success principles of Austin Okere, CEO of Computer Warehouse Group
The height attained by Austin Okere, founder and CEO of Computer Warehouse Group (CWG Plc), is the dream of many young people across the globe. Okere, whose company is today the largest security in the ICT sector of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, has moved from being a salesman to sitting atop a multibillion naira group. He is a member of the World Economic Forum Business Council on Innovation and Intrapreneurship. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Directors of Nigeria, as well as a Fellow of the Nigerian Computer Society (NCS). He is currently on the board of the National Competiveness Council of Nigeria and Initiative for Global Development, a Washington-based not for profit organization that drives poverty reduction by catalyzing business growth and investment in the developing world. He also serves as a member of the Advisory Council of the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON).
As a child, Okere’s dream was to become a priest. As a secondary school student, his aspiration was to become a physician. When he missed the opportunity to get admitted to study medicine, he was offered a space in the Faculty of Agriculture. With below the bar performance in Agriculture, he was pushed to the new department of Computer Science, which he eventually studied.
How did this man whose early life was anything but inspiring grow to become the inspiration of millions across the continents?
An eye for opportunities
Shortly after graduating from the University of Lagos and completing his compulsory youth service, Mr Austin Okere joined the sales team of an ICT company. While at this company, he noticed a gap in the company’s service delivery to customers. This got him thinking. He knew that the company could do much more than it was doing. After making his observation known to the leadership of his organization with nothing concrete being done in that respect, he resolved to do something about it. That was how the Computer Warehouse Limited was conceived.
One feature that distinguishes entrepreneurs from others is their willingness to stake their comfort for their dreams. After discovering the opportunity in the industry where he was operating, he did not just sit down and fold his arms, he decided to seize the opportunity. That meant he had to leave the security of his job and moved into the world of uncertainties. In addition to that, he still had to raise funds because he did not have enough to start the business. At the end of the day, he was able to raise about $16,000 from personal savings, family and friends. After raising the fund, he resigned his appointment and started Computer Warehouse Limited in 1992.
Continuous reinventing of the business
It was not too difficult for Okere to make a headway in business because he was focused. At the onset, he went into product marketing, which was the gap he had noticed, this necessitated going into partnership with Dell Computers. The partnership worked very well. But as a result of interaction with customers, he realized that there was a gap in the area of communication and software products. With that, he set up the DCC Networks, which handles communication equipment marketing for the company. Later he acquired ExpertEdge, which markets software products. The CWL Systems handles data centre servers, storage, desktops, notebooks, ATMs and other hardware related solutions.
The company was later renamed Computer Warehouse Group to accommodate all the subsidiaries.
The secret of the continuous relevance of Austin Okere’s company is the consistent reinventing of the company to satisfy customers’ demand.
John Maxwell says that one is too small to be great. This fact seems to be well-known by Okere who started his company by building networks across strata. He relied on his network to raise the money needed for the takeoff of his business. His networking with Dell Computers is partly responsible for the early success recorded by his company as it gave the company the rating of an international organization. But he did not stop at that point, he also networked with other international companies such as IBM, Oracle, CISCO, Infosys and EMC. This has impacted positively on the fortune of the company. Even locally, Okere also networked with many individuals and organizations, the result of which is the solid company he has built.
Principles are not person-specific. If these principles took Austin Okere to the acme of his career, they will take whoever applies them to the height of their dreams.
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