The business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, was at the Lagos Business School to give a lecture. He ended up sharing his life experiences and advice with both budding and established entrepreneurs. The event served as a catalyst for today’s lessons from the man who has worked hard to become the richest black person in the world.
It is an open secret that the Dangote Group, a diversified conglomerate with interests across a range of sectors in Africa, has over 18 subsidiary companies, with several interests in cement, sugar, flour, salt, pasta, beverages and real estate, with new projects in development in the oil and natural gas, telecommunications, fertilizer and steel. But did you know that the Dangote Group started as a small trading firm in the year 1977? By identifying what you, as an entrepreneur, should do, we tell the story of how the Chairman of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, got to where he is today.
See and maximize opportunities
This is one of the qualities that have made Dangote a successful business man in Africa. He possesses a knack for seeing opportunities beyond what others could see. For instance, in April this year, he announced plans to invest $8 billion in building an oil refinery with capacity for around 400,000 barrels a day by late 2016. That is three years from now.
Of the amount, he revealed at the World Economic Forum on Africa held in Cape Town, South Africa, that he had raised $4.5 to build the refinery, securing loans from a consortium of banks.
Some have said with that singular move, if all goes according to plan, Dangote stands a great chance of becoming the richest man in the world.
A lot of business moguls has said that entrepreneurs need passion to pursue their vision in order to make it a reality. And that passion has served as catalyst to becoming the man Dangote is today. Being a person who had always had an eye for business even at a young age, he passionately pursued his ideas vigorously, becoming more than just an entrepreneur. “I can remember when I was in primary school, I would go and buy cartons of sweets and I would start selling them just to make money. I was so interested in business, even at that time,” he said of how he started off.
With a token from his grandfather and a latter loan he took from same, he started a business. Now, he is the richest man in Africa, with net worth of $16.1 billion, as of March 2013, in Forbes’ estimates.
Explaining, Dangote said “for me, I started small as a trader in cement. Then I left cement around 1978. Because there was this armada and cement was difficult to get at that time. I had my own money which my grandfather gave me free, but then he gave me also an additional loan of N500, 000 (about $3,000) which was big money in those days. The money was quite a substantial amount then. The loan was supposed to be paid back whenever I was okay-maybe after three or four years. But I paid the loan back within six months.”
Don’t eat your seed money
At the time, Dangote was given the N500, 000 loans in 1978, which he could have easily used to chase cars, houses and whatever caught his fancy. Back then, a Mercedes Benz car was sold for N5, 000 while a Volkswagen Beetle went for N900 to N1, 000. But he didn’t do any of those, instead he invested the money and he was able to pay back the loan in six months, as against the originally thought three or four years.
Get an education
Aside his formal education – a degree in Business Studies and Administration from School of Economics & Business, Al Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt, he made himself available to get as much informal education as possible, from his grandfather, an uncle, the environment, the business climate and life in general.
“All my business acumen and instincts I inherited from my maternal grandfather. As his first grandson, he poured his business wizardry into me. I would not have been where I am today without him; a very great man, loving and caring.
“I started with the business of cement, which was giving us a lot of money because at that time, Nigeria was making so much money and we were doing a lot of constructions. On a vehicle which I normally get from my uncle, I was making about N1, 350 to N1, 400 per day, and I had an allocation of about three to four trucks including Saturdays and Sundays. Later, I realized I was making a lot of money though then, I didn’t have a lot of ideas of what to do. It was only cement business that I knew and I was stuck to it up till 1980, when I started knowing Lagos, becoming a Lagosian, understanding where to go and finding people to buy import licenses from. Within three months, I paid my grandfather back because I had no further need of his money,” the man was quoted to have said in a biography.
Slow and steady wins the race
Today, the world knows Dangote as a billionaire but did you know that he took him 30 years to amass $1 billion? His journey is a very interesting one, showing all the features of luck, opportunity, hard work and providence, but most of all patience.
Invest in your environment
Dangote believes that taking your wealth outside the shores of the country wouldn’t help the country’s economy, therefore, he charged entrepreneurs to invest in their country, saying, “let me tell you this and I want to really emphasize it. Nothing is going to help Nigeria like Nigerians bringing back their money. If you give me $5 billion today, I will invest everything here in Nigeria. Let us put our heads together and work.”
“I am someone who doesn’t switch off my phone. My phone is on 24 hours. My day is not really very structured because of several issues. The demand of my time is really extremely high; especially in Nigeria you have a lot of ceremonies, and unnecessary ones,” Dangote said at a lecture at the Lagos Business School.
Don’t waste time
When attending business meetings or conferences in other countries, he said he could not afford to waste time. He explained that “sometimes I go all the way from here (Nigeria) to China, and spend only five hours in China and come back. That’s why I don’t take my private jet to China because the pilots need hours to rest, and the hours that they need, which is nine hours, I don’t have. So I have to take Emirates.”
Have a routine and invest in your health
Dangote said he starts his work days around 5 a.m., being the most productive for him, in his own admission. He also said he tries to fit in time to exercise most mornings, which helps him prevent stress. “Exercise is better than any medicine I can take. Exercise and sleep,” he said during the lecture. He is an ardent jogger.
Relax, let go of stress and worries
At one time, Dangote said he had trained himself not to let stress or worry affect his sleep, recommending that other entrepreneurs train themselves in this. “Even if someone had to tell me I would die tomorrow, I would still sleep.
On how he relaxes, he said, “my only enjoyment is to sit around and talk with my friends, and exercise. I like to exercise, and if people are doing weddings or whatever I like to show up for 10-20 minutes and then I go.
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