‘TWO BEST WAYS TO GET OUT OF POVERTY’ – Complete Sports and Success Digest founder, Sunny Obazu –Ojeagbase
Dr. Sunny Obazu-Ojeagbase, in spite of his humongous success, is still very, very humble. Easy going and soft spoken, the respected publisher of Complete Sports, Complete Football, I-Soccer, Sports Souvenir and Success Digest, spent some serious hours with YES INTERNATIONAL! Magazine Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, AZUH ARINZE, at his Success Attitude Development Centre in Okota, Lagos, where he enlightened him on the business of publishing, the A-B-C of success, marriage and more…
When can a man be said to have truly succeeded?
I don’t think you can get to a point where you will say you have truly succeeded because success is a journey. I think when you really want to know how successful anyone has been, it has to be after they have passed on. Then, you look at the totality of the content of their life and then you will be able to say okay, yes, this person has succeeded. That’s one way of looking at it because that question is a two-sided coin. The other side is this – success is also in stages. Like if you start primary school, and then it’s time to sit for your examination and you pass it and you go to secondary school and then you go to university. Each of those stages of your life, you are recording successes. So, if you see it from those two points of views, then you can understand what I am saying.
Why do most people fail in life?
There are thousands and one reasons why people fail in life. For example, some people know what to do, but they don’t have the will power to do it. Some people get too ambitious they could not wait for some things to happen, so they try to microwave results and then they crash. They burn and crash. So, there are so many reasons. There are some people that have opportunities or ideas, but they just don’t know how to translate those ideas into reality. There are people who are overwhelmed by the circumstances of their birth or the place they were born and so on and so forth. For example, take Nigeria today; there are some people who believe that if they were outside this country, they will do better. That’s a mindset and if live you with it, of course, you will end up a failure. There are some people that will blame government from morning till night; who will say there is no NEPA, I would have done very well and then, they go on moaning and complaining and that’s what they do from day to day. And whatever you do with the majority of your time is the content of your outcome at the end of the day. So, there are so many reasons.
What is the easiest way to say bye-bye to poverty?
The easiest way that I’ve found, which I’ve taught over these many years, is that you must discover an income generating system, and there are two. One is to serve somebody well. The other one is to add value to others. And when you talk about adding value to others, we are looking at setting up a business that renders a service or product. Those are the two best ways that I know for anybody to say bye-bye to poverty.
What makes a good businessman?
Again, like the other question, there are so many things that are attached to it. One, a businessman in the Nigerian context; because I have to quality it. If we are talking about entrepreneur, because you know in Nigeria when they ask people what are you doing? They say I’m a businessman. All kinds of funny things. My answer is: I’m looking at an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur is a risk taker. But he’s not a gambler. Now, he takes calculated risks, which means that one, he must have as I said before, a product or a service and he must have customers that he’s targeting with his product and service. He must know how to satisfy those customers. But you do not satisfy your customers outside if you don’t satisfy your own first customers as an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, who are your first customers? Your staff! So, you have to have a good management team in place because if your internal customers are not happy, then there’s no way you can satisfy those external customers. So, an entrepreneur is somebody who balances his relationship with the internal customers. That’s the staff, and the external customers. So, if you have a good balance, then you have a good business.
What is the costliest mistake that most business people make?
I know about costly mistakes, but costliest…costliest will depend, my dear, on who is making the mistake. Let me just try to explain that. If I run into cash flow problem due to the fact that I have too much inventory, alright? I overstocked and as a result, I ran into cash flow problem. If as a result of that cash flow problem I cannot continue the business; that would be my costliest mistake. But somebody else could make the same mistake and because he has cash reserve, he can still wade through and go on. So, let me talk about some of the mistakes that we make in business that cost us dearly. One of them is expansion. Or you can call it diversification. Now, if you diversify and your timing is wrong, it can ruin you totally. Partnership; it is like going into a wrong marriage. It can also ruin you! If you over-leverage your business, that is, you borrow without any caution, it can ruin you. So, that’s what I’m saying. If you are overstaffed, it can ruin your business. These are all business mistakes and all of them come with huge consequences.
Why do most people find it easier to attain success, but difficult to sustain it?
Well, it all depends on how you got this success to start with. If the success comes to you suddenly; like somebody who wins pool, lottery; if you win a lottery, you have succeeded because one million people paid N1, N1 for the jackpot, but you got it. So, it’s a success. But now, you are not prepared for it. That money just came on you gbam! And then you are saddled with the problem of how to manage it. But if you see somebody who got success by working his way towards it, along the line, he would have made so many mistakes that he’s been correcting, balancing. By the time he gets to the point where you say he has truly succeeded, it doesn’t go into his head; it doesn’t have anything to do with him because he’s already toughened. But then, there’s a danger, and the Bible keeps talking about this danger – pride. Pride can get into any man’s head if you are not on your guard. Oh, so you mean I’m the one that has gotten here? Every human being has to watch out for that because that is the death-knell.
What is the importance of multiple streams of income?
Oh, the importance of multiple streams of income is this – one income is never, never sufficient to sustain anybody. One business is not enough. One business is not enough to sustain anybody and again, I need to explain what I mean. Now, every business, just like every human being, will grow to maturity and die. So, if you have one line of business; things change. Like in these days of technology. Like people running business centres and so on and so forth. All of sudden, they discovered that computer – your computer will do photocopy, will do so many things and people are not coming to the business centres. So, if all you had relied on is the business centre, you just see the rug pulled out of under your feet. But if you have a business centre and you are making money, you have to think seriously about diversifying. But the mistake people make is this– people try to go into multiple streams of income when they don’t have the means of managing it effectively. That’s the major mistake that most people do, in the sense again that if you don’t have a solid first income stream and you want to do multiple, you will crash. Let me give you an example. It is like somebody comes to work in your business place and at the same time because he wants to improve the income that he will take from your business in a month; he’s now doing some things on the side. You know how it works. He will not be able to give you maximum attention for what you are going to pay him for. And then when you catch him doing this, the other thing he’s doing on the side can’t sustain him; it can only give him some stipends to add to this. But meanwhile, the main source of income has not been properly taken care of. So, there’s a problem. The same thing happens to an entrepreneur when he tries to start multiple sources of income when his first initial business is not generating surplus. It is the surplus that comes from your first initial business that you can use for diversification.
Why do most people give up in life?
I will look at that spiritually. Most people give up in life when they lose hope. This morning, I was just reading about Father Abraham and the promise at 75 – he’s going to have a child and I’m going to bless you and all of that and all of that. And he had to wait till he was 100! How many people can really wait? And Thomas Edison. When I look at his story, I used to think it was 1000 tests that he did before he could discover this light bulb, but it was 10,000 tests (voice rises). I mean, each time I think about it, I say what am I even talking about? I haven’t even tried. Have I ever tried anything for 10,000 times? Even for 1000 times? Common on! So, it’s when you don’t have that ability to persevere, that’s why people give up. No situation is bad enough for anybody to give up.
When is the best time for one to branch out and be on his own?
What I teach people is this; first of all, you have to start by working for somebody. That’s one way, and when you go to work for somebody, two things must be on your mind – one, you have to set exit date. That exit date you are setting, you are preparing for it because you know you are going to be needing resources to start on your own, because it has been said no man ever gets rich working for somebody. And that’s true. Because your salary is finite. It’s fixed; it’s set. So, the only way you can get rich working for somebody is simply by working inside that business as if you are the owner, which is not the mindset most people go to businesses with. Most people go to business as ‘I’m a worker there’. But if you go with the mindset of, I’m gonna work in this business as if it’s my business, two things will happen to you – you will get to know that business so much that the owner will eventually want to partner with you. He doesn’t even want to let you go and that kind of thing. The second benefit is that if you do have to go, you will not now feel as if you are just starting. Most people, when they get to the end of their working career, they are not prepared. They don’t have anything. Even the businesses they work inside, they don’t know A to B about it. They can’t figure out what is happening there. So, the first thing is set a terminal date and say okay, look, I’m gonna work for somebody, maybe for five years, for ten years, which means that in those ten years, if I’m going to stop working for somebody, at the end of that tenth year, where am I going to? Like I write in my books, when I got to The Guardian in 1983, February, I asked myself a question: Now, you are the Sports Editor of The Guardian Newspapers and that’s the highest position you are employed as a sports writer; what next? My first day on that desk, what next? And I knew there was no where they would post me to, so from here, it’s just going to be retirement or you go and take another job and that kind of stuff and that wasn’t for me. So, I had to picture that look, what next? That thinking propelled me to start looking for what else, where do I go next: what do I do? Then, I encountered this book, Think and Grow Rich, that talked about entrepreneurship and for the first time in my entire life, I began to see entrepreneurship as something I could go into. That was it! What I’m telling you now wasn’t something I knew. I’m only going back to my own experience, but I’m saying to people today that when you go to work, work for somebody, acquire experience, because you are going to deal with people, you are going to manage people, you need to acquire those knowledge. Okay? And then, when you learn all you need to learn in your work place, of course, you set your target, date of leaving and you are prepared. When I talk about preparing, you will be building up relationships. For example, it is not the day you leave your work place that you want to talk to this person or you start looking for which bank to open an account with. No! Even when you are working, you open an account with a bank, you know the bank manager, you know this one; all of those things should be part of the mix for somebody who knows where he’s going. And I am saying everybody should know where they are going. Don’t go through the world blind –folded. No! It’s not good.
Why are most journalists poor?
You know I’ve just said that you cannot get rich working for somebody. That’s true. It’s established. Therefore, as a journalist, the content of your output…when you look at journalism, we have different branches. I was into sports. I was able to leave sports reporting to publish sports. You were into entertainment journalism; you were able to leave that job to establish YES International! Every journalist, every, and I mean every journalist, must have a mindset of looking down the road and saying that at this time, I have to do this, this, this. Because you see, journalism gives us wonderful opportunities. You came here now, you are asking me questions. That is one of the most powerful assets that we have as journalists. I call it the power of access and if you are using the power of access imaginatively and creatively, it is awesome. But it’s not every journalist that does that. Most journalists just think about now.
Why do partnerships fail and why are your perpetually going into it? It seems favourable to you…
Partnership is a double-edged sword, it can cut both ways. Now, why does it fail and why do I keep forging partnerships? When I’m asked this question, my answer always is this – why do you go into marriage? Even when you’ve had a failed marriage, you still go into another one. You are hopeful that something good will come out of the next one. I have done a lot of thinking, asked people why partnerships fail. When there is lack of trust, when there is no clear-cut understanding between the partners… You see, many a time, people come together and say we want to have partnership, but they don’t really explain what is the scope of this partnership. So, they get into it and start re-defining what they thought should be the reason. And it doesn’t seem well with the other person. They didn’t talk about anything. So, they are already into it, fighting before they even realize what they are doing. And it happens in marriages too. So, each new partnership I form, I try to bring to bear the lessons I’ve learnt from partnerships that failed that I was involved in. And then we just keep hoping for the best. You know your limits, you know the limit of the others and then you hope for the best.
You’ve been married now for over 26 years, what has sustained the union and why do you think we have too many cases of divorce?
I think I’ve just answered the question via the partnership thing, because marriage itself is a partnership. I think the social pressure is one of the reasons we have so many divorces in the country. Even though we don’t have statistics, we only know that there are divorces. Looking at it from a man’s point of view, if you can’t agree on the number of children you want to raise; there will be issues. The man is looking at his means of providing and say look, I just want only two and the woman says ah! And before you know it, she’s gotten pregnant, had number three and then number four. You see, there’s an issue already in that marriage. When you can’t provide for the home, which is one of the most painful aspects of marriages today. Many homes, many families leave the woman to be fending for the home. I don’t think that it is right. True! And that’s a problem.
What is the hardest decision that you have taken as a businessman?
Hardest decision? I’ve got to think about that. Have I taken what I would call a hard decision? Because I’ve started many publications, I’ve stopped many publications and for me, I always know what I want anything to give to me and if it doesn’t give it to me, I don’t have any problem shutting it down. I still remember very well when I was going to shut down Climax magazine, back in 1991. I mean, I just did it with the blink of an eye. I mean, it doesn’t cost me anything. Why? Because before I ever get to that position, I would have given that thing my best efforts, my very best efforts. Ha! Hardest decision? I’m still thinking (General laughter).
What is the best decision that you have taken as a businessman?
The decision to publish sports. I’ve got to go back and see it as one of the best decisions I have ever taken. Why? Because God’s been so good to me when I look back. Because sometimes I ask myself: why me? There had been greater sports writers before I came on the scene. My late boss, Essbee. I admired him so much and why me? That’s God’s favour. Going into publishing wasn’t easy for me. I didn’t have the resources. In fact, I didn’t even have a savings account. It’s not like I opened one and I closed it. No, I didn’t have a savings account. So, for me to get into this type of business and God will just elevate one to where He has brought me… it has to be His own doing. It is not by my wisdom or anything. And like I’ve just said, there were brighter, better sports writers before I came. Do you understand what I’m saying? So, that has to be the best decision, and I know it is not me. That decision, I was just a vessel in God’s hands.
With the benefit of hindsight, why do you think most papers crumble?
There are so many reasons most papers crumble. A lot of people go into publishing without figuring it out. Most people think you can go and buy newsprint, you can go to the printer and put some junk in there and then sell. No, it doesn’t happen. A publisher must know who he is publishing for and every edition of your publication must have that thing that the readers you are targeting are looking for. When there’s no connection, you can’t make it. It’s impossible. You can’t fight it. Even if you have a billion, you can’t make it. I have seen people who have a lot of money and they still run out of this business, because there’s a disconnect. It is not about money, it is about being able to connect with a certain audience who is ready to buy you, and you have to cultivate them.
As a publisher, how do you feel when you do what you think is a fantastic edition and it doesn’t sell?
Well, again, that’s the issue. Who said it is fantastic? It is you, the publisher (Laughs). That’s your opinion, because when it sells, that is what tells you that oh, this is what these people want. So, in marketing, the basic principle is to know what they want and give it to them. Any time you miss out on that, forget it. Know what they want! Yes, I agree there’s a pressure in certain niches, okay, because there are so many people in that niche and everybody is struggling. But there is a way to it. First of all, you wanna ask yourself, how many readers do I need to keep this publication going and I will also be profitable? That’s the first question. Now, what is the profile of these readers, what do they really want? Grab those information and then carefully, be cultivating them, so that each time they go to that jungle; you know where I call jungle? A news stand. It’s a jingle. When you get to that jungle, you see so many papers. So, when they get to that jingle, they are looking for one particular one because there’s something that so many others are not touching that they are touching and that’s what keeps you there. Any other thing you try doesn’t work.
You have published a couple of papers, which of them gives you the greatest joy?
Being able to publish Complete Sports on a daily basis gives me tremendous joy and that’s not to take anything away from Complete Football which is our flagship. Why? Because it keeps us at the pulse of developing stories on a daily basis and it makes us to be relevant also in the market place. So, I get a lot of satisfaction from them.
You used to engage in pools betting before ‘you saw the light’, can one be rich by playing pools?
I don’t have any record of anybody who got rich playing pools. And let me tell you this, you don’t just win your big amount in your first week of betting on pools. So, for you to win on pools, it would have become habitual. So, when you win, you win big, you don’t have the sense of stopping. You continue to bet until you lose and win again and so on and so forth. And pools betting is not something that you want to take your mind off it. No! You have to keep working at how will it work, who is gonna win, who is gonna lose and that kind of thing. So, you can’t use your mind for something more productive.
You were also a soldier at some point. Can one become rich as a soldier, not an officer?
Your best way to succeed as a soldier is to take it as your first job. In the military, they are going to train you if you make yourself trainable and that’s the asset you walk away with from The Nigerian Army. Which means, depending on the number of years of engagement. While you are in The Army, train yourself, take all the trainings The Army can give to you, equip yourself, so that when you discharge, you are not just going to be looking for a maiguard job. Intellectually, you have really expanded yourself, because you have that opportunity in The Army and then when you get out, you begin to now do those things that you have prepared yourself for.
Besides Think and Grow Rich, which other books have made enormous impact on your person?
I can’t finish listing them. Think and Grow Rich happens to be the one that guided me to entrepreneurship. I always talk about Dan Kennedy’s books, J. Abraham. These are marketers. I have so many of them. Apart from the Bible, another book, Seven Law of Success, also did. I read that book at age 24; I was in The Army. Talking about pools betting. I was betting on pools, losing money and everything like that. But I got the book, I read it and it turned my life around 360o. As a result, I was led to Christ, I stopped pools betting and took my first course in journalism by correspondence and that was just the beginning for me.
It is very obvious that the Almighty God has been nice to you…
Yes! (Cuts in).
So, what more do you want from God?
What more do I want? All I’m asking God today is to give me the grace to impart the knowledge that He has invested in me on more Nigerians. That’s all I ask for!
Do you have any regrets?
No! I don’t have regrets. When something does not work, it simply doesn’t work and when you know it’s not working, just move on. No hang over, no regrets, no bitterness, nothing! Just move on, because there are aces down the road. If you live in regret, you will miss the aces and I don’t want to miss them.
Why do most employees have negative things to say about their employers? About three of your former employees that I know have nice things to say about you…
Let me put it this way – I wouldn’t want to get too religious in my answer to your question, but I can’t escape it. When you are guided by the word of God in everything you are doing, you will more often than not have these types of testimonies from people. That is just the answer, because I will never forget Mark 11, vs 25 and 26. God says there that forgive others so that I can forgive you. I know it is God talking to me. So, with that scripture ringing in my ear, in my head, there is no way, there is nothing that you can do that I will hold on to and say look, you have offended me. No! So, if somebody works with me, it doesn’t matter the kind of relationship that we have, that person will still be in my good books.
NB: First published February 2014
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