There are business lessons you do not learn and understand by bagging a degree, neither do you learn them by reading enormous books. Sometimes the most important lessons in business are better experienced. Stepping into his office complex on Odunlami Street, I was surprised to see him dressed so simple. He was actually on the corridor making a call on his phone, while I was ushered into the adjoining waiting room.
After the pleasantries, I set to business, with the one man who has given colour to an occasion people naturally associated with doom. He talks about identifying business ideas and interests, handling competition, and the need to develop yourself while managing your business. Excerpts;
DEOLA: You came into this business and turned it into an enterprise that lots of people are now rushing into. Did you see this cash mine before venturing into it, or you just explored and it clicked?
Okusanya: I know you know that this business was not started by me. It was by my father, he was actually a cabinet maker who was involved into making different kinds of furniture including coffins, while we go to the workshop to play; you know we lived around here, I even schooled here, so is most people who later came into the funeral business; even at times it was a form of punishment for children in the area to be sent there. I grew up developing interest in what my father was making.
I have discovered it is faster and easier to develop your business along the areas of your interest. Most people you see around succeeding is because they have developed their interests along the areas of their passion. So I discovered that even after I had started working I still went back at times to watch my father work. I also did not really like my job then, so I decided to help my dad with coffins. So one day one man came in and asked if we had people who could help them carry the coffins, we said we had none. I eventually had to use my friend, my driver, myself and one other person, and that was how we started. I didn’t really see, I was just exploring, and there were even attempts to discourage me then; you know, an educated person coming to carry coffins. It was even my greatest edge in that I was educated, it just shows, it just shows…
DEOLA: since you mention education, what management training has helped you in the management of this training?
Okusanya: Not really like that, when I talk about education I am not talking of classroom business management classes. You know if you go to school you shouldn’t just sit down and learn about your course, but an enlightened mind. There are too many unemployable people in Nigeria who went into school; you see them all around every time. People who just want to lazy about, looking for easy money everywhere they are plenty all around us here. Lots of politicians enjoy the money because they came into power looking for self fulfilment and just consume the resources of the people, even when they leave power with so much they can’t spend it in peace. They have not understood when it means to be a leader. Imagine a learned person like the present Governor of Lagos (in Nigeria- Gov. Raji Fashola (SAN)) and see what he is doing all around, he was not just one politician only interested in money, he is trying to give Lagos a new face and name but some people are complaining because they cannot see from the same perspective as he is seeing. There is something that study or education does to you. All I addes to my Dad’s business were some ideas and
When precisely did this business become the way to go?
DEOLA: How do you deal with competition, since it became an attractive market for s many people?
Okusanya: I really do not spend my time on watching competition; I believe everyone should just focus on his business and seek to develop-there is enough market for all. The only problem comes when some other people try to copy other’s designs and concepts, they only become number two and they water down the standards. They give substandard service and products and reduce the business values they ac actually stand for. I just try to develop my business and seek ways to improve. Like our pall bearing service, it is a fully customized process; we try to tailor the occasion to the people’s tradition. If you are from the north we dress like northerners, sing their songs; if you come from the Calabar area, we fashion ways to make that suit you.
You see to succeed in business you have to keep developing and breathing professionalism. Those makes us stand out, in fact most of our customers come from people who were refereed to us by others.
DEOLA: Which project has been your most challenging one?
Okusanya: None! You see every job is a new challenge, I try to be in every funeral we provide service for but I cannot be everywhere, but I do not see each funeral as the same. Each funeral carries a different meaning to the different families we cater for. They carry different meaning for them and so it is for us too. We try to tailor our services to suit the individual needs and that takes some effort. There are times when the clients require customized caskets and we do that for them. So, we take every job with seriousness because we are not just doing a job, we are treating the deceased with the same honour the family members will treat him and what he meant to the people who loved him.
DEOLA: How would you encourage entrepreneurs in the face of the different challenges to conquer when running a business in Nigeria?
Okusanya: I believe people should just pay attention and focus on one area, we fail when we just move around into various businesses. We also fail if we try to watch and follow what the other people are doing. Everyone should find a good place to work. I like people who work. Somehow those challenges push us to work harder and also, let us stop complaining about this problems and let’s start dealing with it in every individual way, gradually we will overcome them.
DEOLA: thank you sir, it has been a nice time
Okusanya: No problem, it’s always a pleasure, deola.