The CEO of Grandville Medical and Laser, Dr. Ayo Aranmolate, is a plastic surgeon in an entrepreneurial way and undoubtedly, he is one of the leading names in that line of business in Nigeria today.
Having started Grandville from a one room apartment, today, he has a well established business outfit with branches in Lekki, Surulere and Abuja. In this interview, Aranmolate reveals that his start-up has grown organically, over the years, despite attendant challenges, ranging from poor power supply, taxation and financial constraints.
While sharing his success story, he spoke to Daily Sun on the fundamentals of startups.
It was a small startup. I started as little as possible. When I was through with my training, I needed to go study Plastic Surgery in the US. I applied for visa but it didn’t work out initially. My initial plan was to go and train on Laser in the New York and later go to Indianapolis to start work maybe as a Laser specialist because I already had some of the licences to practise in the US. I later decided to start up in Nigeria. It started out as a plastic surgery outfit but we are now expanding it to other medical units which includes intensive care units, laboratory services and a trauma centre coming soon. We have three centres in Lekki, Surulere and Abuja. We also have an after-care which is like a home where patients are taking care of, apart from the regular hospital.
I started with my last earned salary when I was in the National Orthopaedic Hospital. Subsequently, consultations fetched me some money too and that was how I was able to buy some of the laser machines. At the initial stage, I was using other hospitals. I was using a one room apartment in Gbagada and then went for a place in Ajao Estate where I was using their theatre and their consulting room. We had an agreement of a certain percentage of my earning would be given to them. Six months down the line, I met a friend who could no longer afford to pay for his office rent and we agreed that I take over ownership. I had the office in Surulere. I can always say I started with N325,000. The next thing was that my wife had to get a loan for me to buy about two laser machines. That was when someone that saw me the previous year let out his existing rent. That was his own contribution to the business.
Growth and staffing
What I can tell you is that the business was grown organically. When I started, my staff salary was less than N150,000. It was just about three of us. We never had people placed on admission. What that meant was that I brought in another staff to do the admission care. After some time, when the business started growing, we recruited both morning and midnight doctors. Then, I was not paying myself any salary. I was just living from hand to mouth that I had to sell one of my cars to sustain the business. I remember that that period, I had two cars for my wife and I. When I sold one, I became a driver that every day, I would first take my wife to work and go back to pick her in the evening. I was not even earning any salary. It got so bad that at a point, I needed N3,000 to fix my generator set but I had to be given that by a friend. For about four years, there was no salary and all I did was take something for upkeeps. When it was time for another level of the business, the other partner went to the bank and took some loans for with which we renovated the building then. The building was for rent and the landlady had agreed that we pay later. We started fixing the rooms little by little. After a year plus, we went to get about N30million to take care of the business.
I really don’t see any competition here. Nigeria has well over 170million people. What makes us different is that we started showcasing the plastic surgeries on social media through the consent of the patients. People started realising we can do it. In terms of competition, it will always be there but I don’t see it. The advantage we have is the experience and the number of people we have done. I also try to update myself frequently. I know every other person that is in competition with me. They trained from me, apart from those who came from abroad. Some have been with me. You can’t know more than the master, except for a special talent. I also know that my talent is unique and it is divine. There are several feats I have achieved and I am happy with. I like to do extremes of surgeries that many would rather turn down. I like to take up such tasks and get to success. That is when people would appreciate you and that adds to your wealth of experience and knowledge.
Just like it is for every regular business, the major challenge are money and human resources. Yes, I know that there are other environmental factors like electricity, good roads, good policies. All of these influence business. We also need the right patronage and the right workers. If you are doing it right and you don’t have people that follow you from behind, it would just amount to futile efforts. If we all have a common goal, it would just appear as if we are doing more than enough. So, sometimes, if you have the money to sort the financial part of the challenges, the human resources is there because money will buy all things but won’t buy good workers. So, the people that you work with determine how successful you will be. The other issue is about power and that is where the government really needs to look into.
That would be in a way of looking for investors. Another is through borrowing which we have had to do in recent times. You also want to have assets so you can use them as collaterals for your borrowing. The trauma centre is going to cost a lot of money that I had to call in some investment bankers to come in. You will always need other people’s money to grow your business. When such funds are involved, people will be more interested in the business you are doing.
Hitches in borrowing
If you think it is less stressful borrowing, then try and borrow. The funny thing is that it is the microfinance banks that I borrow from the most. They are easily accessible. Commercial banks don’t easily give out the money. We once approached a bank and when I heard the type of collateral they were asking for, I asked how much is the money I am even borrowing. If I knew I was going to produce N40 million before I can borrow, then, i would have taken the whole thing as nonsense. The only thing with microfinance banks is that you are under pressure to mop up the money you have taken. But then, one thing I have learnt is to trust in God. You can be hardworking and be poor but when you have a good workforce backing you, it would look as if you are the richest.
For the last three months now, we have not had power here becuase the transformer got bad. They later brought it and can’t install it because they said there is an outstanding bill. That means we have to always run on generator for 24 hours daily. Tax is another thing. Once the government notices that business is booming, they send tax notice to you. Our auditing firm just notified us that the state government is coming soon for another tax payment. The fact is that you are also providing jobs for people. Government can allow people build their businesses for two or three years, after which you can start asking for tax. We hardly run on generators in our Abuja branch because they hardly take the light. So, we need to spend less on power, for business to thrive.
Lessons for small businesses
I will say that patience, skill acquisition, risk taking are part of the lessons here. If you are afraid to start, you can never start. I wasn’t afraid to start which was why I suddenly became my wife’s driver. At least, I was driving a car of my own before that happened. It is not bad moving from up to down in order to go up again. There is always a time of suffering. Our environment needs a lot of skilled people. If we have more money, we want to be more efficient in the area of facilities and staff welfare. These are rudiments to success. You can’t hire mediocres and expect people to pay for excellent services. It should be a combination of identifying the needs and bringing in the God factor too.