I want to make a stamp on the global map – Feyi Olubodun

On the show last week Feyi Olubodun made an exceptional report that was full of insights. We saw the content useful and decided to bring it to your notice. Relax while you grasp the message.

Who is Feyi Olubodun ?

Feyi Olubodun is the General Manager at Insight Communications. He is passionate about the growth and success of the organization and believes the greatness we aspire for can be achieved with great discipline.

Read the words of Feyi Olubodun below

I have always had an ambition of being a part of an organization that makes a stamp on the Global Map. Excellence requires that you do more. Somebody asked me why I had to get an MBA from a School like Duke, the answer is simple: I’m a Nigerian with a background in Psychology. I had to do more because being good is not enough. You have to be excellent as a Nigerian; otherwise nobody will pay attention to you. Excellence requires a lot of discipline, sacrifice, sleepless nights and a lot of drive. Learn to push yourself beyond personal boundaries and comfort zones so that you can achieve your goals.

Read also I’m the one the world is waiting for – Ayobami Ogundele

I have sort of mapped a career path for myself by following questions, I don’t follow answers. Every career move I have made has always been in pursuit of an answer to a particular question. So when I was working as a Data Analyst, I began to ask questions about the Data I process and the result generated. What exactly is the Research Department or Clients doing with this data, are they using it properly? As a result, I transited to the Research Department. Again, as I pass these on to clients, I asked myself, what do they do with it, what strategy do they develop from it? I followed that question and I ended up in the Strategic Planning Department at Insight Communications, where I eventually rose to become the head of the department. I had the assignment of driving the Corporate Strategy Initiative for the entire organization. While putting together strategy retreats, I began to experience difficulties in implementing the strategy. It’s very nice to have a nice strategy document. And so I began to ask myself questions, what does it take for an organization to see the future (a strategy is a preferred future), what do they need to get there and how does that happen? That question took me to Duke for an MBA because I wanted to understand the different aspects of business. And ultimately now I’m in a role where I’m required to drive the business into the future. Leaders are expected to have answers, they are expected to know everything and it took me a while to get comfortable with not knowing everything, but knowing the right questions to ask. Great leaders must know the right questions to ask, it’s not only about having answers and that’s what I bring into everything I do. What is the right question to ask?

To find that one thing that makes you special, you have to do a lot of listening. You have to listen to your life. You have to reflect on your life as an individual and observe the patterns over time. I found out in my own life after listening for a long period of time that I always ended up in situations that were in transit, where I didn’t have answers and things were not clear and I had to move ahead with life. The only way I found I could move on was to ask certain questions and that was how I progressed. So after a while, I realized that everything I do always comes from a question point of view as opposed to coming from a point of answers.

My day begins pretty early. The first thing I do typically is to check my e-mails because there are few days I don’t wake up with an e-mail from a client. All the clients want things done like yesterday, so in between getting ready for the day and a cup of coffee, I check e-mails. I arrive at the office with a layout of how the day will look like if don’t go straight for a meeting and that involves talking to the managers of the different units about what needs to be done. Every day I have to talk to clients via e-mails and phone calls. It’s a high energy Environment, Agency and Business. So leading the agency, you have to come with a lot of energy more than anything else. Giving time is not enough; you have to bring in a high level of energy to keep driving things forward.

A lot of what we do in creativity is hype the west. In Insight, we are developing gradually a frame work, a perspective to viewing the African consumer. If you check YouTube and you type in the African Consumer, you will see a video, where I’m presenting a framework somewhere in the UK ESCP Europe Business school. The African consumer is a villager. The villager is a psychological construct, which has 8 components that define who the African is. For you to sell successfully to that man, you have to understand he is a villager regardless of how he dresses. The African and the Nigerian by extension is modernized and not westernized. We dress cool, we look cool, but inside we still have certain elements to speak to the village construct. We still have the herd mentality. The Nigerian man still says my mates have achieved this; I have not yet achieved that. The American man does not say that, he doesn’t think that way. We still have community rituals; we still have community affirmation and all of that. We definitely have what I call “the value of an enemy.” The African man must have an enemy. The African man believes that the issues in his life are as a result of forces that are external to him. If I wake up in the morning and I have planned an important business meeting for 7 o’clock and I leave my house at 5am, but get caught up in traffic, I attribute it to the devil and my enemies. It’s because traffic was not well factored in, I should have checked traffic update and maybe left an hour earlier. These things are unique to us, it doesn’t change. We need to explore it. We need to sell to that. The world does not what to see more of the west, they want to see Africa, and they want to see Nigeria.

The insight that Nigerians are the most sexually satisfied people in the world is being wasted. To sell condom to Nigerians for instance, you shouldn’t say “safe sex,” you should rather say “more sex.”  When a Nigerian man is out to have sex, he is not thinking about getting someone pregnant. He is thinking about having as much fun as possible. When you bring in the message of safe sex, you’re actually creating a psychological barrier to his enjoyment. If you listen to our songs, you’ll see how we nuance sex. This is part of who we are; it’s an insight that is lying out there and we’ve not really used it for anything so to speak.

I’m the head of the business and we have an Executive Team that reports to me. Myself and a number of the team members are on the board of the company. We have a Vice Chairman, who oversees the business – Mr Jimi Awosika. He used to be the head of the business; he ran it for many years. We have three departments: Account Management/Client Services, Strategic Planning and the Creative Team. And we have all the other support units like other firms. In total, we are about 95-100.

One of our core values, perhaps the strongest is that we build business by building clients’ businesses. When we create ideas, we ask ourselves the question, will this build the client’s business? There is no point having a client that is not doing well on your roster. We are creative partners, we should be in a position to advise clients, support them in their decisions to help their businesses grow.

We have a Project Management Department that designs and oversees our processes from end to end. Our processes are designed such that they enable us meet our clients’ needs with agility and at the same time sophisticated enough to make sure we tick all the boxes. There is no point attaining agility but sacrificing quality – quality of thoughts, quality of creativity. Our ethos is a never-ending thinking. There’s nothing we have at Insight that we don’t continually improve. We believe that “none of us is smarter than all of us”. A typical creative process in any agency is a linear process. The Client Service guy takes a brief, looks at it, refines it and passes it to Strategic Planning. Strategic Planning does research and come up with consumer insight and then pass it to the Creative team. The Creative team will come up with what everybody will appraise. At that point everybody is shooting at each other. Now (at Insight) everybody involved in the project sits down together in the same room at the same time. We’ve had times when we call clients to join in the conversation. The process becomes more iterative, everybody takes ownership of it. By the time we get to the end and we are presenting, the client already knows the thinking; in fact he is part of the creative process. We make decisions using the same philosophy. We have designed our offices here based on that philosophy. We opened up walls for everybody to be accessible. Anybody can walk up to anybody and talk to them.  People just gather around table with ideas and move it forward. In the old days, we were not like that. Those are some of the values that drive what we do here.

The last challenge we faced was a case of a new client changing hands with an expatriate structure. The Senior Client is an expatriate and the Middle Clients are Nigerians. Those guys are on rotation. We expected the local middle client to facilitate an introduction with the new guys, but it did not happen. The account was threatened because they wanted to restructure things to suit their vision for the business. After a while, I wrote to the Senior Client, welcomed him to Nigeria and requested to meet him, he obliged. I went over to chat with him and also invited him to our Agency. When he came over and saw our credentials and what we are doing, he was so impressed that he said: “I would love to continue partnering with you guys.”

My leadership style is more of the visioneering leadership style. I am big on the questions. I don’t celebrate my victory for too long. I don’t get caught up with my glory but I like to ask – what next?  I have a leadership style that likes people around me to be empowered. I don’t like working with people that I have to be pulling and people that hold me in awe or worship me. I like working with people that are superstars in their own right, people that are bigger than me. I am an invisible CEO. I typically don’t like being the one in the front unless I have to. I don’t dictate to people what they should do. I tell people where we are going and ask them how to get there. So I set the vision, but leave the achievement and the strategy to my Managers. However, when they come up with it and we agree to it I hold them accountable. That’s a caveat! You decide the way you want to go, I agree to it, I support you, you have to do it. No excuse! If I want to delegate anything, I sit down with the person, brief him face-to-face, we agree on the components and I send him an email to follow-up, just to recap on what we agreed on. I don’t micro-manage, I give you that room but you have to deliver within the time frame. When that doesn’t happen however I tend to manage things a bit more closely. I am comfortable with delegation.

Building a staff-friendly organisation is key. We have an organisation that is exciting for people to work in. Recently, Jobberman rated Insight as one of the top 3 Organisations that the millennials want to work in. This was totally independent, we were not aware of what they were doing. So that attraction is there. You can recruit Senior Managers in two ways: you can sell to them the rewards of working with your company or sell the vision of the company ahead. It depends on where your company is. Though we are 35 years in the business, we say that we are 35 years young. We still have a long way to go. We like to have Managers that are not here to harvest but to sow; this way we separate the wheat from chaff. Many senior people want a company where they can relax and get a lot of pecks. We are not that kind of company.

We have conquered the Nigerian Market; we’ve been the leader in this business by billings in the last 25 years, the most creatively awarded in the past 10 years. The question for us now is: what is the next thing? The next frontier is to put the business on the Global Map. Today there is no African agency that has recognition on the Global Advertising Map, that’s where we are going. We frame this as “Globalness”. “Globalness” is building a Nigerian Agency that works in a way that’s Globally Comparable and Admirable. We want a situation where guys in other countries will want to come and understudy how we operate. I consider this as my gift to the world; an opportunity to give back to the world in the area of creativity like Nigeria is doing in the entertainment industry. We are actually on a business transformation journey right now that we’ll come out of in another 18 months.

I am one of the few people that started out from a point of failure. I originally started out to be a Medical Doctor. I spent 4 years in Pre-Medical School at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. I thought I would finish from Ife and go on to John Hopkins University and I would become a Pediatric Neurosurgeon. I would do that till I’m 65, retire and write books till I die; but I failed in the Medical School twice. I had to leave. I had problems with my family. My dad and I did not talk for like 3 years. It was brutal. So I went to read Psychology, which was also tough for me because it was a different ball game. I ended up with a 2nd class lower from psychology with an extra year to butter it properly. I am super grateful for that experience because that was when my questioning started, if I could no longer be a Medical Doctor, what else can I be? What really are my true abilities in life?  I realised that I am comfortable with transition; it has helped me in transiting different roles. That experience helped me not to celebrate victories for long. I see success and failure as the same. They are both data points that give you information. I treat success the same way I treat failure. Everybody has a period of failure in his life. I am grateful that in my case, it was front-loaded, not later in life. When you have gone through Personal Failures and risen above it, you smile through Corporate Challenges.

Feyi Olubodun desires applause for this article.

Do you know that good books, having good conversation with quality friends make me happy?

Source: Feyi Olubodun


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