Case Studies

Why is succession planning in PR agencies and businesses in Nigeria so poor? Red Star sets example

succession planning in PR agencies and businesses

Succession planning is not one of the habits of most businesses, PR and Ad agencies in Nigeria and the continent. Except for a handful of agencies such as Insight Communications, Prima Garnet, Steve Babaeko’s X3M Ideas and very few others, most agencies do not have a clear succession plan in place. Or they fade into mediocrity after the exit of their superstar founders.

When will Nigerian public relations and advertising agencies be comparable to global agencies like Hill & Knowlton, Leo Burnet Advertising, Oglivy and Saatchis that have soared even after their original founders have long  passed on?

This succession planning dilemma is a systemic challenge that PRCAN and the Advertising Association of Nigeria (AAAN) should bring to their front burners.

Where are these agencies now?

Where are the likes of Grant Advertising, Promoserve, Centrespread, BD Consult, Rosabel, and many other previously dominating agencies? SO&U also never became the same after Udeme Ufot and the famous trio parted ways.

How about Rod Publicity? Historically, it was probably the first real publicity agency in Nigeria. It was so famous that King Sunny Ade did a hit song named after the founder.

The story is the same in the rest of the PR industry where most of the PRCAN agencies are still centered around the PR commander in chief.

A few PR agencies are now taking succession planning more seriously. Yomi Badejo’s CMC Connect, JSP Communications, BMH, Indigo, Brooks + Blake and a few others seem to have some succession ideas up their sleeves, including strategic alliances, partnerships, board expansion and wider equity participation.

The failure for succession planning spans across many industries in Nigeria, not just PR and advertising.

Whatever happened to Concord newspapers, Abiola bookshop and MKO Abiola’s multi-billion Naira empire after he passed away? How about Chanchangi Airline, Okada, FFF Furniture, and late Isiaka Rabiu’s IRS Group of companies?

Shining example on succession planning

succession planning in PR agencies and businesses

Agencies and businesses should look up to Red Star Express on the art of succession planning. Originally founded by outstanding entrepreneur Sonny Alison, their succession planning was so effective that he himself had to exit as CEO many years ago.

The Board of Directors of Red Star Express Plc has just announced the appointment of Mr. Auwalu Badamasi Babura, the incumbent Executive Director (Finance and Administration) as the new CEO. He replaces the incumbent Group Managing Director, Dr. Sola Obabori whose tenure comes to an end on March 31st 2022.

Mr. Charles Ejekam (currently Divisional Managing Director, Red Star Logistics) also replaces Victor Ukwat as the new Executive Director Sales & Marketing.

The appointments did not come as a surprise. They saw it coming and they were groomed well in advance.

The succession planning protocol at Red Star Express is well defined. Agencies and businesses in Nigeria and Africa can borrow from their playbook. Here’s the succession planning sequence at Red Star Express, confirmed by the outgoing CEO Dr. Sola Obabori:

Brand Red Star’s succession planning in 6 steps

succession planning in PR agencies and businesses

  • Strong governance culture at Board level where tenures of the CEO and Executive Director are defined at the beginning and signed off.
  • Ingrained on-the-job training, which makes lines of succession and career pathway clear to all.
  • Job rotation of promising executives to give them wide exposure across the various units and formations within the organization.
  • Close job shadowing and grooming between the current CEO and the next CEO in line.
  • The sheer desire to rejig the organisation for innovation and creativity in response to challenges in the marketplace and other environmental dynamics.
  • A new CEO is appointed after a specified term, injecting new energy and fresh thinking into the company. The term is a two term period of between 6-8years maximum.

What next after Dangote?

Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote is probably mindful of this succession disease in Nigeria and is putting a proper corporate structure in place. But will Dangote the company be the same without Dangote the man? Time will tell.

For now, Dangote and other agencies and businesses in Nigeria have a few lessons to learn from Red Star.

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