From being elected the pupil school Janitor, to becoming Chief Accountant and now Deputy Managing Director. There’s one clear lesson to glean from this. Excellence and subsequent success never comes by chance. It does not just fall on your lap fortuitously from the heavens. It results from intentionality. Learning the right lessons at the right time and adopting useful attitudes such as humility even while pursuing lofty ambitions. There is a saying that it does not matter where you are coming from, what matters is where you are going. Mr Kunle Jaiyesimi, in record time rose to become the Deputy Managing Director of CFAO Motors, the French conglomerate known for household names such as Mitsubishi, Suzuki and a host of others. His story is nothing short of inspiring.
Sir, which state are you from and how were things growing up?
I hailed from Ogun State but was born and bred in Lagos State.
Growing up was interesting under a disciplinarian Father and a prayer warrior Mother both of blessed memory. They did a lot to shape my life and shielded me from the torrid environment I grew up with my siblings. I am the second child and first boy in a family of three girls and three. We are still a closely-nit family.
How were your schooling years?
My Elementary School days were fun with lots of nostalgia, my teachers deeply inculcated discipline and fear of God in me. My khaki uniform then must be well starched and crispy. In my Primary 6, I was the Janitor of the School, meaning I must always get to School before 7:30am and I was almost the last pupil to leave the School premises. The discipline, dedication and devotion to my assigned school portfolio then, helped in no small way through my Secondary school and later years.
Are there any particular attitudes, disciplines or life skills that you derived from the process of education?
As I said earlier, my elementary school years made a lot of positive impact in my life. My teachers were sticklers for discipline that would not in any way spare the rod in teaching or correcting in towing the right path. The School office of Janitor that I held at age 11 was a big task that prepared me for greater leadership responsibilities in my later years.
What would you say is a memorable low you experienced during your time at school as a student?
I still feel saddened by that experience till today. I was in Secondary School Class 4 then, I was passing by one of my Classmates and he made a sudden turn and thrust a pen that injured my finger. I didn’t blink an eye before I retaliated. That resulted in a severe cut at the back of the boy’s hand. We both faced the disciplinary panel of the School where he explained that he was hit from behind and he thought I did that but eventually the guy that dis that owned up. We were both “punished” and given the task of moving sands to the school farm. Surprisingly, my classmates rallied round me by assisting me in moving the sands, therefore instead of spending 3 days serving the punishment, I only spent a day. This experience taught me profound lessons of exercising restraint in reacting to circumstances and desist from being vengeful.
Getting to the top of a major foreign conglomerate as a Nigerian cannot have been plain sailing. What are some of the hurdles that you encountered? What aspect of your character helped you to surmount them?
It was not an easy task at the onset om career, I started in a department that was flooded with elderly people, some of them would not look at you as a colleague but as their son that they could send on errands not minding your education or the fact that we were on the same level in terms of hierarchy, some of them would find excuse to push their tasks to me. I never complained and took all that as a learning process. That gave me the opportunity to have a good knowledge of all the tasks within the department, this later helped in shaping my career and getting promoted to a higher level I never envisaged within a short time.
What would you say has been the highlight moment of your career?
As I mentioned earlier, I was able to grasp all the major tasks in the department within the 6 months of my joining the Company. When there was an opening for the position of Chief Accountant in one of our subsidiary companies, I was recommended after a competency assessment was conducted between me and my older colleagues. The intriguing aspect of the promotion was that I skipped three-steps to attain that position, it was the turning point in my career within the Group.
Do you have any regrets at all about the path you took? Have you ever wished you chose a different career?
Although my initial ambition was to become a lawyer, my involvement in my late Dad’s business where I was helping out with book-keeping and stock taking made me change to Accounting. I have never had any cause to regret my choice of course and career.
Sir, you have had a multitude of honours bestowed upon you. Please tell us which one most touched you.
I cherish all the honours, awards and recognition because I never paid or solicited for them. I always like to understand the reason why I am being picked or chosen for any award so that I can carry out a personal assessment to confirm if I am worthy of such honour.
Nigeria is a particularly tough environment right now and many of our adolescents and youth are quite disillusioned. There are very few jobs available even for those with university degrees. What word of advice or encouragement would you like to offer our young ones?
The Nigerian Government does not have a serious plan for the youth, even from the Federal Universities that are bedevilled with incessant strike actions that is culminating in a course of 4 years lasting till 6 years. My advice to the youth is that while studying your desired course in the institution of higher learning, you should endeavour to learn a skill that is marketable anywhere in the world. The situation in the country now is that if your degree can not put food on your table, your skill will surely do. Take advantage of the abundance of marketable skills, financial management and long term investment skills acquisition opportunities on the internet. These will be of immense advantage to you even when you are opting for private sector job opportunities. This sector requires a polyvalent or multi-skilled employee that can quickly and easily adapt to virtually any incident that arises within the operation.
Some young Nigerians feel somewhat disadvantaged that they were not born with a silver spoon in their mouth. What would you say to them?
These young Nigerians should take solace in the fact that the majority of the world renowned billionaires listed in the recent Forbes’ 37th Annual World’s Billionaires lists were born without silver or wooden spoons. My belief is that nobody is disadvantaged as we all have special or peculiar gifts and attributes from God at creation, our youths should strive to unearth their hidden potentials and never give up on their dreams and what they want to achieve in life. They should not be counted with the ‘lazy youths’ that are striving to become overnight millionaires without any legitimate means of livelihood. They should know that there’s “no gain without pain”.
Can you tell us of any funny moment you experienced as a student that has remained etched on your mind? One that evokes involuntary laughter in you any time you remember it.
I remember my Saturday’s special preparation of ”efo riro” (vegetable soup) . Then, my friends would come around in the evening with their ‘fufu’ (pounded cassava) and we would all have a feast. It was a nice and convivial experience then, my friends still make jokes out of this anytime we see.
Sir, as Deputy MD of CFAO Motors, a French company. Am I right in saying you are one of very few Nigerians to have attained this height? One of them being the late and legendary Chief Molade Okoya Thomas. How would you say education helped to make you the success you are today?
As a believer, I want to say it is not by my power nor by might but by the special grace of God. Although education contributed to my progression in the organisation in no small means because that is the number tool that one needs to be successful in life, the education I had enlightened me on what I truly want from life and aided in how I navigated my career within the organisation. I started as an Accountant and have virtually worked in other operations of commercial, production, human resources, logistics etc. Acquiring education beyond the tertiary level is always an advantage to successful career upliftment but I still believe Education is a continuous process, acquiring knowledge and abilities are processes that should continue throughout one’s lifetime.
Kunle JAIYESIMI is the Deputy Managing Director of CFAO Motors Nigeria Limited.
He joined the CFAO Group as an Accountant in 1995 and rose through various positions ranging from Treasury/Finance Officer and Chief Accountant.
He served as Chief Accountant of CFAO Qualitex from September 1995 to December 1996 and was redeployed to CFAO NIPEN as Chief Accountant. He later became the Assistant General Manager, responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Factory.
He progressed his career within the Group when he was redeployed to Nigeria Motor Industry (CFAO NMI) in February, 2005 as Deputy General Manager, where he successfully managed the Admin, Sales and Logistics Departments. In August 2007, he was appointed Deputy Managing Director of CFAO NMI.
In 2010, after the merger of CFAO NMI with CFAO Motors, he retained his position as Deputy Managing Director under the company name CFAO Motors Nigeria Limited, which is the position he holds till date.
He is also the Deputy Managing Director of Massilia Motors Nigeria, a joint venture operation between CFAO and Chanrai Group, which was established in April 2014.
Kunle holds a Master’s Degree in Finance.
He has travelled extensively in the course of his profession. He possesses rich experience of the Automobile Industry in Nigeria and remains a respected adviser to the Automobile Management Professionals.
He is a member of relevant professional bodies – Institute of Directors, Automobile and Allied Group of the Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Institute of Cost & Management Accountants, Nigerian Institute of Management and Fellow, Institute of Credit Administration.
He is currently the President, Association of Automobile Boatyards Transport Equipment and Allied Employers of Nigeria (AABTEAEN), Vice Chairman of the Automobile Sectoral Group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and Chairman Automobile and Allied Group of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, member Governing Council – Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) and the President of LASUMBA Heritage, the Alumni association of Lagos State University MBA Graduates.
His hobbies include coaching, establishing relationships, football and table tennis