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Integrity is the critical factor for business success


Mallam Nuraini Olatunji

Mallam Nuraini Olatunji

The Real Estate industry is a complex venture requiring specialist knowledge, multidisciplinary skills and experience. Underestimating this complexity has often resulted in huge financial losses, unrealised dreams and, in some cases, total loss of investment among other consequences. Individuals and corporations aspiring to invest in the industry can have their positions significantly enhanced for success by securing professional advisory services. One person who has distinguished himself in the industry is Mallam Nuraini Olatunji, the Managing Partner of Adepoju, Olatunji & Associates, an Estate Surveying, Valuation and Real Estate Consultant Firm. He spoke on the Focus of a CEO, in this interview with NnamdiNwokolo.

What informed your choice of career?

My choice of career I’d say was by accident because while I was doing my A levels, my focus was to study Accountancy, though the choice of Accountancy was predicated on the fact that I wanted to study a course that’ll enable me to establish my own practice. I met a senior brother/mentor who was studying Accountancy at the time, who upon telling my plans advised me to choose another course instead of Accountancy. I didn’t know anything about Estate Management but somehow the course stuck to my mind and I eventually went for it. My wish upon graduation was to work for a company for about ten years, then go back to the University and end up as a Lecturer. Somehow along the line, my focus changed and today I found myself in full time practice, taken completely far away from academics.

Would you say you are fulfilled choosing the career path?
If I look at it from the angle that I was able to employ myself, and it allows me to manage my time the way I want it, I’ll tell you that I’m happy with myself. It has also afforded me the opportunity of employing other people, pay their salaries to help them take care of their families, which to me is fulfillment. It has given me a platform to meet a lot of people in the course of the practice. If I look at it from that point of view, it makes me happy. I’m completely fulfilled as we’ve gone further to engage in project development service where we are involved in all stages of property development from financing initial building projects to final leasing, negotiations and management of the completed building.

What are the prospects of Real Estate investment in Nigeria?
In view of the economic situation in the country, for those that have the means, this is the best time to invest in real estate. You don’t have to buy land and start building, which may be expensive because the cost of construction has gone up. Real estate investment provides a win/win situation whichever way you look at it. There are so many uncertainties in the system, so everybody is taking their time. Beyond that, the exchange rate against the naira is so alarming and it has a spillover effect on real estate. The best thing to do is to buy properties that have been developed as many people are selling under distress, so you take advantage.

Assessment of the industry:
The industry is viable, sometimes I disagree with some of the values, maybe because of my inclination. The question I keep asking is how good are our infrastructures that when you consider the rate of properties in Nigeria, they are higher than in most advanced economies of the world. I can’t place it, even with the rate of the naira. How do you explain this, could it be corruption driven? These are some of the issues because my perception about the property market in Nigeria is quite different from most practitioners. For example, the rates of properties in Nigeria are higher than in Europe, Asia and America with the dilapidated infrastructure, so how do you justify it. I cannot defend it but that is the reality.

Critical factors to build a sustainable real estate business:
From my experience, I discovered that the critical factor for building a sustainable business is first honesty; secondly honesty and thirdly honesty. It is very important that one maintains his honesty as what people want from you is a reasonable level of trust. The moment trust is no longer there, the possibility of doing business with you is minimized. A lot of people have risen to a successful level in this industry, but they crashed because of dishonesty. There is no short cut to any meaningful venture in life. To be a success, one needs to build his enterprise based on the principles of long term values. The business owner should not be looking for immediate gains because if an entrepreneur focuses on long term gain; definitely he must achieve success. There should also be a focus on customer retention and dealings with all stakeholders based on integrity and trust.

Entrepreneurial phobia:
In setting up any venture, it is natural to entertain fears of failure but the ability to overcome makes all the difference. According to Nelson Mandela, I learnt that courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. We were determined to succeed as the hurdles are daunting but we kept the faith and thank God for what he has used us to achieve in the industry.

What stands your organization out of the competition?
We cannot define our competitors narrowly. We take into account those arrays of the competition in all its ramifications. Competition to us is not pointing at xyz as our major competitor. We compete with various people for various things. From inception, our firm has continued to enjoy exceptional market acceptance and growth, which has enabled the company to establish a profitable niche market, based on its superior service and delivery styles. We are guided by values that are very essential to our existence. These values define who we are, what we do, the manner in which we do it, and what we aspire to achieve in our daily endeavours. We apply these values in the relationships we develop with our clients/ customers, employees, partners and colleagues. These core values differentiate us from others.

In the next five years:
I’m thinking of retirement as my wish is to retire and go back to my village and get involved in farming and Islamic evangelism. Five years might be short but if God gives me long life, definitely that’s my goal. Another area that I would’ve loved to go into before I retire is property development, and my focus is to deal with low, medium income housing units. If I have the opportunity and the means I’ll definitely do it.

Housing deficit:
The issue of housing deficit in Nigeria has been there even while we were in the university. We read about it and there has been conscious effort by successive governments to bridge the gap. The reality is that provision of housing is capital intensive and the factors that aid housing development are very critical. You need land to build massive housing and the acquisition of land is always a challenge. The little the government is doing is cannot meet up with the growing need of the people. The solution is for the private sector to come in and bridge the gap.

As a professional, how do you identify a genuine developer as most people fall victim of dealing with fake developers? The truth is that a large percentage of developers in Nigeria are not professionals. When I say professionals, I mean the professionals in the built environment. Most people housing development are not the type that has professional training at all. They are people that have seen the opportunity to make money in real estate and they have the fund or the means to get the fund. If you check the list, you’ll see that they are not core professionals. Out of these groups, you’ll see people who are not professionals in the built environment but they are professionals in other areas, the ethics of their profession can guide them to do the right thing. But when you meet people that you cannot relate their background to any profession at all, you have to be very careful with this type of people.

Driving force:
The only thing that drives me and I pray it keeps driving me is the fear of Allah. I’m very conscious that one day I’ll die and I’ll meet my Lord to give account of my activities in life which will determine where I will end up eternally. The driving force is to align the fear of Allah in every aspect of my daily activities.

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