What my father thought me about wealth – Son of Nigeria billionaire Cosmos Maduka



The executive director of after sales services and special duties at Coscharis Group, speaks on the importance of self-development and exposure before venturing into family business and more.

The first thing we would like to know, did you always want to join the family business? Was that always the intention?

Yes, and no. Growing up as the first it was always kind of said, hidden in some way or form either by family friends, by family directly or uncles. “Oh, you’re next in line, you’re going to take over your dad’s business.” Yes, I heard that, but personally, I wanted to be a sportsperson. I didn’t want to wear a suit and tie going to the office. I wanted to play basketball. I played basketball for my high school, Kings College. I also played basketball for my department, Economics, in the University of Lagos.

My love for basketball is kind of the reason why I went to the University of Lagos because my parents saw that I was heading full speed in that direction

At the time, I was trying to look at the universities in the states; I was looking at Ohio State University and Notre Dame, but then, they were talking about things to do in my past time or my free time that had to do around business or summer jobs that had to do with business and something related to the family business.

I’m like, I have no interest in doing that, my whole summers and all my time is booked and they’re like with what? I said ‘basketball camp’.

So my mom smiled and said, ‘oh really’ and then my dad said ‘oh, so that’s your plan for your life’ and then two weeks later. I was back in Nigeria.

That means it was some sort of obligation for you to actually join the family business right from a young age?

Yes, even when I was a teenager, sometimes I went to the office during holidays to work in one or two departments, just learning things on the side, obviously.

I was kind of being prepared in a way to get some kind of interest, but I also had my own ideas.

Obviously, when I graduated from university, in my mind, I was too old to play basketball. Not like I graduated that old, I graduated young age but if you’re going to play professional, you need to be from your teenage years be affiliated with some teams and such.

When I graduated, I knew that dream is over so I had to focus on the next thing I wanted to do with myself which was working in the family business, but my parents felt like I should get some form of experience outside which preempted me going through all those banks that I listed earlier because they felt if I came straight to the business and straight to the top, it will be tough get getting the respect, it will also be tough understanding how to act, how organization runs.

They just needed me to get some level of experience and in Nigeria one of the most organized, regulated and structured industries is the financial or the banking sector. What better place to get that learning experience then at the banks.

Are there pros and cons of working outside the family business before you come into the family business? Would you recommend that as a strategy?

Yes, I believe everything has pros and cons. But for me, I think it’s definitely beneficial. For me, if you come straight into the family business, whatever your family business is doing or the culture that’s all you know, so if you’re going to be there the whole of your life, that’s you’re more or less walking to one particular culture, or one particular style.

But if you have a mix of exposure, especially knowing that there is a plan to run or be one of the board members or head the family business, then it’s good to get the wealth of experience from outside and I’ll say for me personally walking in the bank told me discipline, taught me hard work, also told me to be a bit focused because you’re dealing with people’s money.

Some experience and training and rigorous vigour, that it instill in you. For me, I can’t say I can think of a con, but I definitely know that there are cons to everything, but I know that there are a lot of pros to getting some experience.

Also, it kind of helps when dealing with the people within the family business. Obviously, you can’t read thoughts or minds but it gives some level of respect. “Oh, he didn’t just graduate and was sent straight to the top; oh, he went outside to do some level of work experience before coming in” and then you also have stories to tell of whatever you did or you achieved while working; that I think it’s a pro.

But then again, there’s another school of thought that says the earlier the better, right from start getting to it and so you can start seeing things, how things operate and what you want to do and change. I really have no for or against but the route I took is the route I’m speaking for and I think it makes sense to me.

Recently, I came across a book titled the Myth of the Silver Spoon, a book by Kristin Keffeler. The writer suggests that people who come into family business usually face the pressure to perform, at a high level. Do you feel this pressure and how do you cope with it if you do?

Yes. There is external pressure from others, internal pressure that you put on yourself. I went to school in three different continents; the Americas, Africa and Europe. My father didn’t, he stopped his formal education at primary two because he lost his dad and they couldn’t afford the formula education anymore.

And then he went into apprenticeship and then built what is today known as Coscharis group. So I tell my siblings, “look if our father, who didn’t have any formal education, from just grit and grafts could build this, there is a lot more expected from us.”

Of course, we are Masters graduates, and you’re expected to grow the business, so that pressure is there. And sometimes, it is your dad built the business from nothing to here, you’re expected to take it from where it’s at to the next level.

I think it’s only natural that you feel that pressure, but it’s good pressure. If you care enough, then definitely you will you will feel the pressure. I think it’s good pressure. It keeps you on your toes and helps you always have an eye on the goal, like what are we trying to do? What are we trying to get to? and keep carrying everybody along as well because like I said, it’s a family business, not a one-man business.

For the Coscharis Group, what do you think are the unique characteristics that set your business apart from other family-run businesses?

Okay, to just expand on what else we do beyond the auto industry, we are also into farming. There’s Coscharis Farms, we have about 3,000 hectares of land in Anambra where we farm rice and we also have a rice mill so it’s the full process from planting to the market. We plant, harvest, process, bag and then we sell; that’s the cultural field.

We are in the medical field as well. There’s Coscharis Medicals where we are OEM representatives for hospital equipment. We supply medical equipment from syringes to MRI scanners, brain scanners, CT scans.

We recently finished the hospital in Obudu. I think it’s the Nigerian German Hospital, where we equipped the whole hospital from the ground up with whatever equipment they needed from Siemens and other partners; that’s Coscharis Medicals.

There’s also Coscharis beverages, now Eden’s organic, which was founded by my mother. That handles bottle water, sachet water, dispenser water and yoghurts. They are also trying to expand into flavoured water. As of when she passed, those are the current product lines.

There’s Coscharis Properties as well, which for now handles and manages all the Coscharis properties in terms of facility management and whatnot because we’re spreading over 15 states and we have properties, buildings, office buildings across those States.

Also, there is Coscharis Mobility, which is kind of similar to automobile, but it deals more with rental, leasing, driver training, and driver education. We deal with a lot of the banks, a lot of multinationals who come into the country, need these vehicles but not outrightly buy them, just need these vehicles for a period of time; Coscharis Mobility handles that.

There’s also Coscharis Technologies. As the name implies, it’s an IT business but more on the trade side. It’s the OEM representatives for Mercury, Microsoft, Asus, HP, just to name a few. They deal in Huawei, sales of hardware, laptops, PCS, batteries, UPS, and then we’re trying to do some educational content now with Cosmos tablets. Cosmos tablets have educational content for primary and secondary school. It’s a wide array in different Industries. The Special Duty spot, like I said earlier, lets me know and be involved in these different Coscharis services.

We also have Alpha refinishes. They are the paint suppliers, and are into paint mixing and paint making for automobiles, and buildings.

We’re also in Ghana, Côte D’Ivoire, in Japan; its widespread, that’s just to give you an idea of what the Coscharis conglomerate is all about. But primarily I’m in Coscharis Motors.

Our founding father is an entrepreneur, and where he saw value, he just went into it. So to answer your question on what makes us unique in all this various things that we deal in, I will say again it’s the drive and believe of our founding father who happens to be my father, or my parents; Dr. and late Mrs. Charity Maduka.

The first thing is integrity. Like I said earlier, I knew for a fact that we were Christians.

If you asked me when I was like 10, 9 or 11, “Hey CJ, what are you?” I will say “I am a Christian before even saying I am Nigerian, Igbo or whatever” because as a kid, I went to church four, or five times a week.

I really don’t like talking about my parents, but I will for the sake of this. I prefer other people to talk about them so it doesn’t sound like “Oh, you’re bragging about your parents”, but they raised us with very strict christian upbringing and that upbringing, I could say that it also translated in their lives and how they do business. It wasn’t just something they did at home, It’s something they took outside with them.

Our motto is “We believe in doing it right the first time” and Coscharis is a symbol of value for money. We try to give value for money while doing it right the first time and doing it with integrity and honesty.

If anything sets us apart, I believe it’s integrity, our willingness to walk away from the table knowing that everyone is equally satisfied. We’ve rendered a service, our customers are happy with our service, or our goods that they’ve gotten.

And I believe there’s a listening ear, we take feedback from what people say, we try to solve problems because at the end of day, we are service companies, so making our customers satisfied or happy is our ultimate goal.

My next question is, how do you think next-generation family business leaders can create legitimacy around their positions in their family businesses? What I mean is how do you earn their respect, not just because you are “Oga’” or madam’s child?

I understand. Like I said earlier, you know my route was going through the banks and getting some level of experience. Also, I spoke about caring. If you really care, you know, we have this saying in Nigeria; “na my papa matter business, make I dey go house.” But for me, “na my papa business and I can’t pass the ball to anybody.

So, next ‘Geners’, first you have to care because if you don’t care then you might as well go do something else, do something you love and just earn dividends from the family business so you don’t go there to run it down.

You have to first, care and then if you care, we all have gifts and talents, some have two, some have five, some have ten, bring your gifts and talents to bare, bring it to the forefront to put your best foot forward, look at the industry your family business is operating in, look at the economy, the business, the global world at large.

Look at where shifts are happening globally and see how you can move the business from the previous generation to the next generation along the lines that are that the world is going into.

For example, if your family business was fuji films, making of films, you know that films are outdated. You would be having an eye like, okay, what’s going on? What’s the trend? What are people doing these days? What are tech companies going into? Oh, they’re ditching film and now going into digital camera. So you should start thinking about pivoting. Unless you’re in a family business that is probably in the food industry, you’re just going to make food, that is fine.

People will always eat, so you don’t necessarily need to, you might change your packaging, but the food, your process, your chips or rice or whatever is still food, but like in our business or one of our business, for example, like cars, you can see the world is moving from combustion engine to electric vehicles, you have to keep your eye on that. How are we pivoting with where the world is going?

Are we making preparations to be ready for when that policy says no more combustion engines, only electric vehicles. Are you training your people to work on electric vehicles?

All this has to come from caring and I’m also going to be an advocate not to force people into the family business if it’s a successful family business and the family business can take care of people within the family. They should chase their passions and get competent people either in the family or outside to run the business so that you separate ownership from operations.

An owner-operator is fantastic, but just so we’re not forcing everyone to do what they don’t want to do, then you should separate it. Those who are interested, by all means, look at the business and get in where you fit in. If you’re an IT specialist, every business has IT or most businesses have IT. If you are marketing, most things are moving into social media and digital advertising and all that.

If you are technical or engineering, I mean your family business whatever it is, look at it and get in where you fit in because it’s not a surprise thing you’ve been born into that family so you should know what your business is about.

Even if it’s a medical field and you have chain of hospitals and you’re a doctor, hey get into where you fit in, but if your family business is a chain of hospitals and you have no care for medicine or whatsoever, it will be unfair for them to force you.

‘’We have ten hospitals across the country, and you must head one, it’s gonna die faster than anything because, one, you really don’t care. For those kinds of things, I think the family should support those individuals, as long as it’s not just some frivolous party dreams. You have dreams of trying to achieve something.

“Oh, I want to open up a sports academy, you should get some formal support, but we will always do best when we’re operating in a place of love, passion, something we enjoy as opposed to just a job. It’s your family business, and it’s there forever. You either love it or you let those who can run it so you don’t kill it.

You’ve been in the family business for some time now. After school, you worked elsewhere before joining the family business. What changes have you brought to the business? In implementing those changes, did you experience any pushback from your forebearer, from your mom and your dad and How did you deal with that?

Definitely, and till tomorrow, I still face that. The first question, what changes have I brought or have I brought any; I have brought a few. Obviously, I’m a younger generation so I am more reliant on technology and we don’t all have to gather in one room to see each other; there’s Zoom call like we’re doing right now.

Some of these times, we had meetings that required people to fly in from around the country and outside. All those costs have been kind of eliminated because most of our meetings now are done virtually. I’m just giving an example. Even though I was pushing for it, I think covid also enhanced the need; now, that is more or less a norm. I’m just giving one example but most of the things I try to push is policy change and things around technology where I see or think or I believe the world or the business space is moving to.

Also, it’s tough talking to a successful person. It’s tough, you’re not just speaking to your boss, you’re also speaking to your father. It’s hard when you’re saying, this business, we can do better if we did it this way and he’s looking at you like “yeah, it is this business that paid your hospital bill, your primary school bill, your school bills, all your holidays.

We’ve been doing it this way and you’ve been enjoying the benefits, now all of a sudden it doesn’t work, now, you know better; there’s always that. For me, sometimes it can be frustrating especially when you really know and believe in what you want to do, it can be frustrating but I’ll say sometimes start little. If your big Ideas are not accepted or take, for instance, start little, look for low-hanging fruits of things that you can easily Implement.

For me, another example is, sometimes I bring, maybe an idea that I think we should better our incentive program for the staff or for sales team so that they do this and he was like “no, no, no, no,” incentives program is working.

So instead of being upset or discouraged, I just take it into a smaller circle; instead of trying to do it for the whole company, I start working on that with my division and my department. That also allows you to see what works and what doesn’t work.

If you start it, and it is working, then you have more strength and resolve to push it but if you start and you see there are problems, then you can go back and say, okay, maybe they were right.

Privately held wealth right has great potential to benefit society, but only if held by people able and willing to do good with it. How does the Maduka family or the Coscharis family do good with their wealth?

Again, I don’t like to blow our own trumpet or horn but according to what my dad says, you can’t grow bigger than your current environment or society. You can only be as big as your environment allows you to be.

For us, it is not a corporate thing, it’s a belief thing. I keep going back to talking about the Christianity thing because it is what we believe we should do. If you’re blessed, reach out and help the next man or bless the next man when you can.

Off the top of my head, a very simple answer would be providing jobs for over 1000 or 2,000 persons in the country. But way beyond that, we do a lot of charity work, helping widows, helping orphans, school fees, hospital bills, and supporting various churches beyond the churches that my parents attend.

For us, it’s more of a way of life, stemming from our Christian background. As I said, we do business with integrity. My parents will tell you they’re partners with God and it’s not just talking, it’s living.

You cannot just say it and not do it; they are more in doing. A lot of things that the business does is actually done silently, I’m just the person recently trying to broadcast it.

I’m like, okay, it’s good we do this thing, but for social credit, we should make some noise about some of these things as opposed to just doing it quietly and anonymously.

I remember during covid, when the country shut down in 2020, I think about April or May, we delivered 3,000 bags of rice to the Nigerian Police Force, we delivered 5,000 bags of rice in Lagos, about 5,000 bags of rice to displaced persons and orphans in the East. People were not working and there’s no way to make money but people need to eat and since we have a farm that produces food, let’s spread out and reach out to our fellow country countrymen and women.

Definitely, I agree with you, the amount of wealth that are in family businesses should not just be, I mean, it’s your family, it’s your money, it’s your business. But I feel it should not just be stored up for family use.

Reach out and touch people around you and in the society or however you feel, make donations to charity or how it best people feel that they want to impact or be a positive help to people around them or their economy or society large.

What is your philosophy about being a better leader? And how do you carry others along?

My style is a very open and I believe nobody is an island of knowledge. My style is to engage, have a rapport, and then come to a jointly agreed conclusion.

Sometimes when I know what I want to do, I don’t have time for a pause just very direct but generally, I don’t like to be a dictator, I like to carry everyone on board. “This is the direction I want to go how do we all think we can reach this direction”. So I have a very open-door policy; sometimes it’s tiring and annoying because everybody just walking in and now, trying to say one or two things.

I also think you can’t be a good leader if you are not a good follower. You have to first understand followership and then you can understand leadership or be a better leader.

Because you’ve followed, you have an idea of what following entails or what it means or how the people who are following the leader fell so when you become a leader yourself it helps you better understand people.

What did you learn about finance and money when you were growing up?

I will say it in my dad’s exact words, “even a madman can spend money. Spending money is very easy, if you give a madman 50 naira now, he will go and buy bread and chewing gum. It is making money that is the hard part.”

Making money and saving money is hard, I’ve known that as a child. I didn’t know what it meant, I just know it is hard but spending money is easy.

Basically, in that layman’s terms, it is just to say I learned that you should save more than you spend and if you want to spend a lot, then make a lot more; that’s basically it.

What’s the best financial decision you’ve ever made? And then the last question, how do you define wealth?

That’s tough. What would make it best is from the returns I get or.. I’m also a long-term investor, I’m young and that I know young people like ‘now now’ money, but for some reason I guess because of my upbringing, I invest for the long term. I don’t think I’ve had any investment and got it next year, so I won’t know the best for now.

I know there’re some that are doing terribly but they’re all in the long term because I’m also invested in, beyond traditional businesses, stocks, bonds and cryptos and financial instruments on all that, those are like more long mid to long term investments.

But investments generally, if you can call it an investment, my wife is one of my best investments ever. She helps me a lot, she’s putting me together; you know how we men can be. She helps package me and put it together and say okay go face the outside world now. Well, so if your question included non-financial investment, just general investment, I’ll say marrying the wife that I did. That’s my best investment.

Finally, in very few words, how do you define wealth?

Wealth for me is beyond money. In layman’s terms, wealth is when you and your family are comfortable enough to handle whatever financial things may come your way.

But it’s tough for me defining wealth with Finance because I’m more of you can be wealthy with anything, you can be wealthy with friends, you could be wealthy with knowledge, you can be wealthy with experience.

I’m not really one of those who tie wealth to money. I’ll just say what makes you truly happy and doesn’t hurt the next person, and helps people, if you can do a lot of that, then I think you’ll be wealthy. It might not be financial wealth, it might be goodwill wealth, It might be wealth of friends, but what makes you happy and doesn’t hurt anyone else.

Also, wealth comes from service; If you serve people. My dad always says in table tennis and in lawn tennis you win points when you serve. When you are serving as well, then that’s an opportunity to win points.

I’m telling you about wealth now, I’m not telling you what wealth means to me. If you find an area where there’s a need or that’s lacking and you can serve in that area, then definitely wealth will come to you.


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