The informal sector is critical to economic recovery
Chief Godwin Iheanacho, the Chairman of Coconut Avenue Micro-finance Bank Limited is a testimony of great entrepreneurial success. With a humble background, he has many things going for him including integrity, hardwork, foresight and the restlessness to be a global player in the business environment. His desire to be his own boss exposed him to different vocations with cognate landmark and over the years has been a force to reckon with in virtually all the areas of his business interest. Chief Iheanacho spoke on the Focus of a CEO in this interview with Nnamdi Nwokolo.
What informed your choice of business?
To be honest with you, my choice of business was by providence, in the sense that it wasn’t planned, but life pushed me into it, and I was determined to make a success out of it. Before leaving school, I swore never to have anything to do with Civil Service because of the ugly experience my father had with the Nigerian Coal Corporation, so I prepared myself early in life to be in the private sector. I had a brief stint with an sales and advertising firm before the civil war disrupted our operations. After the upheavals, my boss brought me to Lagos to take charge of his sales team, which I did excellently and to the best of my ability. My performance in the organisation made Chief Bakare to approach me with a mouth watering offer to join Oluwalogbon Trading Stores. With the consent of my boss, I resigned and joined the spare parts division of Oluwalogbon Trading stores and the company grew in leaps and bounds due to my efforts. In my quest to explore my potentials, I left the company after some time to start a spare parts trading company, though I cautiously avoided dealing in Peugeot because that is Oluwalogbon’s area of interest. To the Glory of God, through resilience, integrity and hardwork, I was able to take the Company to enviable heights and it was the business that gave birth to Coconut Avenue Micro-Finance Bank Limited.
At what point did you venture into Micro-Financing?
My interest in micro financing is also accidental but due to my desire to create jobs as well as promote small and medium scale businesses by providing finance for their development, I had to venture into the industry. In other to effectively manage the organisation, I went through diverse trainings, seminars and retreats to scale up my knowledge base. The trainings were very interesting as they opened my eyes to the challenges small business owners encounter in their bid to get access to finance and the best way to bridge the gap. Coconut Avenue Micro finance Bank Limited started operations basically to alleviate poverty with a view to improve small businesses through access to finance. In line with our corporate vision, we’ve created products and services that are geared towards development of Small and Medium scale Enterprises. In most cases, we bring them together in groups or cooperatives to make access to finance easy for them.
What has been your biggest challenge?
It was not very easy getting honest staff and on enquiry, I discovered that most successful people suffered the same fate. We’ve had cause to change our management team severally because of dishonesty on the part of the people you entrust with responsibilities. What we have done is to constantly engage our staff to instill them with the virtues of honesty as well as let them know that the growth of the bank determines to a large extent their own growth. Beyond that, we try to make staff welfare a priority to enhance their productivity. Unfortunately, we misplaced our priorities as a Nation by paying lip service to the development of the informal sector of the economy whereas they are supposed to be the engine of the economy. If the government was smart enough to focus on the development of the informal sector like most developed countries of the world, the economy wouldn’t have been where we are today. However, it is not too late to make amends because we must strategically develop the informal sector as they are critical to economic recovery.
Unique Factors that stand your organisation out:
The things we do are governed by core values and the direction we are taking is to redefine the service level in the micro finance industry, so that more small businesses will be empowered with access to micro credit. Our team maintains a strong foundation of trust and mutual respect generated through positive relationship with associates, clients and all stakeholders. Our mission is to create, retain and sustain competence in partnership with our customers by delivering service and maximizing profit for all partners involved. Beyond giving micro credit to small businesses, we also organize lectures to equip them with skills that will help them to manage the funds given to them effectively.
From your experience, what are the critical factors for business success?
The biggest challenge to enterprise development in Nigeria is dearth of infrastructures. What is really driving the economy of advanced countries is the availability of basic infrastructures.
But beyond that, one thing I’ve learnt in the course of this business is that integrity equals capital. The only way entrepreneurs can overcome the issue of financing was to build up their integrity. We operate in a difficult environment, so daily; you meet a lot of challenges. What has actually kept us going is determination, integrity and the Grace of God. What you need is a great deal of goodwill and make people to believe in you. The moment people identify you as a reliable organization, you are on track. What you now need to do is to deliver on two or three promises, which will act as a reference point for your organization. We have endured a lot of difficult situations, but because of the transparent nature of our operations, our staff, clients and associates believe so much in us.
What drives you?
The driving force is the passion in influence the society positively. When you have the desire to change the life of others positively, you’ll get inspiration. I am a highly disciplined person. I find time to do everything I do faithfully. A good management of time is what one needs to be able to cope with the challenges of life. My family plays a role in whatever I am doing, and they share in the vision. I also engage in community service and philanthropy.
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