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Nigeria Is Tough, But With The Right Imagination Nothing Can Stop You – Balmoral Md, Adamu

Dr Ezekiel Adamu is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Balmoral Group of companies with interest in halls, events management and entertainment. Adamu is passionate about turning negative situations around into positive ones, little wonder he was able to build Balmoral to one of the top event centres in Nigeria. In this interview with MUTIAT LAWORE, Adamu spoke on the secret of success and why he believes that Nigeria is a fertile ground for investment. Excerpts:

What inspired you into event management?

I started off my journey with an independent company in France, G Elements. G Elements has a network of venues, they also do their own events, create their platforms, do conferences and other things. They are one of the biggest event companies and are on the stock exchange. They have about 300 events with their venues, they don’t have to wait for people to come and use their venues.

I started by working with them and then I started with my friend’s venue, which was Balmoral Hall at Kudirat Abiola Road, Ikeja, Lagos and then we moved to other venues. Balmoral Hall was the first event hall and I remember back then in 2006 that it was an amazing event centre. People were going to parks and schools for different events.

It took us one year to get our first customer at the event venue. People were saying that it was too expensive because it cost about N420,000 (Four Hundred and Twenty Thousand Naira) back then. They were asking why they should pay so much, when they could just go to a school, parks and set up canopies or go on the streets to do their parties.

Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola was the Governor then and he stopped people from doing parties on the streets. People were telling me to reduce the price, but I was consistent and I didn’t drop the price. When you have something good, if you don’t value it, how will other people value it?

What has been your experience in the business so far?

My experience is that it has been a worthwhile journey. Problems are there for you to look for solutions and when you find those solutions, you will become a champion. I belong to the school of thought that says that one should look for where problems are so that he can solve them and monetise it.

What then is your mindset about these things?

There is the mindset of winners and there is mindset of people that give up. My mindset is that everyone will come and say they don’t want to go because of one thing or the other, that’s a regular mindset.

A growth mindset is if you have a target, you wake up in the morning and rain is about to fall, a regular person will use that as an excuse not to go out, but someone with a growth mindset will go out and make success. Two sales companies sent two sales people to a particular town; the sales companies sell shoes.

The first salesperson went there and said that the place is a dead end because they don’t know anything about shoes. The second person went there and said that it’s a gold mine because they don’t know anything about it and that he could sell anything to them. A growth mindset will recognise opportunities for success.

How are you coping with business with the constant change in economic policies, fuel scarcity and all that?

That is the excuse everybody gives, but despite what is happening in Nigeria, people are still thriving. I look at things and ask ‘how do I give values at this period?’

Every other person is looking at how things are going up, but for me I’m looking at how to reduce my prices, it’s just a mindset, it’s just about finding solution to everything, you just need to find it.

What will you say prepared you for this journey?

I read books, I read from the best. My father would advise me about how to do things and I would ask him why I should listen to him; he is not the best in that area, so I would rather go and read from the books written by experts. I read a lot and I learn and unlearn.

When people say Donald Trump is bad, I say he is great, if you read about him, you will see the challenges he has gone through in life and he put them in books. I tell people that yes, if he wants to be American president again, he will because he understands what other people don’t get.

What will you say you have in common with your father?

Work ethic! He is a hard worker and he is somebody that will give you the right hand to do the right thing. I don’t see why someone should trust you to deliver something and you will be giving excuses about why you can’t deliver.

If I agree with you to do something at a certain cost, even if circumstances or economy changes, I will stick to what we agreed upon. Later on, I will tell you this is what I went through. If you deal with people with integrity, they will listen to you. If you give excuses about how the prices have increased, the same people will not come back to you even if the price decreases.

For me, I feel that ethnic keeps you in business. We have been in business for 15 years, which means we have been doing something right. If you are cutting corners it will catch up with you. There are so many people we started this business with and they are no longer there.

Many Nigerians prefer to travel abroad for tourism, how do you think we can improve the tourism and hospitality sector in Nigeria?

I don’t even think we have started. I got into this business because I know that tourism is great and I feel we are not there yet. I was telling my friend that Lagos should be a place where we trade in dollars because that is what happens in other parts of the world. Even in the Dominican Republic, they don’t even have infrastructure, but because they positioned themselves as a tourist place, they trade in that currency.

Tourism is a major type of entertainment. That is how a country begins to blossom. World Cup is tourism. They give you four years to build capacity so that when peo- ple come in and they are welcomed, peo- ple make money in the process. Tourism brings in a lot of money and there is no other way to do this than through events, through experiences that people have when they go for events, especially music events.

Balmoral is a group of companies because we have a network of events places and we create events for ourselves. We do international drinks festival and others. We have COPA Lagos and others; we keep creating events for ourselves and that gave birth to L.I.F.E (Lagos Independence Festival of Excellence). Balmoral came together with Tempo Group.

They have a studio and we have venues. On October 1 every year after the supposed speech, everyone is always looking for where to go. We decided to organise an event last year. We did a lot on that event. But, we later found out that there was going to be a million man march by the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, and people were warned to stay at home and we felt that we didn’t want another #EndSARS crisis.

So we said that yes, we had done a lot of work and spent much money, but safety comes first. It was supposed to be a family event and we decided to cancel it and wait till this year. We didn’t want a situation where we would start an event and people don’t show up or there would be security issues, so we pushed it to 2023.

Talking about security, we heard that there was a fire incident in Balmoral Hall some years back, what are you doing to prevent this in the future?

There was a fire incident in Balmoral Hall about 10 years ago. It was a turning point for us and it was the fire incident that showed that we are here to stay. At that time, we only had one venue and we would have gone down, but we rebuilt it immediately after the fire incident, we had investors and people now know that we are here to stay.

We then got opportunities to set up other venues in GRA, Oceanview, Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island and we are building a state-of- the art event centre inside Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja.

How can tourism be improved in Nigeria then?

The government should protect and make sure things are done right. Some of our policies don’t give investors confidence to come. People believe that this new administration understands what to do and they will do the right thing.

What have you learnt as an investor?

I have had privilege to learn many things and I will say that I am a hard worker. I also know that success may take 20 years to achieve if you start a business today. I tell people that on a scale of 1-10, we are on 4.

We have not got there yet and business keeps evolving. For us as leaders, we understand that people are following us and we need to keep innovating. People think that I get bored easily, but it’s just that I travel a lot and I see what people are doing and even if we have done it, I bring it down and start something new. That’s how we have been able to stay relevant.

I started with a lot of people and some of them are not even anywhere now. Innovation and keep innovating is the way to go. That’s why we are moving into the technology part now. We have found out that everywhere in the world, it’s tech they are using, so that is what we are using to help us in everything that we do. We are championing how to use tech to enhance events and it has been working well.

What is your opinion about “Japa” Syndrome?

I understand why people would “japa.” Just last year, five of my management staff disappeared at the same time. However, maybe because I’ve lived abroad before, I understand that it’s not easy on the other side too.

Investors and people around the world are looking for developing countries, which is where the opportunities are and I like to make impact. If you go to a place where everything is already fine, you become a second class citizen there.

But, when you are here, you will find solutions and you can even become a billionaire. People think it’s difficult here, but I believe that it’s not easy on that side too. It takes years to make it there too. If you do not have a story, you cannot have success.

So, what is your advice to “Japa” people?

The grass is never greener on the other side, it might seem so if you are not there yet. We have so much as a people, we can’t move the culture anywhere else.

A developed country is such a place that you are only working to earn a living, pay your bills and get mortgage. But there are so many opportunities in a developing country.

We should go there to learn and bring the things here. We have a country of over 200 million people, so even if you are selling a product of one naira to a lot of people you will make a lot of money.

Like I said, success takes 20 years to achieve. Nigeria is tough, but if you are able to stand and have the right imagination and faith, nothing can stop you, though it might take a while.

If you were not into events management, what would you have been doing?

I never thought of it. Maybe I would go into construction business because I still do a bit of construction because I do the constrictor of most of my venues. Balmoral is a group of companies; we have the event venues, the live side, and the hospitality side, we just built a hospitality place.

So, if I wasn’t doing this, I would say maybe construction. I studied Computer Science for my first degree, and for my masters, I studied Financial Decision Analysis, and for my doctorate degree, I studied Corporate Governance and Business Administration.


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