A little over a month ago, I was informed that I will be interviewed in the Sun Newspaper, Tony Ogaga was the gentle man penciled to anchor the interview. He did a good job asking some deep interesting questions that brought out the best for this interview.
By the way, I was wrongly addressed as Chinedu instead of Chukwuemeka which by the way is not entirely bad because Chinedu has a great meaning – God is leading CFA 🙂
Below is the full interview as published in The Sun precisely on Pages 33 & 34:
When passion and vision drive you, you’re like a moving train – Agbata, founder, ICT with CFA
In 2009, Chinedu Fred Agbata Jnr. (aka CFA), had everything going for him. The father of three had just resigned from one of Nigeria’s biggest telecoms companies and started his own business, an upstart dedicated to training IT professionals. His fledgling venture was gradually building momentum and money was coming in trickles but Chinedu wanted more!
And then came temptation he could not resist; an opportunity to make huge and quick turn-over in an Oil & Gas deal. In a chat with,TONY OGAGA ERHARIEFE, Agbata says he swallowed the juicy bait hook, line and sinker and by the time the scales fell off his eyes a year and six months later, he had lost his entire savings running into millions of naira, his business was crippled and he was stark broke. He also spoke on how he got back on his feet and the lessons he learnt.
“I started out in 2009 on the Internet after I lost a business and was extremely broke. Before then I was quite buoyant and people were able to rent houses and buy cars working for me.
“When I left the telecoms industry, I started a training company but six months later, I met a guy who introduced me to Oil & Gas so I lost focus and abandoned my vision. One year and six months later, I lost everything I had worked for all my life; I lost every penny. My wife was pregnant with our first child and I was stark broke and all this was happening just a day before my birthday!”
Agbata says his biggest error was assuming that because he was successful as a sales person in the telecoms industry, he would automatically succeed in his business.
“I beautified my office to world class standard without a world-class business idea. However, I was not really doing badly until the day I met the guy who derailed me. The money was good and the figures were fantastic so I took the plunge. I did not think of the risk so I got burnt.”
“Then I had already seen some of my friends making waves on the internet so I said to myself, ‘Chinedu, you’re not going to be in a hurry to get a job. You’re just 30, so you have a lot of time on your hands. You could fool around for another five years and if it doesn’t work, you’d go get a job.’ So, I started out learning.
Commenting on the need for branding on the Internet, Agbata continued: “When I made the decision to start blogging, I wanted to have a brand because I realised that the internet was overcrowded, so I needed to brand myself by doing something that would distinguish me from every other person and then I started brain storming and that was how CFA was born. It means Conditions For Accomplishment which is my personal mantra derived from my initials.”
He says his first port of call were portals that dealt with how to make money on the Internet. He was on Google researching and developed his first blog himself from the scratch.
“Today, I have built over 100 websites and nobody taught me. Anyone can learn if you are serious. I have trained thousands and all this knowledge I acquired by researching, reading, and practicing. I did it over and over again till I got it right.
“That was when I discovered blogging and I started developing myself. The secret I discovered was that for you to be an authority in any field, you must invest in the right content and package it.
“So, I kept writing and blogging and I started getting speaking engagements. I was not just blogging, I was also marketing. I would blog and share on social media and blackberry. I shared on every social media platform and just kept going. I was sharing and pumping content online and what was more, I was consistent.
“I was blogging about how I started my business with no money but with a passion to share. And mind you, I wasn’t a trained writer, so you don’t have to be a professional to blog. From there people started reaching out to me. I was consistent, so I got better. And now I have two books published. I have tons of content online. In fact, I am a moving library. I can churn out five books today if I want to and the reason is because I have amassed so much content.
“I have discovered modern tools that will help whoever wants to develop content in a very easy way. So, you don’t have to look at content development as rocket science. The point is that if you want to be an authority in today’s world, you must have content that will sell you. What sells your products is your ability to communicate that in terms of the content you generate and how you share it.”
Digital culture trainings
“I started with an Australia-based company as their Nigerian partner. We were training small businesses. My passion has always been on SMEs because I understand that they are the drivers of any economy; if we want to drive the Nigerian economy, then we must focus on SMEs. “Over the years we have trained countless small businesses on our Digital Culture Trainings. We have discovered that people have gadgets, phones and devices but they have not developed a digital culture. They just carry big devises around that they can’t manage.
“Consequently, our training is focussed on entrepreneurs, business owners and managers who want to evolve a new way of using these gadgets and devises; that is the gap we are trying to fill.”
Five years down the road, how has the journey been?
It’s been challenging but when vision drives you, you’re like a moving train; nothing can stop you. At some point, when things were so rough, my close family members called me and said to me, ‘guy, get serious and stop fooling around, go get a job, what the hell are you doing with your life?’
“There were some days my family would go without food but I just knew that there was a vacuum I was feeling and all I needed was to be consistent and remain focussed. It’s been tough and challenging, but it’s been highly rewarding.
Five years later, has he broken even?
“You have to decide what you want. When I made the decision to build a personal brand, I told myself that money would come last so we are making enough money to sustain us as a small business. We are working on growing but we are sustainable as a small business.
“But now we are moving to the next level and that is why we want to monetise our platforms by looking for partners that will work with us to further educate Nigerians to keep this programme going; that is the level we are at now.”
What government can do:
“Government must strive to create protectionist policies. If a foreign business is coming into Nigeria to invest in the technology space, it should be mandatory that Nigerians own a certain percentage of such businesses because we are gradually entering a second level of colonialism which I call technology colonialism. We must understand that he who pays the piper dictates the tune so if we allow them to control everything in technology, we wouldn’t be doing ourselves any good.”
To drive home his point, he adds emphatically: “As a Nigerian, you can’t own a company in Ghana 100 per cent. And if you must, you must invest at least $300, 000 otherwise a Ghanaian must be on your board. The message to government is that it must deepen local content and that is what is lacking here. We want to see that happen so that Nigerian firms can compete. We are happy that a lot of technology entrepreneurs including myself are not waiting for government; we are forging ahead because we know that the future is bright for Nigeria.”
Secret of success
Having come thus far, Agbata shares his success secrets: “Selfless service. I want everybody reading this to know that in order to succeed; you must develop a culture of adding value and selfless service. One of my secret is that if I want to break into a particular organisation, because I know they already have consultants, what I do is offer pro bono service.
“What that does for me is that even though I may not get paid initially, I have their brand rubbing off on me and that adds value to my brand. I don’t put financial gains first; I am a man driven by a bigger philosophy.”
“My management philosophy is people. People tell me that partnerships don’t work but I beg to disagree. The success that of many big businesses like Google, Microsoft or Apple are products of partnerships. So partnerships are critical.
“So, my first stop is people; I love working with people and investing in people. I love working with people who are smarter than I am. Outwardly you see CFA but behind CFA are people who can deliver value. Hence my greatest philosophy as a manager is to invest in people, trust in them and allow them to grow.
“Basically, we are aspiring to be an ICT conglomerate with investments in five areas including agriculture, IT, entertainment, education and healthcare. Our focus will be how technology can drive these sectors.
“My dream in the next five years when I will be 40 is to be a positive role model for Nigerian youths. I won’t sell happiness to the youths based on hard drugs or illicit sex, but happiness based on finding out their potential, purpose and then inspire them to work hard work to achieve their dreams.
Most importantly, I want to be influential to the extent of hobnobbing with African presidents and having them as my personal friends that I could talk to at just a call. As simple as it sounds, I have set it as a goal and I will achieve it.”