By Eric Elezuo Photos: Ken Ehimen
Humble, humane and extremely accommodating, Bayo Fatusin is one of Nigeria’s prolific entrepreneurs, busy building industries to absorb the crowd of unemployed youths and professionals. In this brief chat with TheBoss at one his hotels, House J, situated at the highbrow GRA, Ikeja, Lagos, he highlighted what it means to be fulfilled, saying the happiness of the common man on the street is the only reason one can confidently say he is fulfilled among many other ground breaking revelations. Excerpts:
Can we meet you sir?
My name is Bayo Fatusin. I am an entrepreneur. I am from Ondo town in Ondo State. Among the many institutions I attended is the University of Lagos where I studied History and Strategic Studies. I am a practicing Christian, and I believe in God.
What kind of business are you into, and can you itemize it?
I will rather say we, because I am never alone and I can’t do it alone. So, we are into Construction, Real Estate, Agriculture; and as you know agriculture is the new frontier in Africa now, and we are investing heavily in it. Also, we are into hospitality among many other businesses I do for now.
As a business man in Nigeria, what are the challenges?
Doing business in Nigeria is a huge task, and the challenges are enormous, especially when you talk about power, funding and the likes. But what can we do, we believe in the system; we believe in Nigeria, and we believe in what we can do for our people. Therefore, we would stay and work things out until it gets better and better.
Most businesses have folded up as a result of the harsh economic realities, but your organizations are still standing strong. In what way have you been able to surmount these challenges?
By being proactive and continually thinking out of the box. The change we are talking about must practically start from us; within our own establishments – meaning that we have to be a good example to our staff, and we have to advice them to be good example to others and do the right thing. We know the government cannot take care of everything, so the need to support the government has made us refuse to give up. We are supporting the government with the use of Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs). And of course with a lot of social corporate responsibility initiatives to affect the general public as well as making sure that we build and educate people.
While other companies were downsizing and relieving workers of their jobs as the recession bites harder, none of your organizations was reported to have sacked staff. How were you able to retain your workforce during the recession?
That credit belongs to God for not allowing us to retrench our staff during the recession. Moreover, discipline was our watchword, and we tell ourselves the whole truth. There was no room for waste in our system, and a lot of sacrifices were made. We insisted on prudency, and cut down on unnecessary cost and spending; that was how we managed ourselves out of the recession period. Whatever we don’t need, we don’t go for it, and we only sort what we needed. And to the glory of God we are still standing today.
How many people have you empowered as part of your corporate social responsibility?
We are busy creating more employments, and we do that by creating more businesses, and looking for ways to create more businesses. And it is for this reason that we recently diversified into agriculture, and through this, we will be able able to employ close to another 1000 citizens of Nigeria.
Which area of agriculture did you invest in?
We are into poultry, rice and cassava farming. We are also into processing and export. Our base is in Ondo and Oyo states.
Having traveled around the world, which country gives you more insight and inspiration?
I will say the United States of America. Again, Asia, more especially Singapore, inspires me too because of their rapid development. Singapore is one country you can credit with will power because they were once like us. I think the credit should go more to their leaders. To me, Singapore is an inspiration.
Do you believe we have leadership problem in Nigeria?
I am not a politician, and the Bible says we should pray for our leaders (laughs).
You are not a politician now, but is there any possibility of becoming one in the future?
I don’t know, and I can’t tell because business is my calling for now. But if at the end of the day, God says I have to serve my people, I will. I can’t take any step without God.
Based on the CSR you are committed to, and the assistance you are known to have provided, is it not possible for your people to invite you to come and lead them?
I still must consult with my God before I take such decision. If I do anything without God, it means I am ready to bear the consequences if anything happens. I won’t take any step without God. The truth of the matter is that I am not even thinking of any political position unless God approves it for me. All I am doing to make life easier for the people is what I am doing presently. Also I am creating jobs to get people off the street, and put food on their table. When that time comes; when we get to that bridge, we will definitely cross it.
Where do you see this agricultural sector you are investing in, in the next 5 years?
Like I said, it is the next frontier for Nigeria, and in the next five years with the way our government is investing in agriculture presently, I believe it will take us to the next level, because when we are able to feed ourselves; stop the importation of rice and other produce, then we are okay.
One of your business organizations is named House J, what does it mean?
It means House of Joseph.
Your background has nothing to with hospitality, how did you get into hotel business?
It is a passion. I have passion for hospitality even before I came into the industry. This is my passion in life. Far back in those days, my home was just about entertainment, and I’d always known I will make it a business.
You are known to hold fellowships in your establishment on a regular basis unlike most entrepreneurs, what prompted the routine?
This is because God is my only source and my pillar, and always at my back. Not only do I hold fellowships regularly on Thursdays, every Monday, I fellowship with my staff and every first day of the month, we give glory to God; and give praises to Him. And as you can see, business men come from far and wide between 12 and 1 every Thursday just to sing Hosanna to God, because He is the owner of our life; without God I am nothing. And with God, I am everything.
Is there a possibility that these weekly or daily fellowships can lead to a full blown ministry someday because of the passion you have for God?
I really don’t know, but if God says we will operate on that level, who am I to say no… (laughs).
How many children do you have now?
I have four children; four beautiful girls. The eldest is 24, the second is 21, the third is 19, and the youngest is 10 years old.
So, as a busy businessman, how do you relax?
I engage in sports like track and field, and tennis.
When you are not doing your business or engaging in spots, what do you do?
I relax. I read my Bible; I study the Word of God, and that relaxes me more because I want to know Him more, I want to know about what happened in the ancient times. I want to know how to have solid relationship with my creator. So, that gives me peace. Every time I am with Him, I find peace and I enjoy that a lot.
Do you hold a position in church and which church do you attend?
Not at all, I am a catholic. I am not a pastor, but I am a deep believer in the Word of God.
Can you name the people who can be called your product, I mean those you have empowered to stand on their own today?
Uncountable! I can’t mention names; my religion will not allow me to do that.
So, what are we expecting from you in the nearest future?
By the grace of God, to build more businesses; I am looking forward to a day I will have like 10,000 staff, and that will make me really happy.
And are your businesses spread across Nigeria?
Yes. We are in Lagos, Ondo, Oyo and Abuja.
How many languages do you speak?
Three. I speak Igbo, Yoruba and English.
How did Igbo come about?
My late mom is from the East…