Akinwole Omoboriowo II, chairman and CEO of Genesis Electricity
1. What was your first job?
Starting out of college, my first job was to serve in the National Youth Service, which was mandatory.
2. What parts of your job today keep you awake at night?
I would say on the power side two things. One would be the distribution side of the business which has a lot of moving parts. The other would be project development activities – this too is extremely strenuous.
3. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
My father has had the biggest impact in the shaping of my journey so far, largely because he was a very tenacious, extremely determined human, and passionately committed. So I learnt those characteristics from him.
4. What is the best professional advice you have ever received?
It certainly would have come from my father, and would have been around focusing on what you can do best, and doing it with all your heart and all your might.
5. What are the top reasons why you think you have been successful?
Successful is a very strong word. We have succeeded in a number of projects, and in projects that we didn’t do so well in, we learnt how not to fail. But I would say one of the key things that we have learnt is that in Africa you need to keep your business model very simple. So the simpler you make the solution, the better, however complex the problem may appear. Out of intense complexities, as Winston Churchill used to say, must come intense simplicities.
So that is a very, very valuable lesson – and tied to that would be that you need to be extremely consistent and tenacious.
6. In your opinion, where is the best place to prepare for leadership? Business school or on the job?
On the job for sure. Because business school gives you a very high level, macro understanding of what the business environment could be. But then depending on your job, depending on your colleagues, depending on the challenges in your environment, depending on the economy of the country from which you are working, there are so many moving parts that really determine what skills you need to acquire in order for you to be able to achieve your set targets.
So I would say business school can give you a very good framework, but the real knowledge is applying this framework, and adapting and changing or discovering what is more useful in order to succeed on the job.
7. How do you relax?
I exercise a lot and I try to get out where possible, grab some nice wine, and see friends.
8. By what time do you like to be at your desk?
My day typically starts very early, so most days I am up by 6am. My desk, to be honest, is wherever my phone and my laptop is, because we have large projects in various countries, which means I travel a lot.
9. What’s your favourite job interview question?
Tell me where you have failed, why you failed, and how you surmounted it? It gives you an indication of the fight within that employee and an indication of the experience they have acquired.
10. What is your message to Africa’s aspiring young entrepreneurs?
Well obviously there is no one simple piece of advice, but I would say get ready for a lot of hard work, be extremely committed to your goal and be willing to take calculated risks. And when you fail or the world seems against you, don’t be disappointed. Just pick up the pieces and keep pushing on.
Also, you need good partners. Whether they are employees, bankers or shareholders, you will need people that believe in your vision. That is very important, because when the chips are down, you need your team to help lift your spirits and move on.
Akinwole Omoboriowo II is chairman and CEO of Genesis Electricity, an energy solutions firm with experience operating in a variety of African countries. Some of its investment partners include General Electric (GE), Cummins Co-Gen and Engro Corporation.
Omoboriowo is a graduate of the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, and an advisory board member at The Global Thinkers Forum.