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In this interview via Zoom Video Conference with Business Hilights Executive Interview Crew, the CEO of CWG Plc, Mr. Adewale Adeyipo, opens up on management reforms he introduced on arrival and how he has designed leadership systems that out-smarted negative impacts of COVID-19 pandemic.
What are your thoughts about Covid-19 in the last five months?
Covid-19 has taught us some lessons we could not have learnt ordinarily. In the last five months, we have suddenly realized that the gap between the rich and the poor, the educated and non-educated is not extensive. We have realized that life and survival seem to be the only constant entities. The pandemic has exposed the terrible state of infrastructure in our country. This is the time for us to look inward and face our challenges; fix our health sector and other amenities. I believe we are not cursed but only need to be deliberate and determine to make a change. We have the capacity and competence to make that change, which is already evident in the many great works Nigerians are doing all over the world.
There was an article I wrote last year, which dwelled more on digital change. In that article, I stated that Nigeria needs to address the consumer mentality that stops us from creating and reproducing. Covid-19 has presented us with an opportunity to look inward and create wealth for ourselves.
How are you coordinating activities and the staff at CWG since the onset of the pandemic and its effects?
At CWG, our engagements and activities are almost seamless and I can say it has been more effective than what we forecasted at the beginning of this pandemic. Sometime last year, we introduced what we called ‘Work from Home Initiative’, which was a response to a survey we conducted on staff engagement. Our people opted to work from home two days a month so, we started it the first quarter of last year. That has helped us a lot during this pandemic period because we have previously conducted a trial and know how to manage people in a situation like this.
I am presently in the office with a few staff. Communication is key in this our business, so we regularly communicate with them on critical revenue lines that must not suffer. This is the time you bring out the entrepreneurship spirit in everyone, so they can make maximum impacts. Responsibility and accountability are the keywords in times like this. We have activated our remote system and I can confirm to you that with the processes and the robust systems we have, helped us to be able to deliver to our customers.
Is there a way we can quantify the damages that have been done to our economy, especially the ICT sector since the pandemic?
From an organizational perspective, the damage could be in two major areas; the first damage for me is to ask the question; what are those things we believe are the status quo and now we suddenly realized we were wrong?
At CWG, we refer to the staff as the lifeline of our organization, but the virtual process we have adopted now is largely impacting on our inclusiveness, which is met to deliver the growth and vision of CWG. We wanted that everyday interaction with our people. Not meeting my colleagues physically in the last four months due to the pandemic for me has not been very good.
A lot of businesses in Nigeria, even in the ICT sector, will cease to exist post-Covid-19 because they cannot put their act together. They refused to make changes in their operations when they had the opportunity to do so, probably because the way they were doing the business was working for them and did not see the need to. I am a strong advocate of SMEs, which I believe is a big driver of any economy. However, SMEs in Nigeria and other emerging countries have a slow adoption of technology, which has affected their growth. Organizations without processes and laid down procedures on how they go about their business might struggle. An organisation without strong leadership might struggle and the impact of these, I believe we will see in the next three months.
On assumption of office as the CEO of CWG PLC, you disclosed you are coming with five strategic pillars, which are Growth, Dividend, Brands, Liquidity and Profit. How well have you gone with these pillars?
These pillars have created an essential guild on what we do and how we do it. We evaluate every decision and determine what will be the contribution of the decision on any of these pillars. These pillars have enabled us to create some focus and clarity. It has given us insights on what we need to take seriously and what we need to stop doing. With these pillars, we measure the success or otherwise of our company.
To answer your question directly, the five pillars we brought at the beginning of this administration are Growth, Profit, Liquidity, Brands and Dividend. Our 2019 report was released earlier where it reported growth with net revenue of over N10billion, which is over 23 percent higher than 2018. We also have a gross profit of about 25 percent; this is still talking more to profit and growth. These growths in revenue are as a result of new services and partnership we procured in 2019. Also, we recorded these growths with a reduced OPEX of 17 percent in 2019 over 2018. So, we have an achievement of 28 percent in revenue and 25 percent in gross profit, but with a reduced operating expense.
That is the level of focus we have delivered with the five pillars we created. If you also want to go to some certain deliverables; then we can begin to talk of our BillnPay platform presentment platform, which is an app of CWG 2.0. On BillnPay last year, we recorded a transaction volume of over N12 billion, which is a major chunk of over 3000 percent of what we had in 2018, 2017 and 2016 combined. So, I can tell you that the underlinings principles that have kept us focused are these five pillars.
What is the future of work considering the emergence of Covid-19, which was never expected?
After the federal government announced the easing of the lockdown, we at CWG carried out an overall assessment of the situation. As an organization, we decided to observe a partial resumption of some of our essential services. We created customer segregation, which allows us to know and categorise all our engagements and availability based on the customers’ need.
Based on this, I can assure you that at CWG, our over 700 employees would not fully resume at the office all at once. We will not do that. That era is gone and I think it is gone for good. As an organization, we have been able to build the readiness for us to harness the impossibility and of course, leverage on the track records that we have built and our urge to deliver value to our customers. If you carefully observe, you will discover the negativity in this pandemic have beclouded the potentials and treasures in it. But in CWG, we have seen the future and the opportunities in post-Covid-19 and we have already deployed resources to take the benefits. I also believe most other organisations are looking at their processes and how to get things back working. So when people say after Covid-19, things will get back to normal, I think there will be nothing like that. People have to act now.
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