The tastefully furnished office is quite welcoming. The polished office table accommodates a few books and one could easily notice one with the title, ‘The power of Kabbalah’ authored by Yehuda Berg.
Ask if he has time to read and he laughs. “I like reading and writing about life generally. I write on leadership and purpose because I am a purpose-minded person. I also like to write about things that can bring about impact in people’s lives. I read business books, personal improvement and fictional books. Thinking is also one of my pastimes. I think about purpose and the things that I write about. I enjoy it,” he gushes.
Looking calm and unassuming, Demola Ade-Ojo, the Managing Director, Elizade Nigeria Limited, is a rare silver-spoon kid. Work, for him, starts 8am and there is no closing hour! A graduate of Business Administration from the University of Florida, Gainsville, United States of America, he also earned a Master of Business Administration from Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan. His work experience in the USA includes a stint with Toyota Motor Sales, Inc., Torrance, California, where he served in several capacities as e-Business manager, market researcher and lots more.
Hardwork, he says, runs in the family, especially with a father like Chief Michael Ade-Ojo, Chairman, Elizade and Toyota (Nigeria) Ltd. Reminiscing on his childhood, he says of his 76-year-old father: “The family business was established in 1971 and I was born that year. I have always known about the business and my father has always told me that I would be in the family business. He also told me that travelling to America was to pursue my education and return to move the business further. He was a very strict person and always took us up on our responsibilities such as morning chores and school homework. He would personally check to see that we were making progress. He never suffered fools gladly and he remains like that.”
But working with one’s parents could pose a challenge to some children; does that apply to him too? Although he had worked in several capacities at Elizade Nigeria Ltd. before becoming the Managing Director in 2005, he still believes he is being trained. “I am still undergoing training,” he says, chuckling.
“Working with one’s parents could have moments of challenges, but if you understand that your father is your boss and he has the final say, regardless of how you feel, the work relationship will remain cordial. My father has been in business for over 41 years and he is an astute businessman. He lets me know what exactly he wants and I still respect his age and experience. Though he is older now, his passion and enthusiasm for business issues remain intact. On numerous occasions, I have bowed to his wishes. Moreover, there is need for peace to reign in any business. There are many issues you can solve with patience and dialogue. He is first my father, then my boss and I have to do things his way.”
Also a director at Toyota (Nigeria) and some other companies in Nigeria, the younger Ade-Ojo opens up that as growing children, they were never exposed to luxury. “We were brought up to be hardworking, disciplined, frugal and not take the good things of life for granted,” he recalls.
According to him, after his third year at the Command Secondary School, Ipaja, Lagos, he travelled abroad to further his studies. “We grew up having all that we needed, but we were never spoilt. We felt then that we could have enjoyed much more than what we were given, but our parents withheld any luxury. I was not given a car until my second year in the university. That my father was selling new cars was not even considered because my first car was not brand new. It was a used Toyota Celica. Then, we could afford to travel in the business class, but my father insisted on the economy class. When my height became a problem (the cabins were too small in the economy class), he agreed to buying business-class tickets for me.
“Reflecting on this, I think it augured well for us because it has helped to keep us quite reasonable on lifestyle and the way we handle money. It kept us humble to a certain extent too,” he explains.
Though he agrees to not being so strict with his children, he still believes that his upbringing was the best. The pioneer Business Development and Strategic Planning head of the company, he is a stickler for upholding corporate vision.
“It’s an important aspect of business and I ensure that our heads of department are in touch with this. Sometimes, I send them an email or call them and talk to them. I also like to educate myself and I hold meetings where I discuss the operations of the organisation or plan an outlook for the organisation. I always look at things in creative perspectives. As a creative person, you seek change, improve on services and customer satisfaction, and reduce cost by eliminating waste to the barest minimum. Everybody has been given a responsibility to be creative in their own way,” he says.
Married with children, he reveals one of his winning streaks: “Family is as important as the job you are doing. Though I have my circle of friends, I hardly socialise. On Saturday, I am either in the office, watching football (my favourite hobby) or I’m out with my children. On Sundays, I go to church, take the family out for lunch (we do that fortnightly), or have lunch at home and visit my father.”
His wife, he says, also works in one of their companies, but she is not a social bird either. “She is a socially laid-back person like me. Though a thoroughbred professional, she has stopped work briefly because we felt the children need her at home at this stage of their growing up. She will do that until they are comfortable,” he says.
During the interview session, he wears a black pinstripe suit.
Style, he opines, should be absolute comfort. “From Mondays through Wednesdays, I wear suits; on Thursdays, I wear business-casuals and I wear jeans and shirts on Fridays.”
For the Ondo State-born businessman, his favourite dish remains pounded yam. He enthuses: “We eat that on Sundays, when we are not having our family time out.
Exercise? Yes, I do that every day before heading for the office.”
Before the interview wraps up, he talks about the organisation’s winning secrets. “My father has always been a focused man and I still praise his decision on not exerting energy on any other brand of cars but Toyota. It was the right decision. Over the years, the brand has proved its worth in the market and its name has registered with everyone that desires durability and efficiency in cars.”
Ask if Chief Michael Ade-Ojo is still the strict daddy of yesteryears and Demola, who is the first son, replies, “He is not certainly strict because we have grown, but he demonstrates his strictness in other ways. Now, he expects that we carry him along in whatever we do. He wants to ensure you get his input in matters pertaining to the company. If you are someone who likes autonomy or hates being supervised, you may have a difficult time with him because he wants to be involved in the running of the business and he contributes his opinions. Punch