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I’m Ruthless When It Comes To Service Delivery – Oke

Bunmi Oke is the Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director of 141 Worldwide, one of the leading advertising agencies in Nigeria. She is one of the top female executives in the advertising industry.vIn this interview with the Editor, Ayodele Olalere, at her plum office in the serene GRA, Ikeja, she spoke on what has helped her to run the
company successfully. 


How have you been running 141 Worldwide and what is your management style?
I am kind of person that just love result. I like to understand what is the end game of any project am going into. I like to be objective driven because it saves you a lot of trouble. When you are not clear about your objectives, it is difficult to win. Sometimes, it requires thinking and thinking requires efforts because you have to put knowledge into use. Objectives are very clear. Once you are focus on the objectives, it is easy to determine what the end game will be and you develop discipline require to go from point A to B.
In this life, it is result that matter. It is easier to congratulate a child for doing well in school that saying you can do well next time. Failure and success needs management but it’s easier to manage success than managing failure because it requires less energy. If you are successful, you don’t need to advertise. Everybody will be all over you but if you fail in a project, everybody will be asking you why you failed and you will be explaining yourself to everyone.
Success has its challenges. I read long ago that getting organized requires upfront investment of energy to manage success. If you want to look good to your client, it means you have to prepare upfront and anticipate what they want. Your client success is your success. If you are able to make your clients achieve success, you also will be successful. They may not like your face at first but when you go there looking good, they will begin to like you. Its natural you like people that are making you look good. Even in school scenarios, teachers like students that normally pass exams.
It is difficult to achieve results but the results compensate for another type of pains that you would have gone through. We are all talking about Usain Bolts but nobody knows the pains he went through during training to achieve results. We are not seeing through the trainings, we are only seeing the success. There is no shortcut to success; you have to go through the pains. When you are going through pains, you endure it knowing the results will nullify any pain. Failure is a hard thing to do. When you are successful, you don’t have to talk too much. The success speaks for you.
Will I be right to say your management style is what has contributed to the success of 141?
Don’t forget that 141 is also a team. In team, everybody has effective role to play. There are some people who know how to get things done because they are courageous. Some people are good at making jest. In a team, there are stars and there are leaders though you need grace and favour. There are some people that will like to do business with you because they want to be around your company. So the success of 141 is a combination of style, favour and team work.  It’s like air hostesses in a plane. They have to be polite even under difficulties in the air. They are trained to make passengers comfortable, courteous, and friendly. Even the way the pilot looks, it attracts people to the profession
I found the discipline that goes with turning around an airplane motivating. Some people have alleviated themselves to the level of proficiency and professionalism because the mindset towards success is there.
How do you motivate your staff?
There are some motivations that come from structures such as paying of salaries. But self-motivation is the biggest motivation. When you understand that work is a privilege, not a right and is a means to gain not an end result, then you know it’s about self-actualization. If you can see the biggest picture that you are privileged to have a job, and that there are people who would have love to do the work you are doing but could not do it because of physical challenges, you will appreciate your work.
Some people want to do the work, but they don’t have the capability to do it or the education require. We dwell more on what we don’t have than what we have. The Bible says God blesses the work of your hand so any work that you find to do, do it. It can take you to places.
Attitude makes a difference to what you can achieve. In this course, you begin to discover qualities that you didn’t know you have. That’s why it is said challenges should not be ‘a stumbling block but a stepping stone. For me it is a stepping stones because it has to do with attitude. If you are waiting for only money to motivate you, don’t you think everybody will be demotivated because of this recession? You have to get a bigger picture to motivate yourself because wherever you are, you will see opportunities that goes with it. Whether you live as a rich person or pauper, everybody will die. Any level you occupy, you will still die. It’s about your attitude. Many people have become presidents or governors not because they are the best, but because of the position they occupy. Some people dropped out of school not because they are less intelligent but because their parents couldn’t pay their school fees. But there are some their parents paid their school fees but the children refused go to school.
We have to remember that in this life, we are running a race so whatever position we are we have to make the best use of it. Our prayer is to see bigger picture. Wherever I work, I found out God allows me to distinguish myself. I learnt you have to make your life in a positive way and move on. You may ruffle some shoulders but you end up better off. It is a privilege to lead a team. When a job is well done, you don’t have to talk too much.
Can you take us through your philosophy?
My philosophy is that every challenge or role I have to play in life I see it as opportunity and not a problem so that perceptive makes a difference. It is not until you become the president that you can add value. Anywhere you go and   whatever you do, ask yourself if you add value to others, even to yourself.  I have some staff I had worked with and whenever they see me, they greet me with respect and thank me. I don’t like failure in any sort, Failure will always come but it depends on how you handle it. It has to do with perspectives.
You go from level to level. There is no success story without pains. It all involves hard work.
It is not easy. Challenges bring out opportunities. All of us now have to choose our priorities. The largesse has gone but it has allowed us to think. We have been very wasteful in the past. There are things we now realized are not needful. It’s helping everyone to now know his or her priority. Even clients have priority now. Recession makes you to get better value. It makes you to remove scales from your eyes. Technically everybody has become poorer. You start to reappraise certain things. It’s a challenging opportunity. It’s like a refining process. If we can be honest with ourselves, I think we will be better for it. If we can reappraise our values, it is better. You no longer send your child to school you cannot afford.  If all of us look at our potential, we would not be looking at excuses.
Now, you don’t take your job for granted because there is no more job security. There are some hard lessons we are learning now. We have to get our values right as a country. Though I believe in the power of prayers but we should also work towards our prayers. The good thing is that new things are coming out. People are now being creative. It is an interesting period which has made us to have a rethink. We should stop being global jokers.
Can you tell us some tough decisions you have made as a business CEO?
Building an institution comes with tough decisions. Being able to tell a staff that he or she is not adding value to the company is a tough decision. You must have courage. Sometimes you meet clients who are not being honourable to their contracts. It takes courage to ask for money you have earned. The question is whether you did it well. Once I did a job well, I always have the confidence to ask a client for my money. As you lay your bed so you lie on it. That’s why am ruthless when it comes to service delivery.
We all react to good things so if you want good things to happen you also do good things.
What inspires you?
My inspiration was when I realized I was privileged. I am British born Nigerian and we were trained in Britain to know your rights as a child. They are organized society. At 4yrs, I knew my age, my parents’ name, and the area I was living. We were trained. But coming to Nigeria is a different culture. Elderly parents think you are too bold when you look them in the face unlike what we were taught as a child in UK.
As a child that grew up in UK, I had a mind of my own. They believe you must have an opinion which is not like that in Nigeria. When I came to Nigeria, I came to know there are people who can’t go to school not because they can’t afford it but the society does not allow them. I started realizing I was privileged to be educated in the UK. It changed my orientation.  God gave me the grace to realize you can’t have the best of the whole world. So that changed my whole outlook.
You operate in a competitive industry. As a woman, how have you been able to compete in a male dominated sector?
Confidence has nothing to do with gender. You can be a very confident man or a confident woman. The best is the complement of each other.  I am very confident as woman and there are things I bring to the table that a man cannot bring. By nature, women have taken subservient role in organizations. In the homes, women run homes though they agree men are their head. Women make difference even in business.
Research has shown that when you have women working in a business, there are better results. Half of the world population is women. There is no product you want to sell in this world, if it doesn’t affect women, it won’t sell. I didn’t grow with the mindset that only men can get things done
How do you unwind?
I unwind by enjoying my job. Enjoy your job not endure it. Enjoy what you do because everything you do on earth has time. I like things done well and enjoy what I do. Once I no longer enjoy what I do, I find my way out.

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