Partnership, A Good Life-Line to Business Growth – Funke O. Ogunlade

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Purpose is not found in chasing after a future you are powerless over or rebelling a past you can’t change. It’s in making every moment that you breathe count, and what better way to do that, than give every soul that comes in contact with you the opportunity to witness the bundle of love, kindness and glory you embody. That’s how you win in life and in business.

This uniqueness in being able to align life and business with a broader vision of making a difference is what makes our guest stand out as a phenomenal woman. Funke Olusoga- Ogunlade is a true believer and purposeful entrepreneur, who has made a tremendous impact in the hospitality space and in philanthropy. Her core values are built on helping people live up to their fullest potential. In her interview with GABI, she walked us through an inspiring journey of how she got here and her expectations for the future.


WHO IS FUNKE OLUSOGA OGUNLADE?

Funke Olusoga Ogunlade is a God-lover, a wife, and a mother, and I like to think of myself as a lifter. I enjoy helping people get out of situations where they think there is no way out. My vision is to lift as many people as I can, to the most elevated places they can be.

So I usually prefer to use the term “lifter” because I believe it is part of my calling. I’m here to help individuals become the best they can be, whether in family, relationships, business, and life in general.


WHAT LED TO THE COMMUNITY TRIBE OF HADASSAH?

Firstly, the name Tribe of Hadassah was drawn from the book of Esther in the Bible. That was Esther’s first name, and I also stated that I saw myself as someone who is destined to lift others. So the act of lifting others led to the establishment of the Tribe of Hadassah.

We are a community of women lifting each other, developing our faith in God in terms of who we are, in relationships, families, parenting, business, career and marriage.  It’s general platform for us to be better in all we do. So I’m there as a coach, mentor, teacher of the word of God, and spiritual guide.


One of the things we do at Tribe of Hadassah is to help children in orphanages and less privileged communities, by helping them attain quality education, this has been very rewarding we look to doing so much more in the future.

We have representatives in various countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, Guinea Bissau, and Ghana, and the list is growing. We have new members almost every week, so it’s truly a great journey, and we are excited to accomplish more for God and humanity.

YOU ARE ALSO THE FOUNDER OF THE FUNKEO COMPANY, WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

The Funkeo company was born out of passion, I just wanted to lift people, so at Funkeo company, we are a consulting company with special focus on hospitality and customer experience. We help hospitality businesses grow from scratch or at any point you bring us in. What we realized in Nigeria and Africa is that people go into business without really knowing what they are going into.

Hospitality is deeper than the surface of just a building or a beautiful space: It is creating recipes, employing the right staff, putting the right structures and policies in place, being very conscious and intentional about your customer’s experience and the whole customer journey.

 

On the customer experience front, we’ve discovered that one of the things Nigeria and Africa as a whole need to excel in business is excellent customer service. As a consumer, I’m interested to see what kind of service I get. I feel that everybody who spends money ought to be treated like a king or queen, regardless of how much they pay.

 

What I have seen in Africa is that we tend to be complacent, we really don’t care, we feel like the customer is doing us a favour and not the other way round. And you know, the customer is king and your customer puts food on your table because if they don’t come to you, then there is no income. At The FunkeO Company, we are great at human capital development, and our training is not limited to just the hospitality industry but across board. We have had trained companies in several industries, including e-commerce and healthcare.

 

AS A CUSTOMER EXPERT, WHAT 3 THINGS DO YOU DO TO RETAIN YOUR CUSTOMERS?

The first one is, give your customers what they want. You may think you know what they want. But the truth is that sometimes, you might just be assuming. You just assume that this is what they want. You don’t start a business until you know what your customers want and you can get this by asking questions.

 

Secondly, you should aim to surpass expectations, don’t be satisfied until you have met their needs. A customer is satisfied when you have met their expectations. So we have three levels. We have the unsatisfied customer, the satisfied customer, and the impressed customer. A customer is unsatisfied when his expectations aren’t met. A customer is satisfied when expectation is met, whether good or bad. And a customer is impressed when you surpass that expectation

 

The third thing that I would say is, to give some things for free. You know, clients don’t like to hear this, but listen, people love free things, and no matter how little it is, just give something for free. Just give something that would make your customer feel like they are really special. I used to run a restaurant, and I did that for about six years one of the things I used to do then is that from our customer database, we would ask them for their birthdays and when it was their birthday we would send you a nice message and a free cake on the house if you would come and celebrate your birthday with us. Guess what, we were making a lot of money and the customers thought we were doing them a favour by giving them a free cake because no other person was offering them that and so, they would always come back and feel loyal to us.

 

So give some things for free, give some discounts, give some gifts. Especially now in the festive season, start to think of what you are going to give to your customers and not just anything, something that makes them feel really special.

 

WHAT ARE THE MAJOR CHALLENGES YOU HAVE FACED GETTING PROFITABLE CUSTOMERS?

For my business, because I’m a consultant, a lot of what we do is intangible. What that means is that you can’t put a price to it, you can’t count it. Selling shoes can be counted and value can be added to them while for an intangible service, it is always difficult to put a price and get customers to pay. 

 

An example, a two-hour strategy session has a price, but you are done with the session and the customer feels “I might have thought about these things even if you were not here” which is not true because what you have done in the strategy session is that you have prompted them to think deeper, you brought up things they probably would have never thought of. But then, the customer feels like they might have done this with any other person and this is because our service is very intangible.

 

ThIs is one of the major challenges we have had but I would be honest with you, it’s getting better. People are now seeing the value of bringing consultants on board because personally, in the hospitality space, I have been in business for about 15 years, and just by one meeting, you can tell that I am speaking from knowledge and experience.

 

I have taken courses, gone to seminars, and worked on so many projects and I am speaking from a place of experience and knowledge. This is getting better and that’s why I always encourage young consultants who are just starting in the game of consultancy, not to be in a hurry to set out on their own. Probably work with another consultant and see how it goes. Just so that you can build a wealth of experience.

 

Knowledge is never enough to prove yourself in any field, there is the place of experience which I think is very important for those who are in consulting or business strategy or all of those things because experience is what will attract people to you.

HOW DO YOU MANAGE AND COMBINE ALL THE THINGS YOU DO?

I guess that happens a lot because I wear many hats. I am a minister in my local church, and I run a ministry where we have meetings three times a week, a one-hour meeting and this can be a lot. I’m also a mom, wife, daughter, sister, and friend – a very loyal one at that.

 

You know there is so much that I do and I also have many businesses that I do apart from all I have mentioned. I run an interior and furniture company called Space and Colours, I do that as well on the side. There is just so much I am doing. One of the things I do is that I take advantage of my support system, let me explain this.

 

A lot of us have a support system that we don’t use. One of the things I purposely did was to make sure that my home is a ten-minute drive from my mom. My mom has a pretty large house my kids have their own space to run around, and my mum is happy to have her grandchildren around because she is by herself. She is an amazing support system.

 

Also, I have friends that surround me and then we do a swap, you bring your kids over to me so you could do other things and I bring my kids over also. Use your support system well to avoid burnout.

Growing up in my business, I have learnt not to say no to projects. Once I have two to three projects I was working on, I would start declining additional work. I learnt something called co-opetition. Co-opetition is a combination of collaboration and competition. What this means is that you get somebody who is in the same field as you and collaborates. What you are doing is literally collaborating with a competition.

 

So what I usually do in my field is to find people who can take on some of the jobs that I get rather than decline those opportunities and this has been of great help even in ministry. I have people who come in to teach, coach, and mentor. I don’t have to do it all by myself, which is one of the things we women need to learn because there is always that tendency to want to protect your circle and yourself, I understand that. What happens is that you will burn out and you are also not giving other people the opportunity to see what they can do in terms of their gifts and strengths. So this has been of great help to me, getting that support system.

 

I recently got a job to manage a hotel in Ondo state, Nigeria and my first instinct was to say I live in Lagos and cannot take the job because I have so many other projects I was doing in Lagos and there was no way I was going to go through that journey.

I belong to a group called the Association of Hospitality Consultants Nigeria and I just went to the association’s WhatsApp group and said ” Hello there, I am looking for a partner to work with me on a project in Ondo state.” And I had a couple of responses, so I spoke to them. I never met the guy I am working with but he is an amazing partner and so I just set him up with the owner. Right now, we are sharing profits, it’s good business. I am working from home, looking at the processes, working on their finance, and all of that marketing but then I am not there because I have people that are working and who are competent. Sometimes, you need to leverage the skills and abilities of others, rather than see them as a competition.

 

That means having people that are as good as I am and not just any random person but people that are good as you in the field. So these are the things that have helped me so far.

 

COULD YOU EXPLAIN PRACTICAL WAYS TO SUSTAIN ONE’S BUSINESS GOAL IN A FLUCTUATING ECONOMY?

Very interesting question, the first thing I would say is to have several sources of income. You see that quotes people say, “don’t have all your eggs in one basket” is very true because anything can happen in an economy that is not stable. What happened when covid hit? A lot of hospitality businesses were in trouble. I mean we had retainers with some companies that said we can’t continue to pay you because obviously there is no business. Have several sources of income.

 

I saw some prestigious hotels at that time, I won’t mention names, and the next thing I saw on their Instagram page, they were doing laundry during the Covid season. They were saying that they can come and pick up your clothes and deliver them. This is a hotel that is very big and one of the biggest in Lagos. So, the idea would be to just diversify as much as you can.

 

Start to think of other things that you can do around the business just in case. As I said, we set up laundries, hotels, and restaurants, train, and recruit; which is also a major part of the whole process.  A lot of times, 80% of my clients come through recruitment. And once we start to talk, they see other things that we can do for them. So we are like, we can get you a general manager, an expatriate, we can get you your accountant. You know what, we can also train.

 

You can also come in for a marketing strategy session, and diversify as much as you can and that would help you, ensure that you are doing a lot of things, but be sure that you can manage them as well because excellent delivery is also key. It’s so important that you don’t do much more than you can take, and as said earlier, delegate to people as good as you. Yes, take advantage of the support system.

HOW DOES ONE ALIGN PERSONAL BRANDING AS WELL AS CORPORATE BRANDING?

What I always say is that you are your brand. Regardless of what you do, you are your unique selling point, so whatever your brand aligns with, you have to align with it. Your life vision can’t be different from your business goal or your brand goal, otherwise there will be some friction at some point, there will be clashes at some point.

 

For example, everybody that knows me knows that I live for God and I like to talk about God. It is very clear even in my brand when I am training, in things I face, I can’t separate who I am from what I do, I can’t, it’s not possible.

 

I have seen a lot of people get into trouble because they are completely different people from what they are portraying as a brand, and after a while, people start to see through you and they will see that you can’t deliver. For me, what you see is what you get, what you see about me on Instagram, on LinkedIn, whatever on my website, that’s who I am.

 

FOR SOMEONE LOOKING FOR A GOOD JOB, WHAT THINGS MUST THEY HAVE?

If you are looking for a good job, the first thing you have to have is, your life’s purpose, what I always say to people is, you shouldn’t get to a point where anything goes in terms of job, because if you start doing that, you are going to do that for the rest of your life. You might think that I am just using this job to get by, only to realize that you keep digging yourself into that pit because you will do it the first year, the second year, and the third. It might not be aligned with what you want to do or what your purpose is and you just find yourself being static. Whatever job you are looking for, let it align with your purpose, let it align to what you want to be, who you are.

 

The second is to get yourself a good CV, I have seen situations where people send CVs as pictures, Jpeg files, we see all kinds of things, so the first thing you do is get yourself a good CV and I always say some words should be in your CV, some specific words, let’s stop the cliché of saying I can work under stress because you can’t, people saying they can work under pressure but you know you can’t, so be as truthful as you can. Be as open as you can on your CV.

 

Another thing which is the third point, let your CV also tell us the latest job and that job has to be relevant to the role you are applying for. Let me give you an example, I have seen people who applied for roles, applying for a post of general manager in a restaurant their latest job would be a cashier. That doesn’t help me make a decision.  I would rather see that you are a supervisor or a floor manager in a present, and show me the job description that shows that you can be a General manager.

 

Another thing is that you need to have confidence. You have to be confident enough to prove yourself at every stage of the interview process. For me, my interviews are very playful, very relaxed. You know I probably made fun of your hair, I probably say something, say a joke about your hairdo, or the color of your lipstick, I will usually do that to make you relax, but not all interviewers have that skill.

 

You need to gradually build up your confidence, by being vocal in conversations, practice with your peers, and learn how to respond to rejections because your interviewer might not have the skill required to interview properly and so you might just be very bashed and all of that but your confidence can sell you, I always say to people build your confidence and first ensure you are building it gradually, practice with your peers, your friends, speak up in a conversation and let your voice be heard, all of these things and learn how to respond positively to rejections. I have this network on Facebook of over a hundred people, where I train people on how to prepare for the interview process, and the impact has been great. 

 

WHAT VALUES DO YOU WORK WITH?

My main values for me as Funke is Integrity: I like to be who I say I am, and do what I say I will do right and deliver on those promises, so integrity is one of those things that have gotten me to where I am, you can be sure of I will deliver even if it becomes uncomfortable for me, so I had situations where I have to work longer with a client because we have not achieved what we said we want to achieve. In fact, I told the client not to pay me for the next two months, until we have achieved our initial goal based on agreement.

Also, be People oriented whether your client, your staff, or whoever. You need to understand that everybody deserves to be treated with respect. It doesn’t matter if they are the cleaner or security guard. Someone may not match your professional experience, but they may possess life experiences that would be of benefit to you. So always be open to learning and treat people with respect. Treat people in a way they would be excited to work with you.

 

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOUR BRAND IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?

I see my brand The FunkeO Company as a go-to consulting company in Africa, with the capacity to deliver top-notch services and strategies on a global market. I also envision us being the best when it comes to recruiting and enhancing customer service delivery.

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