Renowned accountant, former Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Nestle, Chief Olusegun Osunkeye has said that integrity, good character and competence are the keys to success in business and to remain in position of authority in any organisation.
Speaking at the Business meeting of the Rotary Club of Ikeja held on Monday, February, 3rd, 2020 at Airport Hotel, Ikeja, Chief Osunkeye, who had been on boards of several blue chip organisations in Nigeria said that he was able to sustain his position and self-respect in multinational companies by being truthful, of good character based on competence.
“As a Chief Executive, the major ingredient is trust, then character, integrity, and competence. Also for local companies from which you want to look for a partner, it is trust, character, and integrity that you will look for.
“It is the common trend, so for the foreign companies who have entrusted you with their resources and so on, they will want to see whether they can trust you or not. Even if he is a Nigerian and he is in Kano and you are in Lagos, it is the trust and confidence that matter. I think in my own case I have demonstrated that over the years in Nestle.”
On why most multinational companies including those established by Nigerians don’t trust Nigerians with position of authority, Chief Osunkeye said; “We have many Chief Executives now who have done well but we also have unfortunately some Nigerian executives who have let Nigerians down by their behaviour whilst in office and for one bad egg out of one hundred, that one bad egg has smeared the remaining hundred.
“Therefore the foreign executives use that against us sometimes, when they say Nigerians are not doing well in this capacity. Sometimes at the top level Nigerians disappoint Nigerians and when it happens, that one incidence is used to judge all other Nigerians.
“But in my own case as the Chief Executive Officer of Nestle, I was able to identify Nigerians who can do well like I do. Nestle accepted my proposal and the person was sent out to South Africa and other countries to train and he turned out to be one of the best.”
As the former President of Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, (NECA), Chief Oshunkeye also advised entrepreneurs in the country to operate with sound business principles to be able to survive the harsh environment in which businesses operate in Nigeria.
“First of all small and medium enterprises in Nigeria have my deep sympathy because business in Nigeria requires a lot of courage and endurance. But having said that there are ways they can mitigate the harsh environment in which the Nigerian businesses operate, they must conform to sound business principles.”
He also urged them to always reconcile their various bank accounts regularly because that is one of the basis where Nigerian banks make money adding that if you don’t do reconciliation, you won’t see some charges being input into your account and that is a lot of money, so sound business principles is very important.
“Nigeria banks are now predators, generally speaking, they will charge interest at whatever rate pleases them and Nigerian entrepreneurs has not got the clout to negotiate the rates, while multinational companies are paying about 9% or 10% for its overdraft, the Nigeria entrepreneur will pay about 25% but if you run your business on sound business principles, which means you have a budget ahead before the year starts, you have annual audited account on due day and the bank can perceive this Nigeria company is very well run, you stand a better chance to get facilities and also to get it at good interest rate,” he said.
He commended the Federal Government for closing the borders after signing the free trade agreement in order to protect local industries and the indigenous businesses. He described the Nigerians market as big for consumption and not for manufacturing which makes that decision very appropriate to boost the economy.
According to him: “In my own opinion the President was right because it is obvious that Nigeria is a big market for consumption but with this decision now we will be able to work on our manufacturing facilities, we will be more efficient because of volume of production in Nigeria, from there we can now start exporting our own goods.”
Speaking on why some Nigerians who have excelled in the private sector are not active in the public sector especially politics, Chief Oshunkeye who was also the Past President of Rotary Club of Lagos said it is because of the terrain is different, the environment is different.
“If some of the leaders in the private sector go to the public sector, they may not perform because the environment is different. It’s like if you put a worm in water it will swim, if you put it in gin, it will die. So the environment in which you find yourself, determines what you do. In the public sector it is different, there you obey different masters, different poises, different values and therefore if you try to use their own values, you may discredit yourself, your integrity will be lost.
“For the leaders, who have excelled in the private sector, the common factor is integrity. In that environment, you have a policy, you have direction, you have a strategy which you follow and you are focused. And because the public sector environment is different, the people who succeed in the private sector cannot perform there,” he added.