Dr. Ehigiamusoe is an acknowledged entrepreneur with vast business interests at the Bottom of the Pyramid. He began his involvement in microfinance when he founded LAPO a successful pro-poor development organization with an interest in microfinance, micro-insurance; micro leasing, education, printing, health and agriculture in Nigeria. Dr. Ehigiamusoe holds first and second degrees in Sociology and Anthropology, and Development Studies respectively. He also earned a Doctorate in Policy and Development Studies from Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State in 2015. Dr. Ehigiamusoe has attended executive management programs at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, US; INSEAD Business School, Singapore Campus; IESE Business School, Spain; and Lagos Business School.In 2006, he led LAPO to win the Grameen Foundation’s award for Excellence in Microfinance. In 2008 and 2010, he won the FATE Foundation’s Model Entrepreneur Award and Professor Schwab Foundation’s Outstanding Social Entrepreneur for Africa award respectively. He won the Distinguished Alumni Award of the Lagos Business School in 2014.
A Key Talent | Foresight; I have a flair for strategic thinking and engagement. I feel sometimes that ‘I live in the future’. At the institutional and industry level, I was one of the pathfinders in the relatively new enterprise (Microfinance) in Africa in the 1990s. At every point, I was not occupied with current challenges (inadequate experienced staff, absence of enabling regulatory framework and funding), rather my thoughts were on how the success of microfinance in Asia, Bangladesh in particular, could be replicated in Africa. First, I strongly believed that the innovative credit delivery approaches (to members of low-income households) applied in Asia could be successfully replicated with some modifications in Africa.
On the personal level, I continually see a successful future of the company and therefore always ready to make necessary sacrifices.
Planning: Thinking ahead is not enough for institutional success rather it must be strengthened with painstaking planning. I counsel that young entrepreneurs should engage in the drudgery of planning for financial and human resources; operations and revenue. Plan for the unexpected which may not be pleasant.
Identify model-institution(s): Identify successful businesses (and business leaders) that are considered successful. Take one of the institutions as your future image. Go further to identify the features of the business; how do the leadership behave, their ethical/moral fibers and the institutional culture. Grameen Bank of Bangladesh a pioneer of Microfinance whose Founder (Professor Muhammad Yunus) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, was my model institution.
Invest in learning; no one can create a successful institution without deep knowledge. Knowledge comes from learning. Knowing that I was in a young industry, I invested in training not only for myself but also for my colleagues. A training center which has been transformed into an Institute was established quite early in our journey.
Do not succumb to desire immediate gratification
The greatest investment in the future success of an enterprise is deferment of immediate gratification. Always believe that the business will get better and therefore, refuse to ‘eat’ the seed.
The Best Advice I’ve Received | The best advice I have ever received was in May 1991 from Professor Yunus of Bangladesh when he counseled me in response to my concern about how to raise funds. He said thus: “Godwin, do what you are doing very well, put in all your efforts, then funds will come” He was right and this has become my advice to aspiring entrepreneurs over the years.
The Characteristics Of Success | My dominant characteristics, habits and actions some developed while in the course of my career include:
Reading/learning: Reading is probably the only visible ‘addiction’ I have. I am a compulsive reader. It has helped me. This has broadened my knowledge within and outside my industry. A friend and an operator in my sector once in 1996 confessed that my business was growing exceptionally because I was always reading.
Hard-work: As a High School student our Principal would require us to recite Proverbs chapter 22 verse 29 which emphasizes the place of diligence in success. I push myself rather too hard particularly at the beginning.
Passion: I have great passion for empowering the weak. All my business interests have something to do with engaging persons at the bottom-end of the society. This passion fuels accomplishments.
Faith: I have faith in God and I believe in the efficacy of prayers.
Focus: I have the habit of remaining focused, because I believe that any incidence which could have made me to abandon whatever I am doing will give way to future success. I focus on the result. It has helped in finishing projects strong. It took this aptitude for me to complete my doctorate in 2014 at the age of 56! Even in daily routines I remain with my barber for decades.
Humility: People say that I am humble, but I believe that I simply see and relate with people as people and not on the basis of their stations in life. This has helped in engaging and energizing my colleagues.
On Inspiring Others | My strategies for finding good people changed over time as the business grew. In the beginning I could not afford experienced people; I went for bright young people and gave them the opportunities to learn. I remember organizing a party for our first young accountant to qualify as a professional accountant. This motivated others. Now we target good people and go through good recruitment firms.
To keep good: Put them on challenging tasks/projects: Good people are motivated mainly by putting them on challenging tasks and acknowledging their efforts. As growing business in the 1990’s, everyone was challenged but the good ones were always put on daunting tasks. An example was during the period we scaled up our operations across the country, the best people led the Operations and monitoring Units. Another example was the transformation process into a regulated entity which saw the best people leading the process.
Acknowledge their efforts: We created a fast track of promotion for good staff in a very transparent manner
Care about their future: give them stakes in the business as well
I Am Inspired By | I was inspired by a number of people at every stage of my life.
As a youth, I was inspired by the late Dr Tai Solarin a remarkable Nigerian who selflessly dedicated his life to advocating and acting for the welfare of weak members of the society.
Professor Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank of Bangladesh inspired me greatly with his uncommon commitment to alleviation of poverty with access to finance and his humility in huge success. He fired my passion for using finance to address poverty
Hayford Alile who transformed the Nigerian Stock Exchange for his hard work and integrity. He is now a great admirer and supporter of what I do
My Definition Of Success | Success for me is simply the accomplishment and realization of goals and dreams respectively. The goals or dreams could be short-term or long term. At a point, we set the goal of reaching a million low-income people with finance. It was a tall order in 2005, but we crossed in a million clients in 2013 and it was satisfying. I dreamt of creating a financial institution that would create opportunity for low-income household to have access to a range of financial services on a sustainable basis. LAPO today is symbol of success
I Am Driven By | I am driven by the presence of abundance of opportunities to act in my environment. The huge gap between the huge demand for finance and the limited supply of it to low-income people and microenterprises fires us at LAPO. Lack of leasing facilities and insurance services prompt me to diversify.
The Difference Between Good And Great | Good people get things done; they meet targets. But great people think of the next best goals and aspirations to accomplish. While their feet are firmly in the presence, they focus on the future. They combined intellect, hard-work and integrity, a rare combination in most climes
The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | Let it be said that I led a people, a large number of Africans to create sustainable institutions which meet the health, social and economic needs of the low-income people and thereby taking them out of the fringe of national economy to the mainstream.
Dealing With Doubt | Initially, I thought I could not achieve much in finance without formal training in finance and business related disciplines. I held degree in Sociology and Anthropology then. I overcame the doubt by i) seeing great players in the Nigerian Economy with degrees in Classics. Examples are Gamaliel Onosode and Dr Christopher Kolade who have for a long time been the leading lights of the Nigerian economy. ii) I invested in learning with attention to accounting and general management. Attended capacity enhancing programmes in top business schools.