Interview by Visual Collaborative
July 2019 7 min read
Adegbe Ogbeh is an executive in the hospitality industry. He is the Chief Executive of Lounge One, working in both the public and private sector in and around the city of Abuja. As a special feature in our “Vivencias” interview series, Adegbe shares his wealth of experiences as a business entrepreneur, forthcoming projects and pragmatic advice to a younger generation.
(VC) In enterprise and commerce within the hospitality industry, you have an impressive portfolio of businesses. Did this happen organically or it is part of a larger career plan?
(Adegbe) The process was organic to be perfectly honest even if I achieved some clarity after the 3rd airport location. As with most things once i got on this path then the larger career plan took shape and i got a sense of a much more natural business fit for me.
(VC) Abuja has its own laid back flow to it. How does an energetic leader like yourself fit into a momentum like that. Have you always lived in the city of Abuja?
(Adegbe) Absolutely Abuja is a much more relaxed city as the capital of Nigeria and is actually one of a few planned cities in the world (similar to Milton Keynes in the United Kingdom). As a predominantly government town it certainly doesn’t have the vibrancy of the old capital Lagos but I’ve been lucky to develop an extensive social network so this plays very well for every aspect of my existence. I find that entrepreneurs create heir own energy regardless of environment. Often times the sheer challenge of creating something out of nothing is its own momentum. I have lived between 3 cities from childhood and been in Abuja since 1994 so i know the city and the city knows me.
So understand that there will be failure and that the road is long and hard but if you are able to adapt and learn sometimes deviating completely from where you started; then you will succeed.
(VC) You have served in the role of Chief Executive numerous of times developing processes for products and services. what can you candidly tell aspiring young entrepreneur about success and risk in business?
(Adegbe) That theres nothing to do but do it. The true test of any service or product is the marketplace. It seems simple enough but you have to get your feet wet to learn. All the business plans in the world and focus groups will never truly determine the value (or not) of your product. One of the great myths is that we should follow our passion. Having worked for myself since 26 I can categorically tell you not to! Follow profit! There is a great deal of pain in entrepreneurship and most people are not built for it. Your work becomes your life and the failures that you will inevitably encounter are not easy to recover from . There is no playbook and very little training for entrepreneurs. A lot of this is instinctive and very expensive relative to your start up funds. Understand that many businesses fail even with the best intentions and that your first business is unlikely to survive. These are just harsh realities that very few people understand or are able to deal with.
That said ; the reward for successful ventures surpasses even the profit. To create something where there was nothing and have the market reward you financially for it is a feeling like no other. So understand that there will be failure and that the road is long and hard but if you are able to adapt and learn sometimes deviating completely from where you started; then you will succeed.
(VC) Your female counterparts in your industry advocating for equality, talk misogyny dominating the space. Does this fact get understated or its all part of the package of the commerce environment?
(Adegbe) This is a very real situation and especially prevalent in developing countries. We mentally ascribe certain roles to the sexes without asking why. Misogyny is very real. The only positive is that we are currently having the conversation about glass ceilings and understanding that true equality will require all of us to shatter our thinking and re educate ourselves. The only barriers should be ability and the willingness to work and not our gender. Commerce is difficult enough without the added burden of inequality and I am extremely proud to have a work force thats 80% female especially in senior managerial positions.
(VC) ) According to some technology media coverage the ecosystem in Nigeria is shaping up at a good pace. Is it all hype or you would say this is an actuality?
(Adegbe) Yes and no. There is certainly a powerful and vibrant youth population that adapts quickly and is often on the edge of information but we currently have a serious challenge with education and employment with the added burden of a very deficient power sector. The challenges are very real and theres no way to sugar coat it. That said; we are an extremely ambitious and driven people so the narrative certainly has some truth. The Nigerian will find water in the desert and once we’ve had a drink we will will find a way to bottle and sell that water! The combination of 20 years of uninterrupted democracy, technology, social media, mobile phone penetration and the internet has opened doors, this simply did not exist 2 decades ago. So we are well on our way even if the road ahead is long.
(VC) In your quiet or noisy moments how do you get inspired? What makes you be of service the way you do. Do you seek religion or get psychological like others in your vibrant industry for inspiration?
(Adegbe) Thats a truly interesting question. In all honesty I’d have to say the noisy moments feed the quiet ones. I am constantly taking in information and I’m not sure theres anyone I know who uses Google as often and as frequently as I do. I feed my mind in every single way that I can from extensive conversations, to books and of course the never ending internet. My personal belief is that all knowledge is profitable to adapt and so my mind filters all the noisy moments and then the parts that matter to me filter through in my quiet moments and I achieve clarity. I also believe that no product or service is perfect so you must consistently seek improvement for yourself and your clients.
Adegbe and Wife, photo courtesy of Ogbeh family.
I am very inspired by what I see. All around us people are creating new things every day or adapting old ones in a world thats changing at dizzying speed and at the heart of the hospitality industry is service followed strongly by innovation. I believe strongly that not just for my industry but every entrepreneur; physical exercise is critical. When we stress our bodies we are drawn closer to the concept of effort and reward. Hard work is very clear when you’re in your local gym and sweating thoroughly.
I am extremely excited to see what we are able to do with PAPER our new restaurant bar launching in September 2019. No matter how well you plan theres nothing quite like actually living that plan and seeing it come to life before your eyes
(VC) Some mention the renaissance as an art period they admire. If you can time warp back to any era what time would it be and why?
(Adegbe) Probably I’d like to go back 20 years to a younger more fearless me! I’m not nostalgic for any particular time period because the best time is the one you’re in. I’d like to go back for the simple reason I have knowledge of how the future will shape up. 20 years ago I had no understanding of just how extensively the hospitality sector would develop or how much of an appetite Nigerians would have for entertainment in all its forms. My foray into technology and my exit from it was certainly exciting but knowing what I know now I would certainly like to go back and start differently.
Picture of Adegbe Ogbeh.
(VC) What kind of work can the world expect from Adegbe Ogbeh within the next 36 months?
(Adegbe) Our airport expansion programme continues into 2021 as we deviate slightly from just business lounges into airport pharmacies and who knows what else! We are very focused on consolidation through partnerships so maximize value at our locations and continue to refresh the offering. I am extremely excited to see what we are able to do with PAPER our new restaurant bar launching in September 2019. No matter how well you plan theres nothing quite like actually living that plan and seeing it come to life before your eyes.