Entrepreneurship is vital National growth

Chief-Tony-IkehTonik Group Ltd was incorporated as a private limited company with focus on core areas of investment with very promising outlook including Automobile sales, Hospitality and Real Estate. The organisation had successfully developed and marketed luxury residential apartments in the upper neighborhood of Lagos, whereas, Hotel Royale, its prime hospitality outfit stands tall in the Lagos landscape. Chief Anthony Ikeh, the Group Managing Director of Tonik Group Limited is a versatile business leader who has carved a niche in the field of entrepreneurship. He spoke on the Focus of a CEO in this interview with NnamdiNwokolo.

WHAT informed your choice of business?
As a young man, I was surrounded by spare parts traders and by inference I developed interest in the business. It is also widely acclaimed that spare parts trading runs in our DNA. Although I lost my dad when I was nine years old, I didn’t allow that to discourage my desire and dedication to succeed in life. The little money I made early was used in buying cars and dismantling them for sale in parts. In late 1989, I incorporated my business and relocated to Lagos from Aba in search of bigger opportunities. It was while in Lagos that I started importing used vehicles from Belgium and later from the United States of America. One good thing about us from this part of the world is that most of us go into business by providence or through family inheritance; most of us do not actually go to school to read about what we are doing right now.

At what point did you veer into hospitality and real estate?
In growing my business, my desire was to build an organization that will be sustainable. My aspiration was also to have multiple streams of income because I discovered that all successful business men have multiple streams of income. In 2004, Hotel Royale was built with a customer centric focus. In the eleven years of our existence, Hotel Royale has distinguished itself as a market leader within the Ojodu-Berger, Magodo and Ikeja axis of the Lagos metropolis. The hotel offers fully air-conditioned guest rooms, all en suite which are furnished with TV connected to cable reception and safe deposit boxes and a meeting hall. The onsite restaurant serves exquisite local and continental dishes whereas the bar serves a variety of drink options. Our night club is unique and we have two functional event halls within the hotel premises as well a gymnasium; in fact we have carved a niche in the hospitality industry. My interest in real estate was a result of my desire to contribute towards reducing the housing deficit in the country. I came to the realization that government alone cannot provide the housing needs of Nigerians and we have successfully developed and marketed luxury residential apartments in the elite neighborhood of Lagos.

What has been your biggest challenge and how were you able to surmount them?
The challenges of the business environment are so daunting and overwhelming. It might interest you to know that to do business in Nigeria; an average entrepreneur will have to generate his electricity, provide water, security and so on. These are challenges facing the Nigeria entrepreneurs and so many setbacks to contend with. We have all it takes to be a great nation, good climate, great people and abundant natural resources, but failed leadership has been the bane of our development. We have realized billions of dollars from the sales of crude oil and gas and we don’t have anything to show for it. The environment is too hostile to sustain an enterprise. Entrepreneurship is germane to any national growth because, they are employers in any society; until we begin to take entrepreneurship serious in the country by creating the enabling environment for business to thrive, there’s no guarantee for economic growth.

What are the critical factors for business success in Nigeria?
Your success begins when you choose to do things differently and innovatively which is the basic thing I learnt when I relocated to Lagos. One fascinating aspect of life and creation is that God has given every man the power to make choices. The power and ingenuity to recreate is in us. This ability has nothing to do with how much education you have; neither is it proportionate to how wealthy you or your parents are. The people who have become successful did so because they chose to do things differently. For example, if you identify a need to improve your life and you strive to implement an action to improve it, you will become somebody. The fundamental basis and foundation of our operations are based on good principles like honesty, perseverance, and hardwork.

What can government do differently to help businesses thrive?
The problem with Nigeria is neither that of resources nor intelligence. The government should try as much as possible to encourage entrepreneurship. In other countries of the world, the government encourages their citizens with tax incentives and low interest funding whereas the reverse is the case in Nigeria. For example, Tonik group boasts of staff strength of over sixty people directly who must collect their salaries at the end of the month whether profits are made or not, and over twenty five people in diverse engagements, yet the government has not done anything to encourage us. It is important to note that creating an enabling environment is very critical to business success. We are running our operations on generator 24/7, and this is not good for the economy. If the policies of government are in consonance with what is obtainable in other countries, then we’ll be able to compete globally.

What is the most leadership lessons you’ve learnt over the years?
The true meaning of leadership is service. Every leader should be a servant. As a leader, you should lead by example. With all humility, I’ll tell you that my management style is an interactive one. I personally get in touch with everybody irrespective of his or her position, because I believe that when you get close to people, you’ll be able to know their strengths and weaknesses which will enable you take strategic decisions for the overall benefit of all. In this organization, it is always difficult to identify the CEO and the workers, there’s no bossy kind of attitude here. That is our style and a key attribute of a good leader.

What are the unique factors that stand your organisation out?
Tonik Group Limited is a quality-driven company registered in Nigeria to carry out excellent services to clients cutting across several sectors of the economy. The things we do are governed by core values and beliefs, which include integrity and customer satisfaction. The direction we are going, we intend to redefine the service level in the industry, so that customers will have real value for their money as this will go a long way to define who we are and the kind of organisation we are trying to build. We are not just one of those companies that play in the industry, we are redefining the business. Our customers can testify to the quality of service we deliver. We have a very good knowledge of the industry and our knowledge base is our competitive advantage. Strategically located, Hotel Royale is about 15 minutes drive from the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, and three minutes away from the Lagos-Ibadan expressway by Berger bus stop and we established a dedicated customer care desk to handle all our customers’ complaints with a swift response on 08182501082.

What are your focus/projections for the organisation?
We intend to be the leading player in the hospitality, automobile and real estate industries in the next couple of years through the provision of innovative, high quality, and affordable services in our market niche, with a view to achieving the benchmark for all. My focus is to build a world class conglomerate that will outlive me. In the next couple of years, I see this organization diversifying into other sectors of the Nigerian economy including Agriculture and manufacturing. The choice of manufacturing is not far-fetched as an average Nnewi man believes in owning a manufacturing firm as can be seen from the robust manufacturing firms that dot the nooks and crannies of the town.

In diversifying your business, did you have the competence to really manage the business? The beauty of managing a business is not what you can do yourself, but the ability to synergize what people around you can do and harness the full benefits positively. My job is basically supervision, most times their ideas could be better than mine, but I only have the opportunity of listening to so many people and putting their ideas together. It’s not what you do per se, but the ability to harness the potentials of your colleagues is what really matters; that is why no one takes glory for whatever success that is achieved, because it is propelled by teamwork.

Advice to Nigerian entrepreneurs:
Young people should stop aspiring to be like the other person. Everybody is uniquely made; it’s all about discovering your potentials. Discover the special thing God has deposited in you and develop it. It may be tough but don’t be discouraged and you should be bold enough to catch up with your vision. Discover and know what differentiates you from others. With passion, perseverance, honesty and hardwork, success can be achieved.

What drives you?
The driving force is the desire to make a difference in this world. I don’t just want to pass through this world unnoticed; I want to leave positive footprints in the society. The drive is equally the desire to create something that will be of immense good to as many. I equally want to contribute my quota to the development of the society and the younger generation. My belief is to empower as many people as possible so that they can be responsible members of the society.

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