Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Chairman, DAAR Communications Plc, Raymond Dokpesi (Jnr), has said that passion, vision, courage, resilience, vigilance, tolerance, humility and grace are what are keeping him going as the helmsman of the organization.
Dokpesi also gave an insight on how he is managing DAAR Communications, saying that the organisation is standing by its values and principles against a changing wind of public sentiment. Excerpts:
You clocked 40 recently. How does it feel to be 40?
Well, first of all, I give glory to Almighty God for keeping and preserving me to this age. I feel just like I felt when I was 39, except a few of my friends tease me about being an old man now. I am grateful for the life experiences I have had – the opportunity and exposure I have had to engage some of the most amazing people from all walks of life. As a family man, my focus and attention is very much on the next generation. Preparing my children for life in a very different world I was born in.
Are there goals you set out to achieve before clocking 40 that you haven’t realised?
Yes, of course, there are. In business and in my personal life, I have always set goals for myself and many of those I would have hoped to achieve by the time I turned 40. But life is unpredictable, full of twists and surprises – circumstances change and priorities change. Some goals have been overtaken by events, others I will continue striving to attain.
How has it been so far since mounting the saddle as DAAR Communications Plc Chairman?
I have grown a few more grey hairs. But it has been a responsibility and a privilege I cherish dearly. There are no doubt a number of internal and external challenges, but also a lot of opportunities. It is an exciting time to be a stakeholder in the media sector because the entire industry is being democratised and there is so much change and opportunity. We also live in very interesting times. I became chairman at a time Nigeria was preparing for the 2015 general elections and, of course, we witnessed history with the first opposition party coming into government in Nigeria’s democratic history. At the time, DAAR Communications was heavily criticised for its role and editorial positions in that election. The reputation, integrity and brand of the organisation were being tarnished, denigrated and undermined on a daily basis. It took a lot of courage and resilience to stand by our values and principles against a changing wind of public sentiment, which interpreted our actions to reflect support for the incumbent government in power. It has been a challenge restoring the trust and confidence our audiences have always entrusted to our brands, but we are getting there and five years later, lot of people recognise why we took the positions we did and thoroughly appreciate us for the work and sacrifices we have put in. There are still pockets of mistrust in certain circles, but these are getting fewer and smaller across board. Today, we live in unprecedented times with the COVID-19 pandemic and our response and media coverage have been top class. We enjoy the confidence of the majority of our stakeholders, but there is still room for improvement and a lot of pressure to do better.
What does it take to run a media conglomerate such as DAAR Communications?
Passion, vision, courage, resilience, vigilance, tolerance, humility and grace.
What are your plans to transform the company, particularly in the area of staff welfare?
For a very long time, the culture of work at DAAR has been that 30-days make a payday and it was sufficient to come to work everyday to earn a salary at the end of the month. The practice of using KPIs as a management tool is still very novel at DAAR, but there is an increasing recognition that we have individual and collective responsibility towards attaining the corporate goals of the organisation, including improvement in staff welfare. To compete effectively in a competitive industry like the media, organisations no longer hire people. They lease skills and the value of staff is closely correlated to the skills, productivity and performance they can bring to their roles. DAAR is a big family comprising human resources from people who were pioneer staff at our inception, to the newest recruits still on probation. They have varying levels of skills, experiences, enthusiasm and passion to learn that make each of them uniquely valuable to the organisation. Some skills and competences are required on a full time basis, some for only a few hours a week, others perhaps only for a few hours a month. Presently, we are carrying everyone as full time employees and prevailing industry conditions make it a challenge to sustain this level of commitment. We are presently undertaking an exercise where we are reviewing our existing employment contracts and placing a lot more emphasis on performance-related pay. I believe that the way we incentivise our employees will fundamentally change our culture and attitudes to work, as well as attract some of the industry’s very best talent. This will improve the quality of our output and attract more audience, which translate to higher revenues and better staff welfare through performance-related pay.
How do you cope with the challenges of overseeing the different arms of DAAR Communications and family issues?
I think many people have many hats and are frequently in situations where they have to juggle between their different hats. But to perform their roles fairly and effectively, they can only wear one hat at any one time. I think the moment you start experimenting with wearing multiple hats at once, it is a very slippery slope to finding yourself in a position of conflicting interests. Family issues are family issues. There is a family structure and hierarchy that must be respected and everyone within that structure given their dues. Business issues are business issues and likewise, the hierarchy and decision-making within the corporate structure must be respected. Once these principles are respected, managing both DAAR Communications and family issues becomes pretty straightforward.
Where do you draw the line between official and private matters?
The boardroom is not an extension of the bedroom. The topics and agenda for discussion in each room are completely separate.
Some people have said that the bulk of the responsibilities of DAAR Communications still stop on the desk of the Chairman emeritus. Why is it so?
I would imagine because the chairman emeritus is frequently seen to entertain visits from members of board, management and staff. The chairman emeritus remains a very influential father-like figure to everyone at DAAR. He has excellent relationships with members of board, management and staff, which often predate their engagement with DAAR. He is charismatic and the people who come to engage with him usually form bonds and relationships that transcend official business. But that is not to say that he takes on any of the heavy lifting of responsibilities of DAAR any more. He has a role to play as founder and chairman emeritus and occasionally, we call on him to play those roles. But I think he will be the first to tell you he is happiest when he sits back and enjoys his retirement.
If you were not the Chairman of DAAR Communications, what else would you have been doing?
You need to understand that I was 14 years old when Ray Power was launched and since that time, I spent every holiday in and around the music libraries, radio and later, television studios and production facilities. I literally grew up in media and loved it from the very start. So, I probably would still be in media as an entrepreneur if I were not chairman of DAAR Communications. I would probably be highly involved in media-tech, building the media platforms and solutions I’m still pushing as chairman of DAAR Communications, but will not have had to deal with the legacy challenges and enormous responsibilities of leading DAAR Communications simultaneously.
You had a brush with COVID-19. How was your experience?
I’m grateful I went through it because it allowed me confront and overcome the panic, tension and fear created by global media in their coverage of the pandemic. I was lucky to have tested early, not to have any underlying conditions and to have received excellent care whilst at the Gwagwalada Isolation Centre. But most importantly, having gone through the experience, I have recovered and came out more assured that Nigeria as a country and as a people will beat COVID-19 without need for excessive concern or fear.
Considering the tension created by the pandemic, were you scared of any unforeseen situation?
Prior to contracting COVID-19, I certainly was. When I did test positive, I put all my faith in God and I never panicked. Within a few days, I was feeling stronger and reassured that I will be fine. My only anxieties arose when other members of my family tested positive and had to be isolated with me in Gwagwalada. That was a very testing and trying time, especially because my father does have underlying conditions and I was deeply concerned about him.
When you are not busy with the business of DAAR Group, what else do you do?
Is there ever a time I’m not busy with the business of DAAR Group? I do have to take a conscious decision to walk away and relax every once in a while. But more often than not, when I’m not directly occupied with DAAR business, I find myself networking, consulting or mentoring. I try to find time to support people, charities and initiatives I’m interested in. And, of course, my kids always get the short end of the stick when it comes to my time. So, whenever I can, I love to spend time with them.
How do you relax?
I enjoy socialising with friends, reading in my quiet time and watching football whenever Chelsea is playing. I would say I like to travel, but I get too stressed when I spend more than a week away.
What is that fashion accessory you can’t do without?
None. I wear a necklace in memory of a loved one, but I haven’t got any fashionista obsessions. I like to dress well and look sharp when I need to and just be comfortable when I relax. Fashion has never been a high priority for me.
What is your choice of food?
I love food. I eat everything. More recently, for health reasons, I minimise intakes of meat and oil, which I really miss because some soups don’t taste the same without palm oil. But I’m contented before I quit, “I chopped them wella!”
Where is your favourite holiday destination?
I will have to say Dubai. It is warm, it is a direct flight away and I can find everything I can imagine within a few square kilometres. Most importantly, I always find myself inspired when I’m in Dubai. I return home reassured that with proper leadership and determination, nothing is impossible. More often than not, that is all I need to confront my anxieties and concerns for Nigeria and refresh my energies to take on the challenges waiting for me upon my return.
Who do you look up to as role model?
I couldn’t say there is any one person because I look up to different people for different things. There are a number of people who have influenced me though from my grandparents to my family members, my friends and my leaders. I admire them and have tried to imbibe some of their attitude, values and ethics into my life. I prefer to draw inspiration from people I have come across directly and had the opportunity to share in their experiences and personal stories of triumphs over adversities. If I could pick one person alive that I will like to meet and whom I know I would respect and look up to as a role model, it will probably have to be Barack Obama.