Monthly Archives: August 2016

Mezie Avu! Elevating Higher Education Even Higher

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The following post is from my e-book, The Most Interesting Thing About Investing in Africa.


Investment: Education in Jomeka Commercial Academy, AVU, Owerri – Elevating Higher Education 


Chief Dan Obiyo was an early investor in Jomeka Commercial Academy.  Chief Obiyo is also the CEO of AVSECO NIGERIA LIMITED. AVSECO’s mission is to eliminate all security challenges through an aggressive training development of hands and minds in the aviation workplace. Recent civil aviation experiences pose the rhetorical question of which way forward for emerging economies.  Government efforts cry out to be complemented through supportive private expertise… now provided by AVSECO.


Avu town is located about four miles west of Owerri municipality in Imo state, Nigeria. Avu Community Secondary school, the town’s only secondary education facility was not easily affordable to most parents. The subsistence farming community was poor, requiring a more affordable alternative for the teeming applicants in Avu and environs. Professor J.O.C. Obiyo took on this challenge head-on upon his retirement after a successful career in Abuja. Jomeka Commercial Academy was established to provide primary school rejects as well as secondary school dropouts with placements in a vocational school to realize their dreams. Students whose guardians could not cope with the exorbitant fees at the public school, students who do not have the aptitude for formal education, and indigent students became the target demographic for Prof Obiyo’s vision.

For everyone everywhere, literacy is…a basic human right. 
– Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary-General



Away from downtown Avu but within easy reach of the cluster of houses bordering the village to the north, Prof. Obiyo secured an ideal location for the academy. Registration formalities with the Ministry of Education, construction of temporary structures at site of classrooms and basic facilities to kick start the project were primarily

funded by Prof Obiyo’s retirement benefits. Notices were put up in church services to canvass for students and skilled staff. Volunteers and National Youth Service Corps members were requested to beef up the staff strength. Cash Crunch-Provision was made for students with special cases to pay their fees in several installments without interrupting studies. The vision was actualized.



Igbo Kwenu!  Mezie Avu!  Twilight gradually changed to dawn for the tiny town which separates the city of Owerri from the large food producing areas of Ohaji. Education in Avu gradually became less of an effortless privilege and more of an earned right. Avu town discovered that vocational school graduates were more readily employable.  The National Basic and Technical Education Board certificate gained popularity in Avu opening up a wider horizon for higher education. Knowledge is power which opens doors for greater opportunities to do even greater things.

Investment: Education in Jomeka Commercial Academy, AVU, Owerri – elevating higher education 

L = 50

I = 50

C = 30

Business Idea Metric: 130

7 Igbo Proverbs To Boost Your Sales Skills

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Mountain-and-blue-skiesAs I reflect on what inspired me to pursue a career in sales, I’m reminded of some timeless Igbo proverbs I heard growing up in the bustling streets of Owerri in Imo State, Nigeria (#IgboKwenu). Fascinating tales of gutsy protagonists, crafty villains, and crazy plot twists helped contextualize these proverbs. I remember my siblings and I listening as my late grandma swirled our imaginations and skillfully imparted wisdom in our minds. Thanks, grandma!

Below I share seven Igbo proverbs that have continued to be a source of inspiration through my sales journey. I’m still learning about each skill and improving my mastery every single day. 

1. O Re-Ere Bụ Eze; O Zu-Azụ Bụ Eze – The seller is King; the buyer is King. This proverb reminds us that we earn mutual respect. As a salesperson, the best way to earn respect is to prioritize understanding your customer. When a client believes you understand them, they reciprocate with respect and trust. If a sale goes as it should, no party should feel disrespected or misunderstood, simple as that. Plus, we are both Kings, let’s act as Royals since we have empires to govern.

2. Ejighi Ụtụtụ Ama Njo Ahịa – You shouldn’t measure the success of a day by what happens in the morning alone. In essence, you have to wait until the end of an allotted timeline to evaluate your performance. Often, we may have a rough start but finish with a positive result because of our perseverance. As my father always says, you can’t be triumphant without trying. On the other hand, celebrating too early may result in disappointing defeats in the end. Nonetheless, in every defeat, there is an opportunity to learn. And for every victory, there is a strategy that works; enhance and repeat it.

3. Ahịa Ukwu Armagh Na Otu Onye Abiagh – A big market does not miss someone that is absent. Essentially, if you don’t show up, your competitor will. If you fail to delight your customer, your competitor is around the corner ready to charm and convince your clients to forget you. So, show up. Be present. And do your best.

4. Izu Ahịa Wu Ezhi Ihe Ma Ewere Egwu Chineke – There should be a higher purpose to whatever you do. #Enoughsaid.

5. Erefu Otu, Erema Ọzọ – You sell your products (or do things), one after the other. This proverb goes at the heart of effective time management. Research cautions us that multitasking doesn’t work. When someone tells you they can multitask, they are just deluding themselves. The key is to prioritize not multitask for effective time management. Luckily, here are 15 apps and tools from Lifehack to help.

6. Ahịa Oma Na-Ere Onwe Ya – A great product sells itself. You have a great product when your customers purchase without any complicated sales pitch, and then proceed to promote your goods or services without you asking. Ultimately, these clients become some of your top salespeople and rarely ask for a raise or more commission. 🙂 The reality is not many want to be sold to, but everyone loves to buy.

7. Onye Nwere Mmadụ Ka Onye Nwere Ego – A person with a robust network of people is stronger than an individual with only money. This proverb encourages us to focus on building and fostering the right relationships. As a salesperson, a robust network leads to more customers, more referrals, more luck, more happiness, more mentors, and more attractive job opportunities. Plus, money can be finite, while healthy relationships last a lifetime. Here are five ways to start building valuable relationships now.

Thanks for reading. I hope one of the above proverbs serve as a boost or refresher to your sales acumen. 

Happy Selling!

A very special thanks to my father, Chief Dan Obiyo, for his contribution to this article.

F.I.V.E Questions with Brent Maropis, CEO of

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Brent MaropisBrent is the CEO of, a billing and back-office SaaS company dedicated to solving the mission-critical problems of providers with recurring and metered service offerings. In his short time at the helm, the team has acquired high-profile clients and accumulated numerous industry awards, including One of the Nation’s Best and Brightest Companies to Work For and One of the Best Workplaces for Women. 

I worked with Brent at Cbeyond where I witnessed him lead with an unparalleled work ethic. This inspired us to not only pursue ambitious objectives but crush them. If after reading his interview below you aren’t as fired up as me to “get after it” and crush your goals, you may want to check your pulse. 🙂

1. Briefly describe how your background and share the most exciting or rewarding aspect of what you do. 

I studied Business and Finance at Elon University in North Carolina. Elon prepared me for a great start to a career in business. A degree, however, just gets you the interview. Elon is a smaller school with a lot of engagement and accountability, so I couldn’t just show up and pass the class. That discipline translated well for me in the professional world.  You have to show up prepared or expect to fail.

After graduation, I moved to Atlanta and started at Cbeyond. I didn’t know anyone. I took the opportunity because it was a true meritocracy, and that appealed to me.  The harder I worked, the more I could earn. I went door to door to 50 businesses and made 40 phone calls a day. Honestly, I was a terrible salesperson, but I worked hard. I learned about failure and the importance of setting goals. 

After six months, I was on the verge of being fired and thought about giving up on the job.  But on the last day of the month, I achieved my quota in a single day. This taught me a lot about perseverance and hard work. I never missed my quota again and was the number one sales person in the company during that period.  I would later learn that embedded in that experience was the idea that you should fail forward.  Failure is an extremely formative, humbling and necessary part of success.  Expect it and use it to move forward.

The company grew fast and I was promoted to Vice President at the age of 26. I helped the company open multiple offices across the country. I lacked the experience for the job, but the company believed in me and I was willing to do what was needed to succeed. I believe if you want something bad enough you can obtain it. You must plan, adapt, evolve, learn, improve and push through until it is achieved. I’ve come to believe we can always adapt to our situations. We can always make ourselves better. Also, and equally important, get clarity on what it is you want to accomplish and then build your plans around it.  Present those plans to other people, be open to changing it, keep adapting, fine tuning, and making it better, but push through the challenges. CEO of, I have the best team that I have ever worked with in my career. They are the most talented, transparent, and ultra-authentic group of people I have known professionally. We are completely aligned and going in the same direction. We have problems but we are always working to solve them together.  That authenticity and teamwork translate directly into our software and service to our clients.  It is so humbling to lead a team that is so focused on helping clients grow in ways they wouldn’t have otherwise been enabled to do. We obsess over providing innovative solutions and extraordinary service. Our team, our service, and our technology come together to power our customer’s business. We grow by being better for our client.

2. Flashback and then fast forward to the present, what has surprised you the most about advancing in your career? What advice do you have for others looking to take a similar path? And is there something you could have done differently to get to where you are quicker?

What has surprised me the most is that if you are humble, and seek help, you will find it very easily. Also, you have to be your authentic self. I was encouraged by the fact that people were willing to help, you just have to ask.

The other surprise was that most people who are wildly successful earned every bit of it. It is a perception that you get lucky, but not really. You can be as successful as you want to be. Success is subjective and it’s based on how you define it. For me, success is the ability to fulfill what you truly want in life. That could be different for two people, but for most, it is likely to be hard, which is why people don’t get there as often as they imagine.

My advice is that you have to do what others aren’t willing to do. Also, never ever think you are bigger than your company, even if you are the CEO. The reality is that if it is a company you really want to be a part of, they likely don’t need you. Entitled people are miserable and people don’t like miserable people. 

What I could have done differently was network more often. Networking is key, just go out and network. There are so many advantages of knowing the right people and tapping into your network.

3. What is your unfair advantage and how has it contributed to your success?

I have great mentors in business and my personal life that have taught me about being a leader. It helps to have great examples. I personally don’t feel like I have any unique qualities, I just know that I have had great examples to emulate. There are always people smarter, better or wiser than you, so surround yourself with them. I’ve also learned how to put my people first and always challenge them to be their best. I make sure to put my team first and I am motivated to do that, every single day.

4. Reflect on all of the key sacrifices you’ve had to make to get to where you are today. Which would you say was the most pivotal and why?

Do what others are not willing to do. Move across geographies, industries and sacrifice short-term finances. An inflection point in my career was to gain executive experience that required taking an opportunity in a totally different industry. It was a big risk, but within 2 years I learned how to lead my current company. I learned what to do and not do that shape my company culture every day. Lastly, you have to be willing to sacrifice short-term finances for long-term growth. Often times people are caught up on how much money they are going to make in the short-term and forget the long-term possibilities. In fact, if I wanted to make more money in the short-term, I would not be a CEO now.

5. What is the best piece of actionable advice you’ve received that continue to be a source of inspiration in good times and bad times?

I’ve received a lot of great advice over the years. There are a few that stand out which have been particularly helpful for me:

  • Without my faith and family, none of this would matter
  • You need steady goals. Goals help you say “No” to things that may seem important but are distractions. To truly make it, you have to be able to say “No” to some opportunities.
  • Get a mentor and network yourself.
  • Learn something new every day and keep getting better.
  • Take risks. My goals helped me prioritize and take the right risks. Taking risk is about knowing what you want and going after it.

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Brent is a technology entrepreneur and leader. Brent has a knack for attracting ethical people who have unique strengths and similar ambitions. He has fun providing exceptional value to customers and building a winning culture, while continuously learning about business and leadership. He lives in Atlanta with his wife, Whitney, and two kids, Presley and Kolson.