Sometimes, a moment of crisis helps us realize how much love and support is out there, waiting to lift us again. And there’s one place you’re guaranteed to find it, that’s family.
We met with Mr RICHARD NYONG- CEO of Lekki Gardens. In a chat on how the famous collapse affected his way of living and the unexpected comeback. His, is another phoenix rose from the ashes to taking center stage in the real estate ecosystem.
Mr Richard has always raised the bar in terms of quality, innovation and excellence in the real estate scene of Nigeria. He revealed to our editor Mr Nsikak Akpan, how he has continued to provide value to meet premium service for every client requesting to purchase any of his real estate franchises.
Sir, how did you transcend from being a graduate of Economics into a real estate mogul?
I met two guys on a flight to Dubai some years back, who were bankers and had built some of Nigeria’s foremost subsea installations and robotics businesses.
20 years ago, these Nigerian guys decided this is the journey they want to take and they are celebrated around the world today, for the quality of their services which matches service standards of global enterprises. I asked, how did you do it? for me, it wasn’t about seizing up an opportunity as my friend told me, with a strong vision declaring that this is what am going to do. I am going to run one of the biggest most important oil servicing firms, that’s what he wanted to do, but we didn’t start from there, we weren’t born with those kinds of victorious vision, rather it was step by step that we form our desire to win and it started with me getting out of school.
I have always been a businessman and love the aspect of building a business, selling a product and starting something important and useful. when I get a vision from God, He starts talking to me about stuff, real estate was one of those journeys. I left university and started my first business – a fast food stand in the campus where fried akara (beans balls), then I did show–biz with Basket-Mouth, Star-plus and others. I was always thinking of how to make money, I went on to do educational consulting and took my first loan which was 50 thousand Naira with a 30 percent interest every month. The ICT director and I, started a business of helping people to get admission to study abroad for free, Ukraine, East Europe was offering people free education for masters.
We built a small website called visasroll.com and asked people to pay us 2160 naira per person, we helped them fill up their application and advised on the choice of school, and in three months, it helped us pay our debt. In six months, we made our first one million Naira, and in one year we made our three million because we always believed in starting small, starting right, doing something and keeping it simple.
Economics allow you to understand a concept, allows you to put a number around it, a system and put a structure around it. After my education, I decided to attend a program by Daystar Academy on how business should be run, plus my background in economics. Though the education consulting, was going very well, one morning I woke up and decided to go into dry cleaning services. We took a bit of all of our savings, few loans from the bank and small investment from our investor where we raised about 3.5 million and started the business. We lost everything and it taught us how to run operations.
I went to church and met a young person who was into real estate I asked him to mentor me and in return, I helped him with is marketing. In the process, I started to learn how the real estate business works. After a year and a half, we started selling lands at the free trade zone area after being duped seven times.
I am proud to say that none of our customers who have bought properties from us has lost money, am talking about over 20 thousand people, who have done business with us at different times
Amid these challenges you were faced with, how did you build a recipe for success?
I lost my father when I was 13, may his soul rest in peace. I got my first job at 14 to help me pay my school fees and buy books. I learnt how to manage adversity a long time ago.
They say IQ is intelligent quotient, EQ is emotional intelligent quotient and AQ adversity quotient which is your ability to handle difficulty is bigger than the first two. I totally agree with the person. the major ingredient of success is going to God, seek his face, get clarity of thought, bend your back and say no matter how difficult it is I would do it again. I wrote jamb 4 times, wrote WAEC 4 times, I didn’t believe I’m the smartest guy. I just don’t give up I won’t change course just because it’s difficult, if this is the only way to get it then I have to go through it, so the biggest for me is my relationship with God but I still don’t like to talk about it. prayer makes things possible, planning prevents failure, preparation prevents poor performance, and practice makes perfect. I always talk to God to open my eyes and give me the strength to withstand difficulties Finding.
I tell my children, we must pray to see tomorrow, where prayer ends is where we begin to see what is possible, but then practice means you are not perfect and you are going to keep trying, preparation means you have to put a lot of things in place ahead of important issues. Planning means you are going to sit down and do some calculations. I always talk to God because he put my mind & open my eyes for understanding that I may see, but once that understanding is gotten, I have to go and do work, whether is your study find the knowledge you acquire making yourself to become better at talking, planning & directing.
when we were starting, I had to read the biography of every rich man I could think about everybody in the business world, like Desk Turner, Richard Brownson, Bill Gates, and Ella, I had to read their autobiography. There was a point in my life I was reading 40 books a year.
What has been your consistent service ethos which you believe has been the key brand differentiator?
For me service means helping people make money, achieve their dream of living in certain kinds of places, raise their children in better places, and helping them get to work easier. We were the first company that decided we wanted to build estate in volumes for the value. Our ethos was ‘luxury you could afford’. Our first project was in Ajah. Our competitors were selling a 4–bedroom terrace for 35 million and we decided to sell our own 4–bedroom terrace for 13.5 million so everybody thought we would never deliver it. Firstly, we built the first straight 1 KM road still standing.
Our statement here to customers is that when you live on our estate your cars won’t suffer. A 300-unit housing, we delivered in 18 months. We sold out in less than 6 months. We are not trying to shelter you first we are trying to help you win first. Of cause, we have made mistakes but we have never made a mistake with our services ethos. That’s why our clients come to us. Our brand differentiator is how much value we can help people get and put back money in your pocket.
With your strong brand presence across Nigerian cities, how do you maintain quality in an ecosystem of cost-sensitive customers?
Quality is just like services, one of the difficulties in business. Quality allows you to begin to develop stronger essence of quality behaviour and continues to grow in our ability to do a good job. We didn’t start with the most perfect systems, but what we have done and improve daily with each of our brands, is to build a strong operational supervision team across Nigeria, that have standard operating processes that they follow to make sure that work is done properly and consistently. It’s a tough environment where your margins are very slim it’s a cost-sensitive environment and you are trying to make people win but you must not compromise the quality.
Our quality bands have various levels where you must never build a structural destructive house. Layers of quality supervision & control are there, we keep trying to do better than yesterday, we keep building structure, asking questions and whenever things go wrong, we go back and find out how to put another structure that can handle it better.
Question: As the CEO what more should we expect in your expansion plan?
As founding CEO, I have a vision of going across Africa, we have been having that vision for the last three years. we decided we want to begin to do things outside Nigeria, but Nigeria is a big market itself, and I don’t think we have done things to leave Nigeria. However, there are high anchor cities in every country, Nigeria has two or more anchor cities where you can do business and have a sufficient base for you to profit, most of the time the other smaller city may not have the threshold investment amount for you to make such investment. We continue to fame up our business serving Nigeria needs but with the African ideology, we are ten years old, we are not in a hurry.
People buy estate mostly where they live and where they work. Our focus is to service all pockets of the market across Nigeria that will need our services, when we get that right it will perfect our act and we will begin to put our footprint in Africa. Expansion comes with quality issues challenges, and control management. So is not how fast you move, it is how well you move when you do it, you can’t do a business and not be profitable,
QUESTION: HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN YOUR SILVER LINING IN REAL ESTATE
The biggest things in my life are my wife and children. The building collapsed, changed me to a better person, it cleanses my soul and aligned my consciousness, to respect the business that I build, to stand and fight for those that have invested in my business. If you promised people that they will not lose your word, it is those times that the taste to the commitment to your promise becomes glary.