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My Journey So Far In Value Creation Consulting

Ikechukwu Kalu, if you have been around marketing circles, you will probably have come across my name.  I have occupied a couple of high profile roles and have been a part of the development of marketing, sales and customer value development in Nigeria. Having started my career in Guinness at the age of 18, worked through school and grown from grass to grace, I have come a long way in the world of business.  In the last two years, I have made the shift from just being a marketing professional to becoming a business coach and value creation consultant. It has been quite a journey, but how did it all begin?

Long story. I always saw myself as someone who will grow through the ladder of success. Yes, I started off as a production hand (minimum wage level) at Guinness in 1982 but rose up to the role of Marketing Director in a telecommunication company, Zantel Telecoms in Tanzania. By the way, Zantel is a part of Etisalat.  My stint in Zantel, though a short one, was very fulfilling and enriching. It was my first opportunity to manage a full marketing department and truly be responsible for brand equity and volume growth. I thought I indeed made a success of the role. When I left Zantel, I had two options – look for another international job or return to Nigeria to start something for myself. As usual, the later was a more difficult option because of the usual inertia that comes with making a decision of this nature. Remember, I had held good positons and earned good salaries. The fear of ‘will I make enough money to take care of things, in the face of growing personal and family needs that were staring at my face. I have a lovely wife and 4 teenage children in good schools.

So what did I do? I dusted my resume and attended a couple of interviews in Tanzania for both local and international jobs but never really got a good match. Just as I was getting a little frantic, I got a call from one of Tanzania’s astute businessmen, asking me to meet him at Southern Sun Hotel, Dar es Salaam for a business meeting with another big man. I don’t think I should mention names. The meeting was a good one. The brief was clear – we want to start and build a truly African brand. It sounded good to me. We agreed to go ahead. While they were to fund it, I would manage the startup and grow the business. I left the meeting happy and really grateful to God.
Guest what? There was no follow up to the discussion up till now – not a word from either of them. Interestingly, that was how the idea to start a truly African brand came to me. I thought to myself, Iyke you can build a profitable African brand. Two weeks after the meeting, I launched out, registered Customer Passion Point Limited (CPPL) in Tanzania and commenced business. Three months into starting CPPL, we won a pitch to develop and execute a 6 months customer engagement program to grow quality awareness and growth of low cost deposit for Ecobank, Tanzania. The promotion was called ‘Shinda Bab kubwa Na Ecobank’ meaning ‘Win Big with Ecobank’ promotion. It was successful and the bank adopted and syndicated it to all the markets where they do business.
 
Something strange happened. Two months into the promotion, one of the leading banks in Nigeria head hunted me and I could not resist the offer. This brought me back to Nigeria. It was a two year renewable contract. The job was good and I enjoyed it while it lasted. At the end of two and half years, I left the bank and was faced with yet the same two options – get another job or build my own business. This time, I decided to take the second option, build my own business. So, in January 2015, I joined Customer Passion Point Limited as the Chief Executive Officer / Lead Consultant. I just had to make that move.
 
I got to a point where I thought I could always get another job any day. However, I made a decision to take my career up on a new path, an interesting turn, moving from occupying a big role and a big office in a multinational corporation to creating and nurturing a business that will spearhead value creation consulting in Nigeria and Africa. Yes, the journey has started.
 
I left banking at a fairly senior role (Group Head / Vice President) at the end of 2014 to join my wife, Chinwe Kalu, to develop a firm a value creation consultants known as Customer Passion Point Limited. I am the Chief Executive Officer / Lead Consultant and play an active role in facilitating CPPL Training Programs.
Before I joined CPPL, my wife, Chinwe had been running the business, offering training programs one of which is the CPPL Monthly Training Program which is now in the 19th edition and have trained over 200 participants made up of business owners, sales, marketing and business development professionals from over 60 organizations. It has been very rewarding running these programs.
 
Early this year, I got the opportunity to join the Faculty of the School of Media & Communication, Pan Atlantic University taking the Masters Students on Experiential and Alternative Marketing. As you may know, rising cost of media advertising, sudden loss on control over traditional ad media by advertiser (zapping, fragmentation of specialized networks and magazines), dilution in control over messages and audiences, messages are not being heard and the convergence of communication and entertainment (blurring, removing the control of marketers) and information power shift to consumers is making brand managers look for better and more creative ways to promote, grow brand equity and stimulate brand adoption in a sustainable way. The university swiftly responded to this need by including the study of experiential and alternative marketing in the curriculum of the school. It has been fun lecturing and mentoring my students and there is no better way to create value than this.
 
However, this type of transition comes with lots of learnings. Some of them I would like to share below.
 
Lesson N0. 1. You are on your own. It is a bitter truth. Recall I have been a senior marketing and customer value development professional in Nigeria. I thought this professional pedigree would open doors for me everywhere I go. It just did not work that way. There are processes involved which must be followed and or adhered to. I now know that it just does not come cheap.
 
Lesson No. 2. I have to work hard to build a new profile for myself as a Value Creation Consultant. I must have a clear and compelling value proposition. Why is this so? People buy into value propositions. You must have some value that someone needs, for there to be a coming together. I recall an incident in Tanzania when I went to a media agency to discuss a couple of brand engagement ideas – 5 in number. The idea was to present a summary of each of the ideas and get input from my client and possibly narrow down to one or two that they might be interested in. To my surprise the young lady heading media at the agency stopped me one minute into the discussion to say that I was not ready for her. This is a lady who kept me waiting for over an hour before she could attend to me. Before I could ask her what should would have loved to see, she opened her laptop and starting running me through a marketing presentation for a music entertainment program – Bongo Star Search, the leading music entertainment property in Tanzania. Half way into the presentation she stopped and asked me if I understand the point she was trying to make. I humbly responded to her in the affirmative but requested her to quickly turn to the last slide. She obliged my request, turned to the last slide only to discover that the entire presentation was developed by me for the owners of the music property, having worked for them as a marketing consultant. She promptly apologized and immediately adjusted and gave me time to talk her through the ideas I brought. The point she wanted to make was that I should have developed the five ideas fully before coming to her and the presentation for the music property was an ideal one for her.
 
Lesson No. 3. Your juniors are now in charge and are the boss. They make the call and you must respect that. You may have to wait endlessly at times to get them to squeeze out time to attend to you. It is not personal. They have a lot on their table and you are just one of the appointments for the day. Not fun right? It’s the bitter truth and I am glad to learn it early in my new career. I recall one of my old colleagues that I brought up asking me to come and speak with one of her junior colleague. For a minute it sounded strange to me but that is the reality. It makes sense to speak with the right person on a role and not necessarily the boss. I went, met the officer I was asked to see and as I write this story, we are making good progress.
 
Lesson No. 4. You need lots of patience. I thought I was patient until I started off on my own. I discovered that I was far from being patient. I just expected people to relate with me the way I did with others when I had to make such calls but it just does not work like that.
 
The good thing about these lessons is that they are real. But more importantly, they are helping me get better at what I now do. I can’t believe the amount of patience I now have and it is opening doors for me. You need to see the kind of rapport that I have with my students? Very interesting.  I am indeed a better person now and these probably qualify me to function better as a value creation consultant. How can you create value if you are not a good listener? Business owners want to be heard and listened to. You have to patiently listen, process the information to develop insights upon which your interventions would be based on. I am indeed excited.
 
A Bit About Ikechukwu Kalu
 
Iyke is a visionary leader who inspires innovation and leadership to deliver sustainable value to stakeholders. He has a rich mix of competences and diverse experience in creating and sustaining value in various market segments spanning the Beverage, Telecommunications and Banking industries in West and East African markets.
 
He began his career with Guinness Nigeria Plc and worked in different capacities spanning Production, Human Resources, Internal Audit as well as Marketing. He joined MTN Nigeria as Trade Marketing Manager and grew very rapidly to hold senior positions including Head of Segments and Ag. General Manager (Consumer Markets), before joining Zain Nigeria (now known as Airtel) as Head of Churn and Retention, and later as Head of Segments.
 
He thereafter joined Zanzibar Telecommunications Limited – Zantel (a part of Etisalat) in Tanzania as Marketing Director and had a short stint at managing Customer Passion Point Limited in Tanzania before returning to Nigeria to join First City Monument Bank as Vice President/Group Head, Marketing & Communication, a job he held until very recently.
 
 As Chief Executive Officer and Lead Consultant at Customer Passion Point Limited (CPPL) he has designed and implemented a couple of very impactful business enhancement programs for SMEs and large corporates who do not have in-house capacity to development and implement some of the marketing / brand strategies. His ability to think value creation, manage people and maintain a good balance between strategy and execution make him stand out
 
Contact details:
ikechukwu.kalu@cppl.com.ng I ikechuk@gmail.com @ikechuk #ike_kalu
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ikechukwu.kalu.10 Skype: ike.kalu1
Tel: +234 803 200 2458, 701 196 2027, 909 113 5486

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