With honesty and quality as his watchword, Rere Obaisi has over the years carved an impressive renewable power system in Nigeria. Still striving so hard to provide the desired for both the rich and the poor.
For most people, earning a lot of money and doing a minimal amount of work sounds ideal. But for entrepreneur Rere Obaisi, the cushy banker lifestyle was not fulfilling. He spoke with Pleasures Magazine to discuss his decision to quit his banking job and launch a startup.
Mr. Rere Obaisi is the founder and CEO of Reohob Nig. Limited, a company specializing in security systems and renewable power systems for residential and commercial buildings. He has previously worked as a banker and school administrator. We recently talked about his journey from a young banker and finally striking out on his own as an entrepreneur.
Could you introduce yourself to our esteem readers across the globe?
My name is RereObaisi, CEO of Reohob Limited, a company that specializes in security systems and renewable power systems for residential and commercial buildings.
How it all did started. Why not fashion or entertainment? Why this particular industry?
Because this is what we need due to unstable power supply? Nigeria and Africa as a whole have power supply as a major concern and that vested my interest even though getting into it was not because of that but when i found out about the advantages, i decided to pursue it because it is a huge problem currently in the country so i decided to build my brand around alternative power supply so as to make it easy for Africans have access to unlimited and uninterrupted power supply not depending on just power from the grid
Share a bit of your educational background
I had a lot of processes before starting this business. Schooled in Covenant University in Ogun state, Ota. After that, i worked in a bank for about 2 years – Stanbic IBTC. After that, I pulled out to work for my father for a while and then i managed a primary and secondary school for another 2 years as a director. In between those time was when i started the business. There was a process, there was a trajectory. There were a lot of things i learnt from the banking industry: how to run an office, manage staff, manage clients. I will say the banking job was an advantage to running a business.
When was that moment that you were ready to start as an entrepreneur and how easy was that transition?
It was not an easy decision. Entrepreneurship is not easy. People make it sound like it’s an easy thing. It’s a tough thing and takes a lot of determination to make it work. We started RIOG exactly 2012 in March. That’s when we started to put in work and it started with just me and later, a few engineers and marketers and now Reohob has become something great. We are about to open an office in Lekki. Reohob has overtime developed a good base. From 2012 till date, is 7 years and 5 months which we have been in business. It wasn’t an easy decision but it was a decision to be made. I knew that i had more to offer the world rather than whatever pay i will get, so iwas willing to leave my comfort. I was earning quite a good salary when I was working with the bank but i realized that i could do more with myself and I’m happy that i made that decision. It was easy to make the decision then because i was a young man without a family to cater for. My bosses in the bank were glad that I made the decision to pull out at the early stage because if I had stayed longer, I would have gone a little too deep and it would have been difficult to pull out because you can’t leave certainty for uncertainty.
Every successful story has rocky beginnings. Can you remember some of the challenges you faced and how you overcame them?
If i am realistic with you, we are still going through rocky stages. We may be considered a successful company but at the same time it’s a couple of things. Every business starting up must have patchy and rocky paths. The difference between those that pushed from one stage to the next stage is how they prepared for that rocky stage. I made sure i was prepared and it was the thing of the mind. Aside that, i made sure i was not a novice. Like i used to tell people, i read almost 30 business books just because I wanted to start a business. I didn’t like reading. Even in the university, i wasn’t a scholar per se. When I saw that i needed to know these things, i read relevant books to business and it helped me. I also had mentors from the banks, one thing was that i started Reohob from where i could start from unlike many entrepreneurs that want to start from the top. I started Reohob from the beginning in my room with my system. It wasn’t about getting an office space. We didn’t get an office space until the 2nd or 3rd year of running the business. It was a due process
For the recruitment aspect, how were you able to assemble the Engineers, the right team who believe in your dream and not just the money?
There are different business models to different businesses. My business gave me the opportunity to meet professionals and pay for their services. Initially Reohob was paying for professional and experienced engineers, later, we decided to recruit our own engineers, train them to be able to do business with us. It was just about the right funding. Like i told you initially, it was a process. We did not take on jobs that were too big for us to handle. We took on jobs that we could handle. For example, now we have an average of 10 engineers but when we started with 2 engineers, we only accepted jobs that the 2 could handle. If we are done with that, we look to other opportunities. It was a constant buildup, it wasn’t stressful. Most people want results immediately. One of the key ingredients for a successful entrepreneur is patience and consistency.
Last year, I saw something on your page that caught my eye. You posted a picture of a man selling books and commented that if only he will read the books he is selling, he won’t be where he is now.
Yes, I reposted a picture of a man hawking books on the street and i said the man did not know that he had so much power in his hands. He was going to sell those books for a few hundreds of naira whereas the information contained in those books can change his life. That’s the big difference between successful people and just normal people. As i said from the beginning, when i wanted to go into business, i started reading business books. Right now, i have an average of 50 business books in my library. If i decide to move on to another project, i can read a book on that project. For example, there was a time I was coming from Abuja to Lagos, I was waiting for my car to pick me up and i saw a bookshop. Every time I see a bookshop, I enter it. I bought this book that I have here with me. Its titled, “An Execution, the discipline of getting things done” by Lawraence Bossidy and Ram Charan.
I just started reading this book 3 days ago because I’m about to go into another phase of the business that deals with executing things without mistakes. You have to read books by people that are successful. Reading books are important. Information is key. The data exchange in this generation is what determines how much progress you can make. The difference between a successful person and an unsuccessful one is what they know. The better you know, the better you live. It’s just that simple.
Looking at your story now, how you started. Moving from one grade to another and also looking back at the number of books you’ve read. Going all around in the hustle and noticing young people on social media posting flashy things, showing how successful they have become. Does it occur to you to ask if they are doing enough?
It’s none of my business. I’m in competition with myself, no other person. I’m not bothered.
Are you happy with the way the government is going on about the renewed energy industry in Nigeria?
I’m not too impressed with the way the government is dealing with it but it is not a problem because we already know Nigeria for what it is. Nigeria already has a few problems on our hands: road, water and other different issues. So they, not concentrating on renewable energy is understandable. My job description is to do the best I can in the industry and leave the rest
Who are your clients, this thing, is it really affordable to all?
My clients cut across every field .We have inverters in a total package as cheap as 199,000 naira and others as expensive as 150 million naira. Our client’s base includes families, normal homes, offices, farms, hotels, hospitals etc. we have inverters that can power two bulbs and a television. We have others that can power 10 air conditioners. So our business is not only for the rich. It is also meant for the poor. We are working on projects that will help us supply more affordable products to Africans.
Have you received any support from the government or is there anything the government can do for someone like you? Aside the funding, maybe an initiative that you think is necessary to help the industry
I am not interested in government funding.If the government wants to, I don’t have any influence on that. I think they are really working on a few things to help the renewable industry. I have read a couple of times about some rural renewable energy projects by the government so they are trying their best. For now, we are just doing what we can do: meeting a need. It’s just a simple business.
As an entrepreneur, how important is it to have a role model?
It is important but it depends on the kind of role model you are looking for. I have mentors that I have not even seen or spoken to. For example, Mike Adenuga is one of my mentors but I’ve not met or spoken to him but I try to study his lifestyle, his habits, the way he processes information, the way he appears in public. So you have mentors and role models for different reasons. You have to choose them wisely. I can be your role model in marriage but not in communication. I can be your role model in business but not in religion. So you have to pick your role model based on your need but it is important to have a mentor and a role model. It helps you and makes it easy. It’s personal conviction for me and I approach the ones I can.
Where do you see Reohob in the next 3 to 5 years?
Oh! In a big space. I see Reohob handling projects way bigger than the Nigerian project. Projects that span or cuts across Africa, organizing seminars that will be ground breaking in the renewable energy sector. I foresee the company becoming the fore brand that is into renewable energy in Africa. My dream for Reohob is way above Nigeria. It cuts across the world. But I believe that 5 years from now, we should be a dominant player in the renewable energy sector in the world.
If you are to address a young man/woman that is coming to your industry, what will be your first advice to the person?
Be prepared. As an entrepreneur and as a person, you know what your strengths and weaknesses are. Some people don’t have the strength for hard times but others naturally do. Play up your strength, don’t ignore your weaknesses. Focus on your area of strength to get some form of success from it.
If you are to assemble African entrepreneurs in a room with you now and you are to talk to them about the secret of your success, what would that message be?
Consistency, Hard work and Resilience. Those are some of my core values. I have a very strong work ethic. Most of the young Nigerian entrepreneurs currently are not ready to work. They are all up in the place saying they want to be great and rich but when they see the commensurate work that will get them the success, they back out. I am very resilient, hard working and consistent and I think those qualities will help every entrepreneur.
Has there been any time that you asked yourself, “Am I doing the right thing?”
Not at all, not once. I was convinced from the beginning. Now a lot of people work for me. In the next phase of Reohob, we will be employing 30 more people. The truth is I understand that success is a process. That’s why I say that you have to know. The better you know, the more you live. I have never regretted or asked myself or doubted if I’m doing the right thing. I understand that I can’t start something today and become the best at it, it’s a process. Even today, when you ask me what are my rocky days? We are still having rocky days. It is a successful business but still rocky. We haven’t got it perfect yet and the truth is we will probably always innovate. That’s the thing about big companies all around the world, those that think they have made it and sit back and say they have made it, sooner or later, they crumble. But those that still work at it, innovate, those are the companies that make it. Regardless of what it is, I work more now than I used to work 7 years ago. Even though its different from how I used to run around.
From what I have observed so far, I realize that you are so honest especially about the rocky stages of your business. In line of that, I want to ask: How important is honesty and integrity in running a business?
Yes, integrity is everything. People that do not have integrity are people that can mess up their brand at anytime. For me, my brand is everything and integrity is what sustains the brand. You have to be able to beat your chest that if there is a problem Reohob can come to the rescue. There are companies that do inverters and solar solutions and they have certain warranty on it. If there is a problem, they can’t come to you and fulfill the promise of the warranty. Reohob will not do that. If we say your warranty is one year, we go exactly according to that. If anything happens in that one year, you get it fixed free of charge. You may pay for transportation but fixing the product itself is free. Integrity and honesty is very important and that’s a personal thing. The idea of the leader of the company runs through the company. If we have a leader that is dubious, if he starts a company, it will run through all the staff and before you know it, everything turns upside down so it is dependent on the leaders. I try to be honest as much as possible. A lot of people call or message me on a daily basis asking how did you do it and I will tell them the truth, realistic things: what are the figures, your gross net profit, your inflows, the traffic in your business. People don’t have these figures and they say they have money. There is something wrong. So for me I can defend what I have because there is a certain amount of work I have put in. I am being honest that most business in Nigeria are rocky now but at the same time we are striving.
Your final words: why will anyone choose Reohob in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Ghana, Burkina Faso?
Reohob does not compromise on quality of products and services. That’s why we are not too cheap. People want things that are ridiculously cheap, we can’t be ridiculously cheap because it costs a certain amount of money to give you that quality product. So if you are looking for something that is high in quality, products or services, Reohob is your best choice.
How do people who want to go into business with you contact you?
We have our social media pages @rere.obaisi , @reohob.ltd and our website is www.reohob.com. You get access to all information on our website.
Advice to young people in general across board
Understand that there is a process to making it. That is why, when I started and it was tough, I didn’t give up. I didn’t question myself about doing the right thing because I understand the process of life and the process of nature. If you plant corn today, the seed of corn will not become a full grown corn in a day. There has to be a process. You cannot plant a tree today and expect to sit under it for shade today. People that jump processes, people that believe in the elevator way to life, those people should be careful but if you understand that you have to take the stairs, then you are on the right part.