SUCCESS NEVER COMES EASILY: INTERVIEW WITH BANKOLE CARDOSO OF EASY TAXI NIGERIA
Today, Yinka Brand will be talking to Bankole Cardoso, the brain behind Easy Taxi Nigeria. Bankole is a business management and accounting graduate from Boston College. Earlier this year, he was listed in Forbes 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs and featured on CNN African startup.
Who is Bankole Cardoso?
My name is Bankole Cardoso; I am a Nigerian entrepreneur and the Founder/CEO of Easy Taxi Nigeria. I was born and raised in Lagos before moving to the UK to attend Rugby School. I then went on to study business management at Boston College in the United States. I launched my career with PriceWaterhouseCoopers in New York City before joining the private equity firm called The Carlyle Group also in New York.
Tell us about Easy Taxi Nigeria.
Easy Taxi is a technology platform that gives our passengers the convenience to book taxis ANYTIME, ANYWHERE, and ANYPLACE, with high-quality service in mind. Hence our tagline ‘Easy Taxi – Your taxi one touch away’. We are bringing Nigerians a trusted and reliable taxi service. So if you want a taxi, we are going to connect you to the closest available transportation providers, we’re going to get you the quickest pick up time, highest quality ride, and we’ll bring it to you at the lowest possible cost.
How was growing up like for you?
Growing up was a lot of fun, I had so much energy and as my mum says, I was a naughty boy! I remember at my graduation lunch my family kept referring to how I was so playful and restless as a boy and they cannot believe how calm I am now. I was normal though, I liked video games, cartoons and playing with friends. I think the naughty side came from my obsession with WWF as I used to try out all my moves on my friends.
Why did you move back to Nigeria after studying and working abroad for 12 years?
I moved back to Nigeria after spending 12 years abroad because I only ever intended to grow my career in Nigeria. I expected to move back after university but I had my first job offer. Shortly after that I was in a second job so when the time came to evaluate my next move I only considered moving home despite the move looking risky.
For long I have recognized that Nigeria is going places so that is why I was always bent on returning shortly after finishing my education. I believe that I can make an impact here and contribute to our country’s growth. I am not claiming to be the most patriotic person in the world but I consider myself extremely lucky to be from the right place at the right time and to be able to be a change agent here.
What’s the toughest problem you ever had since you started Easy Taxi Nigeria? And how did you deal with it?
The toughest problems always involve human relationships. It is a fact of life that not all people in an organization will get along with one another but it is also very tricky to deal with. I found that one of our small teams had problems working together and the relationships were not getting any better so we had to split them up. It was important not to take sides or favour one person over another but it was also important to show my control.
What aspect of your background or education has been the most helpful in your experience as an entrepreneur?
I would attribute the most helpful skills for my experience as an entrepreneur to a mixture of things from my work experience more so than my education. The work ethic that I nurtured and the real world experience that I had managing people have been the most valuable skills I can translate to my current role.
What is one mistake that you’ve made that our readers could learn from?
Not reacting to a customer issue quickly enough. I have realized that one of the most important things when you are running a business is to put yourself in all of your potential customer’s shoes as often as possible. Your customers should own the decisions you make. We are a technology company providing a transportation business so it is sometimes difficult to understand the different challenges that every different passenger may encounter but I try to figure out all the possible scenarios in advance so we can avoid them. A happy customer is key for us because that customer is very quick to spread the message so I try to use Easy Taxi in as many different circumstances as I can to make sure that we are always providing quality.
How do you find people to bring into your organization that truly care about the organization the way you do?
That is one of the most difficult things to figure out, especially in a 30 minute interview! The honest truth is that it takes time so I try to plan ahead so we are never in a desperate situation where we want just anybody to come in to make up the numbers. We always try to find the right people that will stay with us for the long term and grow their career with Easy Taxi.
How important have good employees been to your success?
I am the first person to tell you that my employees have built this business with me so they are crucial to our success. I have fantastic employees; I always look to hire people that I believe are smarter or better than me.
What does your typical day look like?
There is no typical day but I usually wake up around 7am. I will sometimes do a quick workout, watch the news as I get ready for work and be in the office by 9am. I brief the team on the previous day’s performance and the day’s goals and then respond to some emails and go through reports. I will most likely have meetings to attend during the day so I structure my day around them. I usually get home around 8pm have my dinner relax with my family and will attend to anything work related that I have to. I usually do not sleep till around 1am.
Why do you believe so much in Corporate Social Responsibility?
On a personal level, I am a firm believer in supporting my community. Only if my community is bustling and pleasant can I enjoy living there. This same belief extends to corporations; corporations are very visible and influential in many communities so it is only right that a corporation supports its community. Corporate Social Responsibility also endears a corporation to the community and generates a positive feeling about the company when residents can identify with the company as one of them.
What habits have you developed over the years that have helped you?
I am level headed. I never get too excited about a successful feature or event and I make sure that I look for ways to do it better or make it better. On the other end, when things don’t go too well I don’t beat myself up over them, I just quickly look for solutions.
What terrified you the most at startup but turned out to be nothing?
Starting up was not easy. There were so many uncertainties and we had to learn the industry very quickly. I quickly realized that taxi drivers were the best people to talk to as they understand the market better than anyone else but they were also the people that I was most weary about. With time we have a great understanding and they see the benefits that we are bringing them.
What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?
I would advise college students to be patient about becoming entrepreneurs. The transition from school to the real world is a big adjustment so I am grateful that I had some work experience before starting a business. I think working gives you an invaluable experience that you cannot get from working for yourself and that you also cannot get from school. It is good to learn the habits of your bosses who will likely have over 20 years of experience.
My second piece of advice is to have partners to share the burden with. The first part of starting a business is having fun and a great advantage is finding someone that is as passionate about the idea as you are. Business is tough so once you start realizing how much everything costs and how difficult it is to sell your product you may want to give up. It helps to have someone to share this burden with and to help you keep pushing in the up and down times. Success never comes easily.
Use your network and don’t be afraid to ask for help. As a young entrepreneur it is important to learn quickly and to leverage your connections. It is important to have a network of people that you can ask for advice. The one thing I have found is that people are always interested in what you are doing and are always willing to help in any way that they can.
How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
Giving up should not be an option. It should not even be a thought. If you had an idea that you believed in so much that you actually followed through then there must be something there. It is important to look inwards at your execution of the idea before giving up. It is important to try every possible strategy to grow the business before you entertain giving up. As an entrepreneur I can imagine that the worst feeling is having regrets over a failed business.
How do you define success?
Success can be many things but I identify with successful people as the ones who through their sheer effort and intention have built something or done something impactful that gives them and other people joy.
What book has inspired you the most?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is the most inspiring book I have ever read. The book revolves around the idea of your personal legend. Everybody has a personal legend, which is the one thing that they have always wanted to accomplish from a young age. The message in the book is that the universe conspires to help people achieve their personal legend. It is a very powerful book.
Lastly, what do you think about Under35CEO.co?
It is a great platform to read what other young CEO’s are doing and to learn from their experiences. It is important that we all share our experiences and inspire others.
Are you a young entrepreneur under the age of 35 with an interesting story of success (or failure)? If yes, then the Under35CEO community has something to learn from you.
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