I was raised with so much love, I find it hard to hate anyone — Idorenyen Enang – Punch Newspapers

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Idorenyen Enang is the President of the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria, and Chief Executive Officer of Corporate Shepherds. He tells BABATUNDE TUGBOBO about his life, career and other issues
As the CEO of Corporate Shepherd, what are your responsibilities?
Corporate Shepherd is a social enterprise I established based on divine inspiration. I will describe myself as the chief servant, for want of a better word. My duty, as a trustee of posterity, is to serve, and within the ambit of the organisation, there are three major pillars. One is to teach, one is to guide and one is to motivate. Within those three pillars lie institutions and platforms that allow one to express the true act and mind of shepherding, and I am privileged to lead that pack, and be the founder and ‘visioner’. At the same time, one needs other helpers. There are some destiny helpers that have been ordained by God to be there for one and support one’s vision.
What are the challenges you face in the course of discharging your duties?

For a number of years, I did not know how to talk about myself. Whenever I am asked about myself, I struggle (with providing answers). However, (a business) partner, Dr Mark Uba, always tells me that I need to let people know my story, and talk about my journey, which he says is very inspiring. But, it’s not like I am afraid. I just consider my humble background, how far I have come and the grace and the call of God upon my life. That makes me feel that I don’t really need put it (my life) out there. I am looking to build an institution that will be a lot bigger than me; one that will help many generations.
Also, when I started the company, I was solely responsible for its operational expenses for about 10 years, yet it is supposed to be a limited liability entity, with a board of directors. At a point, I had to ask myself if I was doing it for charity or for profit. That was the challenge for some time. However, about two or three years ago, me and my colleagues were having a business planning meeting, and I asked them if I was the problem of the company business. All of them then said I was the problem. When I asked them how, they said I usually did a lot of things for free, yet we have salaries to pay, and I end up paying them (staff) from my pocket. They also stated that the business was not generating enough (money) to sustain itself because I was practically funding it. They asserted that things had to change. It was at that moment, I stepped ‘aside’ and told them that from that moment, they would have the floor, and I would just be like a guest.
The third challenge was the fact that in this clime, many people are not ready to pay for services including the impartation of knowledge. It takes a lot to acquire knowledge but people want it to be given to them for free. Sometimes, one could be invited for a pitch or brief to share one’s experience as a business and leadership coach, but they (clients) want to start negotiating with one as if they are pricing onions in the market. When people ask one to render a service for free, it sometimes comes across as a non-appreciation of one’s value.

What prompted your decision to start the company?
In 2003, I had a rare inspiration. I was returning from South Africa, and while on the aircraft, the pilot announced that we were about to descend (to the airport). At that time, I heard a voice clearly in my spirit which said, “Son, I want you to mentor generations. I am going to take you through series of experiences, so you are going to be a bridge that will support people and help them to be better”. I did not immediately understand what it meant. However, I beckoned on one of the hostesses to give me a serviette. I wrote the word, ‘leverage’, and the other things I heard the voice say. That was the beginning of an era for me.
At the time, I was a senior executive with The Coca-Cola Company. It was not as if it was something I was looking forward to, or something I had dreamt about.
Then, I was the head usher of the Latter Rain Assembly (now Citadel Global Community Church) and I had a team of about 70 ushers. I called the team together and said to them, “From this Saturday, I will start what I call a ‘training day’. Between the hours of 7am and 10am, everyone should come to church. We would have breakfast together and also equip ourselves. That was how it started. Shortly after, a group of youth started inviting me (for speaking engagements). I started going to the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State; University of Lagos, and the University of Ibadan with my wife. I started talking to them (students) about what to do and what not to do until 2008. Five years later, I went on a holiday with my family to the United States of America. While there, we attended a service of Bishop TD Jakes, where he preached about ‘rebounding from regret’, and the message was so impactful. When I returned from that trip, Pastor Tunde Bakare had a series which dwelt on the imprisonment of Joseph (in the Bible). What was most profound was that he singled me out and asked very salient questions on the first night (of the series). The pastor looked into my eyes and asked for my title. I said to myself, ‘But the pastor knows my title’. I was working with Cadbury at the time as a commercial director. Bakare then added, “It was a dream that got Joseph to prison and it was a dream that got him out. Don’t forget your dream’. At that point, everything came together. I went to him afterwards and told him there was something bothering me, as regards my life purpose.  He then gave me an assignment, and said I should think about my ‘3Fs and Ms’; rearrange them in order of priority and come back to him. I never did though because that was where I discovered it. It was about faith, family and finances (3Fs); and money, marriage and ministry (3 Ms). I started going back to my dream, and went back to the 2003 vision I had. I started playing it back in my mind. I knew how to set up an enterprise, but everything was blocked. My lawyers tried to register the organisation with the Corporate Affairs Commission from October to December, without success. All the names we picked were already in use. Then came January 3, 2009, I heard the name ‘Corporate Shepherds’ in my spirit. I called my lawyer, who then went to the CAC and the name was available.
What do you consider to be your major achievements at Coca-Cola, Samsung, Cadbury, and Guinness, while you worked in those companies?
At Guinness, when I was the market research manager, we did not have data on market share, so I got a driver, and we visited about 50 hotels, clubs, and cafes in Lagos. I told the barmen that at the end of each day, they should put the crowns of all the bottles consumed into a black bin. At the end of the week, the drivers would go and pick them up. Then, the cleaners in the office would help me count them. I then started putting together data and having a sense of what was being consumed and what our share of the market was. When my bosses found out, they encouraged me to take it further. That was a small innovation that became a huge drive in the industry.
Also, I was responsible for the launch of a lager, Satzenbrau, and it was a huge success, regardless of the pitfalls it encountered.

In Coca-Cola, the major highlight for me was the ‘relaunch’ of Fanta. Prior to that time, it was seen as a kids’ brand. When I became the brand manager of Fanta, we were able to successfully reposition the brand.
The second highlight was when I was managing Coke, and we were looking for how to restage and bring football to the firm. There used to be the ‘Challenge Cup’ many years ago, and I was privileged to lead the team that turned it around to become the FA cup, which drove (the growth) of many local (football) clubs.
While still with Coca-Cola, I was made the country manager in Kenya. I set up some media properties way back in 2000, and it was a platform I built in Kenya solely for the brand, and it was huge. Also, we set up a DJ academy in Kenya for Sprite for teens.  We put a sport into it that made it professional using the brand, Coca-Cola.
In Cadbury, I was also able to record some successes. I am glad to have been part of the efforts to get back the company back to life from the doldrums.
As regards Samsung, I brought a lot of my experience to bear and I am glad for the platform I was given. In the two and half years that I was there, the revenue of the company almost quadrupled. I met the company at a certain level, and I left it almost four times better.
You’ve worked in different big firms at top management levels. What informed your decision to leave at the times you did?
When I joined Guinness in 1991, I gave myself (a target of) five years to achieve certain things. But, by 1995, I had achieved all the goals and I had to recalibrate. I then told myself that in another three years, there were things I wanted to see. I had the goal that by the time I had spent 10 years in the company, I wanted to be one of the top 10 marketers in Africa.

When I left Guinness for Coca-Cola, my time was ripe because Coca-Cola created the platform that allowed me to oversee 39 markets at a very young age. That meant I was moving closer to my dream. While there, I wanted to be a general manager. However, Coca-Cola does not have general management. They operate a franchise model.
When the Cadbury opportunity came to turn the entity around, and become its general manager, I moved.
In Cadbury, I was very clear that I was there to turn things around and I was able to succeed by God’s grace.
It was not difficult to move to Samsung. Samsung was the only place I left based on personal values. Having said that, it was indeed a different world for me.
What advice do you have for young people?
I often tell them that their best of yesterday has gone, and today is a new day. They should not dwell in the past. The future holds much more. What the past gives you is confidence to be able to forge ahead. For a lot of my mentees, I drive the influence factor by probing them, aligning with them, raising them, and making sure I put the necessary ingredients into them. I tell them that it is okay to make mistakes. I am not perfect, and nobody is, but one must be disciplined. You need to be a good leader of yourself. If you are accountable to yourself or have an accountability partner, you gravitate towards become the leader of others.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) once said that Nigerian youths are lazy, and some people seem to agree with him. Do you share such sentiment?

It is a broad statement. However, I think what the president said was taken out of context. There are several contexts, the word, ‘lazy’ can be used. For example, if someone is said to be mentally lazy, it means the person does not devote time to study. Not many people like to study. When things are written, do people take the pains of going through it and come up with solutions?
On the other hand, if energy is not channeled in the right direction, there will be a counterforce in society. I think it is about balance really, and not a sweeping statement. There are some people that are unwilling to learn, and there are some that have energy and are using it well. There are some people that have energy but don’t channel it for useful purposes.
I think what is missing is that society lacks the capacity for the right models. Having good role models across various spectrums of society will get people (youths) to learn, and use their energy appropriately.
Above all, I won’t make the sweeping statement that they (Nigerian youths).

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement is discovering my life purpose as a trustee of posterity, and that flows into everything I do.
 What is the greatest challenge you have encountered?

The greatest challenge I had became my greatest opportunity. I come from Ikot Ekpene in Akwa Ibom, and we are a minority tribe. Many people seem to think that natives of Akwa Ibom are only good to be domestic servants. Even in Nollywood, have you ever seen an ‘Akpan’ being made a CEO? The mockery has gone on in different ways, but it seems to have subsided. Imagine being in a room of 100 people, and there are only one or two people from one’s part of the country. The fact that people saw one as being good for nothing was a challenge but it has now become an opportunity. I am using the opportunity to tell the world that though we were once mainly seen as domestic servants, we are now servant leaders. I have decided to be a master of the game, so I can stand boldly, and I always do that anywhere I go.
A lot of entrepreneurs are lamenting about the huge cost of doing business in the country. In what way do you think the government can intervene?
Ease of doing business is not only about registering businesses, but also creating accountable relationships. The ease of doing business has to do with going back to the roots. We are largely traditional, so (the government) should go back to the traditional landscape and build from within. Thankfully, technology allows one to fast-track the process. For example, instead of the poor in a place like Ikot Ekpene following politicians, they should be given arable lands for agriculture.
You published a book, ‘In the Grip of Grace’ in 2021. What level of acceptance did the book enjoy?
The acceptance was quite good. Writing that book was not necessarily for commercial gains. It was more like me giving a seed of confidence to any young person who has a destination in mind, and understands the paramount place of grace.
Some people feel the current system of government in the country is problematic, and does not reflect true federalism. What’s your take on that?
A system of government in place in any country is usually defined by the constitution. The fundamental thing is that the constitution needs to be remodelled. If it is not remodelled, the system of government can never change. It is an expensive venture. I like the fact that the Rivers State government is talking about collection of value added tax. But, did you notice how much resistance it is facing? A lot of Nigerians don’t think they should hold their state governors responsible for education. They are busy focusing on the federal government in Abuja. Primary healthcare should not be the responsibility of the federal government. But, do you know what is happening at the local government level? Consequence management is lacking, so there are no consequences for certain actions.

The level of insecurity in the country is alarming, and it is making a lot of people flee their homes. What approach do you think the government can use in handling the situation?
It is indeed unfortunate. However, it will be unfair to blame this current government. This started many years ago. We had been sleeping on duty as Nigerians. Before we start blaming anybody, let’s ask ourselves, was it possible 40 years ago that one would not know one’s neighbours. Today, many people don’t know their neighbours because it is everybody for himself. Traditional rulers also need to take their responsibilities more seriously. Their jobs is not just to curry favour from Abuja or their state governments. We need to start a ‘Know your neighbour and love your neighbour’ campaign. If every state does that, it will be easy to spot any foreign element.
How do you relax?
I hang out with my friends. Sometimes, I watch movies and football games.
What was growing up like for you?
It was awesome. I am a product of love. My parents are still alive and they were amazing. However, I spent more time with my maternal grandparents. My maternal grandfather loved me more than he loved himself, and my maternal grandmother was awesome as well. They showered me with so much love that I find it impossible to hate anyone. My dad was a tireless disciplinarian, and his voice alone was enough to put fear in one.
What is your favourite colour?

Anything that looks like blue.
What is your favourite food, and do you cook?
Fufu with afang soup is my favourite food. I can cook afang soup and stew.
How do you like to dress?
I like to dress simply and casually.
How did you meet your wife?
I met my wife in Lagos in September 1991. She was having her birthday party and I was invited by her friend who later became her (my wife’s) chief bridesmaid.

What attracted you to her?
I found her sense of organisation and accountability amazing. She singlehandedly managed the party, and everything was in order and well organised.
At what point did you propose to her and how did you do that?
I met her in September and proposed to her in December after I told my father I had seen my wife. On how I proposed, she had come to visit me, and I was eating fufu with afang soup. I just said to her, “O’babe , you are going to marry me.”
How do you spend quality time with her?
We have never had to stay in two separate rooms. We sometimes wake up in the wee hours and start gisting in bed for about two hours, and we cover so much. She makes me watch telenovelas as well.
Do you go on vacations together?

We usually plan our vacations together but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were not able to travel. But this year, we took a speed boat and spent some time on an island.
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