Axxess President and CEO, John Niyi Olajide delivered the convocation-commencement address to a record 2,482 students at Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo, Nigeria, during its 2022 11th convocation ceremony. In his address, Olajide stated that Africa was “leapfrogging technology for the development of the world” and that Nigeria needs more of job creators”. He also advised that, “whatever challenges and hardships you experience, maintain handwork and faith in God and you will overcome. The future of this nation is bright because it rests in your hands. Believe in yourselves, believe that everything is possible.”
As part of the convocation week activities, Olajide was given the honor to commission the New Radiology Center at the University. The center is equipped with the only MRI scanner in Ogun State, Nigeria. MRI-Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a medical imaging technique used in radiology to form pictures of the anatomy and the physiological processes of the body. The center also features a chemical pathology lab, molecular and tissue culture lab, among others.
The vice-chancellor of Babcock University, Prof. Ademola Tayo, disclosed that the institution recorded the highest number of postgraduate students, with 159 Ph.Ds, 312 master’s and master of philosophy graduates, making it a total of 471, while it graduated 2,011 undergraduates.
John Olajide Babcock University Commencement Address – July 31, 2022
The Chancellor, Pro Chancellor, Vice Chancellor Professor Ademola Tayo, members of the Board of Trustees, Council and Senate, Faculty and Staff of great Babcock University, distinguished guests, proud parents here today, great onyx graduating class of 2022, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends and of course gentlemen of the press, thank you for your warm welcome.
I want to acknowledge my wife and children and my parents that are in the audience. Thank you for your constant love and support. I’m humbled by the opportunity to speak with you today. As some of you may know, just as COVID shut down the world I was supposed to speak to a group of Babcock students, but this audience is so much bigger! It feels like it wasn’t so long ago when I was studying hard to finish my degree and facing my own future beyond school.
I am sure all of your hard work will pay off – and you will go on to play important roles in helping Nigeria and the world develop over the coming decades. In May I spoke to the flagship class of the University of Lagos Law School during their annual reunion of over 40 years. While they were standing shoulder-to-shoulder in their efforts to prepare for their future careers, they forged such close bonds that have made it a priority to want to reconnect with each other at special gatherings each year. They set a wonderful example for all of us on the importance of maintaining close ties with those who play significant roles in our accomplishments. To give you an example of how much this means to me, you may be interested to know that my brother Niran is the Chief Financial Officer at Axxess, and one of my childhood friends Dapo Olowu is our Chief Technology Officer. Doing things to improve the world with people you enjoy and admire is about as good as it gets. We are working hard in the United States and around the world, but our thoughts are never far from Nigeria.
I hope that some of you go on to work together and build the leading companies of the future. About a year ago, I led a discussion among our leaders at Axxess globally to encourage all of us to dream about what is possible for our company and examine our own individual purpose in our lives. I know my own purpose is to serve others, and I suspect that many of you also feel a similar purpose – and that right now you are giving a lot of thought to what is possible. It can be daunting to consider, especially as a young person stepping into life outside of school. I remember it was a time of great pride in my accomplishment, but also a time of great uncertainty as I prepared to launch myself into the world and use my talents to help make the world a better place. I didn’t exactly know what that was going to look like, but I knew I wanted to have a positive impact, and I knew I could not do it on my own. I am sure you’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village” … and it’s true. We need community and mutual support. We must show up for others and know that they would do the same for us.
My message for you today is rather simple. I have observed that if we move intentionally toward our goals and dreams … and have patience … we can go very far. The most important thing I hope you take away today is the understanding that no matter what you seek to do, anything is possible. As I’m sure many of you have heard, “Whatever your mind can conceive of, and you truly believe – and you work hard – you can achieve”. To give context for why I say that it may be helpful to know a little bit of my background. I am the third of five boys, and I was born in Ajegunle, in Lagos. As a group who have all had the opportunity to earn university degrees, you may also be interested to hear that that neither of my parents had more than a primary six education. My parents may not have had a formal education, but they were very wise. And they taught us the value of a good education. I was blessed with great parents. They worked as distributors for Unilever, the BritishDutch consumer goods company, and sold goods to local retailers from their warehouses and stores.
While I was having a good time playing football with friends, they were also teaching me about business and things like the power of rebates and discounts. I was blessed to have been born to a mother and father who had business savvy and cared to share their knowledge with me, and they provided a comfortable life for us in Ogba, Ikeja. During those years, I picked up a love of computing and technology. I was the type to want to learn things, and that continues to this day. I am interested in a lot of things and when I was in school, I learned about computers and technology and I remember thinking about all of the possibilities they could provide Our family knew a family whose children were schooling in Dallas, Texas in the United States and that’s how I ended up in Dallas where I earned a degree in telecommunications engineering from the University of Texas at Dallas. In my early university days, I worked as a welder, a bricklayer, at fast food restaurants, on construction sites and lots of other jobs to pay my way through school.
As you can imagine, I missed attending a lot of my classes as I was always working multiple jobs at the same time round the clock. Sometimes when I attended class, it was hard to stay awake as I was exhausted from work. However, I would always show up to take tests and study hard for all my final exams for each course. I share this with you so you know that my journey here was not easy and I want you to know that whatever hardships or challenges you face along the way, with focus and determination you will overcome. Being at my university at the time was great timing, because the Dallas region was the Telecom capital of the world with global companies like Texas Instruments, AT&T, Lucent, Alcatel, Ericsson, Nokia, Microsoft and others with a strong presence in the region and an active presence on my university campus. There was so much going on in information technology and UT Dallas was a great school, and a perfect environment for me to go beyond what I already knew, so while doing all I could to stay enrolled despite the financial challenges, I made the most of every opportunity I had in school. A dear friend I met in Dallas, who is also Nigerian and a Babcock University alumnus by the way, was the director of nursing for a home healthcare company and asked if I could help with some IT work.
I started asking questions and very quickly could see the business and the industry were underserved from an IT perspective. I started my company in 2007 as a consulting firm out of a two-bedroom apartment, here we call it flats. I slept in one room and the rest of the flat was our first corporate headquarters. As you can see, we have very humble beginnings. As I continued to engage with clients, I could see an opportunity because the organizations wanted to focus on delivering excellent patient care and they had no solutions. My thinking became clear: I wanted to empower them with technology to make their lives easier. I saw that I could help solve a challenge for healthcare organizations and professionals and I could see the entire healthcare industry needed to change. As healthcare costs continue to rise, payers whether public or private including individuals are looking for ways to reduce spending while maintaining or improving quality.
Treatment at home is often cost-effective while being more comfortable for the patient. In Nigeria and all other parts of the world, there aren’t enough resources to build traditional healthcare delivery systems like hospitals. Africa is a leader in leap-frogging technology to leverage the most current innovation to solve problems. Healthcare-at-home will increase access to quality care for people all over the world. For this reason, I have no doubt that the future of healthcare is in the home. I am sure most of you have a hard time imagining getting older and not being healthy, but it will eventually happen to all of us, if we are lucky enough to avoid any premature tragedy. Many of you probably have parents or grandparents or family friends who need special care. At Axxess, we provide cloud-based solutions that can be used anytime, anywhere, so people can receive the absolute best healthcare efficiently and, in the privacy, and comfort of wherever they call home. I share this story because I was fortunate to recognize an opportunity I could address with my skills. And I want to challenge all of you to look for opportunities that can benefit others from your unique gifts. We all have opportunities to contribute to the world in our own ways.
As important as the technology has been in our early success, our culture has been by design because I always had a vision for the company I wanted to create, and the kind of workplace I wanted to be part of. The most crucial thing we have done at Axxess is create a solid company culture that is based on collaboration, transparency, clear and open communication, diversity, and inclusiveness. I am proud to say we are recognized globally as a “Best Place to Work.” We call our way of doing things The Axxess Way. It guides us on how we treat our people, our clients, our partners, our community, and shareholders. We have more than 45 countries represented in our now over one-thousand-person organization, and I have no doubt that this diversity has contributed tremendously to helping us grow. Diversity and inclusion are key to ensuring we benefit from hearing all voices and opinions. It applies to businesses, and it applies to communities, organizations, and policymaking. At Axxess, we say “May the best idea win!” – regardless of where it comes from. Everyone is included and encouraged to offer up their ideas to make us better. Ours is a culture of humility where everyone is valued and their contributions vital to the success of the organization. It is a culture of performance and merit over ego.
For a nation like Nigeria particularly, I believe that when we are able to harness the power of our diversity and build a nation where young and old, rich or poor, Christian, Muslim or any other religion, people from the north or south, east or west, majority or minority, strong or weak, able or disabled is fully embraced and included in the journey of nation-building based on values of hard work, merit, honesty, fairness, justice, openness and transparency then we can realize our fullest potential. Ladies and gentlemen, Nigeria is endowed with abundant resources and this graduating class represents the very best of all that is possible for a brighter future for this society. Keeping a growth mindset and continually learning is so important. I bet you all were thinking after you graduate you will be as smart as you ever need to be! Nothing could be further from the truth – you are only preparing and learning good habits here to keep learning because it will play a huge role in how successful you become. In fact, you will learn soon enough that the more you know, the more you realize how little you know.
At Axxess, even though we are a global technology provider, we maintain an entrepreneurial mindset that keeps us innovating to solve the challenges faced in increasing access to quality healthcare for people all over the world by leveraging the power of technology. The Axxess vision is to be the global healthcare technology leader, and the most admired for our people, partnerships and solutions. These are not just words to us. A lot of companies pay a consulting firm to help them develop a vision and then they put it in a drawer and never think about it again. At Axxess, we developed our vision ourselves and we constantly talk about it to remind us of what we want to become and how we want to always conduct ourselves. We have multiple meetings a day during which the Axxess vision is shared so we never forget it. That clarity guides us every day. As an entrepreneur, I have learned a lot – including how critical it is to adapt after failures. I know, you thought I was only going to share my successes!
The truth is, like most success stories, we’ve had to endure failure right from the start. In fact, we were unable to get our flagship software to work for our very first client! We couldn’t get the software to work all day. I felt even worse because the manager that hired us offered us pizza for lunch, which we had enjoyed. Talk about being awkward! We left and stayed up all night to finally get everything working. We called the next day to say we were ready to come back but the manager told us not to bother and that she’d rather not see us again. Look, if you are thinking of starting a business yourselves, I don’t recommend having that kind of experience with your first client! Ok? Obviously, we learned from that, and we started to attract a lot of clients. I share that story to let you know that there is no straight path to success. Maintaining a belief in yourself and staying strong through times of adversity are essential to whatever success you seek.
As you start out in your career, you will no doubt have feelings that you are not ready to take on new challenges. Those feelings don’t go away easily. A few years ago, I spoke to a Young Professionals group about ways to overcome feeling like an imposter. These were not recent graduates. These were people who had already experienced some success in their lives, but overcoming self-doubt is something we all face, including me.
I shared with them a couple of simple ideas that I think are relevant for all of you to consider:
• First, get comfortable with being uncomfortable – it’s the only way to grow. You have to adopt a learning mindset and accept that to grow, you have to put yourself in positions beyond what you think you’re ready for – leave your comfort zone! As some of you may have heard already, there is no growth in the comfort zone and no comfort in the growth zone. Again, get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
• And second, put time in and do the work. Be interested in what you are doing … and be reliable. Be someone that others can always count on. I want to also emphasize the importance of leadership and excellence to your future success. Obviously, after we had a rough start with our first client. We learned from that started to attract a lot of clients, but even a few years ago we had another pretty big challenge to overcome. As you can imagine, healthcare is heavily regulated in the United States, and the government agency that oversees healthcare payments is always putting out new regulations. Back in 2017 there was a new regulation that went into effect, and we thought we were ready for it, but we were not. And our clients were not happy. We apologized and took immediate steps to improve our software. It took us a few weeks to get everything right, but we learned from it.
This year we had the biggest change in two decades in how organizations get paid by the U.S. government for providing home healthcare. Because we had learned from our past failures, we had features built into our software seven months in advance that are the best in the industry! and because we provided great solutions and thought leadership, we are gaining more and bigger clients globally. That’s leadership and excellence in action. We assessed how we needed to improve, we developed concrete plans, and we executed every day to create an excellent solution that surpassed not only our clients’ expectations, but we are now the standard in the industry globally that everyone is measuring themselves against. Leading to achieve excellence in the long run is one of the most valuable lessons you can learn. Take time to do things right from the start. Lay a solid foundation for your personal development, and for whatever organization you may work for. I might add that while it’s great to land a job at a solid company, it’s even more rewarding to create jobs for others. Nigeria needs a lot more job creators. I also want to share something I have learned and come to appreciate as an essential component to success, and it may surprise you.
It’s been my observation that many people are looking for the perfect hack – something you discover, the perfect fix, a quick solution and it’s game over. It’s human nature to look for these shortcuts. But there are no shortcuts. Success takes time. And time requires all of us to appreciate the value of patience. Sometimes doing nothing can be an effective strategy! Does that surprise you? I will repeat myself. Sometimes doing absolutely nothing can be an effective strategy. Sometimes you have to plant a seed and let it be. We can want to rush bringing a flower into the world, but it will blossom in its own time. I believe we are all getting slightly better or slightly worse every day. At Axxess, I comment often that we are either growing or we’re dying. It’s binary. There is no middle ground. But growth does not have to be dramatic every day. Just making a little progress every day can lead to meaningful improvements. A one percent change is barely noticeable in isolation. But because of the miracle of compounding, it can have dramatic consequences.
Here’s a question: if you could get one percent better at something every day, how much would you improve in one year? You probably know it is going to be more than 365 percent because of compounding. A lot of people think it could be between five and ten times. Let me tell you: The answer is 37 times! Just by being one percent better every day over the course of one year! And if you’re getting one percent worse every day, you are going to be 97 percent worse at the end of the year. Change that is barely noticeable starts to add up over time. So pay close attention to your daily habits. What you do every day is your life! As part of leadership and excellence, I have also learned the value of being engaged in the community, wherever we are.
I have been tremendously blessed to be part of the Dallas business community. The Dallas region is welcoming and the most prosperous in the United States and indeed the world.
There is no place in the world as focused on business prosperity as the Dallas region – and it’s paying off. You may be interested to know that the region by itself has the 23rd largest economy in the world. For context, Nigeria is 24th . Axxess has benefited tremendously from the exposure that I and others on my team have had to so many of the outstanding leaders we have met in the business community. In 2020, I had the privilege of being the Chair of the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce. As you all know, it was the year of COVID! Talk about perfect timing being chairman! At the same time, as a leader, you never let a good crisis go to waste. It was a challenging year navigating through COVID and the racial unrest in America resulting from the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer. It helped me grow and create valuable relationships throughout the entire community. I can tell you that I continue to receive a lot more than I gave. Having great relationships with others matters. A lot. It will make the hard things in life a lot easier.
When you get together as friends, particularly if you share common interests, take the time to discuss common challenges and how you can address them together. I will conclude by letting you know that there is a growing interest in doing business in Nigeria among American business leaders. Axxess already has operations in Nigeria through our global partner Cavista in Lagos, where over 250 software engineers are currently employed. In addition, I personally have made significant investments in an agricultural project in Ekiti State that will employ thousands of people. I have investments in other sectors of the economy. I am passionate about economic development and look forward to seeing all our investments make a significant impact in people’s lives and in the communities we operate in. Just prior to the COVID outbreak, I attended a gathering of the most esteemed American business leaders and dignitaries and several of them expressed their interest in opportunities to do business in Nigeria. Those conversations are ongoing. As you know, several American firms already have major interests here and we need those numbers to grow.
Nigeria can benefit from these interests, and it can learn something from Dallas. It is important to create a welcoming, safe, secure and inclusive economic environment that provides and promotes opportunities for growth. It’s important to lay a foundation of integrity with a mindset of future prosperity. And perhaps most of all, it is important to believe that anything is possible! If I could go from being born in Ajegunle to speaking in front of you today, you the great onyx graduating class of 2022 can be anything you want to be. I know how important that is. Believe in yourselves. Live with vision. Live with purpose. Be leaders. Be humble. Respect the dignity in everyone regardless of status or position and strive for excellence every day. It’s important to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
It’s important to be patient and realize that true success takes time. And perhaps most of all, it is important to believe that anything is possible! I am genuinely humbled and honored to speak with you, and grateful for your interest in what I have had to say. I wish you all the best of luck in making your own contributions to our world, whatever they may be. Don’t rush to get it all figured out, but plant your seeds, water them, and trust in life. Everyone here is going to be cheering for your success and I have no doubt that you will go on to do great things. At Axxess, we end every meeting with a cheer. Let’s all stand up and on the count of three, let’s all shout “Anything is possible!” Okay, everyone … one … two … three … Anything is possible! Thank you, good luck and God bless you all