By Eric Elezuo
Nothing is more fulfilling in life than one to get to the pinnacle of his chosen career. At such a stage, one can conveniently say, ‘I have made it’. In the same vein, whoever is on the track towards reaching the pinnacle of his career can as well raise his head high, walk tall and smile with fulfilment.
In the life of the astute marketing communications guru, Mr. Biodun Shobanjo, who sits atop Troyka Group, having attempted, strived and reached the highest echelon of positions in his chosen career, there is so much to talk about, aspire for and pass across.
Born on December 24, 1944 in Jebba, Kwara State to a peripatetic civil servant, the man with the fancy bow tie, Biodun, imbibed a cosmopolitan worldview through his family’s ability to transverse the length and breadth of the universe. In the same vein, his early experience as a broadcaster prepared him for life as an advertiser.
He attended St. George’s Primary School, Zaria in the North-Western part of Nigeria, thereafter proceeding to Odogbolu Grammar School in the South-West. He later attended the College of the Institute of Marketing, Cookham, Maidenhead, England, where he obtained the College’s certificate in Marketing.
Quite an early riser in professionalism, Biodun Shobanjo commenced his communication career with the former Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, now Federal Radio Corporation in 1964 as a studio manager. After a seven years stint with the corporation, and having garnered requisite knowledge, he left in 1971 to seek greener pastures, and joined the American-Nigerian Agency Grant Adverting. When he made a career switch from journalism to advertising, he was not thinking of the predictions of one Mr. Olujimi, who was his teacher back in the days. According to him, Mr. Olujimi had told him pointblank:
“You can’t be a journalist… you this boy are too frank”
A lover of classic bow ties, his abilities and determination for success pushed him, and before the age of 30, he had risen to the post of Deputy Managing Director of Grant Advertising and co-founded Insight Communications (now Insight Grey) in 1979, and it began practice in 1980. With less than nothing in his booty, financially, he dared the impossible, and today, Insight is a success story. He had steadfastly grown the company from the initial 18 man strong team into an advertising behemoth.
In the years following, 1990 to be precise, he established the first PR consultancy in Nigeria, The Quadrant Company, to offer public relations services to their clients who have been asking for that communication offering.
Still in 1990, there arose the need to address account conflict resulting from referrals by satisfied clients, and like making the best of a bad situation, the situation led to the establishment of MC&A, the first Nigerian ad agency to be affiliated to the Saatchi & Saatchi global agency.
Shobanjo is a fellow of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) and a Fellow of the Commonwealth Journalist Association. He is also a Member of the British Institute of Public Relations and a Chartered Member of the British Institute of Marketing. Today, he oversees the activities of Troyka Holdings with many of the companies playing leading roles in their respective industry categories.
The Troyka Group which is the holding company for Insight Communications, Azzagai, Optimum Exposure, Media Perspective, MediaCom, The Quadrant Company and Halogen Security amongst others employs over seven thousand Nigerian men and women.
“I was young when I left Grant advertising and young people are very daring, so it didn’t cross my mind that I wouldn’t make it. Again, without meaning to be immodest, I really have never failed in my life. If you’re not used to failing you don’t even contemplate failure,” he said while attributing his success to determination and can-do attitude.
A teacher of his profession, Shobanjo had itemized four essential elements for success and he lists them as “Professionalism. The other is honour. The third is integrity. The fourth is passion. They come in any order but if you have these four things, chances are that you’re going to succeed.”
A consummate advertising and marketing communications practitioner, Biodun Shobanjo is a perfect choice for the CEO of The Apprentice Africa because as a believer in people, his business style has favoured a mentoring ambience which has spawned protégés who are leading lights of the advertising and marketing communications industry in Nigeria.
Shobanjo is a chartered member of the British Institute of Public relations and the British Institute of Marketing. He brings almost forty years of corporate experience, entrepreneurial savvy, multi-disciplinary industry experience.
In his assessment of events that have come and gone in his life, he sums up some of his career challenges as follows:
“When I look back at all the kinds of bashings that I have received in my career, I just cannot but feel sorry for myself. This is because most of those bashings were totally unjustifiable. But I would take them in my stride and say, well, I am playing a leadership role within my own organisation. If we were growing at the kind of pace at which we were, it would be expected for people who didn’t quite understand to say, why are these guys doing these things? And begin to call us all kinds of names. So I took that in my stride. I was very focused and I didn’t allow that to distract me. By the time people realised it, if you talk to my junior colleagues in the profession today, they now rise up and fight for me, that they now understand what Mr. Shobanjo was doing. What name have I not been called? But here we are today, you know Insight by far remains the leading advertising company in Nigeria.”
In one of the interviews he granted, he stated that “One of my role models is Dr. Christopher Kolade. I had opportunity of working with him. He is a man after my heart. The other person: I am not close to him but I see him from a distance. He is Mr. Gamaliel Onosode (now late). They are not driven by worldly things. I am not driven by worldly things. I have role models as well in our profession. There was a man I worked with, he was the CEO of BAN, and his name was Bob Jack Colby. I liked his style.
Among the many awards he had bagged is the Europe Assembly award for CEOs and companies. Shobanjo was selected because of his vision and leadership, innovativeness, creativity, professionalism, exceptional managerial skills, business ethics, company performance and effectiveness, as well as corporate social responsibility.
In the same vein, Troyka Holdings Limited also received the award for Best Enterprise of the Year at the Forum.
Sir, for your determination, resilience and success obtained on the altar of professionalism, you deserve our Boss of the Week award. Congrats!