factors can cause parties to grow and as a result, drift apart.
For a few others, disagreements emerge from dishonouring promises, divestment of shares, increase in equity or expansion of entity from one organisation to a group of companies. Nonetheless, a documented contract is important with periodic amendments after each significant change occurs. Those who have continued based on trust and promises risk encountering challenges in future.
Thank You, ‘Lamide for your time, for inspiring me and for giving me a case study to inspire many others.