The journey so far: Adebola Williams, CEO, RED

Adebola Williams

Adebola Williams is the CEO of RED, a Nigerian media and PR company that encompasses Red Media Africa, StateCraft Inc, The Future Awards Africa and 

1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.

… Having to deal with financial challenges as a startup and finding the best way to integrate our ideas seamlessly in the early stages of building RED. [This was to ensure that our ideas did not] … end up in an ugly bind, [as we wanted to] … weave them effortlessly to breed value.

We decided to explore our relationships for resources. Many uncles and aunties, who we had served in one capacity or the other, were impressed not just by our ideas, but [also by] the grit and passion we displayed to bring … [those ideas] to life. [As a result, they] opened their phone books, networks, goodwill and, even, ATM cards for us.

In those early days, one of our great [sources of] help came from our then-lawyer Efere Ozako, who worked pro bono. God rest his soul. Ozako opened a space in his law firm for us to have our first office.

Setting up a team is the bane of many SMEs in Africa. In hindsight, I am glad we went through that phase as it has helped us solve many of our HR problems. [We have created] … systems and processes … that we can model to an industry [on] how to manage millennial hires. The process of having to build from scratch has helped sharpen and shape us in many ways. [And] that has helped keep our business alive [for] 14 years. It’s been a thrilling journey.

2. Which business achievement are you most proud of?

I am proud of everything we’ve been able to achieve: managing successful presidential elections in three African countries; managing one of the most impactful PR companies on the continent; and the impact created by The Future Awards Africa through recognising the continent’s young change makers.

3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.

There have been so many talents and minds that my partner and I have had to depend on over the years, and … we have been lucky to have these wonderful and committed people. So, whatever weaknesses Adebola Williams might have, RED … has been immune.

4. Which popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?

For as long as I remember, entrepreneurship has been associated with huge risk-taking, therefore risk-averse individuals are made to believe that the entrepreneurial walk is not for them or that risk-taking is a prerequisite for running an effective business.

However, those who will be truly successful in business must be able to take more informed decisions than risks. This does not mean that the journey is entirely devoid of risks and uncertainties, but the person who is willing to put in the hours stands a better chance at success.

5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you got started?

I spent a considerable amount of time volunteering and gathering experience before I commenced my entrepreneurship journey, nonetheless, I started early.

However, if there’s anything I wish I knew then, it is that the most essential ingredient for my entrepreneurial journey is finding a purpose. Once you determine the purpose of your business and know the kind of impact you want, all you need to do is create value along those lines and the universe will create a place for you. This knowledge guides me and allows me to focus only on what is important.

So far, all the things we’ve achieved at RED that received widespread recognition did so because we have identified our purpose.