Providing responsive and creative solutions to industry challenges
CELMENG Group of Companies Limited is an indigenous Civil, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering firm that has been involved in diverse consultancy for developmental and turn key projects of various scopes. Engineer (Dr.) Folu Olusanya, the Country Managing Partner of the firm is an outstanding Professional with over three decades of wide-ranging experience in engineering practice globally. His business savvy, professionalism, construction and technical background has helped him increase various business verticals to scale up the value chain. The fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers and Nigerian Institution of Electrical Engineers spoke on the Focus of a CEO in this interview with
What influenced your choice of career?
My choice of career was not by accident and at the same time, I wouldn’t say it was planned. My focus as a young school leaver was to be a Mathematician.
But upon getting admission to study Mathematics at the University of Lagos, an uncle of mine, Prof. Awojobi who was at the Department of History convinced me beyond reasonable doubt that Electrical Engineering is mathematically intensive. The conviction made me to change my course to Electrical Engineering and looking back, I give God all the glory that I took that career path. Upon graduation, my friends and I registered CELMENG and Associates as an enterprise and engaged in construction activities. We have a vision for the company right from the onset and the actualization of the vision has been a combination of divine providence, aligned with diligence, integrity, focus and especially excellence in project execution.
In setting up the firm, what were the initial challenges and how were you able to surmount it? CELMENG Group of Companies Limited was formed immediately after our graduation but we couldn’t practice because we lacked the required professional certifications. The challenge at the time was to get experience and professional certifications. While in school, I knew I wasn’t going to work for anybody, but when it was obvious that I needed to pick experience somewhere, I joined the biggest electrical firm at the time.
After four years and with a drop in salary, I changed job to pick experience in building engineering as my former employer was into high voltage engineering. When I’ve gained sufficient experience, I joined CELMENG which my other partners were running and consistently doing the right things has endeared us to the heart of all our Clients. As a pupil Engineer, I aimed for excellence in practice. The challenge of competition was there but we were able to distinguish ourselves with the value we offer. From the beginning God gave us the Grace to excel and overcome.
What are the unique factors that stand your Firm out?
CELMENG Group of Companies Limited retains a reputation for cutting-edge designs in Nigeria. Our core strength lies in our ability to translate every brief into simple, precise, yet bold forms, with a commitment to social and environmental responsibility. We have a commitment to providing a responsive, creative solution to our Clients’ needs, through close collaboration with all stakeholders involved in the process. We are also focused on the concept of sustainability in all our work and designs. We have an integrated organizational structure, which reflects in the high quality output of all our assignments. The basic strength of our organization lies in our diverse job portfolio, which includes a significant number of private sector assignments, a global presence and strategically run management.
What are the critical factors for building a sustainable business?
The first thing you need to build a sustainable business is character and value. When your integrity is rich, money becomes a minor issue. What makes money scarce for people is when their integrity is not rich. When you have demonstrated your character and people trust you, patronage will come. When patronage comes and your value is not of consuming nature, you’ll then build up. What you get from young Nigerian business owners is that when they get a job, they think of buying the biggest cars. Young entrepreneurs should be patient enough to have good training and delay gratification. They must have a set goal in what they do. Patience will help them to know all they could to be successful. In our firm, we have consistently displayed uprightness in the delivery of good customer experience to our clients which has in turn made us build a trusted and reliable organization where quality, high level of integrity and sincerity are pleasantly enjoyed and celebrated.
Most entrepreneurs complain about funding, what’s your take on that?
I had to change from a well paid job to a lesser one to gain the needed experience which in turn was beneficial at the long run. I knew that I needed to be trained for the challenges ahead. Pupil Engineers must realize that money should not be their focus. Any engineer that gets the necessary training and qualification will naturally attract money. The challenge young entrepreneurs’ encounter today is that they want to start very big and starting very big will require a lot of funding. This is where the challenge of funding meets them. It shouldn’t be, if they start small and farm it up; funding will not be a major challenge. Niche marketing can be extremely cost effective if you meet the market’s unique needs by offering something new and compelling as well as speak the market’s language and understand its hot buttons.
Assessment of the industry:
I’d say that Nigerian trained engineers up to 1987 are world class engineers that can compete with their counterparts globally. Frankly speaking, since 1987, as an employer of labour, I noticed that the level of products from Nigerian Universities has deteriorated. What we do as an organisation is that we try as much as possible to train and retrain them and most of them really catch up. The decay in our educational system has gone a long way in affecting the products.
What’s your take on the continued quest for foreign professionals?
So many things are responsible for this; first is that we don’t have respect for ourselves and we are not honoured at home. We need to look inwards as it may interest you to know that most of these so-called foreign professional are not as qualified as Nigerians, yet, we crave for them. It has to do with our mentality and it is very bad. Occasionally at CELMENG, we bring in expatriates depending on the nature of the job we have at hand. Don’t forget that in bidding for some jobs, the client may wish to know the people you are deploying to their sites. When we get some jobs, depending on the skills needed, we’ll bring in our foreign partners to be part of the project. Most importantly, we need to start patronizing our own professionals to help in boosting professionalism.
Projections for the organisation:
The only way a company can survive up to the third generation is total disintegration of the partnership. We are a Civil, Electrical, Mechanical Engineering firm and what we do in CELMENG is that each partner holds his branch and they are independent of the centre. We collaborate technically and remit a certain percentage of our profits to the centre in case of emergency. The beauty of what we are doing is that we’ve built our portfolio to be very rich as the contribution of each branch comes into the picture. We are also building people that will take over from us as we have retirement and succession plan in place so that the company can outlive the promoters.
Advice to young professionals:
If you have decided to be in any profession, try as much as possible to know that profession to the highest level that you can train yourself. Knowledge will always sell as it is experience and knowledge that will bring money and comfort. I’ll advice young professionals to get their values right. Your values will inculcate your performance, punctuality, experience, knowledge and your ability to deliver on time. Once you get your values right, patronage must come.
What drives you?
My greatest source of inspiration is God. We also believe in total dedication to specific goals, but our biggest strength is in our integrity and excellent customer service delivery.