Tony Elumelu is a Nigerian economist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He is the chairman of Heirs Holdings, the United Bank for Africa, Transcorp and founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation.
The banking tycoon founded The Tony Elumelu Foundation after he retired as chairman of the United Bank for Africa to prove that the African private sector can be the primary generator of economic development. Through TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, the foundation trains and funds 1,000 African entrepreneurs every year to start and grow their businesses.
Today, we’ll reveal the business philosophies behind his huge success that every ambitious entrepreneur should follow. Here are the Top 7 rules for success from the man who coined the term “Africapitalism”, Tony Elumelu:
1. Stay focused
According to Elumelu, entrepreneurship is a long term journey. “Stop seeing it as a short term journey. Great entrepreneurs or companies didn’t build their businesses overnight. It’s a long term journey. So dare to dream, implement your dream and stay focused.”
2. Have a vision
Talking about his illustrious career in banking, which saw him lead one of the largest mergers in the banking sector in Sub-Saharan Africa, Elumelu once said, “I grew up with certain beliefs and motivations, one of which is: when you envision and take a position to make that vision come through, then significant opportunities will crystalise.”
“We saw a banking industry that was growing very fast, and we didn’t think the requisite human capital capacity was available to support the continued support of these banks. So we took an early position in putting in place a company that would help guarantee the survival of banks, and when an opportunity presented itself, we were ready for it.”
3. Read and execute
Elumelu is an avid reader who tries to see learning points when reading fiction or nonfiction materials. According to him, people generally conceptualise ideas based on history or social environmental factors and influences, so young people need to read a lot. “I’d recommend autobiographies for many entrepreneurs out there who are looking for role models,” he said.
“Secondly, when you have a dream, you have to execute that dream by working hard, which is what differentiates a successful person from someone who isn’t successful. Combining the ability to read with the mentality to translate an idea into reality will guarantee your success in life,” he added.
4. Seize your opportunities
According to Elumelu, when running a business, entrepreneurs must be quick and fast in their ideas to know when an opportunity presents itself and how to seize it. “They say that success, to a large extent, depends on being at the right place at the right time, and this philosophy has helped us many times to take advantage of a situation and turn things around.”
5. Be disciplined
According to Elumelu, being financially diligent starts with being prepared even before a crisis hits. “Growing up, my dad always told me that if you earn a dollar and don’t save, when you earn a billion-dollar, you won’t save anything. And so that discipline of investment, keeping something and not consuming everything has helped me significantly.”
6. Work hard
According to Elumelu, hard work is what separates a dreamer from an achiever. Combining the ability to work hard and work smart increases productivity on another level. “I say to people who work with me that there is no substitute for hard work. Today, we hear many people talk about “working smart”, but I prefer a combination of working hard and working smart. So my message to entrepreneurs is to work hard to actualise their dreams.”
7. Impact others
According to Elumelu, people should not measure one’s success in the amount of money they have in the bank but how they’ve truly impacted others. Speaking about the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, Elumelu said, “Early on in my career, I realised that entrepreneurship was critical to the development of this continent. And as a successful African private sector business leader, I knew I needed to promote entrepreneurship so that we could have more successful business leaders in Africa. This was why we started the Tony Elumelu Foundation.”
The Tony Elumelu Foundation through the help of its partners now empowers beyond the initial 1,000 entrepreneurs. Last year, TEF’s Entrepreneurship Programme empowered 4,949 entrepreneurs from across Africa, with a 68% representation of female entrepreneurs, which was a huge milestone.