Mr Wole Shenbanjo is the Chief Executive Officer of Shenbee Travels Limited, one of Nigeria’s fast-rising Travel and Tour agencies. Located in Ikoyi, Lagos, the Agency has affiliations across notable destinations in the world.In this interview he speaks about his entrepreneurship journey.
Q. You had a flourishing career in the banking sector. Why did you leave at the time you did?
A. Having done it for a couple of years, I got tired of it. I considered it monotonous for a restless soul like mine. I wanted to try something new for myself. My kids were still infants at the time, so I felt it was a good time for me to set out on my journey before my responsibilities got bigger and the comfort of my salary would make it unwise to leave.
Q. What was the reaction of your loved ones to that decision?
A. Everyone thought I was crazy. I mean I was working in the Treasury department of one of the biggest banks on the continent, who leaves that to go and hustle? But my wife looked at me and said if that’s what you want to do, you have all my support, we will manage. That was the only assurance I needed, I set out and we thank God for where we are today.
Q. What motivated you to start a travel company?
A. I wanted to do a business that was natural to me and where everyone I came across was my potential customer. I wanted a cashflow business and one which would not have any days off or public holiday. The travel business gave me all of that. As long as the skies are open, we are in business.
Q. You studied Computer Engineering but started your career in the banking sector. What informed that move?
A. No big story behind it. It was simply the first job I got after leaving school; I had always wanted to start earning quickly and be on my way to independence. The banks were the largest employers at the time. I got a banking job, I gave it my all and began to thrive at it.
Biggest challenge I would say is human capital. I find that many people are actually unemployable, and sometimes for no fault of theirs. The system is churning out all sorts. The good ones are overpriced or on their way out of the country. The ones you decide to take a chance on and train become restless once they’ve been equipped a bit.The next challenge is access to affordable working capital.– Wole Shenbanjo
Q. In what ways did your time at the Enterprise Development Centre of the Lagos Business School impact your career?
A. I had been doing business informally for a very long time. Going for a programme at the Lagos business school was the best decision I made for myself. It helped to put structure around all that I do now and has helped us scale.
Q. What are the biggest challenges you face in running your business?
A. Biggest challenge I would say is human capital. I find that many people are actually unemployable, and sometimes for no fault of theirs. The system is churning out all sorts. The good ones are overpriced or on their way out of the country. The ones you decide to take a chance on and train become restless once they’ve been equipped a bit.The next challenge is access to affordable working capital.
Q. What were the highlights of your time at Vetiva Capital Management Limited?
A. Being involved in a number of transactions you would normally only get to hear in the news even as an entry level staff. I found it extremely exciting.
Q. What are some of the landmark transactions you worked on in the capital market?
A. The largest merger on the Nigerian Stock exchange at the time. The Dangote cement consolidation that gave birth to the big giant it is today.
Q. You later moved to the insurance industry. How easy was it for you to make the switch?
A. Quite easy I must say. I was an entry level staff then,meaning I was green and open to learning every and any thing that came my way.
Q. What are the personal qualities that have helped you get to this point in your career?
A. Courage, Tenacity, Focus and Integrity.
Q. You were said to be the best graduating student of your set at the GTBank Training School. What do you recall of your time there?
A. I love challenges. I remember on our first day in training school, we were told it would be one of the most rigorous 4 months of our career. We heard that a lot of people drop out because they are unable to cope. The programme was structured on such a way that you learn a new course for one week and take an exam at the end. I took up the challenge and gave it my best; I found that after each exam, I kept on passing one course after the other and emerged as the best graduating student. I then discovered that the biggest department in the bank – Treasury usually comes for the best graduating student. That’s how my career in banking got off on a great trajectory.
Q. Having worked on the local currency trading desk of GTB, what do you make of the current scarcity of cash plaguing the country?
A. I think the currency redesign was not properly planned or lets say properly implemented. Big nations of the world usually take many months or even years to successfully change or redesign their currencies in ways that would not place unnecessary hardship on their citizens. Thankfully, it has now been reversed so we should see a pick up in the economic activities in the country in the coming weeks.
Q. The naira also seems to be in a freefall against the dollar. How do you think the naira can best be protected?
A. For me, I would say we need to do away with our multiple exchange rates and allow the forces of demand and supply take its effect. The differential between the official and parallel market rates makes it impossible for a lot of inflows to pass through the banking system. Then we need to intensify efforts to increase our non-oil earnings.
Q. What drives you?
A. The fear of poverty -which I always say is the beginning of hard work.
Q. What do you regard as the lowest moment of your career?
A. When I tried my hands on a particular business I did not know much about and lost everything I invested – owned and borrowed. It took me a while to come out of the woods.
Q. You sit on the board of some companies. Tell us about them?
A. I sit on boards across some key sectors like Financial Services, Travel/Tourism, Education and Manufacturing. I find that most are interrelated, and the key ingredients of success are pretty much the same. Hence, I am able to take the learnings from one and apply to another.
Q. What are the common mistakes young people make as regards career advancement?
A. Most young people are just after the money. Ready to move for the next better pay. I would say young people need to be a bit more futuristic in their decisions. Less pay today might be your stepping stone to your big break in a few years.
Q. How do you balance your career and family in a way that none suffers?
A. For me, it is God, family then business. Those who know anything about me will say that I am a dedicated family-oriented man. I practice work life integration. Because my business requires me to be constantly on the move, I try to make time for my family as much as I can. By design, my office is very central to my kids school and my wife’s office. So I am able to do school runs once or twice a week or dash in for school activities, I am also able to catch up with my wife during the day for lunch as often as we can. I pretty much am invested in family time when I am not working, and with the new hybrid model of work, I am more present in their lives as I can do my work from anywhere I am. Weekends are reserved solely for the family. Finally, we create about a week or two annually where we travel as a family to create priceless memories.
Q. What are your other interests?
A. I love traveling. I love the game of snooker. I am passionate about entrepreneurship, self-empowerment, and poverty alleviation.