MY GREATEST MISTAKES AS CEO OF DUNLOP
THERE IS ALWAYS A PAYBACKS TIME
For close to 20 years as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Dunlop Plc, a Nigerian tyre manufacturing firm, Jabez Dayo Lawuyi was the toast of the leading media houses in the country on account of the high profile image he had been able to create for the company. Dunlop was one of the fastest growing companies listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange on account of stock price appreciation.
But in a twist, Dunlop ran into rough waters – a situation that forced the company to close its major plants, scale down operations drastically and retrench over 90 per cent of its staff. Lawuyi, who at the moment, is involved in some business consultancy, currently resides in Canada with his family. I got him to speak with me when he visited the country recently for a board meeting.
Among other questions, I asked him what happened to Dunlop. His response: “People have asked me several times how Dunlop got to the stage it is now. It is very simple. It was because we trusted the Government to fulfill its own part of a deal and it failed.
Government asked and we agreed that we should expand our facilities and gave us assurance that they would keep the then customs duty level at the rate it was to protect us, at least for a moment, and from foreign imports that take most of the infrastructure for granted in their countries.
We borrowed money locally, raised more capital and within a short time, we completed a brand new All Steel Radial Truck Tyre plant – the biggest and the best in West Africa. The second week of our new production was the time the Government moved the import duty on tyres to as low as 10% (that is, if importers pay at all) meaning it became far cheaper to import tyres than to manufacture in Nigeria. The selling prices of imported tyres were in some cases lower than our cost. So, our stocks piled up. We pleaded, begged, shouted, and I practically moved my office to Abuja. But no one listened! Our staff strength of over 1500 had to go, and we started finding ways to repay our debts through asset disposals. The good news is that we can now see some light at the end of the tunnel and we believe that ‘dry bones shall rise again. Lawuyi also shared some life lessons.Please enjoy the insights.
*Spirituality is critical.*
The most important aspect of one’s life is one’s spirituality. There’s a big difference between spirituality and religiosity. Spirituality is your one-to-one relationship with your Creator, being aligned with what He wants you to do. It just so happens that spirituality in most cases can only be attained through particular religion- here I’m not talking about whether you are a Christian or Muslim. If you do not align yourself with whatever God has set out for you, you will just find out whatever you do does not stand the test of time. So, that for me is the most critical lesson I have learnt.
*There is a payback time.*
There is nothing you do that will not come back, either as a form of reward or as a form of punishment. A man who has been drinking all his life for 40 years, now in his 55th year tells me he has cancer of the “XYZ”. You have to ask him, “what have you been doing with your life?” A lady who has been jumping from one bed to another and now finds that she is in a very serious situation with her life must be asked, “what did you do with your life?”
*Live within your means.*
Many people will tell you that they have never had enough money in their lives. The issue is not having sufficient money; the issue is being able to live within your means. The way that God has structured it is that He ensures that everybody on earth has an opportunity to access a certain amount of resources/money that can take care of him to a particular level. But what most of us do is try to change that level on our own. People get into a financial difficulty because they want to jump the process.
*Invest part of your earnings.*
This is one rule I have applied with great results: no matter how much you earn, you must try and keep something aside, just in case. Your financial wellbeing is not dependent on how much money you can make but how much you can keep. If you keep it obviously, you will invest. So, you have to ensure that you consciously make sure that you can keep, invest and create wealth because salary, living from day to day won’t give you wealth except you steal. And, remember there are consequences for that as we said earlier. Things take time, and a good thing would take an even a longer time to build, cultivate, and ensure it has a root and a foundation. All good things are born small and they, when given the opportunity, will grow. Sudden big things are monstrous and will die.
*Take care of your health.*
Health is another issue. If you take care of your health, as you go along, the health will take care of you, when you cannot. Do not expose yourself to toxic matters, substances that you know will harm you in the future. I can tell you that I’m almost 70 now and you find that apart from the normal wear and tear of the body, I still feel adequately fit. Most of the things that the younger ones do these days are the things destroying their health. This is why there is a need for self-discipline. You see our young ones jumping from one bar/hotel to another till late at night when they should be resting the body. When you ask, why are you spending late night? The answer you get is: oh, we are networking. Must you only network at night? What has happened to those who did?
*Obey your conscience.*
Obey your conscience because it is put there by God to guide you. Don’t kill your conscience, don’t override your conscience. Many of us override our conscience and consequently, we get into serious problems. There is a spark of God in everyone telling us what is good or bad. It whispers quietly. However, because we see only the temporary ‘good’ in the act we ignore that gentle voice. Develop that voice by moving closer to God. He will always guide you.
*Treat your wife like your sister*
I treat my wife as my sister and she treats me as her brother. That makes all the difference. Many people believe that they have problems in marriage because they marry someone they don’t know. That is not true. What people need is to understand what life is all about. If you understand that the Creator created both of you, you would treat each other like you are from the same family. The same way you treat your sister is the same way you should treat your wife. You cannot achieve a lasting success in your workplace if your home is in disarray. The first thing to know, accept and respect as husband and wife is that everything you individually, do openly or secretly will affect each other eventually.
– The Sermon notes I inherited from my Father who was a Pastor.
– Books by Robin Sharma on life and life principles.
Best advice ever received.
To live within my means, to be grateful for everything I get, to be humble always and to help anybody that comes my way. I got those from the Bible and they have greatly shaped my life.
I don’t have a mentor and that does not make me proud or arrogant. I don’t have a role model, but I have roles in models. If I see you that you are doing something that I like, I’ll pick that role from you. You may be shocked at some of the things that your role model does in the secret, you don’t know. As I’m talking to you now, some of you may say that I want to be like Mr. X. You don’t know the things I do, you don’t know the things I think, you don’t know the places I visit, that’s not to say I visit bad places, you don’t know the mistakes I have made. So, don’t copy a man; copy only God.
One of my greatest mistakes was when I forgot about God.
Of course, I paid the price. I thought that having achieved a particular thing in life I had arrived. I began to feel big and forgot where I was coming from. But of course, God called me back. At that point, I realised that I shouldn’t have done that. You cannot run from God. Pray He calls you back early.
The second mistake was trusting the government to play its part of the deal. As the CEO I trusted government to provide the enabling environment and make good policies that would be friendly to businesses; but it was a fatal error. The Government backed out of the deal. That trust led to the trouble that Dunlop is facing today.
Given what I know now, I wish I had started living it much earlier than I did. There is no substitute for knowing God; I am not talking of knowing about God. What the younger ones can learn from that is, please, please, please move closer to your Creator in your youth. Some of you can relate this statement to a passage in the Bible.
Please share. Thanks.