Vera: It’s quite rare to find a man spearheading a women’s empowerment organization as you are doing with Women4Africa (W4A). What is your motivation and what’s the impact you want with W4A?
Sam: Very true! Fortunately I co-head this with my beautiful wife Tola, so it makes things easier. However, my motivation and passion really is the elevation of Africa. It’s impossible to develop a continent without focusing on the people and specifically on women who are the majority. So the slant towards Women is both for practical and the strategic driving of our vision. When women are supported and empowered, everyone benefits including men. It’s very rare to find a woman who does not celebrate her Son, Partner or Husband.
Vera: From a man’s perspective, and an informed one at that because of your work with women, what do you think is the biggest challenge women face and what more can they do to push forward?
Sam: I have noticed women face a lot of insecurities stemming from how they are treated by men but also by women to fellow women. As a result many women lack self confidence which negatively affects the esteem that others hold them in or the influence they have. Women can keep pushing forward but need to be supported through their ‘’multiple value’’ being understood and appreciated. Women should be celebrated as fantastic lovers, fabulous cooks, team mates, child bearers; all in all equal team partners with men. Which means “Team success” is only complete when the role of men and women are acknowledged.
Vera: What do women continue to struggle with that surprises you and what in your view would it take for more men to promote or support women’s advancement?
Sam: I think to a greater degree we all struggle with our identity. For women, I am concerned about the many brainy women out there that want to reason and take decisions that they feel men take simply to prove a point. I think women are different and should be confident in the way they do things and leverage their unique strengths rather than mirror men to make a point. I think for men to help in supporting women’s advancement, from an early stage mothers and fathers should educate and influence boys about the equally important roles of men and women and the need to celebrate differences and work in partnership. Mindsets that men are above women must be unlearned.
Vera: As a management consultant, what would your advice be to an organization that wanted to do more to get women into management levels?
Sam: Great question, I would ask them to read my friend, Dr Yvonne Thompson, CBE’s book, ‘’7 traits of Highly successful women on boards’’. Yvonne’s book has some great examples of women who have done this. As a successful consultant sometimes the approach is to refer people to experts who can give my clients answers and in this case that would be Yvonne, who has this specialism.
Vera: You recently launched your new book ‘’37 Business Thoughts’’. What’s the thrust of the book and what are you hoping to shift or change with this book?
Sam: I wrote the book to share Business Answers that have helped me and many clients grow ideas into internationally recognized brands. So many people are waiting for external help whilst others just go ahead and start. However, between these two groups there is a balance to be struck in ways that I share in the book. The books provides new advice but also reminders in areas of emotional intelligence, influencing and communication to help businesspeople build successful enterprises. The book can take them from zero to hero!
Vera: Obviously all 37 ‘’thoughts’’ are important but is there one overarching ‘’thought’’ that you would recommend to someone starting a new in business?
Sam: The book is for people in business whether in year 1 or year 50. The principles are timeless and must be applied consistently to sustain business success. I think for a start up “Your network is your Net worth” is very important. As high net-worth people will not tolerate failure, excuses or procrastination, being in their network will force you to change or risk being expelled from their inner circle. For some people this is the awakening required to help them grow. Also, I must add you must have a focus and plan to get you there steps by step.
Vera: The Great Business Platform (GBP) Club is another important initiative you founded. More and more young people are seeing starting their own business as a real alternative to going into the corporate world. What’s the best way to groom young people to start strong in an industry that has a very high failure rate?
Sam: You have touched on over 9 of my 37 business thoughts in this one question. I will give a few examples of the ‘’thoughts’. “Never let a problem remain unaddressed for more than 24 hours”, because you are keeping a customer waiting. “Your team will make you or break you” Don’t just do business or partnerships with friends or family, they can wipe you out. “Keep order in business” you must learn before you earn. Choose character over skills. You must be a person of your word. If young people follow these insights the will be on the right track.
Vera: You’ve recently won two very impressive accolades; first as one of the 100 most influential Nigerians in the UK and then as one of the 100 most influential Africans in the UK at the African Achievers Awards. Why do you think you earned these and what in your view elevated you from the first award to the second?
Sam: Service, that’s the answer. I service my community and business with a passion. I need money but I pursue service. It is in servicing that such honour comes. However the ingredient that makes it known is the visibility that comes with such service. Not boastfulness but visibility, it makes a huge difference. This is my opinion as to how they decided to choose… I really don’t know.
Vera: Becoming successful is one thing. Staying successful is quite another. How have you maintained success on so many levels and what are some of the big decisions you regularly make to keep things going well on so many fronts?
Sam: I have failed many more times than I have succeeded. So, I’ve learnt that my habits and actions influence my future. I am a business coach with many clients. However, I have a Coach that keeps me on top of my game. Becoming successful is good; staying successful requires internal and external support. So, having a coach gives you someone external and impartial to help you enforce your action plan. So, without fail I have a weekly phone or face to face meeting with my coach. Without fail I always apply mental discipline and push myself to attain goals.
Vera; If you were writing another book focusing on some of the lessons you’ve learnt and with advice to young people on how to navigate challenges what would you say?
Sam: Your questions are on point! The truth is I have a lot to say and I am producing an audio series as well as written books. So please stay in touch and the Information will be published.
Sam Onigbanjo is author of ‘’37 Business thoughts’’ Founder of the GBP Business Club- www.greatbusinessplatforms.com – a Global business club designed to connect and bring people together and co-founder of Women4Africa- www.women4africa.com Sam is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and at the time of his election was one of the youngest Africans ever to become a fellow. A very experienced business communicator and leader, Sam is an effective public speaker and passionate advocate for Africa and Africa’s development. With over 18 years’ commercial experience in marketing and business development, Sam has delivered several big business contracts in London. Sam is a conveyor, networker and strategic link amongst key leaders and Influencers. It is often said “If you need help with bringing people together then connect with Sam Onigbanjo” Sam may be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org