Adefunke Anurukem is the Managing Director of Auto Dome Limited, one of the very few female entrepreneurs operating in the male-dominated Nigerian automotive industry. She talks about the challenges and motivation in a business majorly run by men
Let’s meet you please
My name is Adefunke Anurukem, an alumnus of Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU) and Fate Foundation and Education Development Centre (EDC). I am the Managing Director of Auto Dome Limited. Auto Dome is a one-stop shop for all automotive needs. Our services include automobile sales, provision of after sales services, fleet management, logistics and sale of car care products. I am also the current president of the Women in Automotive Sector Association (WASA), our aim is to bring together all women in the automotive business and discuss our challenges, fears, future aspirations, and proffer solutions. We provide assistance and empowerment to new women entrepreneurs in the automotive business.
How many years have you been into this business?
I have over 17 years experience working in the automotive industry in Nigeria. I worked with several Nigerian automotive franchises before branching out and starting Auto Dome in 2010.
How has the exchange rate affected the automobile business?
Our business is solely dependent on foreign exchange, since most of the cars are produced and assembled outside the country, as a result, exchange rate fluctuations over the past few years have significantly affected the Automobile industry, with the 2015 devaluation of the Naira being the worst hit. Another challenge faced by the automotive industry is the increase in Custom duties, which has significantly increased the cost of doing business. In the face of these challenges, we at Auto Dome have had to re-strategise and optimise our business processes in order to stay afloat.
How has your experience been like in relation to the number of years you’ve been in the industry?
The business climate in Nigeria is ever evolving. When we started Auto Dome in 2010, we had our own fair share of challenges. We made some mistakes, because we were naïve in some areas of our operations. Initially, our focus was solely on car sales, but after careful analysis of clients’ demands over the years, we have added a range of services and products.
Now that we are over eight years in the business, we are looking at opening more branches nationwide and signing a franchise deal to represent a reputable international brand here in Nigeria. One key factor in setting up a business in any industry is to have first-hand industry knowledge, product knowledge, and understanding of government policies and how it affects your industry. In my experience, business has been challenging, interesting, tasking, but very fulfilling, in spite of all the odds against business owners in Nigeria. Everyday comes with its own unique challenges that you must device a unique ways to solve. However, solving tasking problems in business expands your capacity to face more and get good results
How did you grow the business and what were the challenges?
Growing the business has been solely by the grace of God and passion for what I do. Whether it’s car sales, servicing, leasing, fleet management or selling care products, were solving problems and adding value. As an ambassador of my brand, the most important thing has been to identify customer needs and provide solutions that best suit them. By doing these we have been able to grow the business over the years. Challenges growing up were majorly pressure from the society seeing you as a woman and setting limits on how far you can reach. Moreover, I have always loved to challenge myself and tread where others are afraid to tread. I try to not see any limit to what I can achieve, and that has continued to give me the energy to conquer challenges.
What are your inspiring feedbacks?
Oh! I’ve had some interesting feedbacks in my time.
You hear things like, “Wow! A woman selling cars? “You behave like a man!’ At first I used to feel offended but as I grew in the business I began to see it as a compliment. Also some clients have come back and said “I find you very professional in your dealings.” Some of the most important customer feedbacks, however, are expressions of satisfaction with products and services, repeat purchases from clients and good referrals. These are key for us and we get loads of such.
Where do you see your business in the next five years?
In five years, we would have opened more branches, in at least three more Nigerian cities and have become a franchise holder for Nigerian-assembled automobiles with specifications cutting across the board, thereby adding to economy growth in the country.
What’s your advice to younger ones?
Keep your eyes on the ball. There are a lot of distractions out there, but remain focused and have a plan. Don’t go into business because you want to outdo the other person. Develop a passion for what you do, because when the tough times come that’s what will sustain you. Lastly, always have a CAN DO spirit and believe in yourself because the sky is just the starting point.
What is your motivation?
Firstly, God, because without him I am nothing. I also have a solid family support, without their constant love and affection, I would have been much more affected by the highs and lows of business life. Thirdly, myself, I am a self-starter, you are the only one who can pull yourself from your inner strength genuinely. Finally, I have other mentors, accountability partners and colleagues in the industry that I look up to. I also read articles, books and reviews of selected role to stay motivated.
To what extent have you leveraged on technology in growing your business:
I cannot over emphasize how much technology has helped in growing our business. In the early years sales were made mostly by personal contact. In that regard, a lot of staff were required to go out and look for prospective clients, which in itself proved quite difficult, because information was not readily available. However, with the improvements in digital technology, business can be done faster and at lower operational costs. The advent of interconnectivity and globalization (the early days of the fourth industrial revolution) has been phenomenal! We have been able to transact business successfully with numerous customers all around the world, thereby growing our clientele base. It is so amazing that we have even made major sales off of WhatsApp Status updates!
I am sure there are still a lot of positive technological advancements to come and we at AutoDome will continue to strategically position ourselves in order to harness its power to achieve our aims and objectives in this business.
By: Maria Diamond for Guardian