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7 Questions with Afam Edozie
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7 Questions with Afam Edozie
Name: Afam Edozie
Current title: Chairperson
Current organisation: Courteville Business Solutions PLC
Over the past 30 years, Afam has used his skills in business strategy and marketing to build over $10 billion of market value.
He has held various roles, including Managing Director at Grow Africa Equity Partners, Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer at MTN Communications, Marketing Director at Virgin Media, and various senior marketing roles at Motorola Mobility and Procter & Gamble.
He currently holds a number of board-level roles, including Chairperson of Courteville Business Solutions PLC, an NSE listed fintech firm and non-executive director of Swift Networks, one of the largest independent ISPs in Africa.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
Changing organisation culture. In particular, creating a more open and risk embracing culture at one organisation where I was in a leadership position.
We all knew that the environment was changing fast and in order to continue to prosper we needed to move faster and to embrace less conventional routes in product development and ways to market.
But people continued to favour old and trusted methods. We went some way by establishing the rule that 10% of every manager's resources must go into new or innovative initiatives.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
My first director level assignment came by way of a consulting engagement. I had pitched the CEO of a Virgin company to help improve their marketing performance. This pitch led to an offer to lead the marketing and commercial functions as Marketing Director.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I wake up at 5.45 am and try to complete my morning routine before 6.30 am - meditation, daily exercise and my day plan.
Once I get to the office (or sometimes the home office), I try to complete the most important task of the day before anything else.
The rest of my day tends to get filled with scheduled one on ones with key team members, cyclical performance and review meetings, routine work and phone calls.
I try to schedule time each week with key customers, key suppliers and reviewing key projects.
If there is any time left I get going on the second most important task in my business.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Vision and strategy are more important than people and capabilities within the leadership equation.
Boeing, Lockheed and Northrop probably have better people and deeper capability than SpaceX, but Elon Musk’s vision and strategy enabled the greatest leap forward in aerospace since Sputnik.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
The US Army Leadership Field Manual. It is one of the few no-nonsense, practical and actionable books on leadership that I have read.
In summary, it is based on what the leader needs to be (values and attributes), what she needs to know (knowledge and skills) and what she needs to do (actions). This then suggests that leadership is not general and that the be and know depends as much on the context as the preparation of the individual.
The book helped me focus on my own leadership development, but more importantly, it helped me focus on what counts in developing the team around me and how best to assess them and provide developmental opportunities for them.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
Identify what are the key success factors for top leaders within your organisation and culture.
Identify what knowledge and experience (practice) is required to advance these factors.
Develop leadership training programs to furnish promising candidates with the knowledge and provide leadership assignments where candidates can practice their skills.
Give frequent feedback and recommendations on performance.
Developing leaders at every level within the organisation is not difficult, so few companies do it because it requires a real belief that internally developed leadership matters and that it can be trained for and developed. Most companies do not believe this in any meaningful way.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
Putting leaders in front of customers is critical to long term success.
Our prepaid platform had been significantly congested for many months. We needed to invest a few tens of millions of dollars to expand our data centers. There was a lot of debate within the organisation and our global headquarters as to the urgency and extent of the problem. None of the executives used prepaid mobile phones (they all used contracts).
A group of us, that included our Group Chairman, Group CEO, National Chairman and a delegation of other executives went on a courtesy visit to see the President of Nigeria. On the agenda was over $1 billion of tax concessions. During the meeting, The President (of the country) remarked that our network was always congested. We responded that we had spent over $1 billion building the most advanced network in Africa and had over 20 million live customers with very high customer satisfaction.
We spent the next 30 minutes watching The President try and fail to load $10 onto a prepaid mobile phone account, before passing it around the room to see if any of the executives would have better luck. None did.
We invested over $20 million expanding capacity on its prepaid billing platform that year.
It was a fortunate meeting, a few years earlier I had witnessed Motorola losing its commanding share of the mobile phone market for exactly the same crime. Total organisational disconnect from the voice of the customer.