Otunba Sesan Rufai is the MD/CEO of Goldmyne Entertainment as well as the owner of Limelite Hotel in Ago Iwoye, Ogun State. The astute businessman and father of three who read Accounting at the Ogun State University opened his heart to YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, AZUH ARINZE, days back, at his Anthony Village, Lagos office.Touching a lot of issues, especially as they concern making it in business, we all have a lot to learn from him…
We are going to start by meeting you. So, tell us about yourself.
Yeah! My name is Otunba Sesan Rufai. I’m from Ago Iwoye, Ogun State. I also schooled in Ago Iwoye and I love the town. I read Accounting in the university (Ogun State University). I have a BSc in Accounting and I went to UNILAG to have my MBA. I have been in the industry for almost 20 years now. I started with Raypower in 1994 with my uncle, my brother, Mr. Kenny Ogungbe and Mr. Dayo Adeneye then. Later, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, my in-law, established AIT, in December 1995. All my life I have been in the entertainment industry and I thank God for what He has done for me.
You studied Accounting and now you make all your money from entertainment. What attracted you to entertainment?
First and foremost, I believe that life is a gift. When you were created, God created you for a purpose and the beauty of life is that God should show all of us what we are going to eat. I got into entertainment by mistake. When I graduated from the university, I was at home for almost two years looking for a bank job. I went for a lot of interviews, but there was no head way. By then, Raypower 100.5FM was having their test transmission. So, Mr. Kenny Ogungbe called me. He said ‘Sesan, what are you doing now? Are you still waiting for this bank job? Have you forgotten that I read Accounting in the States also and now that I’m back in Nigeria, I’m into something else? The best job is entertainment’. And I said oga, with my BSc in Accounting, what do you want me to be doing on radio? He told me that there’s a finance department, you can be our Account Officer. So, I didn’t have any choice but to join Raypower. That was 1994/95. The interest to be in entertainment was from Kenny and D-One, because that was when they started AIT Jamz, Raypower and all those things and I was always with them. I got aroused by their razzmatazz. One way or the other I was with them during their programmes. Sometimes I used to sleep in Raypower and AIT just to learn what Kenny and D-One were doing. That was how the whole thing started. And lest I forget, when I was in the university, I used to send some articles to FAJ (Femi Akintunde-Johnson). The column used to be called Ask The FAJ then. That was in the days of FAME. From my school then, I will post it and to my surprise, I will see it published. As I’m talking to you now I still have all the publications. So, the interest arose when I got to Daar Communications and since that time I’ve been doing it.
You joined Silverbird Group from Daar Communications, why did you do that?
I left Raypower/AIT with my uncle, Kenny Ogungbe and Dayo Adeneye and Ambrose Shomide. All of us! It was when the station was in debt and it became a family issue. It was an issue between this family and that family, so we felt we needed to leave. It was painful leaving a station that you started with; that you built with your hands. But all that is over now. In fact, as I’m talking to you now, I have about two programmes on Raypower/AIT that I’m running. So, it was that circumstance that led to it. But when I left AIT, I first went to MITV, Superscreen, Channels. In 2003, I got an employment with Silverbird TV. So, I can say categorically that I started Silverbird Television as a pioneer staff.
What was your job description at Silverbird Television?
I was the Marketing Manager. The station is still my baby even as I’m talking now. I still consult for Silverbird Television.
When did it eventually dawn on you to do something on your own?
When we left AIT in 1991, my brother, I stayed at home for 1 ½ years without doing anything, because it was never planned. I never planned to leave AIT because we had everything going fine. Everything was there. You can travel, and I had unlimited access to Chief (Dr.) Raymond Dokpesi. He’s my mentor, he’s my godfather; whatever I become today, it’s Dr. Raymond Dokpesi. And so, when we left, I had to stay at home for 1 ½ years, going to two years, without doing anything. So, having that in mind, when I got to Silverbird, the first thing that was on my mind was once beaten twice shy. So, as soon as I got my employment with Silverbird, I registered Goldmyne Entertainment. So, I was running my own thing by the side even while I was still with Silverbird. I took it as option B. I was asking myself what happens if the same thing that happened to me at AIT happens here. That was how I established my own business.
Officially, when did you now start Goldmyne Entertainment?
Officially, I can say I started about four, five years ago. At a time I told my boss that I needed to leave, he said it was too early. But I had to convince him that ‘Sir, I have a hotel (Limelight) that could sustain me!’ He said you have a hotel? I said I have a hotel that is one of the biggest in Ogun State. I explained to him that I cannot be running Limelite Hotel, running Goldmyne Entertainment and still be running Silverbird. It took him months to give me permission to leave. So, when I left, it was still like I had not left, because as we are talking now, I still work for them. I’m on commission. I’m a consultant to Silverbird and Rhythm FM. But I started doing my own thing when I discovered that I won’t be able to function maximally by combining everything.
The journey so far, how would you describe it?
The journey has been so hectic; there are too many challenges. I have to praise all these big men who have been in the industry for years. Where do you want to start? No enough capital… I want to do a lot of things, but I don’t have the resources. I can tell you categorically that the journey has not been an easy task at all!
You run one of the biggest hotels in Ogun State and also run one of the leading entertainment outfits in Lagos, how do you juggle the two?
The two of them, to me, are one. Hospitality business is also part of entertainment. It has not been easy, but in the five years that I started the hotel, I have been able to garner a lot of experience from a lot of people in the industry, and on running Goldmyne Entertainment, I have passion for entertainment. There was a time I had five television programmes on 28 states across Nigeria. So, it’s the passion. It’s not that it’s easy, because every Friday, I have to go to the hotel to see what is happening. I have taken a lot of artistes, a lot of celebrities to the hotel. So, everytime, one way or the other, there is one event or the other taking place there.
What makes a good businessman?
First, integrity. Let your word be your bond. If you say yes, your yes should be yes. That, for me, is it.
Why do most business people fail?
First, don’t do any business you don’t have passion for. I will give you an example. I sleep three, four hours everyday. I’ve been doing that for years now. My website, I update it personally because of the passion I have for the industry. I wake up by 1 o’clock (in the morning) everyday! I don’t set alarm, and I have to be on my system for four, five hours. So, it’s the passion. That’s No. 1. No. 2, don’t bite more than what you can chew. Don’t say because my friend has done this, my friend has this, I want to also do that. You have to work hard, stay with it, nurture it and take it to another level. Thirdly, don’t bring family into your business. Don’t bring unnecessary things into your business. Let your business run without you; sometimes without your advice, so that if you travel out of the country for one reason or the other, you can say my business is running. I have a friend who for the past 10 years has not travelled. He can’t travel because he’s holding onto the whole thing. He says if I travel for two days, this business will collapse. That’s a lie! Look for people who are competent to run your organization for you. Put the structure in place. And No. 4, be good to people. When you are good to your staff, they will do your job accordingly. As I’m talking now, I’m not in the hotel, but the hotel is running. Yes! A hotel of almost 50 rooms, with swimming pool, on 13 plots of land. The hotel is running even without me being there. If I go there for one day, the following day I’m back in Lagos, because I have competent people. Some of us run our businesses; that’s why we want to stay there forever.
What is the biggest mistake that most businessmen make?
Ah! One of the biggest mistakes is taking short facility, short-term loan. If you are taking facility from anybody, from your friend, from your family or from bank, tell the bank that look, I want 20 years repayment plan. Because it happened to us. The problem with AIT/Raypower then was the short-term agreement we signed. So, as soon as the date expired, the bank came calling because we did not have any choice. That was what we had signed. So, that’s one of the biggest mistakes, and AIT/Raypower was an instant success. There’s hardly any business in Nigeria that can run without one facility or the other.
Who are your role models in business and why?
They are many. One of them is Chief (Dr.) Raymond Dokpesi; Mr. Kenny Ogungbe, Mr. Dayo Adeneye, Mr. Wale Adenuga and Mr. Benson, the MD of AK Media. Those are my business mentors. But the amazing person that I will not forget is Mr. Ben Murray Bruce. Ben Bruce is a great mind, 110 percent. He doesn’t sleep. He knows where he’s going. When Ben Bruce started Rhythm 93.7FM in 1995, from that 1995 till now, the station is still No. 1. When he started Silverbird TV, they were saying Silverbird ke, but it has not come down; it has not reduced in quality. That’s No. 2. No. 3, Ben Bruce is highly intelligent. If you are not intelligent you cannot work with Ben Bruce and I will tell you why: if he employs you and they are having a meeting, if you are not intelligent, within 5 minutes, Ben Bruce will say stand up or he will stand up himself. He’s not a patient person. When I was there, each time he called me for a meeting, I will not sleep. Because when you get to the meeting, my oga will want you to do 20 things within 5 minutes. You need to do this, do this…So, as I’m sitting here, he has imparted that into me. I don’t have money; if I have money, I will shake Lagos. As I’m talking to you, I want to have a television station of my own, I have applied for a license, but they have not given me. If they give me today, I will have to go to a bank to take facility. So, I learnt a lot of things from Mr. Ben Bruce. He’s a very creative mind and he’s always ready to listen. When you tell him oga, this thing is not like this, he will accept his fault immediately.
What is your dream for Goldmyne Entertainment in the next five years?
I have a lot of dreams, but I think my life has been destined. I don’t like to project. I thank God for what He has done for me already. I want to have a television station that can cover Naija conveniently. From Naija to Africa. I want to have a radio station that will be into business/entertainment. But all these things depend on God. I built the hotel with a little loan. Same with Goldmyne. So, I’ve told God that whenever the license comes from The Presidency, let me start the station with a little loan. Let the resources come naturally. So, my plan is to have my own television station, to have my own satellite station and to have my own radio station.
Why do most people attain success but find it difficult to sustain it?
One of the biggest problems with us in Nigeria is lack of continuity. Some of us, like I said earlier, are into one business or the other that we are not passionate about. Some people are into some businesses due to copy-copy! And when they do it for one or two years, they fade. The beauty of our job is consistency. You must be consistently consistent. I have been running my programmes for the past four, five years. As I’m talking now, the programmes are on television. If I have to sell my properties to make sure those programmes are on TV, I don’t mind. Because what Nigerians love is continuity. So, a lot of people are doing businesses that are not their own; they are always thinking that if this person can do it; I can also do it, forgetting that they don’t have passion for it.
Let’s talk about your family, we can see their photographs all over your office…
I have a very beautiful family and I have a very beautiful wife. My wife’s name is Adenike Rufai. My first daughter will be 13 in December. Her name is Simisola Rufai. The next one, you can see him, he looks like me. His name is Iyiola Rufai. He’s going to be nine on January 1st and the last one is Bayoji Rufai. Omobayoji is going to be seven. I have a very good family, two boys and a girl and I have a very supportive wife. My wife has been of immense support. She’s a pastor, so she prays for me a lot. My wife prays for me more than herself. She spends hours praying for me, and I want to thank her for that.
How did you meet your wife and when did you get married?
I met my wife miraculously. I met her first in 1997. I went to a birthday party in Surulere (Lagos). Then, I was still with AIT. I just saw her and said look at this fine lady. I went to her straight and said how are you? She said what can I do for you? I said God told me that you are my wife! She said ah-ah oga, what kind of person are you? I said madam, God told me you are the person. So, she left the party immediately because she was annoyed and embarrassed. It was the birthday party of her friend and by that time there was no GSM, so there was no way I could see her again. But in a miraculous way, I went to Ogun State University one day and I saw her somewhere. I said madam, how are you? Can you still remember me? She said remember you from where? I said I met you at a party in Surulere, Lagos. To cut the story short, we became friends, from there we became lovers and by December 1999, we got married and we thank God for what God has done for the family.
NB: First published May 2013