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MAVI: We Need To Look Inwards To Grow The Economy




Mavi Isibor is the Group Chief Executive Officer Of Poise Nigeria LTD, the premier personality and image consultancy firm. In this interview with BISI ALABI WILLIAMS, the banker turned etiquette connoisseur says the Nigerian economy needs to look inward to grow. 

Do you think President Buhari has the ability to achieve the change that Nigerians yearn for? In Schlesinger’s view of Presidential greatness, the great president is a hero, who protects human freedom and democracy by changing the course of history.

These are not small expectations to be sure. One might wonder how much influence polls of Presidential greatness might have in constituting the public’s expectation of the presidency.

After all, how many Nigerians read these polls and how much weight do citizens and political class give to the musings of our historical past? It is certainly a difficult question to answer with any certainty, but I argue that by providing a consistent standard by which to judge presidential “greatness” those polls helped to constitute, if not the Presidency, then at least expectations about the Presidency.

President Buhari should also know this: People identify with a president in a way they don’t to other public figure. They want him to be larger than life, a living legend and yet quintessentially human— someone to be held up to their children as a model and someone to be cherished by members of the community.

And Reverence goes where power is. Do you support the Federal government’s directive on domiciliary account?  While this has generated uproar in some economic quarters, a sizeable number of people have expressed optimism about the new policy.

Following the dwindling exchange rate of the naira, the Federal government Nigeria set out to take stringent measures to shore up currency and bring to the barest minimum the illegal activities in the exchange market, speculative bidding.

This is a welcome development, albeit a painful time for some genuine businesses. Change is a difficult pill to swallow and unfortunately, this is even truer in our clime.

Not to negate the fairly harsh effect this would have on some businesses, I do think that it is ultimately for the good of our economy. The fact is that the disparity in the exchange rates between the inter-bank windows and the black market is not healthy for the economy.

But manufacturers, SME industries, and highly mobile people, who cannot access foreign exchange via the official channel, will be negatively affected. Nigeria is a heavily imports dependent country.

Fortunately, the price of crude oil was high, earning us huge foreign exchange, boosting our external reserves and meeting our import demands, but when crude oil prices started to fall, the balance of trade tilted against us, making CBN to devalue the naira, besides there have been high demand for foreign and supply has not been commensurate with these outrageously high demands.

There is a great need for us all as Nigerians to realise that the whole essence of these policies is to protect our legal tender, our economy and our industries.

We could argue that the imported commodities are cheaper than their locally produced counterparts, but should we forsake standards for affordability? Should we allow dumping to the detriment of the general populace? CEOs and business owners, particularly the women need to begin to look inward and consider the options of sourcing for commodities locally.

We must all play our part in ensuring the economic development of our country by reducing our dependency on imported products and begin to patronize our local manufacturers.

You were a banker, at what point did you start Poise Group of Companies? I was working with the Universal Trust Bank (UTB), where I handled key duties that included marketing and interfacing with different group of.

I was then an introvert, so I sought for ways to improve on my personality and communication skills. Although, I had attended different training programmes, none of them gave me what I wanted, as they were all geared towards the technical areas of marketing.

I loved my job, so I enrolled at a soft skills training institute in the United States of America to hone my persuasive and communicating skills. Upon my graduation, I returned home to continue with my job.

The difference between the Mavi before and Mavi after was clear as my job performance improved tremendously. I became really good with matters of soft skills.

And since it’s difficult to hide a golden fish, people around me began to notice the difference. This difference is the justification for poise, finesse and etiquette for anyone who desire to up their skills in the work place, whether, its corporate, private or public.

The difference is real. Shortly after, my friends and colleagues began to come to me for one hint or the other on how to conduct themselves in public functions. I ended up conducting a training programme for staff at the training school with the modules I developed.

Eventually, I left banking and started Poise. It didn’t matter then that my dining room was my first office.

What were your initial challenges? Back in the early 2000s, Poise was the pioneer finishing school and the sheer unpopularity of their services made everyday a fight of faith.

The first thing that the outfit’s team had to do was to create awareness. There was hardly anyone who thought that it was a business venture or that it was a money-spinning business that people would want to readily pay for.

I remembered how my daughter and I set about the arduous task of helping people see the connection between personality projection, suavity, decorum, decency, etiquette and protocol.

We spent considerable time, energy and resources helping people realise that in this technology-driven age, with influences from different cultures, there was no way they could continue to operate the way they did and remain relevant.

Slowly, but steadily, our efforts began to pay off. What does it take to raise a company from the very scratch? It has taken pure hard work to raise the company from scratch, but it has been a dream – come true. There is nothing like living your dream and watching it develop wings of its own.

The prompting came when we started receiving franchise requests from other Nigerian states and countries. We are grateful to God for taking us to other climes. In all, the first thing that has helped me this far is discipline and hard work. Nothing in life is easy indeed, nothing comes cheap. Everything that stands tall and strong today has a strong foundation.

What are the things that young people, who desire to develop a global mindset and succeed watch out for? If young people today will discard the ‘get rich quick’ mentality, and spend time developing themselves and hardwork to get ahead, they will surely enjoy a good harvest and live the good life. I believe that hard work still pays.

For Nigerian business owners and executives to compete effectively in the competitive global market, they must pursue excellence in every area of their work, attitude and behaviour.

How best would you describe women, the Nigerian women today? Nigerian women are great achievers. They are a gift to our generation and a special gift to the world.

That is why the history of any nation is grossly incomplete without women. Some women are born great while some have greatness thrust on them as a result of the power that comes with the professional seats they occupy.

There are also those that enjoy the status as an extension of the prominence they are given by the media. All over the world, such women find themselves in the public eyes of admirers and fans.

Everywhere I go I encourage women to reach out for their dreams. I encourage them to break out and release their talents, potentials fragrance – to rise above obstacles, determine their worth and set high standards and most of all be the aroma they were fashioned to be.

Women should impact her world and affect their generation. But it’s not every woman that is free, empowered and ready to influence her world Yes, it is not and this is the sad part.

When I look into the future, I know that Nigerian women are far from being done. Some women are free and some are not free to discover their dreams. It is sad that Laws, traditions and beliefs tie down some women.

This should not be the case, as every human being should be free to actualize their life’s dream and aspiration. By their very nature and being the fundamental basis of the African society, women have the natural tendency to use their earnings and bargaining power to improve their family wellbeing.

That is why government at all levels, our Lawmakers and society at large, even religious organisations and NGO’s must do more to ensure that Nigerian women are empowered.

If adequately empowered with the right things and tools, women will reinvest their income to lift up their families, their communities, their nations and, ultimately, the African continent. I believe that no woman should be held captive by the nuances of tradition.

What vivid examples can you give to show that you are adding value to businesses in Nigeria? Over the years, the young executives that are churned out of poise performed excellently in their assigned tasks. They exhibited excellent communication skills and a good knowledge of Business Etiquette.

They were proactive and worked very well under pressure with little or no supervision. During the internship, most of the interns showcased their good presentation skills because they are young and energetic executives that are raising the bar, positively impacting their communities, and affecting the nation’s workforce with their brilliant performance.

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