Chizzy Nnamchi is the founder and chief executive officer of Nibiru Footwear Co. The company is headquartered in Singapore and is the operating franchise business for Bata Shoe Company across Western Africa.
Before starting Nibiru, Mr. Nnamchi worked at Schlumberger Ltd. in the Middle East, 3M Oil & Gas in Asia Pacific and he was the CEO of DHL Global Forwarding for Western Africa until 2013.
Early on in Mr. Nnamchi’s career, he says he realized something important that would guide many of his career moves: “Life is more than my own comfort zone.” The idea fueled his desire to learn how a big company operates by working at corporations such as 3M and to “cut his teeth” as an executive in Africa by working at DHL and then eventually to start his own business.
“It’s a significant decision to leave a job and start something new. You have to leave a well paying job. You have to ignore the power that comes with being at the head of a big company,” he said recently on a visit to Nigeria.
What’s next for Mr. Nnamchi? He plans to grow Nibiru to 200 stores in West Africa and targets tapping 20% to 30% of a 300 million plus person market. He’s currently based in Singapore but spends about 40% of his time in West Africa. Next year he plans to start the process of moving back to Nigeria. “Some people think I’m crazy. We have a nice life in Singapore but I feel the need to be home and to contribute,” he said.
He shares the lessons he’s learned on his journey to the top.
The best leaders know how to bring out the best in the people around them, and make it count.Chizzy Nnamchi, CEO Nibiru Footwear Co.
Q: What leadership lessons have you learned along the way?
Never judge a book by it’s cover when meeting people or recruiting. You need to look beyond placing too much importance on appearances. It’s noise-making. What matters to me is what you can do.
To accomplish anything — besides having a clear vision or passion — you need to have support from those around you, above you and in lower positions. You have to be able to sell your vision constantly. Some leaders don’t have a clear plan and drift left and right. It’s important to have a sense of direction and purpose.
Creativity, imagination, and big dreams are very important, but you need technical competence, tenacity, and time to bring those dreams to reality.
The best leaders know how to bring out the best in the people around them, and make it count.
Q: What drives you as a leader?
Being able to influence positive change and results. Leaders can change attitudes, they can change culture, they can harness resources, they can articulate collective visions and they can make a big difference because of that large sphere of influence.
Q: What enabled you to succeed?
Humility and a willingness to learn as much as I can. Courage, or stupidity — it’s a fine line — to follow my dreams and a passion to help others succeed.
Q: What led you to found your own company?
Very simple — I want to build another billion-dollar business, and help others to do the same.
Q: How can leadership talent be developed?
Education, relevant experiences, stretch assignments and mentorship. For the African context, I would add telling our own stories in our own ways and words to inspire the next. And demanding a high standard of ethics and accountability of the current crop of leaders.
Getting to the Top is an interview series that follows the career paths of executives from Africa and those operating across the continent. The executives share their career journey and tips on how to succeed as a leader.