Around 2010, I left investment banking to run my family business. In the list of my regrets, that decision ranks at number 3. Part of the reason why I left was that the firm I was working for seemed to have no focus. While it was a big name in the industry, arguably one of the most successful boutique investment banks, it did not have a culture of discipline. So, not much got done. It collapsed in 2015. I also thought poorly of it because I had joined it from a younger firm which had been set up by one of its former employees. That firm was an amazing place. Focused and full of smart people. Leaving that firm is my second most regretted decision. Anyway, I practically failed at running the family business. The company came close to collapsing under my watch. Mostly because I am a bad manager. Anyway, in August 2020, I got a chance to return to investment banking. I was invited to head a firm that had been set up 3 years ago, and which had not really done anything since being set up. The outgoing Managing Director, who had worked in regret 3 (before I had joined), had supposedly been unable to close out on any transaction, nor had he been able to get new mandates.
I am excited about this chance. Part of the reason why I got the job is that people who had worked with me when I was still in the industry thought highly of my abilities and thus recommended me to this new place. This is buttressed by the fact that in the last 10 years, I had gotten other offers.
Why did I not leave the family business if I was so unhappy and unsuccessful? Mostly inertia. And an unwillingness to publicize my failure. And pride - the thought of going job hunting was discouraging. And a lack of confidence. My business failure made me doubt my abilities. While I was aware that I did not have the skills to run the business, I thought my intelligence (which everyone always commented since I was a kid) would enable me to pull through. So, I stayed. And under my watch, the company's assets shrank from N600 million (approximately $2 million) when I took over to less than a N300 million now. Given the decline in the value of the Naira against the USD, this is less than $1 million today. I am ashamed of my failure. While I made determined efforts to do well in my current business of trading in LPG, my repeated failure to make a profit steadily demoralized me. I, who had been used to an expensive lifestyle became a penny pincher, borrowing money from my company for everyday expenses. It sucked. And it sucked even more because my mates appeared successful.
Why did I leave my career to come back home? Filial duty. I am not an only child. Nor am I the eldest. But I appeared to be the most competent because I was the most successful academically and professionally. I honestly thought my professional success would transfer to business success. I also was under pressure from my parents. My father was in his 70s. He had built up his business from the ground up. I was supposed to improve on what he had done. I had some successes. We went international for a few years but pulled back because conditions worsened in the other country. I also succeeded in introducing a new business line which is now the mainstay of the firm. But as I said, I am not making profits. I could have handed over the business to someone else but there are no candidates. My brother is dishonest. Nobody trusts him. I did not think any of my sisters could handle the pressure of business in Nigeria. My general manager is competent. But Nigeria is such a messed up place that if I'd put him in charge, I would not be surprised if he begins to treat the company's money as his. Given that our courts barely function, I would not be able to get redress or him punished if or when he embezzles.
What is my plan now? I intend to lease out my assets. I will maintain my trading contracts though. I usually made money on those. When I start the new job, I intend to do a masters degree in monetary economics and a PhD in something similar. I want to have those degrees because I want to be the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. I can have such aspirations now because the people I will be working with now are already in the circle of the rich and powerful.
I am hopeful.