I was asked in an interview (with my co-founder, Adebola Williams) a month or so ago: What is our biggest accomplishment in RED?
I have been asked many times before and each time I have given the same answer, unprepared. And somehow, within me, I would feel uncomfortable: shouldn’t you brand a bit so you build reputation and win more business? Shouldn’t you say something more in keeping with the tradition – revenues, clients, all of that.
So I have had time to think about this, and think about the truth that I speak. And after thinking about, I became only more resolute that I could say nothing else.
Today, as we close our offices for the year, I decided to write about this.
What’s the biggest accomplishment in RED? They expected to hear talk about hosting The Future Awards Africa in Aso Rock, leading the communication on the Muhammadu Buhari campaign, or winning Facebook’s PR business in Nigeria and Ghana.
This time, I was this uniquely ready.
It’s our people.
There is a reason you could scan my Instagram timeline at any point in time and most of what you will find are not my personal photos, but photos of my teams – graduations, wedding ceremonies, random celebrations of excellent work, just general excitement.
This is why: there are people who came into business to make profits, and they are to be acknowledged and celebrated, because profits are the lifeblood of business.
But that’s not why I decided to build a business.
Profits are only as a means to an end; the most important of those ends being a comfortable, secure life – including wealth – for the teams that drive the mission of a business.
Hence the reason I went into business is simple: I wanted to build a team.
It’s the reason I have not gotten an increase in remuneration every year since I became a part-time entrepreneur in 2005 and a full-time entrepreneur in 2010. All that increase goes only to the team.
Because nothing gives me greater joy than seeing a team of engaged people grow because I lead them committed to a common vision over 10 years, 5 years, even 2 years.
The primary circle is the team that stays. But the circle is essentially all of them – those that stay and grow and those who leave and grow.
Nothing gives me greater joy than to see a Japheth Omojuwa put up a tweet celebrating our chief operating officer, or seeing a Seun Onigbinde pay respects to our managing editor.
Remi, Bukonla, Sola, Isime, Seun, and others have become some of the most respected young leaders in the media space in Nigeria.
And, as a mentee Joel Ogunsola pointed out to me early this year, we have an even stronger track record across the industry. RED incubating the highest number by far of successful young professionals across the media space.
People stay and become stars. People leave and become stars.
To name a few:
1. Lekan Olanrewaju, who is one of the country’s foremost TV scriptwriters with credits including Tinsel and Hotel Majestic
2. Stanley Azuakola, editor of The Scoop
3. Damilola Oyedele, now senior product manager with Amazon
4. Oluwatobi Soyombo, a PhD candidate in India who is also running an amazing technology solution called 1plify
5. Tunde Kara, one of the three effective managing directors at Ringier Nigeria
6. Daphne Akatugba, who leads on social media at Sterling Bank
7. Ahmed Adeyanju, who leads on social media at Stanbic IBTC
8. Eromo Egbejule, just nominated for the CNN African Journalist of the Year prize
9. Ifreke Inyang, who is one of the country’s most respected media voices on sports and is an editor with the Daily Post
10. Ifeoma Areh, who runs one of the leading PR firms, Wildflower
11. Joachim MacEbong, who is community relations manager with the Lagos State Employability Trust Fund.
On and on. Left and right. Male and female.
Then there are those who were not employees but worked closely under the mission as volunteers or as trainees across our various projects.
That list, again is impressive, as five highlights will show.
1. Jide Taiwo, who is now executive editor with NET
2. Adebayo Oke-Lawal, who is the award-winning creative director of Orange Culture
3. Tosin Ajibade, award-winning chief executive of Olorisupergal.com
4. Seun Onigbinde, who is of course the founder of the incredible BudgIT
5. Bayo Omoboriowo, now famous as the president’s personal photographer.
And they continue to be committed to RED.
They are contributors on YNaija.com, they are in charge backstage at The Future Awards Africa, they are the ones we consult when we need to build or rebuild, they are ones you find rallying to my defense when the slightest challenge emerges anywhere on social media. They are an army of people who believe in each other.
Recently, as we embarked upon the most extensive strategy review for our products YNaija.com and The Future Awards Africa, it was a force field including Stanley, Ifeoma, Tosin, Damilola and Bankole Oluwafemi of Big Cabal Media that helped chart the course that re-established its product leadership.
It speaks to three strong things about our company:
1. We attract and hire the brightest and the best.
2. We train, both on-the-job and outside of it, relentlessly, investing in trainings that have included South Africa, Geneva, the United Kingdom, Kenya, the United States of America and all across Nigeria. More importantly, on the job: we believe in the limitless potential of the human spirit and that most times people don’t know the depths of what they are capable of so we need to help them find it. So – taking our brand value of relentlessness both literally and seriously – we hold them to the highest standards taking our brand value of ‘relentlessness’ literally and seriously.
3. We maintain excellent relationships with that team because our faith in them is honest; not just dependent on their working for us – creating a form of extended family across the media industry and perhaps the most tight-knit alumni network you will find there. Inside joke is, if you hire a former #TeamRED person you are just extending the reach of our mission.
To be sure, it’s a relentlessly demanding place to work.
So demanding, that more than once, we have had to look at a person who is struggling and find another job for that person. Because, yes that person is competent and committed (I boast that commitment is a given in this space), but at RED only the strongest survive.
And we would have it no other way.
Building a team is like tending a garden: you decide the flowers you want, and you tend to them only, ruthlessly plucking and relocating the ones that don’t fit. You must be relentless about the standards you seek and you must stick with those standards as you grow.
And that is why they excel wherever they are. And that is why we excel.
That is why the women who get pregnant must go on their extended leaves, no one is authorized to ask them to stay and ‘help’ for any emergencies. Those who want a study leave must go (and they have all returned – a 100% record) – and the company’s growth is not compromised in any way.
Because the machine is not about an individual, it’s about a team – a group of people committed to each other, committed to a common vision and committed to relentless growth.
None of the success was gotten based on one stand out star; it was based on one outstanding team.
And it is that team, those who stay and those leave, that delivers all of the things that the world admires and that outsiders see and want to be part of in one way or in another way.
As someone said on Instagram only five days ago: it’s a team of ambitious gods.
Just the way we want it.
Just exactly the reason I decided to be an entrepreneur in the first place.
As we say at RED, there is no force in the world more powerful than an inspired, empowered human being.
*Jideonwo is editor-in-chief of Y!/YNaija.com and managing partner of the parent group, RED