|Dr Cosmas Maduka|
This week, I bring to you Dr Cosmas Maduka, a Nigerian who has made his mark in industry and business. He is the President of Coscharis Group and Vice President of Nigeria-Japan Business Association.
Humorously, Maduka, an indigene of Nnewi, Anambra State, threw the audience into laughter when in a response to organisers of the event’s description that he is a philanthropist and a Nigerian that needs no rebranding, said: “When a Nigerian is described as philanthropist without mentioning the college degrees he has acquired, please know that he is an illiterate. I did not go to school and I don’t have certificates to flaunt. But, providence and hardwork, integrity, and frugality, which are my greatest virtues, have rewarded me very well.”
Turning to the audience, the business mogul, who founded the Coscharis Group in 1975 from a small auto parts sales shop and with a N200 capital from his uncle, said: “You will be disappointed if you expect me to share what they have taught you in the schools or to quote principles in the textbooks you have read. I don’t have them because I never had the opportunity of being taught in the conventional classrooms.”
But what he lost by not going to school, Maduka gained from what the moderator, Miss Tayo Olowola, called the “university of life.”
At four, Maduka lost his father and worst still dropped out of school in Elementary Three. But he was unruffled and undaunted. With just N200, he started a business, which like the biblical mustard seed has become one of Nigeria’s largest conglomerates.
He continued: “I am here to share with you what life has taught me and what providence has bestowed on me that have shaped my life, business and family. ”
He added that telling the story of his life might bring his lecture home to the participants. So, he proceeded with the lecture with frequent interjection of his childhood sad experiences and how he overcame them.
Early Days And The Dream Of A Business Empire
“Right from my childhood, I had concluded that I would be very great and successful in life.” This is attested by his exploits with Coscharis Group having 10 subsidiaries and still acquiring more companies. “I had a vision of life and business bigger than my size and also bigger than the people that were ahead of me: That dream was to establish a business that will not only be an institution but would outlive my life.
“The death of my father when I was four years old before the end of the Nigerian civil war in 1970 dealt me a devastating blow. My mother became a single parent and my mentor. She taught me hardwork and to believe in myself, possess a possibility mentality and be ready at all times to conquer fear.”
“From her, I learnt that you must conquer fear, fear not to fail, and fear not to succeed. To conquer the world, you must first conquer yourself.”
Maduka further said: “I had a very humble beginning. I also lived with my grand parents. Before the age of eight, I was cutting palm leaves for women, who paid me a token. I was also helping my mother to make and sell bean cake (akara). I can say that these certainly influenced me a lot to be an independent person by owning my own business. So, to grow a small business to a big one, you must never entertain the fear of failing or succeeding.”
Coming To Lagos And Apprenticeship Years
According to Cosmas, he came to Lagos at the instance of an uncle, who trained him on the sale of auto parts in a shop he slept in for over five years. He graduated after six years and was “settled” with N200 (capital) for his successive apprenticeship.
“My uncle’s action was enough to discourage me but I took up courage because it is a non-negotiable virtue of life. I came to the realisation that it was not enough money that I needed but quality ideas on how to use N200 productively and profitably.
“I had known from the onset that ideas rule the world and that true wisdom helps to build the world. Coscharis Group started with N200. Take it from today if you have not known before that individuals and societies are transformed by ideas and not money. Production processes are also transformed by ideas.”
MADUKA, a strict disciplinarian believes in Nigeria. For all his children, it is a rule that they must undertake their first degrees in Nigeria before proceeding abroad for further studies. This is to enable them be in touch with the local environment and realities in the country. Both his children and wife must retire or give account of every money given them before any other request is granted.
It will also shock the reader to know that some of Maduka’s employees wear more expensive dresses than him.
According to him, “all my senior managers are professionals. They have gone to school and acquired certificates. Sometimes, when I travel with them, I see them buying things worth of $500 and above, but I don’t admire them because if anything happens to Coscharis, they will leave and even get better jobs. They have certificates but I don’t, so my certificate is money and I don’t waste it.”
Growing A Business
MADUKA believes that the key to owning and growing a business is having a positive mindset. “The key to growing a business is having a mindset. Everything depends on the way you think. Life is all about thinking right. The brain power is what makes things to work. Good products don’t come by physical strength but by right thinking. You must not think the traditional way. You must think about new ways. A good entrepreneur does not think the same way those before him think. You must think outside the box. Your thinking sets you apart from others.
“Dubai is a product of visionary leaders. In the 1950s, Dubai’s mode of transportation was camel when Nigerians were already using cars.”
He speaks with emotion and passion on the place of dream in rising from the scratch to stardom.
“There are two types of dreams in life — the one when you are asleep, which in most cases takes the form of fantasy or nightmare and the second, which occurs when you are awake and active. This dream paints the picture of your desired future and when strongly pursued and achieved, it affects other lives and societies.
“As a young man, I dreamt of building a business group like UTC and Leventis. My dream was to build a business that is an institution that can stand the test of time and outlive me as the founder.
“Although the death of my father denied me a college education as I dropped out of elementary three, I realised that life does not cheaply hand over anything to you.”
Managing A Small Business
THE starting point, according to him, is making a good choice and doing what makes you unique and outstanding. “Your choice compels you into action than your ability. I served my uncle for seven years without any microfinance loan to start the business. I work like a tiger and counsel people not to work for money alone but to learn from the work they do. Those, who work solely for money, are often disappointed when it does not come but those who learn from the work they do, forge ahead even when money is not flowing as expected. It is also those who love you that teach you how to do whatever you are into better. Those who trust you, also educate you on how to manage your business well. Entrepreneurs should always avoid being carried away by the position they occupy. The obstacles we overcome and the problems we solve, make us relevant to the society.
“These were the principles my uncle operated at work. The hardwork I learnt from him is still my greatest asset. I never believe that hardwork kills. To manage a business, you must be ready to take risks. It is not the quantity of money that you have that matters but your attitude towards it. You can never make a difference in life until you take risks.
“Champions focus on the goals but failure settle on their past mistakes. It is in order to accept failure but wrong to give up trying again. When you fail to try again, you are doomed. I look at adversity the same way a lion looks at a bone. You are not measured by the position you occupy but by the obstacles you have overcome and the problems of humanity that you have solved.
“It is amazing that Coscharis, which started in 1975 with a capital of N200, now has N15 billion shareholders’ funds. In life, we only attract who we are and not who we want. No business can stand without a vision. When I was nine years old and walking near AG Leventis building in Ebute Metta, Lagos, I said loudly, ‘In my life-time, I will build this type of structure, a bewildered old man, who was my guide, gave me a knock for my loud mouth. Interestingly, one of the transactions I had with Leventis gave me a better understanding of how to run my organisation. Today Coscharis’ building on Adeola Odeku in Lagos is bigger than that of AG’s outfit.
“God created everyman with something to excel. Although there are five sense organs, the most important sense organ is the sixth – thinking outside the box.
“In 1975, all I had was N200. What I cherished then was the new freedom I had found and not the money my uncle gave me. When you are in a desperate situation, you will never be indifferent to what is happening around you. I started my shop with N200. I got married at 19. My pocket was empty when I was looking for a wife but my faith was strong and my confidence of greatness very high because I knew where I was going.”
The Problem With Nigerian Entrepreneurs
“From experience, I have discovered that the problem with a number of Nigerians is knowing what exactly to do. Often people that have problems ask you: ‘What shall we do?’ And there are so many things to do in this country. If your mind can perceive and receive it, you can achieve it. You must have a choice in life. Nigerian businessmen lack focus. Vision is the art of seeing visible things from invisible things. Anything that you do with passion will give you success, passion fires the soul and when that happens, impossibility gives way to possibility. In my subconscious, it is strongly registered that since God cannot fail, I will also not fail. What you are is the choice you make. Genius is about 10 per cent, 90 per cent is hardwork. God never created anyone to be poor but sad enough, Nigerians are proud of being poor and therefore do nothing about it. I have gone through life challenges. When I was nine years, I set out plans to be married at 20 and to buy my first car at 22. My mother was so worried about such uncommon statements and targets that she replied: ‘My son, you boast too much.’ But I knew that there was no product without a process.”
Managing People And Resources
“THERE is always the challenge of diverting resources from your core competencies. That temptation must be resisted. Every entrepreneur must also avoid blind pursuit and work with clear vision. You must take risk to get returns but avoid jumping into everything you see others doing.
“You must also admit that you don’t know everything and therefore require the services of professional managers, select a winning team, and evolve winning strategies.”
Nigeria’s leadership crisis
TOUCHING on the leadership question in Nigeria, instantly Maduka’s countenance changed. He expressed sadness that a nation that is so blessed by God with all natural resources has never been ruled by born leaders.
“Those, who have ruled Nigeria from Independence since 1960 till date never aspired to be leaders. The country has been ruled by people without ideas; in fact, circumstantial leaders, dragged into governance against their wishes. People who are inspired to be leaders pass through a processing period. A true leader let go of authoritative control. When born leaders emerge, Nigeria will become a great nation within five years.”
‘I Never Went To School, But I Sought A Well-Educated Lady As Wife.’
“I DID not just set out to marry any kind of woman. Because of my greatness consciousness, I had concluded that I needed a woman, who would not feel inferior by my position and wealth. I also needed a woman, whom I could trust and assigned critical roles in Coscharis. So, I went to a lady that was well educated and cultured. An uncle of my wife, who could not just understand what entered into me for coming to a family of educated persons to seek for her hand in marriage ordered me to leave his house. He was shocked that someone, a young man like me, who could not make a complete sentence in English language without grammatical errors had the effrontery to come to his house. And because his of American lifestyle, he did not tolerate me at all. The rest of the story will be better told in another day.
“I ran to my father-in-law’s house and that my wife did me proud. Upon seeing what her uncle did to me, she turned to him, saying: ‘With due respect sir, enough is enough. I am mature enough to decide whom I should marry. Afterall, nobody chose your wife for you.’ Her words sank into me that the psychological torture pains I went through no longer meant anything to me and on September 23, 1978, we had a very glorious marriage.”
Talking about his family, Maduka said: “I have a wonderful home. My wife is a good manager of money and people. She has been tested and has proven that she is capable of keeping the homefront and still fare well in the business terrain. Her integrity has earned her a place in Coscharis such that she can sign any cheque without queries.”
The place of character and discipline
“No dream becomes a reality through magic but through commitment and dedication. Finding capitals and getting the bank to support is very challenging. To succeed in life and business, you require character and competence, character limits your way. When money is lost, something is lost, when health is lost, something is lost, but when character is lost, everything is lost. Nobody is motivated without discipline.”
10 Commandments Of Growing
• Pick and remain focus on the business that you understand very well.
• Thorough understanding of the market.
• Look for and hire professional managers
• Put in place strong financial and administrative controls.
• Constantly undertake a research of the market to confirm the continued relevance and pricing of your products. Systematic prospecting is a good way to retaining your customer. If you need result, despise shame.
• Don’t spend too much money on office space and self-serving initiatives.
• Have business/strategic plans and constantly review them. Anything you can measure is something you can solve.
• Keep proper and complete records of all transactions.
• Ensure there is job description for every position and employ the right persons for the office.
• Set performance milestones and standards for which progress can be measured.
This was sent to me by a friend through email and I hope you enjoy it too. Thanks.