THE GUARDIAN’S SPECIAL FOCUS ON 50 VALUE-DRIVEN CEOS OF EXCELLENCE THAT POWERED NIGERIA’S ECONOMIC GROWTH IN 2022: Part Two
AKAN JACOBS: Integrity-Driven Tech Entrepreneur, Visionary Business Strategist, With A Passion for Excellence
Akan Jacobs is a tech entrepreneur and business strategist, who under God’s guidance founded the Converge Group of companies in March, 2009. Akan’s career spans twenty-two years building six start-up organizations. His roles include strategic management, information technology, operations management and customer services. Akan is passionate about excellence in business, developing a strong service culture and most of all – doing business the ethical way. Today, Converge’s footprint has covered a few countries including Liberia, Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, Cameroun, Switzerland and Nigeria.
Career journey, passion for excellence
Our vision in Converge is to use the best of technology to solve the worst of human problems. We believe that technology presents businesses and people a springboard with which to leap and transcend barriers for the greater good of society. This is the passion we share at Converge. That as we deliver on our core mandate and vision, we will see transformed countries, with transformed organizations and ultimately transformed individuals who see their lives as upwardly progressive in all ramifications – education, health, family, wealth etc.
Converge’s professionalism, astuteness, contributing to Nigeria’s economic growth
In December, 2008, in the heart of a global recession, our task was to found a technology company that would survive the market conditions, rival existing competition effectively, and deliver significant shareholder value to potential investors. To thrive through these years, God has been very merciful to us and given us a diverse team of experts who deliver exceptional value at multiple layers throughout the organization. We have been fortunate to be early adopters of cutting-edge technologies and have used them to circumvent the growth inertia in the market. As for Nigeria, we are strong proponents for the application of cutting-edge technology in the resolution of the very worst of our nation’s problems. We have identified the three critical low-hanging fruits that stand to reap immediate benefits from the use of cutting-edge technology – security, power and governance.
Fast-tracking Nigeria’s ICT Sector
For us as a sector, policy summersaults at the state or federal level dampens confidence and creates investor lethargy. The devaluation of the naira will be an immediate second. However, the government has had a firm handle on this in the past few months and this is very commendable. Finally, there is something our government will need to look into. There is a huge price disparity seen across the world, where countries of similar economic power such as Nigeria can receive much cheaper prices for software or hardware simply because they belong to a certain regional block – an example would be India. The same enterprise software sold in such a country could be up to 60-70% cheaper than that sold in Nigeria – because we belong to the EMEA price block. EMEA stands for Europe, Middle East and Africa. This may be something the government can take up with western nations as it means that countries in Africa, including Nigeria cannot progress as rapidly as their counterparts in other regions of the world.
Experience, innovation, hallmark of Converge Technologies operations
By far the most impactful innovations will be the changes resulting from the COVID19 pandemic – remote work, out-sourcing models and growth of the ‘as-a-service’ model. Companies are not thinking scalability anymore, they are thinking velocity. How can we do more with less, faster. For our industry in general, it will be the impact of innovative technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, containerization. on everyday businesses and people. It is these future possibilities that keep us awake at night, learning new technologies and applying them in human and business life – to see how Converge can contribute its quota to a better future.
Developing local content, protecting indigenous companies
Nigeria has a lot to do here. For instance, rather than lose young tech talents to other countries posturing and attracting them overseas, the government can engage them meaningfully. If these talents are creating solutions for the biggest brands abroad, they can also create viable solutions for our government institutions at home. This way we are not just buying software designed in other countries and paying exorbitant fees for them, we are investing the resources in our talented young engineers. This more than anything will grossly enhance local content.
Converge Solutions include Containers & Kubernetes. With the spike in digital banking transactions due to the new cashless drive most banks are struggling with the doubling/tripling in transaction volume within their infrastructure. Containers solve this bottleneck within your infrastructure. With containers you can deliver faster app deployments at lower costs. Cut development times for new apps from months to mere weeks, reduce platform deployments to hours and cut app build costs by 60% and extend critical applications to the cloud in real-time.
Give your organization flexibility across on-premise and public cloud infrastructure. Use enterprise container solutions to deliver consistent foundation across managed infrastructure solutions. Use an agile and flexible platform to develop and run your business applications.
For Monitoring, with businesses now app-centric and driven by the adoption and stability of their public and internal applications, the need to monitor these applications has become a key deliverable for organizations. Application complexity is now at its peak with n-tier applications delivering value across a myriad of interdependent code and services – picking out the cause of slow transaction or poor service is very difficult.
Also, Application performance monitoring allows businesses to take a deep dive into their app stack and quickly identify root causes of poor service and resolve them quickly. User Experience; Tracking user experience over time and across devices allows an organization to benchmark its IT investments with user impact.
Business journeys on the other hand, show an organization how various units interact with the customer’s request and delay its treatment or treat it timeously. Thus, it is important to focus the organization on areas of improving the customer’s experience.
On Security, from zero-day attacks to Business Email Compromise (BEC), enhance your organization’s security posture to respond effectively and timely to incoming malicious attacks. Move away from siloed security models to the adaptive security approach that drives your organization’s overall security strategy and allows proactivity and resilience against multiple attack vectors. Use a single pane of glass to review and corelate security alerts from diverse security products to reduce false positives and triage independent alerts.
In terms of Automation, at Converge, every task is automate-able! Whether it is producing letter-headed customer invoices in their hundreds from details contained in a text file – we can automate it. Or you want to move files from source folder to destination folder while making changes to them – it can be automated.
Awards, recognitions, mark of leadership
Converge was chosen by Cisco Nigeria to launch its Borderless networks architecture in Nigeria. Converge won the Cisco Express partner award in 2010. Converge has been named the only CHAMP partner in West Africa by Red Hat Inc. Converge was the first Red Hat Premier partner in West Africa and the first Citrix Platinum partner in West Africa.
OLAYEMI FADAHUNSI: Experienced, Highly Acclaimed HR Strategist, Creating Value Through Visionary Leadership
In spite of her glaring political uncertainties, security concerns, and daunting economic challenges, not a few experts and keen watchers believe that Nigeria has all what it takes to become the Giant of Africa in the true sense of the word. This conviction, they say, is borne out of the fact that the country is endowed with quite a number of resourceful men and women imbued with ingenious managerial practices, prudent management of resources, as well as, excellent and innovative solutions and ideas in achieving set goals and objectives.
One of such exemplary proactive and result-driven Chief Executives who have continued to navigate their organisations to optimal operational effectiveness, efficiency, and visibility is Olayemi Fadahunsi, Managing Director of Phillips Outsourcing Limited (POL). POL is a leading and fast-growing outsourcing company in Nigeria and West Africa. A Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and a Fellow of the Association of Outsourcing Professionals of Nigeria (AOPN), Olayemi graduated as an Accountant and bagged a Master’s degree in Business Administration and a Bachelor of Law (LL.B.) degree from Edith Cowan University, Australia.
He had also worked in the public and private sectors, with a cumulative professional experience spanning over 28 years in Finance, Administration, Human Resources and Training. He was a pioneer financial controller at Phillips Consulting and later rose through the ranks, becoming an Associate Partner in charge of Practice Management. Subsequently, he became the Managing Director of Phillips Outsourcing Limited. He played a pivotal role in the growth and expansion of Phillips Consulting. In addition, he was actively involved in designing and implementing the consulting practice in finance, Human Resources and corporate governance.
Having a deep understanding of the market, he identified the difficulties companies encounter in running business operations, increasing efficiency, cost- reduction and revenue generation. Then came the “eureka moment.” As a visionary with an entrepreneurial mindset, Olayemi conceived the idea of running an outsourcing company. His vision was crystal clear. He envisaged a company that would become preferred in the industry and provide customers with bespoke outsourcing solutions and convenience. His vision and passion led to the establishment of Phillips Outsourcing Limited (POL) under the leadership and supervision of an astute leader – Mr Foluso Phillips, with a primary focus on providing qualitative, customized, and effective outsourcing solutions.
Phillips Outsourcing was founded in 2007 and has grown to become a reputable, recognizable, and formidable brand in the outsourcing sector of the Nigerian economy. During the start-up phase, the company provided quality services to world-class brands. To date, the three pioneer clients are still in business partnerships with Phillips Outsourcing. The company started with two internal employees but, over the years, has created wealth within Nigeria and employed well over 15,000 Nigerians.
Owing to Olayemi’s deep-rooted background in finance intertwined with a vast experience in consulting and HR, in no time, the market began to recognize and patronize the quality-of-service Phillips Outsourcing offered. Phillips Outsourcing’s philosophy is ingrained in values that define the company’s culture. The winning slogan and value proposition was to “Give Home” to the outsourced employees during the era when employees in the outsourcing space had no employer identity but were sandwiched between outsourcing companies and client organizations.
The second value proposition was “speed of response.” This value has to do with a quick turnaround time without compromising the delivered quality. The team worked round the clock to sustain and preserve these values. These values have been continually upheld and have shaped business operations. As a result, Olayemi and his team have grown the company and expanded the workforce. From two employees, Phillips Outsourcing now boasts tens of thousands of highly motivated and seasoned professionals across all 36 States of the Federation.
The company also expanded from providing personnel outsourcing services to delivering business process outsourcing in effective payroll management, background checks, Human Resources, and in-plant training services.
For over fifteen years, Phillips Outsourcing has shattered the glass ceiling and changed the status quo, redefining outsourcing. Having its headquarters in Lagos, Phillips Outsourcing has also established branches in Abuja and Ibadan, providing services to clients in those regions. Recently, Phillips Outsourcing took a bold step in its quest to expand its reach in Africa by opening a branch in Ghana to support the growing needs of its clients across borders. In addition, in 2019, Phillips Outsourcing launched Phillips HMO, a service company that provides healthcare services through a network of efficient Health Care Providers. Olayemi sits on the board of directors at Phillips HMO. Phillips HMO has experienced a remarkable expansion in the healthcare sector and has contributed immensely to healthcare in Nigeria.
Olayemi has been renowned for his leadership style, management prowess, business acumen and innovative mindset. Under his leadership, Phillips Outsourcing has made ground-breaking achievements and won many meritorious awards in Human Resources and outsourcing. Some of the awards and recognitions include the following: 2019 Human Resources Leadership Excellence Prize (Presented by: African Institute for Leadership Excellence) 2021 11th biggest employer and the biggest amongst outsourcing companies in Nigeria (Statistics by: StatiSence/National Pension Commission) 2022 West Africa’s Best World-Class Human Resource Firm (Presented by: The Institute of Brand Management of Nigeria) 2022 International Standards Excellence Awards for the Best World-Class Human Resource Outsourcing Company (Presented By: World Quality Alliance)
Olayemi’s significant strengths include collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, detail orientation, the ability to develop others, efficiency, and emotional control. He is a leader par excellence who has mentored and coached many professionals. These professionals have scaled the corporate ladder and assumed several leadership positions. He takes pleasure in promoting the learning and development of others to help them achieve their goals and unleash their potential. He works cooperatively with others to overcome conflict and build towards a common goal. Olayemi is an idea man who generates new ideas and original solutions to propel things forward. He is also married and blessed with children.
According to him, “I started my career as a Chartered Accountant with an entrepreneurial mindset and a passion for giving back to society by solving people’s related challenges. The challenge that triggered my interest was creating a market for potential employers to meet the teeming population of unemployed graduates. At the time, the employees taking on outsourced roles had no employer identity. As a result, the outsourced companies and their clients were unwilling to accept employers’ status for those categories of employees because of the business costs and associated risks.
Outsourcing has been in existence since the 18th Century. However, it is an emerging and novel business practice in Nigeria. Having a deep insight, I believe that outsourcing has tremendous opportunities and great potential to transform and expand our developing economy in Nigeria. That conviction further led to the conceptualization of running an outsourcing company- Phillips Outsourcing Limited. What was once a concept has become a reality, and the rest is history.
My focus was on creating business opportunities, designing business models, introducing business innovations, and increasing revenue generation. My passion for business and entrepreneurship fueled my decision to obtain an MBA after I left the higher institution and qualified as an accountant. I was enthusiastic about creating value and solving business challenges. Instead of obstacles, I saw possibilities; instead of problems, I saw solutions with great attention to detail and quality of service. While I was an associate partner in charge of practice management at PCL, I discovered that the practice of outsourcing was a strategic solution for companies to scale up and have a competitive edge in the market.”
Regarding Phillips Outsourcing Limited’s innovative and bespoke services, Olayemi noted that “Our vision and mission are the driving forces that propel us to create value and provide world-class service offerings. While our vision is to be the preferred outsourcing company, our mission is to create convenience for our customers. We are achieving this by providing quality customer service. We focus on the bigger picture and make it a mandate to execute our mission reliably. Our services are designed and deployed to provide solutions and increase customer satisfaction. We are achieving the value proposition through our people, processes, and technology.”
He stressed further “We are also intentional with our turnaround time when we provide client service. We reduce our TAT and ensure we deliver to clients on or before the prescribed timeframe. In addition, we hold our values dear, preserving and improving our company culture. We understand that our core values define our identity and how we are perceived. Over the years, we have cultivated values such as Customer Focus, Employee Empowerment, Continuous Improvement, and Integrity. These values have shaped our business operations and influenced our decision-making processes.”
“Owing to our philosophy and bespoke services, we have supported other businesses and met their needs. As a result, companies can focus on their core, increase efficiency and productivity, and create economic wealth. Additionally, we have contributed to job creation by employing many Nigerians. Unemployment is a yardstick for economic growth. Phillips Outsourcing has been committed to lowering the unemployment rate in Nigeria. As a company, we are focused and poised to do more to support the process of re-positioning Nigeria on the path of wealth creation and economic growth through our quality service delivery”, he added..
Concerning innovation and his organisation’s business operations, the Phillips Outsourcing boss attributed the success to technology. In his words, “The advent and rapid evolution of technology have impacted our world positively. At Phillips Outsourcing, we are tech-oriented in our approaches and processes. We invest significantly in technology because it makes our processes seamless, faster, and better for any of our employees to work from anywhere in the world. We also keep up with the latest digital technology in the industry.
The technologies we employ have improved our operations and service delivery. For instance, we developed a job platform called POLATS which makes it easier for job seekers to search for jobs and apply. We have managed the process efficiently and effectively to create an exciting customer experience. The platform also connects us to valuable talents in the market. We also developed an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that manages our day-to-day business activities and creates seamless online engagement with all employees. It ranges from joining our employment to exit management and interacting with our Alumni community after their disengagement.”
He noted that “The COVID-19 pandemic caught the world unaware, and the country was forced to go on a nationwide lockdown. It was a period where we had to transition into working remotely. Remote working was not foreign to us because we had already created an online remote work environment before the pandemic struck. Initially, it was daunting, especially when interacting with some of our clients who were not attuned to technology. Over time, we were able to find what worked best for us. We equipped ourselves with the necessary digital technology and support to ensure the smooth running of our business operations. Today, our employees work collaboratively globally.”
Speaking on challenges of the nation’s business environment and the need for effective government policies to fast-track economic development and wealth creation, the well-acclaimed HR Strategist explained that “The outsourcing industry has much untapped potential. In Nigeria, we are yet to scratch the surface. However, investing in outsourcing can give the economy a huge boost. Outsourcing provides opportunities for economic diversification and wealth creation. We can borrow a leaf from India and the Philippines. These two nations have succeeded in building a sustainable economy by leveraging outsourcing and offshoring.
According to SkyQuest, the Global Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) market was valued at USD 251.1 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach a value of USD 492.45 billion by 2028. These statistics show that the outsourcing market is lucrative. The Nigerian government needs to view outsourcing as a cash cow and create an enabling environment for outsourcing businesses to thrive. The government should be committed to developing policies and a legal framework that regulate outsourcing.
Due to the history of casualisation in the Nigerian labour market, there has been dispiritedness towards Personnel Outsourcing by the trade unions. Much work needs to be done on advocacy to promote the benefits of outsourcing. Personnel Outsourcing provides flexibility for work and helps prevent abuse of employment. If the Trade Unions and government can improve the law to make room for an hourly rate rewards system, the outsourcing industry would blossom, become preferred, and invariably increase employment.
ADEDAYO AJIBOLA ADEGBITE: Astute Professional, Savvy Entrepreneur, Value-Driven Visionary Leader With A Remarkable Difference
Dayo Adegbite is a name that has become synonymous with success, innovation, and excellence in the Engineering, Pharmaceuticals, and Real Estate industries. As the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Daserv Global Services Limited, Engr. Dayo Adegbite has made a significant impact in the world of business, and his achievements are a testament to his expertise and commitment.
A highly educated and experienced business leader, Dayo Adegbite has an MSc in Building Services Engineering from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh and a Certificate in Advance Project Management from Oxford University. His education and experience in the engineering and construction industries have been key factors in his success, and he has built a reputation for delivering high-quality projects that exceed customer expectations.
One of his most notable business achievements was the successful expansion of Daserv Global Services Limited into new markets. Under his leadership, the company has grown and established itself as a leading player in the Engineering, Pharmaceuticals, and Real Estate Industries, both domestically and internationally.
Dayo Adegbite’s expertise in project management and his ability to effectively manage complex projects have also been key factors in his success. He has a proven track record of delivering high-quality and on-time project delivery and has earned a reputation for delivering projects that exceed customer expectations. His strategic thinking and business acumen have also been critical to his success. He has a proven track record of making sound business decisions and quickly adapting to changing market conditions, which has enabled him to seize new opportunities and drive growth.
In recognition of his achievements, Dayo Adegbite has received numerous awards and recognition from organizations and institutions in the engineering and construction industries. He has been recognized as one of the top business leaders in his field and has been praised for his contributions to the industry and his commitment to excellence.
He is not only a successful business leader, but also a philanthropist with a keen interest in providing opportunities for the development of young business leaders. He is dedicated to using his expertise and resources to help others achieve their goals and make a positive impact in the world.
As a visionary leader who has made a significant impact in the Engineering, Pharmaceuticals, and Real Estate industries, Dayo Adegbite’s expertise, dedication, and commitment to excellence have made him a respected and admired figure in the business community, and he continues to drive growth and impact in the lives of those he works with and the communities he serves.
Thus, as one of Nigeria’s exemplary proactive and result-driven Chief Executives who have continued to navigate their organizations to optimal operational effectiveness, efficiency, and visibility. That is why Daserv, a group of companies with major area of operation in power, energy, infrastructure, construction (roads, bridges), real estate, and recently expanded into pharmaceuticals (and already working on opening by June, 2023), have over the years, delivered quite a number of projects across the country.
Speaking on his career journey, the Daserv Group boss stated that as a mechanical engineer by training with a master’s degree in Engineering at a Scotland university, and an Advanced Project Management from Oxford University, all his life have been moulded around engineering and construction.
In his words, “I started my career in the Oil and Gas sector having carried out my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and worked at Shell Petroleum Development Company before travelling abroad. Subsequently, I worked for one of the largest consultancy firm in the United Kingdom. During my time there, I started working as a design engineer and later became the head of project. Thus, my career journey has been about designing and building infrastructures. By the time I became a senior manager, I looked after a number of housing projects in the UK before coming back to start my own business in Nigeria. So, everything we have been doing at Daserv is along areas of my expertise, namely, construction and infrastructure engineering.”
Concerning what organisations like Daserv should be doing to put Nigeria on the part of wealth creation and economic development, Adegbite said “At Daserv, we have a team of professionals with shared responsibility and focus on diligence in all what we do, ensuring that each project is delivered with the highest global standard possible. We are a quality-driven organisation, we do not engage in “Nigerian standard”. In terms of capacity, we have a mentorship and training programme to make sure I impact through my expertise and experience into the senior management officers of the company, as well as engineers at our project sites.”
He added “Motivating people makes them put in their best in what they do. Through HR, we market-test our staff package to ensure that no one is paid lesser than what is obtainable elsewhere, even a little bit more to retain our staff. Therefore, if anyone is leaving Daserv, you can be rest assured that it is not on the basis of condition of work or the welfare package. We encourage team bonding and ensure a healthy completion amongst staff. Our priority is a financially secure staff, even in the face of the current harsh economic realities being experienced across the country. We prepare our staff to be the best that they can be.”
In his response to what innovation means to the Daserv Group, Adegbite pointed out that “if you run an engineering firm you have to stay abreast with the current technology, new work practices, new method of construction, amongst others. For instance, we just came back from a site in Niger State where we are delivering a solution that has never been done before in terms of how to physically protect a high-tension electric tower that runs across water without moving it. We are almost done with the project. Occasionally, some towers were not inside water at the time of construction but due to climate change, water finds a way to meet these infrastructures.
So, when faced with such situation, what are the available options to move the tower – it is a very expensive enterprise. However, with professional experience we have been able to create a solution to protect these infrastructures. That is the type of the innovation that we bring to our clients and the industry at large – technology, new ways of designing and delivering projects, automation.”
Throwing more light on his company’s pedigree in innovation, he stressed that “There are some things that need not be done, manually. For example, in Daserv’s pharmaceutical business inventory, the sales system and ordering system are automated. Therefore, an inventory manager only needs to tap a computer button and get the report or the status of all transactions, things to be bought based on what is already on sale. That is also linked to the accounting system, as well where you can verify payments tied to sales. With automation, we work with lesser number of personnel but with efficient delivery of service not necessarily with an army of staff running around doing nothing. Innovation has sorted things for us.”
In terms of local content, Adegbite noted that “It is part of the same narrative because as a nation we need to make a deliberate decision concerning how to ensure we produce what we need and consume or use what we produce within both private and public space. Also, we must produce excess to sell to the world in order to shore up our foreign exchange earnings, grow the local economy and the GDP, reduce the burden of foreign debts.
We need to produce products and services that are of local standard and earn the foreign currencies that will be repatriated to the local economy. Thus, when industries need money, the liquidity is available. In this regard, the incoming administration should make sure the growth of the economy is tied to the deepening of local content, support and empower local industries financially and technically to be successful in their areas of operations. Government must be able to give adequate guarantee for the financial institutions to have enough confidence to lend monies to small, medium and large scale businesses. Meanwhile, companies also need to show competence and discipline to be able to qualify for the transaction.
Basically, this policy has to be well driven from the top where government has to decide to actually have local industries that can compete internationally, in terms of expertise, experience and capacity to deliver. That is what most of the foreign companies doing business in Nigeria are enjoying from their home countries such as Germany, China. Nigerian government needs to equally equip our local companies to build expertise, technical and financial capacity.”