Ikechukwu Kalu is the chief executive officer/lead consultant of Customer Passion Point Limited. He was the Vice President/Group Head of Marketing & Communications of one of Nigeria’s leading financial institutions, First City Monument Bank (FCMB).
He began his career with Guinness Nigeria Plc and worked in different capacities spanning Production, Human Resources, Internal Audit as well as Marketing.
He is a Chartered Marketer and member of the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria (MNIMN) and Chartered Institute of Marketing (MCIM), London. He is an alumnus of the revered Harvard Business School as well as Lagos Business School.
In this interview he spoke to peter ugwu he disclosed why he really wanted to be known for value creation consulting which is mainly about business marketing.
Leaving FCMB for Customer Passion Point Limited
Yes. It’s a great job I enjoyed while it lasted. As you may remember, I was head hunted and recruited all the way from Tanzania where I had just ended an expatriate contract as Marketing Director for Zanzibar Telecoms (Zantel Limited), a part of Etisalat.
I had a two year contract with FCMB which ended in August 2014 but we agreed to extend it to December 2014, a period we thought was adequate to get the team fit into a new structure which was intended to align the activities of marketing and the retail banking group in the bank’s quest to build a viable / profitable retail franchise.
The Concept of CPPL
Customer Passion Point Limited is a value creation firm that is positioned to support p small, growing and medium size organisations to create stakeholder value through consumer insights.
This we do through business marketing consulting and training / development.
We sit with SMEs and Entrepreneurs to understand their issues and develop appropriate solutions to solve the issues. We also serve large organisations that may not have the capacity in house to implement their strategies.
Ever Envisaged Leaving FCMB?
Yes I did know that I was going to leave FCMB at the end of the 2 year contract but I must confess that I expected that the contract would be renewed for another 2 years as I didn’t think the initial 2 years was adequate to midwife the new marketing that I set up.
Looking back now, I see why it was important for the team to work their way around the new structure and evolve organically. I always knew I will go back to working at CPPL because it was borne out of a vision to support small and growing businesses that definitely would not have the capacity for strategy and implementation and would require the services of consultants.
How did it start? It was in 2010 when I was leaving Zain (now Airtel, Nigeria) to travel to Tanzania to take up an expatriate job as Marketing Director when it the idea of setting up Customer Passion Point Limited (CPPL) occurred to my wife and I and we went for it and offered some shares to a friend who was also to run the company while we are away but it didn’t really worked.
The registration was completed but we never did any job until we got back from Tanzania in 2013.
As faith will have it, I had to set up the Tanzania arm in 2011 after my contract with Zantel Limited (a part of Etisalat) ended and I was very comfortable taking up another paid job.
It started with two very influential and successful businessmen (Zadock Kola, the owner of ZK Advertising), a Tanzanian and Tito Alai (a former member of Celtel International Board) from Kenya called me to a meeting on how we could start a truly African brand.
The meeting held at Southern Sun Hotel, Dar es Salam. I still remember the day very vividly. Interestingly, they two big men never got back to me on the subject even as you read this interview, but I walked away from that meeting with a strong passion to set up Customer Passion Point Limited in Tanzania, a brand that would soon become a truly African brand.
Three months after setting up CPPL in Tanzania, we got an opportunity to pitch for a customer engagement campaign job at Ecobank.
We were successful at the pitch and had the responsibility to develop and execute the campaign end to end.
It was about generate quality awareness for the band and growing both customer acquisition and low cost deposit for Ecobank Tanzania. The campaign ran for six (6) and I guess it was very successful as the campaign was later replicated in all Ecobank operations.
It was exactly three (3) into the campaign when FCMB head hunted and hired me for the role of Group Head, Marketing & Communication at a Vice President level.
CPPL’s Service Offerings
We offer two broad services – Business Marketing Consulting and Training / Development. (a.) Business Marketing Consulting. Forward looking businesses know that value creation through efficient and effective marketing is the key to success across times and seasons - during both good and bad economic times.
The challenge for most businesses is that they are not able to quickly and cleverly adapt their marketing strategies to current and foreseeable economic climates. This is not surprising as successful business promotion requires marketing experience and knowledge that many businesses don’t have in-house.
Investing in an experienced business marketing consultant can give an organisation the help that they need to acquire, grow and retain customers while building a solid and sustainable brand. We believe that when you build a solid brand, it will sell itself through advocacy which is the ultimate of good marketing. (b.) Training / Development.
We are focused on delivering business enhancement training programs. Our flagship program is the CPPL monthly training program for business people where we train business owners and their core staff on strategies for growth and profitability.
We have recently introduced other programs like: (i.) Effective Business Writing & Communications Skills program to help improve communication within the business environment, appreciating the over whelming positive impact of good business writing and communication to a business. (ii.) We have also introduced leadership and personal effectiveness training programs. This is because leadership sets the tone for the entire business and people must be thought to appreciate the role of leadership. People should also be thought on how to ensure personal effectiveness at work and manage stress.
The Making of a Good Businessman
A good businessman or woman is someone who is able to convert an idea or value to a profitable business. It’s someone who is able to make a meaning by improving quality of life, righting the wrong and or preventing the end of something good.
He does all these and makes money out of it. If no money is made, then it’s purely social responsibility.
Therefore, I want to emphasis that I really want to be known for value creation consulting which is really about business marketing - marketing of businesses. Secondly, training should be an intervention coming out of a consulting.
Consulting should help tout develop insights which if acted upon should unlock massive opportunities for growth and profitability for the business.
The Toughest Hurdle in Bringing CPPL to This Point
Good question. It’s been getting people to try you out. I thought that it would be a smooth start given that I had worked in great companies and rose quite high there, that they will naturally want to patronize me.
It’s not that easy as they also have to be sure that you can provide value that match the need they have. So, I have had to start small with training and growing gradually.
Our flagship training, the CPPL monthly training program for business people has been on for the past 14 months and we have trained well over 150 participants from more than 50 businesses. We now have to leverage on this to pitch for marketing consulting jobs. Slowly but surely, we shall get there.
The Best Way to Start and Nurture a Business
Start small and grow gradually. This will help you keep cost down and invest wisely. There is nothing wrong in starting from you home and gradually hit the high streets. It’s important to manage cost, be discipline, professional, keep good record, and track your business performance by doing some simple profitability test. It’s really important to start right.
Costliest Mistake Most Business People Make
In my view, it’s about not being disciplined. You don’t borrow money to do business when you are not sure of the returns.
How do you pay back? Some have invested huge funds on aesthetics claiming that ‘image is everything’ You have to start small, understand the terrain and position properly before you start to get into huge investment. There is really no hurry. Get it right the right time and always.
Set Target in Next Five Years as CEO
I hope to build a thriving business with clients that you can look back and say, yes we did it together. I have been successful with my work carry.
I hope to replicate same in business. I want be known creating value in the market place. I want to redefine the concept of value creation consulting.
The market is there and we are actually few in this sector. My vision is to operate CPPL as a dynamic African brand while focusing on excellent client service in every country (and culture) where we operate in.
Most Difficult Experience Encountered
My case is somehow peculiar. I have been in paid employment for about 32 years and over 10 years of it were on roles that gave me some authority. I had really gotten used to people coming to me as against me going to them.
I was saw surprise now having to wait on the queue to be attended to. It was a rude shock but I learnt humility fast and it’s a long better. My advice is being patient, focus on the value you have and wait for that golden moment to sell.
The making Of A Good Business Consultant
Personal effectiveness is key. You must manage your time well, work well with your clients and continuous self-development. Your client is depending on you for insights and you can’t afford to fail them.You must always to seek first to understand and then to be understood. This way you hear the voice of your client and possibly respond more aptly to their needs. We want our clients to focus on other aspects of their businesses while we help them with the development of insights and the relevant value propositions to drive growth and profitability.