Why construction firms prefer foreign artisans — Ogunwunmi

Mrs Lola Ogunwunmi is the CEO of Ramvic Trendy Services, a company that handles projects in furniture and interior design. In this interview with PAUL OMOROGBE, she speaks on how she handled challenges in the business including getting the best out of artisans engaged by her.


How did you get into this business?

I first started this business about 16 years ago in Lagos. It was after my BSc programme. I had to stay at home for a year because of a competition in my department in school. In the process, I had to work in a furniture company as the office manager. I remember that the site manager left without notice and there was a project going on at a site. So I had to take it upon myself to go to the site and supervise, and that was how the interest in the business began.

A year later, I opened my own company, Ramvic. This was two months before going for my NYSC. Along the line, I decided to go into banking, but I have always had passion for this business.

While I was in the banking industry, I started helping people with their interior decoration – the colour combinations, choice of furniture and all that. I just did it at leisure time. Then I began to look more at the commercial side.


What were the challenges you saw when getting started?

Firstly, I was still in the banking industry. I had targets. In everything I do, I plan. I had people running the business for me while in the bank. I had managers and artisans working for me. But the timing was an issue. I did not have any free time for myself. I had to work on Sundays. Those were my challenges and not the business. I could not do full monitoring. Immediately I resigned from the bank, I really had the time – I got better hands. I had an office team, a management team, you need artisans – so its team work. I may be the managing director and creative person, but you need the account, project supervisor, architects, and artisans; so it’s a team work.

Another challenge we had is that some of our artisans in Nigeria are not ready to do this work. Sometimes we have to make do with people from Benin Republic. After giving Nigerian artisans the design and everything they mess up, so we had to bring in good hands. This is a very competitive business, so you have to use the best hands. And for us to have the best hands we had to make do with people from outside Nigeria.


Why does this general problem with Nigerian artisans exist?

My observation so far is this:  I am not going to say that Nigerian youths are lazy, but they want quick money. They don’t really want to stress themselves before getting money. Maybe it is because they see their mates doing some wrong kind of business but they are getting money out of it. They also want that kind of money. Everything is all about materialism. People are not really interested in sweating to earn their living.


As a woman, how has it been working in this field, getting jobs and managing your workers?

I don’t have any problems dealing with my staff or working with artisans. This is something I have a crazy passion for. Don’t forget I was a bank manager before, so I have learnt the ropes in dealing with different kinds of people. The last branch I managed had 92 staff so I don’t have issues dealing with people. There are different people with different challenges, but as a good manager you should be able to manage with each and every person, especially your artisans.


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