Serial Entrepreneur – Ezekiel Adamu
Ezekiel Adamu is a very focused and goal oriented gentleman. He has carved a name for himself in the ever growing ‘Events’ business in Nigeria. Come 14th of June 2018, he will also be known for the groundbreaking ‘Games Village’ located at Eko Atlantic where tens of thousands of football lovers will watch the 2018 World cup for the next 30 days. Ezekiel owns one of the most successful event companies in Nigeria – Balmoral, which led to the construction of the ‘Games Village’. His event tents and marquee traverse all parts of Nigeria. He also happens to be the first son of the legendary Sports Administrator Amos Adamu. A graduate of Computer Science from the University of Luton, UK, Ezekiel spends a few hours in between work with Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa to discuss the landmark ‘Games Village’ project for the 2018 World Cup, the next International Drinks Festival and how he has built a name for himself in the Events and Hospitality sector with Balmoral.
Some people bring their work home with them to be sure, Ezekiel Adamu is one of those guys. The man’s phone never stops ringing. Now especially more than ever with just a few days to the World Cup and construction going on non-stop at his new site at the Eko Atlantic. The long limbed and not so quick to smile founder of ‘Balmoral’ has made a name for himself and if all goes as planned for the World Cup Games Village, he would have added another tick to his list of victories. We meet at his Ikoyi office at 9am and the man is on time, he was actually there waiting for us. He welcomes us with a warm smile and a firm handshake. Ezekiel doesn’t like publicity, he likes to get the job done, sit back and let others do the talking. He tells us we have two hours as he has to be on site before noon, and sowe get to work. While setting up, we are offered tea or coffee and Ezekiel shares his love for tea, not suprising with his British education. I enjoy a variety of KitKat I’d never had before with my tea and the photo shoot begins. Ezekiel works the camera like a seasoned veteran and we get done in record time as we chat and throw jokes all along, with the help of some music in the background. On completion, we decide to follow him to the construction site on the Eko Atlantic and what a sight to behold. By now his phone is ringing every few minutes. We take our leave after about an hour where we got a few shots of him at work and even managed to get him to the water front. I leave with a good feeling having seen what can be achieved by dreaming big.
MM: Balmoral has evolved from being just an event centre to being the biggest event planning company. How did you achieve that?
EA: The vision was to start off as a venue solution company but it’s always been in our long-term plan to become a 360 event company and that’s what we’ve become at the moment. We have about four different segments of Balmoral: we have the Balmoral Venues which everyone is familiar with we also have the Balmoral Life, Balmoral Exhibitions and Balmoral Hospitality. For instance, the just concluded international drink festival was organised by Balmoral Life – that’s a Balmoral Life concept. So, we come up with concepts and develop them. Over the long term, we plan on providing hospitality packages – which is the Balmoral Hospitality. For instance, at the recently concluded international drink festival, we had a hospitality package whereby our international delegates and exhibitors were able to plan their hotel reservations, airport pickup, etc . We’re also looking at going into hotels and sundry services in the future.
MM: What inspired you to venture into the Tent Business and start Balmoral?
EA: From my background; I travel a lot for sporting events and it was fascinating for me to see the organisation of things and how they disappear immediately the event is over. The organisation has always fascinated me and it’s something that has always drawn me to events and I thought to start up one after moving back to Nigeria and here we are.
MM: Has your father’s larger than life image hindered your standing on your own and achieving success?
EA: When I first started Balmoral, I always had this burning desire not to be linked to my father or his achievements. I wanted people to know me as Ezekiel Adamu for what I do and not simply as Amos Adamu’s son. In fact, as Balmoral, I didn’t want the public to say ‘Ezekiel Adamu Balmoral’. I wanted Balmoral and Ezekiel Adamu to be seen as separate entities. In Nigeria, most businesses are attached to the owner or the CEO but I wanted a business that can stand on its own and something that’ll thrive even in my absence. I feel like Balmoral is even a lot more popular than Ezekiel Adamu and that’s what I’ve always wanted to achieve and I think to a certain degree, we’ve been able to achieve that.
MM: What event gave Balmoral its first big break and what was it like at the beginning?
EA: When we starting Balmoral, I remember telling my dad about starting a business and what it entails. He said he wasn’t giving me money to go start a business, instead he said the best he could do was give me a property which could serve as collateral for me to get a loan from the bank and repay the bank. Thank God the initial bank loan gave us a year to pay back. And it took us a whole year to even get our first customer, who was Oyinlola when he was the governor of Osun State for his daughter’s wedding. Following the success of that event people started getting to know us. The name Balmoral actually connotes “royalty” and we started off by serving royalty. So that’s how it became a go to brand name. When royalties want to have an extraordinary event, they opt for Balmoral while we also strive to keep up to that high standard.
MM: Was the Events Industry where you wanted to be as a young man?
EA: I studied in the UK; so I started a car wash business (where) there but I had issues with my partners. On my return, I had a different plan for my life, but decided to start off with this (Balmoral) and it grew as I put so much passion into it but I never planned to go into events. I remember coming back from the UK to start doing events and my friends and colleagues while in school ridiculed me that I was doing ‘canopy’ business. Everyone expected I’d delve into oil and gas after returning from the UK. I actually used to work with Schlumberger (the global energy giant) but I pulled out because I’ve always wanted to run my own business. I’ve also never had the intention of going into politics or working with the government. I wanted to carve a niche for myself where we pick on different industries and areas we feel we can help and make people’s life and/or the industry better. That way, we don’t have to lobby as government itself calls you for solution.
That’s why we started off with the drink industry. We heard that Nigeria is the world’s largest consumer of champagne but when we researched this claim, we discovered that data was for Euro monitor and Euro monitor based its statistics on a survey of about 2,000 Nigerians in a country of 180 million people and in such a huge market, those statistics to us rang a bit untrue. In the UK, France or America, most people have statistics they used in determining trends, so you don’t market to a demography that probably doesn’t like your drink. So, we thought having an international drink festival will make perfect sense to even more accurate data on the business of drinks in Nigeria in an industry worth over $50bn.
MM: Years back, there was a fire incident that affected your business. How did you overcome that sort of setback?
EA: When people talk about challenges the fire outbreak was a huge challenge. We lost investments worth over N250m at the time and it was terrible, but I think God has everything planned out in my life. I read a lot and I remember reading a Thomas Edison book a week before the fire incident about when he lost his laboratory to a fire outbreak and how people thought he’d committed suicide. But he immediately started rebuilding and that kept on replaying in my head as I remembered what Thomas Edison said. I immediately told my friend that it’s time to rebuild. Even when the insurance company came, they went on about taking pictures. I implored them to take all the pictures they wanted but we’re rebuilding the very next day. We started rebuilding that night and it took us only two weeks to get back!
I remember people doubted me at the press conference when I mentioned that Balmoral would be rebuilt in two weeks. I had my eyes on the ball and didn’t want to lose any events and for us to return that fast showed that we meant business. We didn’t lose any event and I felt that was a defining moment for us. Based on that, in less than six months, we also built the Haven Event Centre. So, I feel like every disappointment is a blessing and the fire incident was supposed to happen for us to get to the level we’re at now.
MM: What led to you organizing the Drink Festival and what should Lagosians expect from this year’s edition?
EA: The Drinks Festival was borne out of the concept of providing solutions to the enormous challenges in the Industry . To provide world class solutions to the enormous market by bringing all the stake holders (manufacturers, distributors) under one roof and also having a one on one interaction with consumers. Also in the areas of data capturing, there were apparent inaccuracy and also aiding in the trends of time. Nigeria is one of the biggest consumers of beverages and there was nothing like this before then.
MM: What should football lovers expect lovers expect from the ‘Games Village’ and how did the concept come about?
EA: The concept is to celebrate the World Cup season by creating a platform and experience for Nigerians (that will not be traveling to Russia) to have an experience of celebrating the World Cup. There will be entertainment with various artistes performing, stage acts, five a side soccer, games like snooker, football and for the kids we will have their section with various games, bouncing castles etc.
MM: What were the last three books you read and what did you take from them?
EA: The last three books I read were:
- ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill.
B2. ‘Power of Your Subconscious Mind’ by Dr. Joseph Murphy.
- ‘Build to Last’ by Jim Collins.
Think and Grow Rich and Power of Your Subconscious mind taught me to always evaluate of what I am thinking about and the last one Build to Last taught me strategies on building a long lasting organization and building a legacy.
MM: Who are your role models in business and personal life and why?
EA: My role models are my father in personal life and in business, also Thomas Edison and Henry Ford . With Henry Ford, the word impossible simply was not in his dictionary. He had these two quotes that I personally love 1. “If you think you can do a thing, or you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”
- “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently”, and Thomas lived this because he failed several times and never gave up. Two more of my favourite quotes are “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work”. The other is “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety- nine percent perspiration.”
MM: What are the qualities you look for when employing staff?
EA: Top qualities I look for when employing staff is the ‘can do’ attitude.
MM: What business advise would you give your 20 year old self? Also what advice do you have for young people starting a business?
EA: My advice is that life is a journey and it takes one step to start a journey of a thousand miles. Also don’t get carried away by social media pictures or videos. Success could be a slow process.
MM: Father’s Day is coming up, what lessons did you learn from your father that have helped you as a man, and what life rules will you be teaching your children?
EA: The greatest lesson I have learnt from my dad is to live a life of giving, sacrifice, philanthropy and selflessness. For my children it is to live an impactful life, a life where you help other people in their trying times, sometimes thinking of other people’s problems helps you in your own.
Ezekiel’s most formidable character traits might be his zeal to try new things and solve problems as well as his generosity- a trait which he inherited from his father. His love for books and his vast library have given him an edge in business and life as he has learnt many lessons from the masters whom have paved the way before him.
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