Abiola Abdulkareem is a 43-year-old attorney from Nigeria. He immigrated to the United States from Oxford, England. He studied law in the UK and obtained a Master’s degree in oil and gas law from the University of Wolverhampton, UK. Abiola is a consummate legal professional with a solid history of providing legal assistance and support to a wide range of organizations, including law firms and legal advocacy organizations. He has a strong ambition to serve in a political position in Nigeria.
Abiola Abdulkareem also founded the Jagunlabi Foundation, a charity built to cater to the needs of people suffering from extreme poverty. Currently, the Foundation is feeding about 300 people a day throughout the month of Ramadan, and it plans to have similar programs implemented on all other major holidays in the future.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I am currently in Georgia. The United States is a beautiful country and Georgia is a beautiful state. I love it. I moved here four years ago. I already passed the Georgia state bar exam and now I’m just in the process of doing all the other necessary requirements that will allow me to practice law in the state. Everything should be ready by the middle of next year. The law is my passion so I want to make sure that I have the ability and the capacity to practice law. Whether I do that or not is another question, but I have tested myself and I know that I’m able. I have the knowledge, I have the strength, and I have the resolve to take it on, and that’s what I’ve been doing.
I also run a procurement business. It’s a customer focused business. When my customers shop for services and products, I get a commission in the process. My customer base is mostly in Nigeria where there’s a lot of fraud going on with people buying stuff and the products turning out not to be real. What my company does is serve as an intermediary for customers there. If they want to buy a car in the US, we set them up with a payment solution and we supervise the purchase for them. We go to the dealerships and car lots and make sure what they are buying is real and as advertised. The idea for this business came to me when I realized I needed this kind of help when I moved to the United States.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I wake up early, around 5 am. Because I work with people in Nigeria and because of the time difference, they are already awake. Nigeria is five hours ahead of us. Also, I am Muslim and it is important for me to pray. I try to pray five times a day, so I wake up first thing in the morning, I pray, and then I get my day started. Usually, I have messages, emails, WhatsApp messages, text messages, and I try to reply to them before I get my work underway.
After that, I’ll write down all the things that need to be done relating to the transactions that we need to carry out, all the payments that we need to set up for clients, and all the instructions for purchases we need to carry out. I’ve got staff that works for me in this country, too, so by 9 am, I make sure I have everyone’s tasks detailed out. I map out where they need to go and what places they need to check out to serve our customers. By around 5 or 6 pm, I’ll come back home and my staff will come back and present me with information on what goals they’ve achieved for the day. And then that’s it. We’re done with this day and then tomorrow is another day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Since I’m a Nigerian in America, some of the ideas that I follow through with the most are ones that occurred to me during the course of my own experiences. For instance, my car business was inspired by something I once needed myself. When I came to the United States, I wanted to buy a car and I thought it would be nice if there was somebody out there who could help me make a purchase with confidence, so that I don’t have to fly all the way from Nigeria or the UK to look at a car. Someone that could help me set up payments or connect me with shipping, somebody who can pull all these complicated things together and make it happen. I put a lot of thought into that and knew something like this would be possible, so I built a support system where I was able to become a one-stop solution for such things. If you want a car in America, you talk to me and I can take care of all the details. That is how I work through ideas. My business ideas always start with things that I’ve needed myself. It helps me put myself in the customer’s shoes and give them the best service. How would I have wanted this business to be done for me? That is the first question I ask myself when I start developing my ideas.
What’s one trend that excites you?
People always want cars from America. They sell big time in Nigeria. America is the trend over there and it always has been. It is a trend that keeps reinventing itself. That excites me. There is always something from the US that people in Nigeria are looking for. In addition to cars, which are our biggest focus, we also supply fashion items and shoes. The numbers exist in Nigeria to make this profitable. But ultimately, I don’t really like following trends. I feel like I have my own trend, which keeps me unique.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Go to sleep early and wake up early. Nothing can beat that. If I’m up at 5 am, I’m three hours ahead of everybody. By the time everyone else wakes up, I’ve already gotten my day well underway. I’m ready to go. That’s the key. Get your day started as early as possible. Boom. Your energy level is up. If you have gotten your sleep the night before and you wake up early, by the time most people are getting drained, say, maybe 2 pm and their energy level is dropping, you are almost done with your daily tasks. You can relax right when other people are starting to drop off. When you start your day early, it gives you more time to be more detailed in your work and more focused in your mind.
What advice would you give your younger self?
When I was young, I didn’t spend enough time on work. I think I had an issue with procrastination at the time. My advice to my younger self would be: Do it now. It’s an illusion to think that you are young and you will stay that way. Enjoy that you are young, but don’t let it affect your productivity. Get things done now. Don’t put it off. Don’t make excuses, just get it done. Spend more time on improving yourself and getting involved in things that you love doing.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I believe that Nigeria will win the next FIFA World Cup. I don’t care what anyone says.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I’m going to go back to something I know to be true: Wake up early. Start early. Get it done early. Even if you have nothing to do on a particular day, when you get up early, your mind is very active and ideas and thoughts just flow easier. Your goals and objectives come more clearly into focus and you can much more easily plan for things ahead.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Maintaining good relationships with my clients is my best strategy. I make a lasting impression by giving them good service and making sure they’re going to come back to do business with me again. At my company, we make sure that the first time we do business with a customer, we give them the best. We take care of everything for them, every little detail. We make sure their service is delivered promptly, courteously, and as promised. Once we get that done, we know that we’ve locked them in and the next time they need an item from the United States, they are going to come back to us. That strategy has really worked for us. And their positive experience causes them to tell other people about all the great services we provide. Word of mouth is what keeps the business coming.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One issue I have had is being too trusting with some customers, especially with money. Here’s a little advice to anyone starting a new business: Don’t render credit service too early in your business. It’s going to mess you up. Don’t offer people credit service. Make sure you get your money because the entire purpose of a business is to make money. That’s the bottom line. When you begin to provide services for people without them paying you, it’s going to create a huge problem in the future. First of all, you’re going to lose that customer. They’re not going to come back because they owe you. When they have the money, they’re going to go somewhere else because they’re not ready to pay you. I think when I initially started my business, I was a little too trusting. I always thought people who owed me money would come through on their debts. That is not always the case.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I would look into cryptocurrency right now. It has made a lot of people millions of dollars. I’ve been looking at it because there are all these coins out there that look like they are worth investing in. I think they are the future of currency in this country.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I made a contribution recently to my charity, the Jagunlabi Foundation. It is so emotionally rewarding since we feed people in need. Donating to charity makes you feel so good about yourself. It’s nice to think that you are helping somebody out there.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I am in the business of selling cars, but I don’t sell them directly myself. I am a middleman who provides the service of buying a car for people in Nigeria, so knowing the value of cars is very important to my business. I use cars.com to check out the market prices for the cars my customers are interested in.
Also, I read news websites every morning when I wake up. I look at CNN and check the Daily Mail. We live in a in a global economy where everything is connected to everything, so I want to know what’s going on with the price of oil, the stock market, what’s happening in the Middle East and Africa, because all that reflects on how the dollar is going to trade and what affect it will have on the exchange rate between Nigeria and America. I have information needs that are peculiar to my business, but I do believe in general that you have to be competent in gathering information on the internet to be successful.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I recommend The World Before Us by Tom Higham. It is a beautiful book. It gives you insights about how the world used to be and where we are now, and it discusses what the world is going to be in the future. It can kind of prepare you for the world that is coming.
What is your favorite quote?
“It’s always impossible until it gets done.” – Nelson Mandela. All things are possible. Maybe it’s not possible right now, but if we keep pushing, it can happen.
• Get up early. Start your day before everyone else does.
• Be dedicated.
• Keep going.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.