I STOLE MY FRIEND’s DAD BUSINESS- JUDE OKASILI (MULTI YORK CEO)
Jude Okasile is no doubt one of the nation’s prides in business. The quiet, easy going upwardly mobile dude whose watchword in life is humility is not just an ordinary businessman in an everyday term, his, is quality personified. Though very calm and determined, the shrewd industrialist of international repute is the CEO of Multiyork, a company which deals in top class furniture. In a rare chat, the handsome Igbo born man of style spoke extensively about life, family, growing up and how he started his soaring away furniture business which is a household name.
How did you discover your line of business?
Thank you so much for wanting to grant this interview, business was something that was in-born from childhood and I got the inspiration from a friend of mine’s dad who’s also into Furniture. I grew up with one of his sons in Benin. I remember when I was there and we used to go to his dad’s factory, I just loved everything the man was doing, he had style. I have a flair for craftsmanship even as a child so when I finished school I felt it’s going to be important if I can be able to work with my hands because I love to keep my hands very busy and that was how I started furniture and wood works. We started off very small and now thank God that the business is now big.
How old are you in the business?
We are Eight years and a couple of months.
Looking back to when you started would you say the business gave you what you’ve always bargained for?
Yes of course. The business has been wonderful although it has its challenges. The paramount of it is I find joy in what I do which is the whole idea behind it. I mean being able to do something that you’ll appreciate and also being able to do something that people will also appreciate. It gives me an internal joy and not just about the money.
How do you get your materials?
That’s one question a lot of people ask me. I do import materials; I import my woods.
Which country do you consider the best in terms of this?
I personally import from Spain and the reason is because there is a manufacturing factory for plywood which is one of the biggest manufacturing factories all over Europe. They have a range of different kind of woods and having done business with them for like five years now, I think I am comfortable with their materials.
What are the major challenges in the business?
The challenges most times have to do with human resources problem; I mean the people that work with me. It is not that they don’t know what they do but I have come to find out that they don’t have eyes for details most times. I have a supervisor who is meant to supervise things but I have come to realize that I most times do the supervision myself. Well it is unfortunate because it is not their dream. I have the dream, I have the vision and the vision and the dream is getting as close as perfection. For them they could have done something and feel oh it’s good enough and I will not see it that way which means they have to start all over again. So having to train people to think like you is a lot of challenge.
You have a success story today, was there a time you almost quit due to one financial constraint or the other?
Yes there were times that I got really so worked up that I just think the business is not worth the whole trouble and would even be thinking of closing it but by the time I go to sleep, the stress is down and I have a new feeling when I wake up the next day.
So what is the driving force?
I will say the vision. I want to be in the industry as many years as possible and it’s something I want to pass over to my children. And I want to live a household name.
You just mentioned household name; is Multi York a household name already?
I can’t really blow my own trumpet but all I can say is that we are not doing badly in the industry because what we do is mostly customized furniture. We’ve got recognitions from the likes of the Real Estate Development Association of Nigeria, from the Federal Government because they ran statistics on what we do here and want to bring some programmes for training of our staff. Also we have a lot of Real Estate bodies like UAC Property Development, Diamond Bank, Intercontinental Homes and Savings, Afri Bank Homes and Savings as clients. We have worked with Mobil, Emerald Estate and Protea which are till date our clients. I think we are making a big impact with the kind of clienteles we have considering the number of years we’ve spent in the industry. Like I always say, businesses fold up when people do not have a passion for what they do. When you have a passion for what you do, you must understand that there’s no smooth road to success. There are a lot of ups and downs; you even lost money in some contracts but you don’t quit because you have an inspiration of where you’re going to and as such should not be weighed down by losses and you have to be completely involved in what you’re doing. There are some furniture companies, they don’t really have passion for what they do and two, three years after the contracts, you’ll find out that they’ve already folded up because they are just after the money making. In our case we want to make people understand that you can have this quality of furniture locally made in Nigeria and can actually embrace it and be proud of it that you’re using furniture from Nigeria not just imported ones. In the real sense if you want to talk about the quality of the type of furniture we deliver here in terms of real wood; you’ll find out that we are very cheap. If you want to buy the type of furniture abroad especially in America or Europe, you’ll pay a fortune. What most people fail to understand is that they’ve not been able to differentiate the engineered material from the real timber material. So people would buy “ I just imported this from Dubai or China”. Most of them are not real furniture, they are not real timbers. I think we are relatively cheap for the quality of what we deliver and we are more interested in the details and I am quite happy. I remember when we went for an exhibition around December 2011; the sale was really tremendous. Not just the sales; we got a lot of compliments from people who were in the exhibition. A lot of people find it hard to believe that the furniture are made in Nigeria and that gave a special sense of joy that we are getting there. The truth is you can’t stop at that, you have to keep improving on the quality of what you’re doing as well as discovering new designs; you have to do extra works. I do a lot of study as well as attending international exhibitions all over the world to see life and style. I travel a lot and love to stay in hotels so I can have a feel of what I need to do to improve our quality.
You mentioned some big companies as your clients; how do you win these contracts or do you lobby?
To be very honest I will give God the glory. Because you need to be able to find the Grace of God in anything you do before putting your own effort. The truth is most of our clients are based on references from our previous jobs. One thing most people don’t understand is; it’s what you deliver that take you to places whether positively or otherwise. If you deliver good stuff it might not come today, but never mind somebody would soon come after you to say, we saw what you did somewhere and we are interested. Likewise if you do something that is not good, it is to your own detriment. What happen is that you have a bad name and then you don’t find business. When you have that in your mind, the quality of what you deliver will speak for itself. You might be selling yourself from even the smallest job that you do; it could even sell you to some places you never expect. I work for some top Government dignitaries personally, I won’t like to mention names and it was based on recommendations from even small jobs. You never know who is watching and who is who.
What’s your staff strength?
We’re fifty two in number right now. We have forty six factory workers and six people stay back in the office.
Where do you see your organization in the next few years?
I want it to become a household name. The dream is when you speak of quality furniture and good customized jobs, you talk of Multi York. We want to be the type that is very affordable. I tell some people that I don’t work for everybody not because I am not affordable but you need to be able to have style, and mind to be able to understand the quality of what we deliver. I can’t work for everybody. Like this Swedish furniture company, IKEA. It’s everywhere including the UK and all over Europe, I think it’s moved to the US now. The MD was one time world richest man about four years ago. What IKEA delivers is something that everybody can have but it’s actually engineered materials so it is easy for Europeans who can’t afford the cost of real timber. He sells a piece of dining for as low as hundred euro but be sure that in the next couple of months you might have to buy another one from the company. We are not trying to deliver that because Nigeria does not have maintenance culture. People build house in Nigeria and they don’t know that their homes need to be repainted after a couple of years, people just started understanding that when it’s the end of the year, they need to probably change one or two furniture in their home. People want to use furniture till the rest of time. You need to be able to deliver something that will be able to stand the test of time.
What’s your educational background like?
I attended Nana Primary School in Warri; I attended Egba grammar school in Benin. I also attended Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria where I read Economics. The course might have nothing to do with my present profession but it has helped me a lot in my accountability. In fact furniture work has a lot of calculation in terms of measurement and size as well as the quantity of materials you need for a particular job. I have also bagged double diploma in furniture and wood work in Scotland.
How do you find time to relax?
When I am less busy I go on vacation
Where is your favorite destination?
That’s Amsterdam. I also listen to lots of Reggae music.
Why Reggae music?
It’s a kind of music that is very inspirational; it’s a music that is very classic because it doesn’t go off the line. You can listen to a Bob Marley of 1982 and right now still dance to it. The music is very inspirational. I go for a lot of Reggae concert all over the world.
Have you been to Jamaica before?
Unfortunately no but I am planning to visit the country before the end of the year because I have a project that am looking forward to doing, that is Reggae related; so I intend visiting the country to meet with those that are already in the industry. I am also going to Holland because there they have more of Caribbean style, they have Arabians, St. Martens, Cape Verde and the rest. And because they are first from the Caribbean their favorite music is Reggae so there is a touch of Reggae music in Holland which is very high and that’s why Holland is the only major country in the world that you can smoke Indian hemp because it’ s legalized so it’s like a free ground .
Where are you from?
I am from Anambra State.
Where is your mum?
She’s aged but lives in Abuja.
So where are your siblings?
They are everywhere. We have five girls and a boy.
That means you must have been over pampered while growing up?
(Laughs) that is what most people say.
So how was growing up like?
It was great I must confess. I was quite independent because I did all my schooling as a border so it helped me develop myself early and made me take care of myself. I never lacked anything as a kid; I had everything at my beck and call.
Let’s talk about you wife and kid?
Yes I am married with a kid who’s just eight month and very active. I have been married for ten years. We had our first child who died two years ago at the age of eight and after she passed away we had another girl.
So sorry about that; but will it be right to assume she came back?
Hmm… I don’t know if she came back. I just think that God in His best feeling probably just brought a girl but thinking that she came back; I am not sure she came back because I don’t believe in superstition.
How would you describe your wife?
My wife is such a wonderful woman; she’s very interesting and she’s my best friend. I can also classify her as my loving sister and a mother. Been married to her for ten years, I have no regrets and we also dated for three years before marriage. She understands me so well and I also understand her. I think I respect the fact that she has a lot of respect for me. She is also a very fashionable person who is into the business as well. I am a family oriented person; this I took from my dad and was the way I was brought up. I emulate my dad positively and why I said so is because my dad had a drinking and smoking habits and those I didn’t pick from him. I don’t drink or smoke.
Thanks for your time
You are most welcome.