‘Government must provide means for people to make money and pay their taxes’
Claire Afuluenu Chizea, the Principal Partner of C.A. Chizea and Co., is the first woman to set up and successfully run a Real Estate firm in the country. The firm since inception has sustained a prosperous operation, rendering Real Estate Services including Valuation, Property Management, and Sales/Lease of Properties with offices across Nigeria. In this interview with GuardianWoman, the pacesetter and industry stalwart spoke on the need for women to understand their traditional role to avoid conflicts as well as the need to embrace professionalism in order to achieve success
What is your assessment of the year 2017 and your expectations for 2018?
I’ll like to break it down to my area of specialty, which is Real Estate. In fact the last two years haven’t been too good for the industry for obvious reasons. Anyone looking around will find out that fewer houses have been produced in the year and you equally find out that there is a lot of void in the industry. With the exception of fast food outlets which incidentally some of them are closing shop, the demand for Real Estate have not been vibrant in the year under review. The way the economy is structured, government still remains the major influence of any development whatsoever. If government is not spending money, people will find it difficult to embark on any development. Unfortunately, there is this new trend to tax almost everything that moves. The irony is that, if we don’t produce, and you know that Real Estate is a factor of production, how then can people be able to pay tax. I find it disconcerting that the Real Estate industry which is an important aspect of our daily living has not received its due attention from the government and whatever little development you find in Real Estate is as a result of the efforts of individual Real estate developers. Real Estate creates jobs and maintains jobs and the government must see it in that light to be able to fight poverty and unemployment.
What can government do differently to change the narrative?
The government at all levels must create avenues for investment in terms of improving on the infrastructures to engender development. You will agree with me that power is very critical for any meaningful development to occur. If power is constant, the cost of doing business will reduce drastically. The other important aspect is the construction and maintenance of roads and other basic infrastructures. These infrastructures are critical to every meaningful development and the government owes the people a duty to make them available. Government must provide the means for people to make money to be able to pay their taxes.
What has been the biggest challenge of being a female entrepreneur?
The biggest challenge is myself and the reason is simple. I tell people that when you bid for a job, there’s no indication that it is coming from a woman. It’s what you have in your head that goes out for you. In some of the projects that we have done, it was when we are called for the final interview that they will discover that the person behind it is a woman. Sincerely, I have never had a challenge as a woman because when I’m working, I don’t see myself as a woman. I see myself as an individual that has a product/service to sell and I constantly work towards improving on our service delivery. When you look at it from that point of view, you will discover that gender doesn’t come into play. It is defeatist when you work like a woman. The challenge is not that I’m a woman but the ability to say to myself that I can do it. I pride myself as a woman, not a feminist, and I know my natural role as a woman.
What are the key elements of starting and building a sustainable business?
The first thing is to discover yourself and know what you want to do. You need to start with something you enjoy doing and something you can do for free. Once you have found that niche, stay on it and then improve. Building a sustainable business requires that desire to work hard. The best measure of a Firm’s success/performance is its Roster and Repeat Clientele. Our track record of successful practice for leading companies, recognised institutions and private individuals is perhaps the best indication of high level of client satisfaction. The critical factor for success in real estate practice is hard work, hard work and hard work. It will interest you to know that anytime you pick a valuation from our firm, we may not be the richest or the famous but within the profession, we are a force to be reckoned with. What we intend to achieve is the ability to represent our clients professionally, effectively, efficiently and at the least cost.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I told you earlier that I’m a woman and I fully understand my traditional role as a woman. The role of a woman is to make the man a better person. If you understand what womanhood is with its greatest and beautiful functions, you will begin to appreciate women. Womanhood is such a beautiful thing that I don’t know what to equate it with. I understand what being a woman is and fully understand that it is the greatest and most blessed job anybody can do. Once you understand it, there will be no conflict as you are already empowered to function as a woman. Women should be proud to be called a woman, wife and mother. Being a woman is a lovely thing.
What is the most interesting aspect of your entrepreneurial journey?
Professionally, Valuation is the most interesting aspect of my work, as I love it with passion. I equally build but valuation is the flagship of my professional career. In the last two years we have being doing valuation for people and I discovered that there’s the attribute that define our firm includes technical competence, years of experience and a deep knowledge of our working environment.
We have a genuine subscription to helping clients achieve their goals. Our success lie in our ability to comprehend and capture details of any request, be it corporate or individual, and home in to translate the brief into a well articulated business plan and project financials that will describe the viability of each business scenario. We are then able to device and deliver cost effective solutions that exceed customer expectations.
Would you say you are fulfilled?
Yes, I am very much fulfilled. I love what I do especially valuation, which is the core of estate management. Unfortunately, most people mistake estate management to estate agency. The profession of Estate Surveying and Valuation means the art, science and practice of but not limited to, determining the value of all description of property assets, embracing land and buildings, plant and machinery, furniture and fittings/equipment and all other business assets; acquiring, managing and developing estates including facilities and other business concerns with the management of property assets; securing the optional use of land and its associated resources to meet social and economic needs; determining the condition of building and their services and advising on their maintenance, alteration and improvement and determining the economic use of property asset and its associated resources by means of financial appraisal.
Valuation is the substance of real estate management.
Advise to Nigerian women?
They need to first of all discover who they are and what they want in relation to who they are. It is also important for them to acquire skills that will help them to achieve their goals. It is impossible for everyone to get white-collar jobs with the state of our economy today, but we can look at the society and try to provide a need and we will generate employment, not just for ourselves by for others.
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