Sola Adesakin, a personal finance coach, is the Chief Executive Officer of Smart Stewards. She tells OLAJIDE SAMUEL about the importance of financial literacy for Nigerians
What can you tell us about your childhood and education?
I loved commercial subjects (such as Commerce and Financial Accounting) while I was in secondary school. When my mother discovered my knack for figures, she got me forms for the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, seven years before I was even ready to write the examination. So, I qualified as a member of ICAN about 20 years ago. I am also a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants of the United Kingdom and a Member of the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada. In addition to that, I have an Master’s of Business Administration degree from the Edinburgh Business School of Heriot-Watt University, United Kingdom.
What led you to becoming a financial literacy coach?
My experience with money was a major factor in deciding to teach financial literacy to others. After I left school and became a Chartered Accountant, I still had a lot of struggles managing my personal finances, though I was earning very well. In spite of that, I was always broke. I made a lot of wrong money decisions and had to bear the consequences. Then, it became clear to me that the formal education system does not equip one with what it takes to manage and multiply money. Financial literacy isn’t acquired merely by attending school. Winning with one’s money is a different ball game entirely.
However, the good thing is that it is achievable. It takes personal responsibility and people need to come to this realisation early in their lives.
That is why I embarked on this journey of helping people understand what it takes to make, manage and multiply money.
How important is financial literacy to enterprise development?
Financial literacy at an individual level gives one the knowledge and skills to maximise one’s financial resources. When individuals who have a hang of their own finances run an enterprise, the result would be an enterprise that thrives in the face of limited or non-existent resources. Financial management skills are a major determinant of the success or otherwise of an enterprise.
Your profile says that you ‘bring people into the exponential abundance God has ordained.’ How do you do that?
I am a person of faith and I believe that the promises of God, laid out for us in the Bible, are very valid. They help us live successful and abundant lives. The Bible provides a lot of interesting stories about money management and business that we can learn from. I live by those principles, teach them to clients and these principles continue to work for us.
What are some of the mistakes entrepreneurs make when starting new business ventures?
One of those mistakes is a refusal to separate personal finances from their business’ finances. Other mistakes are not prioritising record-keeping, either due to ignorance or laziness; a short-term view and plan for long-term issues; and an aversion or inadequate exploitation of the tool of this age— technology.
Some people have said it is wrong to borrow to start a business and that prospective business owners should use their own money. What’s your take on that?
I usually discuss alternative ways of raising finance that business owners could consider before settling for loans. Borrowing money comes with a lot of responsibilities. In the event that one’s plans do not go as expected (which is not unusual in an environment like ours), the responsibilities that come with borrowing might become daunting. In the end, one could get distracted from the business concern that necessitated the loan, in a bid to meet up with one’s obligations.
Before opting for loans from financial institutions and other such platforms, one should consider approaching family and friends for support. If one has a good measure of credibility with them, this shouldn’t be a problem. Every prospective business owner should have personal savings too, as that demonstrates their personal commitment to the success of the business. Also, angel investors could come in handy as the business grows.
How would you assess the financially literacy of the average Nigerian?
As with every field of endeavor, there is room for improvement. The (Nigerian) personal finance experts who began teaching actively in the 2010s have done a lot of work. Still, there remains a lot to be done. The Central Bank of Nigeria’s Financial Literacy Baseline Survey Report in 2015 reveals some key factors about the level of financial illiteracy in Nigeria. It was reported that financial illiteracy stands at 31.1 per cent in urban areas, while it is 68.5 per cent in rural areas.
Financial illiteracy among men in urban areas is 48.5 per cent, while it is 50.3 per cent in rural areas. If the men who ordinarily should lead their families in the direction of financial literacy are not participating actively or at all in the Nigerian financial system, then we have a lot of work on our hands.
There are a lot of job seekers in the country but limited jobs. What do you think is the way out?
The solution to the problem of unemployment and underemployment is two-pronged. We need to equip people for the jobs available as well as empower more people to be job-creators rather than job-seekers.
If one listens to people who run businesses, the conversation is usually about high employee turnover or unemployable job applicants.
We need to equip people long before they become job seekers to devote themselves to creating jobs. When this empowered rather than helpless mindset is in place, even those who end up working with existing businesses would thrive because they bring an entrepreneurial and creative disposition to their assigned roles.
What are some of the hard lessons you’ve learnt as an entrepreneur and employer?
My perception of life is that mistakes and hard lessons help us get better. If one keeps making the same mistakes time and again, then it means one is not learning the lessons yet. One important lesson I have learnt is to always do one’s due diligence and make sure one’s documentation is top notch.
Also, expectations should be well spelled out— both with employees and clients. It is important to save for the rainy day as well. One should learn to diversify one’s business income. One should not just rely on one source of income.
How important is personal development to success?
My approach to personal development is encapsulated in a statement made by Og Mandino (the late American author). He said, “In order to be knowledgeable in these changing times, we must pursue a constant programme of self-improvement, a never-ending journey into new fields of knowledge and learning”. The bottom line is that one has to always keep learning and growing.
What’s your advice to people who prefer white collar jobs to establishing their own business?
Life is in season, and circumstances constantly change. I like the book titled, Cashflow Quadrant, written by American businessman and author, Robert Kiyosaki, in which he taught about the four quadrants of cash flow— as an employee, self-employed, business owner and investor. We have seen people who juggle all four at different levels and do it well. So, we know it is possible. Being an employee or business owner have their peculiar risks and benefits. Therefore, each person should know what works best for them. One can have a job and a side business too. One can own a business and be on the payroll of another company as a consultant. The times have changed and the popular mode of work has changed tremendously in recent times. If one is open-minded, one would attract more money-making opportunities to oneself.
What do you regard as the highlight of your career as a financial freedom expert?
The highlight of my career began about two years ago and I didn’t even begin to come to terms with it until recently. It was the setup of the Smart Investment Club. With many Africans seeking to put their financial literacy learning into practice, the call was made to provide them a safe, easily-understood and affordable way of multiplying their money. Many also wanted to invest outside the shores of their country of residence. So, we set up the Smart Investment Club to cater to this need. Thinking back now, that was a major feat as it empowered many first-time domestic and foreign investors to maximise their existing resources and seek to earn more. Catalysing this process is something I find very fulfilling.
Do you think financial and prosperity sermons should be taught in religious organisations?
Rarely would a good parent send their child on a mission without providing them the resources needed to deliver excellently. If God is our Father and has placed us on earth with a clear mission, then He must have made provisions for our success, too. These provisions are what religious organisations are meant to help people discover. And, many do this already.
Some religious organisations, though, need to move from pointing out God’s provisions to teaching adherents how to access those provisions. If this doesn’t happen, the frustration of the people may actually increase rather than reduce, from knowing what is available but not how to access them.
So, yes, I believe that both the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of financial prosperity should be taught by religious organisations who usually have the ears of the people. This knowledge, if leveraged, will lead to greater economic and human advancement.
What advice has been most nstrumental to your career and who gave it?
“Income is important, but impact and influence are also important. They attract more income”. I learnt that from my business coach and that informs a lot of the strategies I deploy in business.
What tips would you give to someone who wants to increase their income?
Get familiar with your current figures— income and expenditure. Identify areas in which you can cut down on your spending. Identify how much more money you need to make on a monthly basis.
Next, invest in personal development. Learn new, applicable skills. Identify gaps in the community and provide products or services that seek to close such gaps. Monetise your gifts and talents. Set up systems that make it easy for you to be paid.
You should also explore companies in which you can become an affiliate marketer, advertising their products to those within your networks. See every income as a seed to be planted for an even greater harvest. Be open to partnerships and collaborations.
How do you unwind?
I love good movies. I love to have fun with my family and close friends.
Would you call yourself a fashionista?
Yes, I would. Looking good is a critical factor in how one is accepted. The messenger is as important as the message, just as the packaging is as important as the product.
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