Allure Cover: Nkem Offonabo – On Starting Afresh
Words By – Josephine Agbonkhese
Until Thursday 31st December, 2020, Nkem Offonabo was Business Development Manager at First City Monument Bank, FCMB. With the start of the New Year, the purpose-driven woman is now fully focused on her passion—to help busy professionals and entrepreneurs achieve work-life harmony.
The graduate of Psychology with an Executive MBA from the Metropolitan School of Business and Management, UK is a human resources management consultant, trained life coach and neuro-linguistic programming professional. In the cause of her over ten-year career, spanning across recruitment, selection and on-boarding, employee relations, organisation development/change management, and product/business development in the financial services industry, she fervently provided organisations and individuals with coaching and training on employee wellness, work-life harmony, personal and organisational effectiveness, as well as human resource advisory.
The burning desire to carry-on this mission on a more impactful scale, led to the establishment of the Work-Life Organisation Global Limited a couple of years ago by the bestselling author of The Harmonised Life, a personal leadership and organisational transformation book.
The award-winning Social Media Influencer who was in May 2020 recognised as one of the Top 50 Leading Ladies in Corporate Nigeria by Leading Ladies Africa, and who is the convener of Work-Life Conversation, a group coaching community of working professionals and entrepreneurs, in this interview, speaks on exiting paid employment and beginning life afresh.
Welcome to a New Year. How would you describe 2020?
What a year 2020 had been! From a global pandemic that forced us to rethink how we live and work, to the sudden disruption of our lifestyle by lockdowns, travel bans and social distancing measures, necessitating widespread adoption of remote working, virtual meetings and greater consumption of online learning; to the #ENDSARS protests and its resultant effects in some parts of Nigeria and even across the globe. The year brought about the introduction of new terms and phrases such as quarantine, social distancing, Zoom parties, palliatives, soro soke (speak out), etc., into our everyday conversation. Describing 2020 seems like a daunting task.
It was a different kettle of fish for different people. Did you prosper or suffer losses?
Despite the numerous challenges of 2020, I can confidently say that it was a year in which I thrived; personally, and professionally, with respect to the aspirations and goals I mapped out for myself at the beginning of the year.
In retrospect, I really do not think that I would have achieved so much if things were just the way they were (normal). I embraced the new normal and maximised its upside.
How does it feel to be exiting FCMB as a Business Development Manager and starting work afresh?
Naturally, the decision to leave something steady and predictable was not easy. However, I am glad I took that decision; it feels completely empowering.
It feels like the perfect timing (smiles). I don’t know how I knew, I just knew. You know that conviction that it was all meant to be and there is no better time than now.
What’s next for you?
Interestingly, while trying to write my resignation letter sometime in November 2020, I saw two previous resignation letters that I had written earlier, dated 2018 and 2019 respectively, as well as an exit plan that I worked on late 2019. As from 2018 (which was about 10 years into my professional journey), I had clearly defined and mapped out my career path and had begun retraining and building up my toolkits behind the scenes. Within those years, I began writing my first book, working with professionals and organisations through my carefully-curated niche coaching, training and speaking engagements, as well as other skill-based services such as content writing, corporate communications design, personal branding and professional profile optimisation, recruitment and human resource advisory for (M)SMEs, startups and NGOs, to name a few.
In July 2020, I published and launched my first book, The Harmonised Life, which received rave reviews and is fast becoming a favourite among professionals within the corporate space; with the first batch of printed copies, completely sold-out. I have been inundated with loads of testimonials from readers of the book. The Harmonised Life is therefore, not just a book. It has metamorphosed into several things, one of which is The Harmonised Life Academy. The academy runs a 12-week intensive coaching and accountability programme for goal-seeking individuals who are burned out and unable to prioritise, but want to be armed with the requisite personal leadership and transformational tools to take control of their lives across the critical areas of life in other to achieve optimum performance, productivity and profitability.
In what precise ways will years spent as a Business Development Manager come in handy?
The years I spent as a Business Development Manager exposed me to the fundamentals of business management—the principle of need identification, the power of value creation, the financial and operational systems, the need for personal and corporate branding, the people side of business and above all, the discipline of execution. All of these will come in handy in the running of my personal businesses.
My redeployment from the Human Resources department in 2013, to the role of a Business Development Manager in the Transaction Banking department, was a rewarding practical experience in embracing change and making the most out of it.
Do you have any fears starting afresh on your own?
Fear is a natural feeling which we amplify when we lose faith in ourselves and our abilities.
If there is anything I am convinced of, it is the fact that I will succeed, given the clarity of what I stand for, what my business is positioned to do for busy professionals, entrepreneurs and corporate businesses; as well as the numerous benefits that will be derived by people and businesses who will work with me.
What makes the centre of your new full time job a critical issue?
How can any employer or organisation really achieve the best results when its core assets—its people—are not living fully-optimised lives? The focal point of my brand and business, is to provide holistic wellness initiatives that will give employees greater control over their lives, to improve performance, productivity and profitability while guiding organisations on the need to build a great place to work, and a sustainable environment where people and business thrive.
My experience in helping individuals win in life and at work as a work-life balance coach, has shown that the workplace, and, by extension, our society, is getting more complex and fast-paced. There is the ever-changing nature of work, coupled with the employers’ unending quest for competitive advantage, increased market share, maximum revenue and profit, the increasing pressure on employees to meet and exceed expectations, and more. Majority of working professionals have also neglected or relegated to the background other vital dimensions of their lives, such as, their emotional well-being, proper health care, family, passion, friendships, finance, rest, spirituality and peace of mind.
What’s your description of a harmonised day?
I’ve realised, through personal experience and years of working with busy professionals, that one cannot truly live a meaningful and productive life by investing only in one aspect of life. Success is multi-dimensional; and if any area of the critical area suffers, the impact on other areas becomes obvious.
Identifying those critical areas (health, relationships, family, passion, career, finance, faith, friendships, rest, self, success and peace of mind) and daily investing time and energy to see those areas work harmoniously, according to your version of success, is what makes you truly satisfied; that’s a truly harmonised life.
It’s a New Year and many wish to have a whole new beginning just like you; how did you prepare yourself for this step?
My path is unique to me and so should each individual’s be. However, the first and most important step I took was to prioritise gaining clarity. Next was to put a plan in place. I built my business website in 2018 and began articulating my ideas on what the business stands for, who to serve and how to efficiently run the business even while still working 9-to-5. I got the company registered in 2019. I began acquiring the needed toolkits and skills; getting trained and certified in human resources, business management, coaching, etc. Another step was being deliberate about building a personal and business brand that resonates with my target audience.
Finally, I was able to run the business by the side, using income from my paid employment to fund it until I felt inspired enough to make the leap of faith of starting off on my own.
We are again in a recession. What should anyone looking at exiting paid employment this year be mindful of?
Individuals looking to exit paid employment should be cautious, and ensure that they have in place a financial backup plan (for both business and personal finances). If one fails to hit initial revenue projections, focus on a niche market and build a winning business plan. Also, have a competitive edge over their competitors in terms of products, pricing, marketing techniques, etc., so you can differentiate yourself and gain market share. You can adopt technology to reduce operational costs and increase profits; think of how to utilise the internet, automated social media marketing, cloud storage and remote communications, virtual or flexible working, etc. Lastly, bear in mind the God-factor because wisdom emanating from the directives of the divine cannot not be equated with human understanding.
Finally, check your gut and your bank balance to make sure you’re ready to start your new venture.
What could possibly be the risk of venturing out in a recession?
Entrepreneurship is synonymous with risk-taking and entrepreneurs have been described as risk-takers or risk bearers. However, there are key risks elements to be mindful of. Due to the resultant effect of the recession, there is difficulty in accessing funding from government and financial institutions to increase working capital. There is also reduced cash in circulation as businesses or individuals, will want to hoard their reserve while focusing on other business drivers, in order to maximise profits.
From all that has happened since COVID-19 and the hijacked #EndSARS protest last year, what sectors will be best to invest in as we start anew?
Despite the current economic recession and high inflation, virtually all sectors of the economy remain open and attractive for investments. However, agriculture and agro commodity export stand out, due to huge and largely untapped potentials. This is also a good time to invest in the technology and digital sector, to upscale businesses, especially in the financial, e-commerce, commodity, education and health. Increased investment in human capital development by organisations, through training of their workforce to acquire the necessary skills required for improved productivity in today’s fast-paced business environment, is also highly recommended.
Who inspires your new journey internationally?
I have been inspired by great men and women out there changing the world, but one person stands out for me and that is John .C. Maxwell; my number one leadership and management expert, speaker, author and pastor.
What excites you the most about your new journey?
The results basically—the joy of seeing a transformed life, people who are living wholesome lives at work, at home, in the community and within self.
Above all, seeing organisations (the work and the workplace) flourish as a result of a wholesome and harmonised worker who is empowered to drive performance, productivity and profitability.
What won’t you skip in a year as part of personal care routine?
Definitely a vacation. If I am not taking the plunge to visit a new country or a vacation spot, I am taking some days off work to rest, recreate, reassess and recharge.
Describe your personal style?
I would say that my style is polished, classy and professional. I am neither an extremist nor a conformist.