Values are essential to our existence
Udinese Properties Limited is a premium real Estate Firm that is poised to create wealth and value by engaging in Real Estate Development, Land Consultancy, Canal Dredging and provision of good w,ater supply. The Chairman of the Firm, Chief Philip Udi came into public reckoning when he successfully completed Victory Estate 1 and 2 in Lagos, Nigeria. He spoke on the Focus of a CEO and sundry issues in this interview with NNAMDI NWOKOLO.
WHAT influenced your choice of business? While growing up in the village as a young man, I noticed that some people stay in small thatch huts in the midst of vast land. I felt the people do not have the wherewithal to build befitting structures for themselves so, I envisaged that when I grow up, I will go into real estate to cushion the stress people are going through as well as contribute my quota to the efforts of the government in the provision of housing for local and poor people. I made up my mind that I’ll go into a business that‘ll be able to provide decent accommodation for many people. Udinese Properties Limited and its subsidiary companies were formed to play a leading role in Real Estate, Construction and Engineering Industry in Nigeria with a vision to provide and build affordable real estate in a conducive environment.
What has been the most challenging experience you encountered?
Every business endeavour has its challenges but what one needs is perseverance and patience. For example, in the course of doing business, I have attended many property seminars globally. My discovery is that housing challenge is ubiquitous but different countries make legislation that will aid in tackling the menace. Some of these countries have relaxed the process of land acquisition whereas in some countries foreigners are encouraged to invest in their real estate sector with tax free incentives. For example, before we put together Victory estate, we had to tackle the bureaucracy of perfecting land documents. The most challenging experience, I would say is the challenge of Omonile’s and I encourage the government to relax some of the processes of land acquisition. The story of Dubai is an inspiring one and nothing would stop us from replicating the same thing in Nigeria.
On the critical factors for business success in Nigeria:
The greatest success factor in business is the Grace of God. It takes the Grace of God to survive and do business in Nigeria. Nigeria is a challenging environment, but opportunities abound in this Country. You need the Grace of God to survive without power, water, adequate security and the basic infrastructure that will enhance your survival. To be a success, one needs to build his enterprise based on the principles of long term values. The business owner should not be looking for immediate gains; the aim should be on the profits at the long run. If an entrepreneur focuses on long term gain; definitely he must achieve success. There should also be a focus on customer retention and dealings with all stakeholders based integrity and trust.
What stands your organization out of the competition?
We cannot define our competitors narrowly. We take into account those arrays of the competition in all its ramifications. Competition to us is not pointing at xyz as our major competitor. We compete with various people for various things. From inception, Udinese properties Limited have continued to enjoy exceptional market acceptance and growth, which has enabled the company to establish a profitable niche market, based on its superior service and delivery styles. The bulk of our success is centered on the way we handle our customers. At Udinese properties Limited, we are guided by values that are very essential to our existence. These values define who we are, what we do, the manner in which we do it, and what we aspire to achieve in our daily endeavours. We apply these values in the relationships we develop with our clients/ customers, employees, partners and colleagues. These core values differentiate us from others that render similar services to ours.
Most startups complain about funding, how did you deal with that?
Money is not an end in itself but a means to an end. Passion is much more than money. When you have passion for something, nothing will stop you. You need to develop trust because, if people don’t trust you, they can’t commit anything to you. If you have the passion, you’ll see people that’ll buy into your vision. The biggest challenge most CEOs encounter in Nigeria is execution. For a CEO to be successful, he must be able to follow through with the execution of ideas. The next is getting the right people and keeping them with the right motivation to achieve the set goals and targets. The third one is for them to leverage on Technology to support and grow the business.
What are your Focus/Projections in the next couple of years?
In whatever we do, we provide value to the Customer. Once a customer feels that he or she is not getting value for his money, it’s bad business. The customer is the live wire of any business concern. The focus of every organization should be geared towards customer satisfaction. We provide value through giving our customers very good and quality service because they are central to everything we do. Everybody prays for progression and success. In the next five years, to be sincere with you, we’ll be bigger than
what you see today. We’ll be spreading our tentacles to other areas where we can see opportunities.
What can government do differently to help the industry?
Government should be sincere enough. The land use act need to be amended, though it’s before the National assembly. This is major amendments that will the help in reducing the housing deficit in the country. Currently we have housing deficit of about 18million, the foundation of bridging this gap is to restructure the land use act. This will accelerate housing development in the country.
Leadership is about influence, I’m a student of leadership, I believe in the saying that if you are a leader and you don’t have followers, you are just taking a walk. It’s about the number of people that you duplicate yourself in; it’s about the heads you are able to raise up. In this organization, we have no boss, all of us are colleagues. That’s why when you come in, there’s no tension. That is leadership. A boss demands for respect but a leader earns the respect and confidence of his subordinates. People follow you because of what you have to offer. This is lacking in our body polity, do we have selfless leaders in the country; do we have leaders that can imbibe great virtues in people; do we have leaders that are passionate about the educational system; or the housing deficit? Where are the leaders? The problem of Nigeria is not human capacity of natural resources; it is the problem of leadership. We still have a long way to go because we lack good leadership.
Advice to young Nigerian entrepreneurs:
I represent millions of Nigerian who the society has not recognized or given the opportunity to excel. My candid advice is for them to believe in themselves and believe in what they can do. We have a system that corrupts the business mind of a vibrant young Nigerian. I see a system that is not promoting young entrepreneurship. The certificate has enslaved so many people in this country. Our core value is very important in whatever we do. Some people can complain that real estate is saturated but opportunities abound in the industry. We are out to make an impact. As much as money is important, we don’t lay emphasis on money. The prosperity and goodwill of those we serve is the foundation of our success. What we do is that we customize our services to suit the different needs of our customers. Our business is driven not by products but by the needs of our customers and we survive by servicing the customer’s need.
Advice to young professionals:
Young professionals must not get involved in corruption, because your staff is looking. If they see that your decisions are compromised with corrupt tendencies, they are bound to follow your steps and it will not augur well for the organization. A leader should be able to work the talk and not just talking the work. They should be patient because Rome was not built in a day. Before we got to where we are, we’ve paid some dues. Academic and professional qualification is very important and they must sow before they reap.