6 Topnotch Business Nuggets from Tony Elumelu


Anthony Elumelu was born in Jos, Plateau, Nigeria, on 22 March 1963, to Suzanne and Dominic Elumelu from Onicha-Ukwu in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State. He grew up with four siblings, one of whom is Ndudi Elumelu, a minority leader in the Nigerian Federal House of Representatives.

He studied Economics at Bendel State University (now Ambrose Alli University) obtaining a Bachelor of Science with a Lower Second Class (2:2). Afterward, he studied and received a Master of Science degree in Economics at the University of Lagos.

Tony Elumelu worked in the Nigerian Bank Union Bank as a Youth Corp member during his National Youth Service Corps in 1985, before he began his career as a salesman.Tony  subsequently joined Allstates Trust Bank in 2005 and United Bank for Africa (UBA) was acquired afterwards.

During his recent interview with the NewAfrican Magazine, he highlighted some valuable business lessons that could help aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners. Some of which are:

1. Don’t be shortsighted

Tony Elumelu advised young African entrepreneurs to seek opportunities and platforms to implement their vision. When asked, “Would you say there are more opportunities now than when you started?”, Tony Elumelu replied that opportunities are always there, but now it seems to me that we have more opportunities in the world around us than ever before. The digital world is a whole new economy that never existed when we started. Use your brain, discipline, and expertise, and then the world comes to you. Think long term, 10 years ahead, not just for tomorrow.

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2. Avoid emotional decisions

I advise young entrepreneurs to take a step back, understand their business, and look at the forces. These factors shape their business, and dispassionately reassess and see what you need to do differently. Tony Elumelu replied to the question saying:

“For young entrepreneurs who had their business collapse during this pandemic, what they must do to get back on track? Tony further stated that we live in a world of knowledge and information accessible with a click on your device. Quitting is not something I advise people to do, but please don’t make a sentimental or emotional decision. Think it through very well; if you have mentors, sit with them. Don’t be dispassionate in your business decisions, as businesses fail because people are not making passionate decisions.”

3. Make sacrifices

Tony Elumelu was very clear with his assertions about making business sacrifices and advised young entrepreneurs to learn. He had sacrificial views when asked about his opinion about what young entrepreneurs should aim for. He said that the Tony Elumelu you see today has not always had everything.

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“In the past, for example, I have decided not to buy a car and planned instead to use the money to make investments. I waited for the proceeds of that investment to buy the car. When I say sacrifices, I mean you must learn to defer consumption. It would be best if you thought long term. When you visualize success, you can make sacrifices. Then you can apply the rigor and energy that will lead you to success.”

4. Be Hardworking

Tony Elumelu emphasized hard work, staying focused, and sacrificing for a better tomorrow. In his own words, “my advice to budding young entrepreneurs when I interact with them is to be hardworking, don’t be scared to dream but know that dreaming is less than 1%; the 99% is about translating your dream into action, translating your dream to reality. That is what makes the difference.”

6. There’s no easy way out

The successful Nigerian business mogul encouraged young African entrepreneurs to ignore shortcuts and be very determined and prepared for success. When the interviewer asked him about the essential things one must have before embarking on an entrepreneurial journey, he began by stressing that “the road to success is not linear. It is up and down. You must be very determined and prepared to do whatever is required for your success. And you have to know what success looks like in your chosen field. It is the same if you want to succeed in business. That kind of discipline and training helps a great deal. To become an entrepreneur, you must acknowledge that it is not a bed of roses.”

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7. Think Longevity’

The businessman wants young entrepreneurs to think long-term. When asked about the people he admired the most, Tony mentioned Steve Jobs, amongst others. Elumelu picked Steve Jobs because the business he founded became the first to cross a trillion-dollar market cap even after his death. He said:

“I think the key aspirations for every business in the world should be building a business that lasts and not be one you live and die with. I believe that when you are gone, the business should still be there and grow better. That is what Steve Jobs did. Steve Jobs has changed the world through his wonderful devices. Long after his death, the company he founded was the first to cross a trillion. I like that guy because, in addition to all the other aspects, he showed discipline and everything he has achieved in the short period he was on earth.”