In 2013, he moved to the Real Estate space, and founded, L. Legends Limited, a company that provides real estate services and solutions in Kenya.
The company works closely with developers, investors, financiers and land owners to fulfill a wide range of real estate needs with the objective of maximizing returns on investment and value addition through win-win partnerships.
At some point, before leaving the corporate world he served as the Regional Head for East and North Africa Region at SEACOM and was credited with the leading role in providing broadband data connectivity into the East Coast of Africa.
As a member of Nairobi Garage, we sat down with Mr. Opio and he shared with us his entrepreneurial journey, five years on. From the fears, to the challenges and finding solutions these challenges.
Here is an excerpt of the interview:
NG: Kindly walk us through your career journey to where you are now as the CEO and Director of Little Legends?
I worked for about 20 years in several multinational companies covered Africa and Middle East markets and ventured into entrepreneurship in 2013. I started off by doing logistics and transformed the company into a real estate entity. The company works closely with developers, investors, financiers and land owners to fulfill a wide range of real estate needs with the objective of maximizing returns on investment and value addition through win-win partnerships. Clients include international / local institutions, individuals and the diaspora investing in residential and commercial properties.
NG: Define your role as a leader?
My role involves the ability to innovate, execute projects and present a strong role model for staff / business partners and promoting decisiveness, insight and a constant willingness to challenge company conventions in business. I look out for new opportunities and trends within our business environment and work towards improving our company on a daily basis.
I am always on the lookout for opportunities to implement before the competition does and take information from many sources to spot new possibilities.
I am passionate in regards to achieving goals and willing to confront not only the competition, but also any personal weaknesses or weaknesses in the organization. It’s about asking, “’What are we doing right or not doing right?’ and then acting on it. It’s a war on complacency,” There is always room for improvement and innovation.
NG: Walk us through your day at Office?
I get to work at 6.30am
6.30 – 6.45am: relax & prepare for the day’s work.
6.45am – 7am: read newspapers
7am – 8am: read and respond to emails
8am – 10am : internal meetings with staff, clients, partners.
10am – 3.30pm: Out of office meeting clients & events. Real estate site visits.
3.30pm – 6pm: Back in office, client follow up, business review, monitoring & strategic planning.
NG: That sounds like quite a hectic day. Has it always been like that, or does it vary from time to time?
The daily routine does not change much but varies from time to time depending on day / month in the year. I relax more on Fridays and month of December.
NG: What are some of the key highlights through your career journey?
Entrepreneurship has been an interesting journey and completely different from Corporate Executive experience.
We have successfully worked on several real estate projects; standalone houses in Karen & Runda, apartments in Kilimani and Kileleshwa, and currently working on greenfield projects in Lavington, Kiambu Road and Riverside Drive. Our area of focus is in real estate projects targeting the middle income segment.
I am also founder Chairman of Chamber Enterprise Club – Kenya National Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KNCCI), a club consisting of KNCCI members who own, invest and run successful businesses. The Club membership cuts across all key business sectors of Kenya e.g. agriculture, finance, infrastructure, real estate, mining, media, ICT, manufacturing, etc.
I was employed as the Regional Head – East & North Africa region in SEACOM and played a leading role in providing broadband data connectivity into the East Coast of Africa. I worked for Zain Group (now Airtel) for 5 years and was based in Bahrain, as the Head of SME Segment in Africa & Middle East and was instrumental in developing and implementing SME strategies for the mobile operator in Kenya, Africa & Middle East eg. Roaming One Network & Broadband data solutions etc.
I also worked as Head of Sales/ Marketing – East Africa Region in the FMCG industry for several multinationals i.e Henkel, Reckitt Benckiser & GlaxoSmithkline and dramatically grew their businesses in the region.
NG: What was your lowest career point and what are some of the lessons learnt at that point?
As an entrepreneur my lowest career point was the transition from a corporate executive to an entrepreneur. The business world knew me as a Corporate Executive and I had to work extra hard on the entrepreneurial side of myself and business. I also went into a business sector that is not well regulated hence full of all sorts of companies and individuals. It is a cut throat business.
I have come out stronger and learnt the following:
1). stay focused on your short & long term objectives whatever the challenges,
2). be extremely independent and cherish interdependence: “the buck stops with you” work hard and never rely on any person, politician, affirmative action / favour / entitlement, bank loan etc. in order to succeed.
3). Always strive for the best and when you achieve it, there is always room for improvement.
4). Integrity always wins and never compromise on it.
5). Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, continuously learn to live it.
NG: What Gets You Up in the Morning/ what keeps you awake as a leader?
Providing homes to families and solutions to developers / investors. I wake up every day happy knowing that I am adding value to my employees, partners, clients and myself “come what may”.
My son: I have an interesting son who is also ambitious and sporty. He encourages me a lot and is a great inspiration. He always ask me “how was my day?” when I get home in the evening. I look forward to answering that question whenever I get up in the morning.
One thing that keeps me awake as a leader is knowing that the future is always bright and there are always better days to come. So, I am very much awake and excited working hard to achieve or surpass my objectives.
NG: That’s powerful. Recently I read about the 5 hour rule followed by many leaders. The rule is actually about setting time at least an hour daily to read a book. I am sure you have heard about this rule, so which book/s are you currently reading?
I have of late been following a controversial American lady called Ayn Rand (she passed on in 1982). She was a writer and philosopher of what came to be called Objectivism. I am reading books by Yaron Brook – Chairman: Ayn Rand Institute – USA.
Equal is Unfair / Free Market Revolution: by Don Watkins & Yaron Brook
Factfulness by Hans Rosling & Ola & Anna Rosling
NG: Oooh! I have read great reviews of Equal is Unfair, but I haven’t read it yet. Anyway away from that what is your living philosophy?
Read, enjoy life and work, stay healthy, stay in touch with family & friends and always thank God that you are alive today.
NG: Which age of your life was important and sort of shaped you?
I think the most important stage of my life were two:
Between 6 to 14 years: I learnt how to communicate with people and communities outside my family and cherish and appreciate differences amongst communities.
After graduating from university with my 1st degree, I had no job, was broke and had to learn to be self-reliant and independent. I decided to take up a job selling healthcare insurance on a commission basis. Some of my friends thought I was crazy and even laughed at me, I have never looked back ever since.
NG: What do you think was your greatest weakness as the CEO?
One great weakness as CEO is pushing for results. I am under constant pressure to deliver. I used to push people for results and learnt that we are all different depending on what drives us, values, cultural back ground etc. I now want to understand a person first before working closely with them.
NG: What can you as a CEO tell the younger version of you let’s say you at 30 years?
Relax, be patient and composed. There is more than enough opportunities everywhere for everyone.
NG: Advice to young entrepreneurs that are starting off in Real Estate?
I would encourage young entrepreneurs to join real estate with a long-term view. There are many opportunities available in the sector and one needs to identify their area of interest, focus on it and be patient whilst in pursuit of their goals. Go For It!
Also, one should look for a mentor to guide you in entrepreneurship, it is very different on the inside and requires a lot of discipline.
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