Justus Obaoye, Head, Cars45 Aftersales and GoMechanic45 is a visionary business leader with a unique sense of future possibilities. Before Cars45, Justus has worked as a Geoscientist, Training Instructor, Geoscience Data Manager and Geomodeler with leading Oil and Gas firms that include Schlumberger, Total E&P, British Gas, ExxonMobil, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company, SNEPCo, and Sahara Energy Field Ltd. He was also selected as first runner up in the 2019 edition of the Total Startupper Challenge. In this interview, Justus provides insight on the nexus between oil and gas and the automotive industry as well as what keeps him awake at night.
How was leaving the world of geoscience into the world of automobiles?
On the surface they might appear to be unrelated, but the interesting thing is that my time in the services arm of the oil and gas sector provided me with a service-first orientation. So, for me, it’s been about transitioning that experience — service excellence from one vertical (oil and gas) to the other (automotive) because the shared values across both verticals are there in addition to similar dynamics. I studied Geology, which is basically the application of science to creating sub surface models — repositories for oil and gas. Essentially, you are using science to search and expose a hidden treasure, (solution needed in our society, considering the many uses of oil and gas). For me, the nexus is that all my career roles have been about a search for solutions — connecting solutions to the problems they solve.
What was the biggest challenge you faced starting out as an entrepreneur?
This adventure for me was about leaving a charted territory for uncharted waters. The ambiguity that comes with the new environment can be a challenge — structures are off, support systems are off, and there you are trying to create something that didn’t exist before your foray into that space. The challenge that comes from being surrounded by a lot of uncertainty, where often there is a lack of form or shape and being able to move from the current reality that stares you in the face to your desired reality is one that we must all grapple with.
What was your motivation for joining Cars45?
I was already trying to do something interesting and novel in the aftermarket space of the automotive industry with Carido and Cars45 had established itself as a market maker and strong brand in the trading segment of the auto market. I am a big fan of collaboration, and so with a huge sense of the possibilities that can be achieved from a synergistic relationship (aftermarket services layered on trading excellence), I was enamored. The multiplier effect that would happen from such a relationship, where 1 plus 1 would result in excess of 2 was a critical factor I considered.
What is a normal workday like for you in Cars45?
My workday is somewhat still uncharted. We are still laying a solid foundation for the aftermarket side of the business, as such, there is some unpredictability about what my day looks like in terms of function, scale and operations as the Head, of the business. I am literally focused on putting the right structures in place, cultivating the right partners, etc which sees me either working from the HQ, partner locations, or on the field — repair labs and workshops, or any of our retail / inspection centres.
How do we plug the pain points in the after sales and repair markets for Nigerian consumers?
The pain points are related to the true nature of the market. When you look at the cost of vehicle ownership in relation to the value of the automobile, and place this within the Nigerian space, you’ll find out that you have predominantly pre-owned cars — a used cars market. This is related to the fact that our purchasing power doesn’t allow us entry into auto ownership until at a point where disposal of the vehicle is what needs to happen. Developed markets come in when there is substantial value on the car, either bought new or near brand new, they utilize the “useful” life of the vehicle and then dispose. It’s at this point that these vehicles find their way into our market with some residual value. Over 70% of cars on Nigerian roads are above 10 years, with research showing that the intersection of total cost of ownership and value is often around the 9th year mark, which then means that the optimal lifetime value of a car is for nine years or below ten years.
To get the most from the residual value, maintenance therefore becomes a focal touchpoint. Sadly, customers have been exploited in the critical search to meeting this maintenance need to sustain their mobility by some actor and players in that space. It becomes a double jeopardy because the customers don’t even get the full value of service having been exploited for economic gains by these actors who are often roadside mechanics.
For us, what we have come to do in this industry is to redefine the automobile ownership experience for every Nigerian car owner by firstly re-introducing trust which is a strong brand value for us — the brand that motorists can trust and go-to. Layering on that trust, is the need to trust is the need to demonstrate service excellence. Essentially, we are saying that beyond the fact that you can trust us, we want to show you that we can repeatedly do it. Our mantra is get it right the first time. Also, we are big on convenience as well where consumers can easily access a trusted service provider — this is buoyed by the network of partner workshops that we have. All these things reinforce one big idea for us — commitment to customer satisfaction. Trust, service excellence and convenience all tie back to consistent customer satisfaction that helps them sustain their mobility.
What are your go-to hacks for moving a product from idea to reality?
Strategy is key. Oftentimes, the missing link is strategy. However, when you have a clear strategy with ruthless execution, you cannot go wrong. There is a huge gap between ideas and reality, strategy helps you to bridge the gap because it serves as a roadmap and execution makes the journey from point A to B.
What 3 things keep you awake at night?
Firstly, that would be my purpose. At every point, there is always something to learn and know on a consistent and incremental basis. It is this quest to know and learn that keeps me up — that journey into discovering why I am here. As I get more clarity into my sense of purpose, the need to execute that mission is incumbent even thought the mission could take different dimensions — career, entrepreneurial pursuit, humanitarian passion, etc. This sense of carrying on with the mission also keeps me awake. Lastly would then be that need to back the purpose, mission with a keen sense of strategy and vision. Vision is about becoming, and the mission is what you do to become which intrinsically have their roots in purpose.
What is your biggest learning so far in your various roles?
In my career trajectory, there is a common theme that rings true — I have been mostly tasked with building out things of value. Interestingly, why I was charged with structuring these projects, I was been built up myself. Since then, I have become passionate about building because you get character building, capacity building, competency building in that process.
Do you have role models? Is there a leader that inspires you?
All builders inspire me — Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Elon Musk of Tesla. I take my learnings from all builders out there. We are fortunate to live in a time where there are many builders, and we can see and engage with what they are building in a rewarding way.
Can you describe yourself?
Others would be best suited to do this. But then, when you (the interviewer) read out my profile, the phrase — a young man with a strong sense of future possibilities and committed to excellence, struck a very strong nerve.
How do you unwind when you are not at work?
I love to watch movies, especially documentaries. And then hanging out with my five-year-old son, who in turn has turned to something I used to unwind with back then — playing games. Family outings as well. I am looking to add more things to my unwinding list so that I am no longer a boring socialite. Maybe join a football club, just for the sake of socializing.
What’s your favourite book, TV series or film?
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey is a fav. I’ll also add, A Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren to this list.