1. What was your first job?
I started this company as one man in 1986, and at that time I did consultancy work as a marine consultant. My first job was an inspection of some vessels.
2. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
The challenges that give us sleepless nights are around the financing requirements for various opportunities in the business sector. Our recent investment from Helios Investment Partners will likely ease some of that worry.
3. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
I think the biggest impact on my career has been from Shell Petroleum Development Company which offered me a scholarship after I left high school. I was able to study marine engineering in the UK and that set the basis for my career development.
4. What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
Learn to operate and carry out a job at the highest safety standards. Once you are operating safely, everything else falls into place.
5. The top reasons why you have been successful in business?
Firstly, my mantra is that I don’t expect to accomplish all my dreams in my industry in my lifetime. This means I am prepared to set legacies and put succession plans in place so that there will be continuity after I am gone. I am not in a hurry to get rich – that is not my primary reason for being in business. I am painstakingly working towards growing and developing my business to the highest international standards and satisfaction of my clients.
Another aspect is integrity and honour. If we have the opportunity to do a job, we do it to the highest level of integrity, service delivery, and also honour. If there is any iota of doubt of the sincerity of the job, we don’t do it. So we play clean and straight and that has helped the company become what it is today.
6. Where’s the best place to prepare for leadership? Business school or on the job?
On the job. I say this because it is unlikely that business school will cover the variety of situations you encounter on the job. Yes, business school has a place in sharpening skills and strengthening weaknesses. But from a practical point of view, the best place to learn to be a leader is on the job.
7. How do you relax?
By getting involved in my church. I believe that everything I have achieved so far is by the divine grace and intervention of God. So I spend time in church. I like to dance and, thankfully, there is a lot of dancing in my church, so I enjoy that a lot.
I also like to spend a lot of time with my wife and children.
8. By what time in the morning do you like to be at your desk?
It has changed over the last couple of years. At my age of 64 I do realise that I need to take it slightly easy. I have put a good structure in place in the office so that I do not have to be the one to open up in the morning and close at night anymore. Generally I am in the office from about 9am, and the office opens at 7:30am.
Years ago I used to work all day. I would wake up as early as 3am, writing down ideas and inspirations that came to mind, building on my dreams and doing research. But as my personnel grew, I began to delegate more and more and reduce my working hours.
Until recently, I used to lead by example and be the first one in every morning, as a means of setting the standard for everybody.
9. Your favourite job interview question?
Why do you want to join Starzs? The answer tells me a lot about the candidate.
10. What is your message to Africa’s aspiring business leaders and entrepreneurs?
Firstly, seek knowledge by getting yourself properly educated in your field of interest. Secondly, stay focused and have a clear vision of what you desire to achieve in life. And in forming that vision, you must consider the environment, the needs of society, and where you can add value. This will enable you to choose a career path. But once you have done this, stay focused on it. Initially the money may not come in, but if you stay focused, and show what value you can add to the system, the money will begin to come in.
Finally, integrity and honour are required. You must avoid corrupt practices and stand by your word. I think that summarises what I would like to say to all young Africans coming into the business world.
Greg Ogbeifun is the chairman and CEO of Nigerian marine logistics company, Starzs Investments Company. He founded the business in 1986 and today it services international oil companies operating offshore in the Niger Delta, running a fleet of three vessels and employing over 100 Nigerians. The company has recently received a sizable investment from Helios Investment Partners.
Ogbeifun is also the current president of the Shipowners Association of Nigeria.
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