Determined to Build a World Class Corporation
Winners, they say, never quit and quitters never win. Such is the likes of Engineer Gboyega Ojo, the Managing Director/CEO of Estrella Services Nigeria Limited. Estrella Services Nigeria Limited (ESNL) is an independent firm offering a broad range of professional services to the oil and gas industry, corporate organizations and high net worth individuals. Through perseverance, determination and integrity, he has had the privilege of being in high, responsible position and proved that he is always very comfortable with challenges anytime and anywhere. The recipient of the CED Forum awards 2015 spoke on the Focus of a CEO in this interview with Nnamdi Nwokolo.
YOUR organization currently received the CED Forum awards 2015, how do you feel and what does the award mean to you?
To be honest with you, I was a little bit surprised because I’m not familiar with the organizers of the award, but I feel very happy. What it means is that people recognize what you do and it encourages us to do more. The truth is that we lay emphasis on excellence and quality service delivery. In line with our vision, we aim to achieve high standard and efficiency through our skilled and trustworthy workforce, so that customers can be sure of our dedication to work and our commitment to every project as well as excellent and timely service delivery.
What influenced your choice of career?
While growing up, everybody around me had one or two things to do with the oil and gas industry. So, naturally my interest tilted towards the oil and gas industry. I had my first degree in geology. I travelled out of the country and had a Masters in Applied Environmental Geology which has an aspect of technical and civil engineering. I developed competence and took a career path in civil engineering majoring in foundations. I later developed competence in Maintenance, civil engineering and construction.
I had the opportunity of working as a design Engineer with Tensar International, an American multinational company in the United Kingdom before returning to Nigeria to establish Estrella Services Nigeria Limited. Estrella Services Nigeria Limited (ESNL) is an independent firm offering a broad range of professional services including procurement & supply services, specialized waste management services, technical/skilled manpower services and general maintenance/renovation services to the oil and gas industry; corporate organizations; government ministries, departments & agencies; beverage manufacturing industries as well as technical and research institutions.
In running ESNL, what has been your biggest challenge and how were you able to surmount it?
As you know, when we started, access to funding was very difficult. Let me give you a little illustration to drive home my point. At the very beginning, we got a job in Kogi state. Before the job was given to us, they asked us to bring a bond, we ran to the back and the bank in turn asked us to bring collateral for that amount. Part of what I explained to the bank manager was that we are a start up, where does he want us to get collateral from.
These are some of the challenges small businesses face in the country and it is capable of killing the dream of any young person. Luckily for us, we’ve passed that stage as we can afford some certain things. The other challenge is that a lot of registrations is required especially in the oil and gas industry. You might be required to do about five different tyoes of registration for a particular line of business. Through perseverance, determination and integrity, we were able to weather the storm and we are better off today.
What can government do differently to help entrepreneurs to succeed?
From my experience while working in the United Kingdom, I know that startup companies are given tax holiday at least for the first three years of their existence. When we started operations for example, we had to pay all the taxes without anybody giving a hoot about where we got the money from. I strongly suggest that government should give small businesses tax incentives as this will encourage many people to go into entrepreneurship. Government should be able to take risk with genuine small businesses, rather than ask them for bonds, they should take the risk by giving them grants to encourage people go into entrepreneurship. Government policies should also be tailored towards encouraging organisations to thrive in a way that regulatory bodies will be strong enough to ensure standardization of products/services. I know a lot of businesses that have gone under due the challenges of the environment.
What are the principles that have helped you to sustain the firm?
The fundamental principle of building a sustainable business is to put systems in place. At Estrella services Nigeria Limited for example, we have a system that allows the organization to run whether I’m there or not. The way the organization is run, I’m like an employee because we have a system that determines the percentage of profit that is ploughed back into the business and the percentage that goes to everyone. I sincerely believe that entrepreneurs should delay gratification to enable the business survive. I may not have too much money but if the business is healthy it should be able to service me later. Attention is on the business as you’ll agree with me that if the business is healthy, everybody will be fine. We sustained the firm by using established systems that are sacrosanct to run the organization.
What are your expectations in the business environment in 2016?
We hope the New Year must be better as 2015 is a very tough year for entrepreneurs. From the time of the elections, business has been very slow judging from our partners. With the slide in oil price, a lot of businesses has closed shop while so many others are downsizing, we hope that as the new government settles down, opportunities will be opened for business to thrive. In 2016, we are looking forward to new opportunities and exploring ways to mentor young people. It will interest you to know that we were among the people selected to mentor young graduates in the SURE-P Graduate internship programme and we hope to do more given the opportunity.
What is the unique selling point of Estrella Services Nigeria Limited?
Our mission is to deliver swift excellent services. As the Managing Director of the firm, I’m involved in every project to ensure standards and quality service delivery. The key to our success is our people as we develop and empower our people to achieve our objectives in delivering quality and the most cost effective services to our clients. ESNL professionals are dedicated and skilled with practical experience and a strong knowledge of the industry standards, codes and regulations.
We pursue a vibrant health, safety and environmental campaign that is nurtured by a dedicated workforce of safety professionals and a strong environmental management system. Our vision is to be a world class organization in our niche market.
We make every effort to advance our services through a combination of an ISO 9001 Quality Management System and a commitment to staff development. We always provide reliable, responsible and competent professionals to assist clients on any project we are involved in. in the next five years, the company must have been well known like the Dangotes, the Julius Bergers etc. Agriculture is another area that is dear to me, so we’ll be diversifying into agriculture in the foreseeable future.
I don’t know if I’ll call it achievement but we were part of the team that did the survey of the AAK Trans Saharan gas pipeline. Estrella Services completed the renovation and general maintenance of Forte Oil head office complex on 13, Walter Carrington Crescent Victoria Island Lagos and we partnered with the Canadian offshore environmental giant, Encanex, to execute specialised environmental services in Nigeria.
I want to be the best in my chosen line of business. I want to build the biggest corporation.