Take a break from work; grab a drink, or a snack. And indulge.
Chinonso Ogbogu is the founder of SM Learning Development, a company that provides individuals and organizations with the tools, strategies, and solutions they require to create the lives and the results they desire and deserve.
Entrepreneurs, business owners, undergraduates, young Africans; there is something for everyone in this candid and in depth interview.
His motivation: the need to step out on his own, push through challenges, and create something enduring that will add tremendous value to the lives of others, and create true wealth in the process.
Chinonso Ogbogu is his name: building businesses is his game.
KA: Chinonso Ogbogu is…
Chinonso Ogbogu is a Nigerian, from Enugu State, South-east Nigeria; born into the family of Mr. & Mrs. Marcellus and Anthonia Ogbogu. I enjoy reading, thinking, and exchanging knowledge with people, watching good movies, exploring new ideas, listening to stories, and sharing jokes with friends.
I have had my own share of life’s mistakes, but I keep learning and growing all the way. I strongly believe I am here on planet earth for a unique purpose, and I strive each day to live it and make the most of the resources given to me by my Maker.
KA: The SM Learning Development Company is your Baby. Why did you set up this company?
Calling SM Learning Development ‘my baby’ sounds hyperbolic in a dramatic way. (Laughing) Nevertheless, I think I can relate with what you mean.
I am deeply passionate about helping individuals, organizations, and communities stretch to their full potentials and achieve exceptional results. This plays out in my continued keen interest in the whole philosophy, principles, and practise of how to alter and fast track the quality of people’s lives and their organizations, using learning development as a tool.
Obviously, the knowledge and learning development space in Nigeria and, at large, Africa is chiefly under-cultivated, too conventional, and mostly disconnected from on-ground needed transformation.
So let’s simply say, apart from being my core passion, I set up SM Learning Development to help provide individuals and organizations with tools, insights, strategies, and solutions they can immediately apply in order to create the lives and the results they desire and deserve. I use SM Learning Development as an integrated learning solution to bridge the gap between knowledge and the needs to fast track the growth of individuals, their organizations, and their communities.
KA: In an era where many graduates are focused on paid-employment, why did you choose self-employment?
The subject of entrepreneurship has always fascinated me. Being able to step out on my own, push through challenges, and create something enduring that would add tremendous value to the lives of those around me and create true wealth in the process is what I cherish. In addition, choosing self-employment as against paid-employment affords me the wider pool of opportunity to live my passion and express more of my innate potentials.
Now, let me quickly add; the choice of self-employment against paid-employment, for me, is not an escape from unemployment. No. No. No. It is a decision I made because that is where my passion was and I want to spend my life doing it and making a difference.
KA: What is your inspiration? What keeps you going?
Simply my sense of purpose and my continued desire to challenge myself to new heights and learn new things. As to what keeps me going, I would say the grace of God, the need to influence the quality of people’s lives, and then my strong sense of personal responsibility.
KA: What is the biggest challenge you have faced since you ventured into the world of business and how did you overcome it?
My philosophy is that I have always seen business as the progressive resolving of problems and maximization of opportunities. Of course, typical of most businesses, particularly in Africa, is the recurring issue of funding. I have had my own share of such challenges and trust me, it can be nerve-wracking. However, I would also add that the challenges of trying to build a viable and profitable business system and create a professional business culture are issues I have also faced and keep facing.
Nevertheless, thank God that sticking to my dream and learning all the way has helped me to address these challenges as they come. Another thing I do in my business to overcome challenges is that I try to network, study, model, and benchmark those ahead of me in order to learn new things from them that would help me grow, adjust, and improve. I also invest quality time in reading biographies and worthy materials that will provide me with new insights into how to make my business better. I also read case studies of various businesses and attend trainings to improve my business knowledge and skills.
KA: What is the biggest lesson you have learnt in the world of business?
I have learnt so many! [Smiles] My business journey has taught me so many vital lessons at different stages; and I would say that the last lesson I learnt is as critical as the one before it.
To summarize, I would say my business journey has taught me four vital lessons:
The importance of delivering endless Value;
The value of Relationships;
The edge of Speed;
The power of Consistency.
KA: From your experience, what is the singular biggest mistake made by startups in Africa, and how can it be avoided?
One major mistake is the inability to strike a good balance between their business ideal and their business reality in order to ensure traction.
Usually, young people are so distracted by the beauty of a business idea that we fail to roll up our sleeves and do the real work involved and factor in the on-ground elements required to turn our idea into concrete reality. I am not saying that reality should define or decide our ability to dream as young people. No. Rather, I think reality is there to help us gain awareness and such awareness offers opportunity for us to prepare and fortify ourselves for struggles and success ahead.
KA: What advice do you have for people who are interested in setting up Learning Development companies?
One, commitment to continuous learning.
Two, you need to define what subject area of Learning Development you want to focus on. Learning Development is wide, dealing in diverse knowledge spheres of life. Define your focus and then choose to make it your forte.
Three, you need to know and understand who you want to serve in the marketplace. Who are your customers or audience? Who needs your learning solutions? Your knowledge of your customers will influence a whole lot, including your business strategy and marketing approach.
Four, you must build relationships with the people ahead of you in the industry and learn what they know.
KA: Where do you see SM Learning Development Company 5 Years from now?
SM Learning Development is going to morph into a Group with at least five different subsidiaries doing business independently, though committed to advancing the Learning Development and Knowledge Management space in Nigeria and Africa. We understand how enormous the task before us is, but that makes it more exciting. We are growing; we are learning all the way; and we are committed to this mission.
KA: Advice for young people seeking to turn their hobbies into viable businesses
First, locate someone that has built a business out of that same or similar passion and try to study and model him or her.
I also believe that the business angle and economies of one’s passion can be learned through reading of relevant materials, attending of seminars, and networking. However, some business knowledge cannot be acquired by just reading or attending seminars. You just have to roll up your sleeves, get into the field, and start doing something. Even when you make mistakes, I believe such mistakes provide a great window for learning as you continue to move ahead.
KA: Inspiration and synopsis of your book, ‘The Voices’
The inspiration to write ‘THE VOICES’ came from two interrelated sources. One, is my sense of purpose. Finding purpose and the desire to fulfil it was a strong source of inspiration for THE VOICES. Two, is the growing number of failing and weak businesses. To address this growing problem, I came up with a solution in form of a literary publication called: ‘THE VOICES’.
THE VOICES is a must-read for every aspiring, young, and growing entrepreneur who desires to grow their business the right way. Filled with fresh ideas, instructive illustrations, inspiring anecdotes, and growth concepts, THE VOICES is designed to inspire and educate business owners on how to build and manage a successful business. Written in simple, practicable, conversational style, this book is so easy to read, but very hard to let go!
KA: Podcasting is one way to share ideas and you have a series of highly inspirational podcasts on your website. What does anyone need to have a radio show (podcast)?
The following are fundamental and non-technical: 1.You need to have an appealing message and know whom this message is designed for; 2. You must have a passion for what you want to do through radio; 3. You must be willing to learn. 4. You must own your message. 5. You must be ready to give quality time to developing content. 6. You must be creative in your approach. 7. You got to have a business plan for the program.
KA: You have a unique online TV production billed to premiere soon. Give us a sneak preview.
It is called the CHAMPIONS FORUM, and it is an episodic online empowerment TV production where we showcase, interview, learn from, and discuss with real successful people who have defied the odds and paid their dues to triumph in life. The whole idea of this online TV program is to inspire and instruct our viewers to be the best they can be and live a life of positive values.
We are just starting out, and hope to work with individuals and organizations to advance this project, and we look forward to making tremendous difference with it.
KA: How has social media helped you in propagating the work you do?
Social media has helped me in getting my message and brand out there. When I started out, I was not knowledgeable about using social media. However, I have grown to adapt it to my business. I have used it to promote my events, trainings, and many of my publications. I have used it to merchandize some of my books and eBook. More importantly, I have used social media to engage with my customers, alumni, audience, and prospects.
KA: Any mentors?
Yeah, I have mentors and they have been of real support and inspiration to my journey so far. I will forever be grateful to them, and I do hope they are proud of whom I am becoming.
KA: Africa will rise when…
Africans make a decision to make it rise and then move to take consistent actions, no matter how tough it seems, to turn this decision into concrete reality. Check the records. Nations are built by visions and responsibility, and that is what I stand for.
I personally believe that African youths have a critical role to play in the positive transformation of the continent, and I am glad there are youths spread across the continent who are making incredible impact in their respective endeavours.
KA: What is that one thing you would like every African youth to know? Inspire a young African in a sentence
To the African youth I want say, there is no better time to be born than now. The opportunities before you to live your dreams are enormous, and so are the challenges. However, you have the power to choose whether you would allow the challenges to hold you back and dampen your spirit, or you would allow the enormous opportunities to inspire you to keep pressing forward.
Keep fighting for your dreams. Pursue your passion and do not allow your current realities define your ability to dream big and stay dedicated. Maybe sooner than you thought, the world will gather to celebrate your victory.
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