Engr. Kamsolibe Rhamsis, a graduate of Mechanical Engineering from the prestigious University of Nigeria, Nsukka, turned entrepreneur mogul who knows his onion as regard to his line of businesses. Leading a firm as colossal as Harley Grey Group with subsidiaries like: Hodge Auto Centre, Premier Guards and Infraserv, indeed is not a child’s play. His portfolio as the Managing Director of these organizations placed him on all round clock supervisory role which tightens his daily schedule.
Infraserv, a facility management wing of Harley Gray which has over the years serviced individuals and reputable organizations like Wole Olanipekun Chambers, Access Bank Plc, Nestoil; just to mention but a few with hundreds of employee capacity.
The Anambra-born entrepreneur recently launched his corporate office named “Ojiugo House” in the highbrow area of Lekki, Lagos State which was dedicated in the memory of his late mother, Dr. Uche Regina Bernadette Emeasoba. In this interview with TOP SOCIETY, the human resources expert cum tremendous employer of labour spoke on the challenges of running business in Nigeria. Enjoy the excerpts:
Can you introduce yourself?
I am Kamsolibe Rhamsis, a trained mechanical engineer and seasoned entrepreneur, in order words a businessman who looks out for society’s need and provide the needs in an excellent way and make profit out of it.
As a businessman, what are the challenges of running business in Nigeria?
Challenges of running a business in Nigeria are endless, from unfair government policies, infrastructural decay, the indivisible inflation, lack of employable hands by attracting and retaining the right people in your team, these are all challenges faced in running and sustaining businesses in Nigeria.
And you must look for alternatives, so that you don’t pass on so much of inflation cost to your customers. For instance, one of my businesses is auto repairs, if a brake pad cost N20, 000 and suddenly there is a hike in price, what do you do? You have to look for an alternative supplier that will give you same quality or even better quality without increasing the price, so we manage all of these exigencies to stay afloat.
Can you take us into your line of services?
We are players in the service industry and we have two broad categories. One of them is automobile service and repairs, here we service most recent cars that are not more than 10 years below and we offer facility management and maintenance service for client.
You are very successful in business at this very young age, how does it make you feel?
When you say young it is relative, I am in my forties and that is not young by any standard when you look at the Amazon and Facebook guys they are also young. I wake up very early, right from my secondary school days, I was writing books and in my University days, I was doing this and that.
When I left the University, I developed my entrepreneurial spirit of providing the society with key services and it was during the lockdown that I discovered that all the services I provide are essential services, these are services that are non-essential during the COVID 19, nobody told my company to close down because we were providing essential services.
Can you speak of the key challenges why businesses in Nigeria folds when the founder is no longer in the picture?
Like I always say, it is difficult to find businesses that have out-lived up to second or third generations. Most of the businesses are first generation; I have not given much thought about that, If it’s a cooperate governance, policies or other issues, but it is a problem because most of the big businesses today which I will not want to call any name, but all of them are first generation businesses bearing the name of their founders. The founders still run the businesses and they are yet to transfer to the next generation. If I’m to give it a thought now, l might say it’s because of the attitude of the Nigerian workers who wants to play and get paid? The Nigerian workers of today are not prepared in school before coming out, most of them do not apply their mind to the work they do, and the best of them take instructions and carried it out.
And these few good ones are hoarded by the lucky organizations that found them first. So, man power supply in the country, succession planning, raising capital is another challenge. Our contemporaries in developed countries are getting single digit loan. I remember my in-laws are getting loans at 4 to 6% abroad. But here in Nigeria, if you approach a bank for loan you are looking at paying 28 to 31 percent interest, that is to say, if I need one billion naira loan from a company in the United States, I will be paying say 40million as service charge or whatever the term is. Here in Nigeria, if I take that same loan I will be paying about 280million to 310million annually, this creates a huge burden, many companies have collapse because of these constrains and that is why every business I have done has not been capital intensive. I don’t actually take loans, I work more with my brain and hands and it tells on me physically and emotionally but not financially.
Running a business that has to do with manpower, what does it take to manage human resources?
If you are working in the industry we operate, manpower decides our success. In fact, our people are our most valuable asset. Given that they are our most valuable asset, we tend to be very picky about who we let into the system. When we let them in and they prove to be very good, we tend to do all we can to retain them because all the knowledge we work with is deposited in human beings and these humans have done a lot of work that adds to the benefit of the company. So, we are not into the industry that can easily throw staff away because if they leave, they leave with a chunk of the knowledge we need for our success, we try to manage emotions and focus on the victories they help us achieve in the past. It is difficult because in Nigeria we do not have a large pool of labor resources to mine from, if you want good mechanics, I think we have few of them, having few of them in your organization you must treat them well. And we have scanty specialists in Nigeria. So, if you have one you will do all you can to retain them.
You seem to be a middle man between your clients and your skillful staff, so how do you manage between your client and staff?
I think I created a wrong impression for you to have come to this conclusion. We completely own our services; we take full responsibility of everything that happens between our clients and staff. We do not supply manpower; we provide an environment where we can undertake services to meet individuals and organizational goals. As an organization, we have the goal of building excellent service delivery.
If that is our vision, we cannot just send manpower out alone; there is a need for matching man and machineries check and balancing, so you see human being cannot do it all alone.
How long have you been in business?
Since 2004, that is seventeen years.
How has the journey been for you in the past seventeen years?
It has been tedious but fruitful. I have high low pressure, I have ulcer, those are serious but not so serious ailments but they are a direct result of the intensity I deal with in this business. Ultimately, when you look and see the result of what you are doing that serves as a satisfaction.
Some people attend success in business and crumble due to mismanagement. What does success means to you?
Success is the equilibrium between the attainment of your objectives and a deliberate decision on your part to be satisfied with what you are getting from your efforts. As I was discussing with a friend recently, I don’t think there is anyone that has ever attained the zenith they wanted in life. For me, to compare my input side by side with my output, I will say I chose to be happy with my results. If I am healthy and surrounded by a healthy family that loves me, have one or two good friends and can put food on my family’s table, enjoy the respect of my peers then, I am successful.
Having been in business for seventeen years, how fulfilled are you?
How fulfilled am I? There are some things I will do again and there are others I won’t do again, there are some things I felt I should have done better and there are others I will replicate If I was to start again. But how contented a person is, it’s a choice, because I am aware there are people who have done better than I have and there are others I have gone farther than, but I do not compete with anyone; because I look at myself every day and say today I am better than I was yesterday. So, my satisfaction comes from the output I get from my input.
Where do you see yourself in the next five or ten years?
In the next five years, my business should have raised enough people that I can hand over more responsibilities to, at this point; they must have shown themselves to be dependable and responsible. I am committed to this course because I want my business to outlive me. So, if I can transmit to them, they will transmit to my children and grandchildren. In the next five years, I am hoping that a team would be built that will ensure that this business outlive all of us.
Looking at the Nigerian society, we have issues in power, economy and recently security, how biting has it been on your business?
We have our operations in the South East of Nigeria that used to be a safe haven but for some complicated various reasons, it has changed. I am not a political person, I don’t align myself with any political platform, I will say the South East of Nigeria is now unsafe for reasons that are complicated, this is affecting productivity. My brothers and sisters cannot farm and if they farm and get produce, they cannot sell on certain days and there is always the threat of violence that I don’t understand! I refused to discuss the reason for or against but from a business stands, the climate where our business is housed is not business friendly. We are looking forward to better days.
If you had the powers to change anything, what are the things you will change in the Nigeria of today?
The first thing I will change is our current system of Government, I mean changing the democracy from its current form will be the best thing for Nigeria. What do I mean? This present form of democracy we have are those that have stored vast amount of wealth being recycled as leaders and they don’t have the best of ideas, they don’t have the energy to do anything, they don’t have integrity, they only bribe the public and get their way. Let’s say I visited a secondary or Primary school with a medical doctor and I say to them I will be giving you candy every day and the medical doctor who mean good for them says, I will be giving you vitamin C that has no sugar, who will they follow? The only people that will vote for vitamin C that will do them good maybe the teachers and the few who are better informed. The larger population of the school will vote for candy because they only see the short term value. And since democracy is been entrusted to the larger population of Nigerians who are not informed, what do you expect? That is why Nigeria democracy is not working.
Can you see Nigeria becoming a first world country like America, UK or China?
It depends on who is leading us. It depends if the leadership have a vision for it and secondly, put up a system that will weed out corruption then It is possible, if not completely but to 99.9%. In some countries, if you are a corrupt leader, you will be shot, I think in countries like China and Singapore the same are applicable. Right leadership, reduces corruption and empower the people through right education, when that happens, then we are on a trajectory to development.
A word of advice to young-ones who would like to venture into your kind of business?
My word to young people who wants to go into business and not just my kind of business is to serve someone and serve them properly. Only a good servant can become a good leader. I am still a good servant because I serve my customers and if they are satisfied I have attained my highest objective.
I have seen a lot of young people who say I don’t want to work for anybody, I just want to come out of the University and set up my business. Good! I wish you luck. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. I pick up my leadership skills by keenly observing those I have worked with and for. So that is the first one. Be a good servant.
You have to be someone who is self-motivated, someone who drives himself, you have to be someone who set objectives and be flogging yourself in the back until you get the objectives done. If you are someone who says you need this skill first before you start and you watch one month and it turns to two, you are never going to be successful. You need to have a regimented life style, you set the time for studies, eating and socializing. You cannot just wake up and do things as you like, you must be regimented, if you are not, you will find yourself wasting time. I cannot over emphasize the need to be regimented.
The last word I will give is, find a way to develop yourself in knowledge that is relevant to your field of pursuit. If you don’t get relevant knowledge, you won’t be able to distinguish yourself to the point that your competitors will not be able to suffocate you. Business in this age is difficult to find an idea that is a monopoly or a novelty, so you have to get adequate knowledge that will stand you out.