Omolade Olatawura:‘ As a woman, don’t burn the ladder when you rise’
Omolade Olatawura is the Chief Operating Officer of Laserderm Clinics, a foremost skincare and Aesthetics company in Nigeria and Ghana. With over 15 years’ experience in sales, marketing and customer service, she has worked in different industries such as banking, aviation, hospitality and aesthetics with a proven ability to achieve targets, identify and develop new business opportunities.
Purpose driven and highly experienced, she describes herself as a service-centred and sales driven manager offering strong leadership, business and financial skills and a history of exceeding employer goals and customer expectations. Passionate about helping others fulfill their dreams and aspirations as well as mentoring younger women career-wise, she holds a degree in Geological Sciences and certifications in Skincare, Aesthetics and Management.
In this interview with TOBI AWODIPE, she talks about thriving in the midst of COVID-19, creating better opportunities for industry players, getting more women to rise to the top and how her firm is looking to improve and rid the industry of quacks amongst other issues.
Take us through your career up to this point of becoming COO?
I have about 16 years experience in different sectors, starting out my career after University with Virgin Nigeria as a cabin crew in 2005, this exposed me to dealing with various cadre of customers and clients and different stakeholders. From there, I moved to the banking sector where I held different roles in customer service, marketing and operations in two leading banks. I was fortunate to work with a line manager who stretched me and gave me the opportunity to progress. I then left the bank to take up another role in a hospitality industry based on the keen interest in service delivery. The hospitality company had a skincare line and I was given an opportunity to manage the skincare segment of the organization, where I significantly improved revenue and market share. I was later headhunted by a recruiting firm for LaserDerm as the General Manager before being promoted to Chief Operating Officer and a member of the Board of LaserDerm Ghana.
You describe yourself as a service-centered and sales driven manager, how does this work into the larger role of being a leader and satisfying customers?
Because of my years of training in service and sales, my guiding principle is excellence in service delivery, which is a big enabler in attracting new customers and their retention. In addition, in our industry, there is a need to understand customer needs and offer bespoke solution to each of our customers.
What is it like running an aesthetic and beauty clinic in an economy like ours especially post-COVID?
I would describe aesthetic and beauty industry as essential in our society. According to Maslow Hierarchy of needs theory, every human desires self-esteem needs, which is based on respect and acknowledgement from others and our own self-assessment. Based on this, it is clear that our industry plays a significant role in meeting people’s needs of self-actualization. It is a growing industry in this side of the world however we are making good progress because of awareness helped by technology. COVID-19 had a major impact on the economy (inflation, Naira devaluation and GDP growth) and hence people’s disposable income so you would ordinarily expect a deep in the market for the demand of aesthetics however the industry is resilient. Post-COVID, we have seen strong demand growth coming from recognition of how essential we are to our target market.
An industry such as this must have been somewhat affected during this Covid-19 period, how have you weathered this storm?
During lockdown, our priority was ensuring the safety of our team, customers and stakeholders. The team responded excellently by triggering the Business Continuity Plan (BCP) and we developed alternative solutions such as virtual consultations, drop shipping products and an online school for the academy. We ensured that customers were able to get their maintenance products despite what was happening. When lockdown was lifted in Nigeria, other countries were still on lockdown mode, so many Nigerians couldn’t travel and they went online to research where to get botox, fillers, fat dissolving injections, laser treatments and so on done and discovered us. Of course as a clinic, with all COVID-19 protocols in place, we were able to cater to the needs of both and existing clients.
The global beauty and skincare industry is a multibillion-dollar one, which experts have said Nigeria is yet to fully tap into. How best can we achieve this?
The cosmetic and beauty sector in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to grow over the next eight years. Overall, the African beauty and personal care market was estimated at €6.93 billion in 2012 and it currently grows between eight percent and 10 percent per year against a global market growth rate of close to four percent. The African beauty and personal care market is experiencing rapid and dynamic growth, providing lucrative opportunities for beauty businesses in the region and beyond.
The market is currently worth an estimated US$3 billion, according to Euromonitor International, and its value is likely to rise to keep pace, with an increasing number of working women with disposable income as well as sophisticated youths searching for new ways to care for and present themselves. Nigeria being the most populous country in Africa, the opportunities here cannot be over-emphasized. The best way to leverage on this opportunity is to through education, creating awareness and training. What we have done right in this regard was to create the LaserDerm Aesthetics Academy to help with training. Nigeria and Africa as a whole is yet to fully tap into this industry. Awareness is also very low amongst Nigerians, many people are not even aware of what to do or where to go for these things. Most people don’t know that you have the option of either surgical or non-surgical for some procedures and there are many non-surgical procedures one can get done to activate anti-aging. One other challenge is the misconception that aesthetics is for the high end or class B or C but we have curated different solutions that meets different categories of customers. We also have to create awareness, put regulations and policies in place to ensure that untrained are not allowed to succeed. When LaserDerm started about 10 years ago, there were just one or two players but now, there are many and seeing more people coming into this space gives us joy because it shows the industry is opening up resulting in more awareness.
How can we create better opportunities for industry players in the global beauty and wellness market?
We need to improve on our regulations first and foremost. As a fully owned Nigerian company, we believe that we must adhere to all statutory requirements so we ensured we are fully licensed by the relevant agencies such as HEFERMA. Furthermore, to grow the market size, we need to create diverse solutions and products that can meet the needs of different customer clusters. Particularly in LaserDerm, we offer globally recognized products, world-class trained doctors, nurses and aestheticians.
Running a business such as this isn’t without its peculiar challenges; what are some issues you face and how are you providing solutions to these problems?
It can be challenging particularly in the last 18 months where the pandemic has impacted many businesses. The exponential increase in inflation rate and the unprecedented devaluation of the Naira has significantly increased the cost of doing business in Nigeria. In addition, the rise of unqualified skin therapists has not helped the industry. However, I believe there is light at the end of the tunnel and there is a need to better collaborate with the government to role out regulations and policies that will make business environment more conducive and also role out more stringent regulations that will penalize unqualified skincare personnel and develop training programs which closes the knowledge gap. At LaserDerm, our products are medical grade formulated by one of the best plastic surgeons in the world and we have state-of-the art equipment and highly experienced doctors, nurses, aestheticians and trainers. We established the LaserDerm Aesthetic Academy in 2021 to train aspiring aestheticians and beauty therapists and close the knowledge gap.
How can we get more women to become successful and rise to the top as you have done?
Again, like I said earlier, be excellent in what you do and make a difference. Don’t burn the ladder when you rise up. Also have mentors who would encourage you and give you constructive feedback to recognize your blindspot but we have to be deliberate to create a platform that gives every woman the opportunity to progress eliminating the traditional stereotypes and biases.
You wear so many hats, how do you combine everything and make them work?
I am very fortunate to have a good support structure around my team, my family and I. I recognize the need to delegate and empower my team so as not to burnout. I am an effective delegator. I will selectively micromanage when results are not being achieved but generally, I empower my team and I create an enabling environment for them to succeed.
How do you get inspiration and stay motivated when things aren’t going the way you want them to?
God is my first inspiration so I always look up to Him. I also surround myself with people who give me authentic and constructive feedback. I read books also which keep me motivated. My kids are also my icebreakers, they keep me grounded.
Tell us something you did/do that has turned your career around positively for you?
My passion for excellence and result, being informed and being open to learn and unlearn. It has been a journey and I am thankful to God for sustenance. I believe in being diligent. I do my job with passion. I tell everyone around me ‘seest thou a man diligent in his ways, he will walk before kings and not mere men’. Diligence is one of the things that are lacking in our younger generation. One of my ethos is whatever your hand finds to do, do it well. Everywhere I have worked, I have been fortunate to work with bosses who have consistently offered me opportunities even after leaving the organization.
These days, just about anyone and everyone is delving into skincare, is this something that concerns you?
The opportunities in Nigeria and the growth trajectory are significant enough for every player. In LaserDerm, we will continue to create a niche and be ahead of the curve in meeting our customers’ needs and providing solutions for the future. The only concern is to curb the increase of unqualified skincare providers as this dilutes the credibility of the industry in Nigeria.
As someone passionate about helping people fulfill their dreams, in what ways are you specifically mentoring younger women coming after you?
I recently joined WIMBIZ to lend my voice, skill to younger women in any capacity I can. In my local church where I serve, I try to have these conversations and hang out with young women. My message is clear, focus and stay the course.
What would you tell someone to do/avoid that is looking to go down this path in order to be successful?
Be the best version of yourself and be a role model to the upcoming generation, be bold and courageous and don’t let anyone talk you into believing you cannot do or fit into any role.
If you could change something for Nigerian women, what’s the first thing you would do?
Women are generally more intuitive and more result oriented therefore we need to create more conducive environment for women to thrive and change the misconception and stereotype about women’s effectiveness at the workplace. Be excellent in all that you do and always make a difference. See the invisible and do the impossible. It’s being a journey and I am thankful to God for all the opportunities that have come my way. I am very fortunate to be a part of LaserDerm family and aesthetic clinic and also a leader in beauty and aesthetic education in Nigeria and Africa. Our vision is to conquer Nigeria and Africa one city at a time by ‘recreating beautiful’.