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How I started real estate business in school

Olatunbosun Okpeseyi the CEO of Lord Cowries Limited, is a certified auctioneer, real estate mogul and a practicing barrister who loves to keep himself busy doing something new. In this interview, he narrated how it all started in his university years.

So how did you start?

I started doing some of these things right from my university days. During our holidays, while others were relaxed, enjoying themselves or partying, I had a brother who had a flair for real estate, and so whenever I got back from school I would write letters, visit and inspect some of those and make my report, that’s how it started.

So, immediately after school, you embraced real estate management, was it the money from it that attracted you?

No, it wasn’t the money, it was more of something to do, it was more of breaking into new grounds, and also trying to be useful to a brother I admired.  You know it’s an opportunity to assist and be of great help to people. So I could say that I got into it by trying to be useful, and it’s actually helping me today.

When you eventually ventured into this, was there something you needed to acquire, like a property, huge amount of money or something else? 

Basically, then, I was more like an auxiliary staff. We had professionals within the system, who were trained to do the job, but then I wanted to support them in the office. So, I was reporting to professionals within the system, we had lawyers working with us, who I could learn a few things from. So before I had gone out of school I realized that I already had the training from these people but I still had to go back to school to do some professional courses so that I can be in a position where I can be able to handle the real estate facility management properly. I had to subscribe to a professional body and by extension, deal with real estate management.

How much did it cost you to do the professional course?

It didn’t cost me much, though I can’t remember precisely. But I know that for any professional body it wouldn’t really cost much. It’s been a long time now and wasn’t about the money, it was all about the quest for knowledge, to learn what it takes to be a good auctioneer but today I don’t regret it because I make more than I have invested.

Knowledge acquisition is an essential part of doing business?

Yes, for me nothing can be too small to learn and no amount is too much for knowledge. Our parents will always tell us that no matter what you do, acquiring knowledge gives you an edge. You know, we didn’t have any industry in Ondo State, I was born and raised in Owo in Ondo State and I know the only industry then was school and education, so that was the only thing I knew and that was the only way I could empower myself, since I didn’t have wealthy parents, but I had parents who had the right value to impart to us, to stand on our own and fend for ourselves with dignity.

It is said that most real estate moguls spend so much time in the night because that’s when they have quality time with their clients, how do you cope with that?

God made 24 hours in the day for us to be able to do what we need to do. So, as a young man, I think it depends on how you plan and manage your time. If seeing a client at night is what will make it work, I don’t think there is anything wrong if you create time for that, you don’t necessarily have to spend all night there, you can see some in the evening or even in the afternoon and some late in the night. It’s all about you being able to work out your time because you are there to serve the client and you must also be ready to program yourself in a way that you will be available when your client needs you. It is just about planning and arrangement, I really don’t think it is an issue.    

While you were working with your brother’s firm during the holidays, were you ever mocked or discouraged?

No, I didn’t really have too many friends then, so not any that I can remember. To me, it was about my life, my family, what I wanted to do and being useful. And of course, you will agree with me that it is better to find something doing and receive a pay later than to joke around. That also gave me the opportunity to enhance my skills and at the same time have something in my pocket, no matter how little. It was something I enjoyed, it didn’t disturb my social life though, I had my weekends when I go out, hang out with friends and so on. Business is also part of socializing.

What does it really take to be a real estate mogul?

I think real estate management is a very sensitive job because someone is entrusting assets into your care, and as such you owe that person a duty to take care of that property properly, because if you deal with it carelessly, you have betrayed the confidence reposed in you. So, I think it has to do with trust, capacity and also, not to forget, we are dealing with human beings, there are different kinds of characters, there are some tenants that if you should meet them, you would not want to go back to this job anymore, and there are still others that are wonderful, I’ve had tenants that today I manage their properties, and I’ve had tenants that, well, it wasn’t that interesting, there are some that, you will even lose business, because of their attitude, they make you look incompetent. And the law is straight and clear about some of these things; there is a way you can treat, eject tenants, you don’t go outside the law.

Why do you work so hard?

From creation, God created us to work hard, till the ground, so that we can put food on our table.  I think the essence of our existence is to aid activities, and if an activity is taken out of a man, I think he is a dead person. So working hard is natural to mankind, and it is for every ambitious mind, it is a value that you need to encourage and imbibe, because if you don’t take that in, you won’t have anything to pass on to your children, even if you make so much money and you don’t train your kids to be able to sustain it, that money will finish in no time. Working hard is something I picked up from my parents. If I could learn how to behave from them I should be able to learn how to work hard to ensure that I don’t go hungry. 

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