Deji Ariyo, a holder of Bachelor degree of the University of Ado-Ekiti and Masters in Business Administration from Cranfield University School of Management. He has vast professional qualifications; PRINCE2, PMP, MSP, MoP, MoV, MoR, P3O, ITIL Expert, BBC, EVM among others. In this interview, he spoke with Enterprations on why he transited from employee to employer.

Why Harrybaker Training?

I had a good career both in Nigeria and United Kingdom. I’m quite a restless person having worked for a number of organizations (UAC, Gateway Bank, ChevronTexaco, Vodafone UK, Charteris Plc, BSkyB and Murray International) within 15 years of graduating out of University of Ado-Ekiti. I was looking for fulfillment but could not find it with any employer, not even with FTSE 25 companies in the UK. I wanted more out of life and give more. Sitting behind the desk as a manager was limiting my potential. For instance, I discovered that I was only using a fraction of the skills I acquired from my MBA at Cranfield, UK. It is very difficult to use all the skills acquired from an MBA without being a Director or an Entrepreneur. Following a deep thought, I decided to bow out of my corporate job and took the bull by the horns by starting Harrybaker Training and Harrybaker Consulting Partners.

Secrets of the business

Business can never be successful until it started. I think the key secret is “starting”. There can never be a right season or right weather. All the micro- and macro-economic factors will never look good. The second secret is “keep showing up”. I’m quite sure you will not be interviewing me today if I had closed shop some years back. There are ups and downs, there are days you feel like winding down to opt for paid employment again when you consider how much your mates earn in the corporate world. One thing I keep reminding myself is that someone must pay the price. Another secret is “Excellence and Passion”. We only consult or advice and train what we are passionate about. Excellence is a product of passion. We stand out from other organizations in Project, Programme, Portfolio, Risk and IT Service Management because of our passion to help organizations deliver value from their investments in change initiatives while maximizing returns on their CAPEX.

Lastly, passion and excellence bring about innovation. There is no way a business can be successful without innovation. We are leveraging on technology to make training cheap for Nigerians and the world in general. We have created hundreds of hours of eLearning contents, helping professionals to learn at their pace and their location without any need for internet. We are constantly researching and in touch with global trends in our market space.

Growth Prospects of the business

There are so much prospects for growth locally and globally. At Harrybaker, we estimated that over N1tr is spent yearly by public and private organizations in developing their employees.  The world has become a global village, all thanks to the Internet and other supporting technologies. The current economic situation of the country necessitates looking beyond Nigeria when it comes to the growth of training business. There are a number of skills people want to learn in Nigeria, our population is an advantage. The era of people going to school or training for the certificates are over. Employers are now more demanding, which puts pressure on employees to show how their skills will add value to the business irrespective of the number of certificates held. This is a market space that is dominated by new entrants daily because of the low barrier to entry. Anyone that knows something can start the business.

Establishing, launching the business

It takes any entrepreneur some calculated and thought-through steps to make any business successful. I assume you are already clear about the services you can offer and your target market. If this is not the case, then you need to work on your “IDEA”.  Establishing the business requires you to register your name as a Sole Proprietor or as a Limited Liability Company. I will advise any entrepreneur to go for the latter option because of growth potential. Secondly, you need to complete VAT registration with Federal Inland Revenue in order to obtain your Tax Identification Number (TIN). This is a requirement for even opening a bank account for your new venture. If you are based in Lagos, you need to register with Lagos Internal Revenue Services (LIRS) for PAYE and other taxes for both employees and owners of the business. There are some other registrations with other government agencies that you need to complete as appropriate such as NSITF. Thirdly, opening a bank account is a must. Registering a business name is not enough, I went through the Corporate Affair Commission’s website recently and saw about 39,000 companies that are going to be struck off the register. They have not made any returns since established. Make sure your company is well established. Launching the business, you need a number of things: Office space – you do not need to rent a big office on the Island if your budget does not permit. You can work from home but one thing that worked for us at Harrybaker is “Virtual Office” concept. You do not want to start incurring high expenses. I remembered when we started, we had a luxury of receiving our prospects in a clean office in VI without having to pay through the nose.

Potential total market size, its growth rate

We leverage technology to make learning fun. Consequently, the total market size for our services is very big covering primary, secondary, tertiary and working professionals. The market size is in billions of dollars. I can estimate the growth rate to be about 20% because an increasing number of people of all ages are learning through technology.

Key elements for starting and running a successful training business in Nigeria

Very good knowledge of your subject area.

Industry experience in the subject area

Clear focus, seeking depth above breath initially. Good depth will make way for breath subsequently.

Deep knowledge of target market

Above all, innovative and creative marketing. You can have the best coaching and training services but if your target market does not know about it, then it will ultimately fail.



We do not really focus on competition. We focus more on remaining innovative, creative and making learning simple. This way, we are certain to always be a step ahead of the competitors. We have not really changed our business model in response to competitors’ actions. I think our greatest competitors is our ideas. We have so much ideas that we have not implemented. If we can only implement 40% of our ideas, we will be at least 200% ahead of any competition. In a nutshell, we are competing against ourselves.

Failures and lessons learned from them

I cannot think of any. Every challenge is an opportunity to learn. Can I call them failures? No. I rather see them as part of our intangible assets, which are the most valuable for us. We know quite a few things now that new entrants will struggle or waste money trying to get done. We have spent some of our human, financial and material resources to acquire these lessons which are necessary capabilities for any organization.

Hiring and developing corporate goals committed employees

One of the greatest challenges in this industry is finding the right people that have what it takes to satisfy clients. Knowledge is scarce in this part of the world. I have employed quite a number of people and had to let them go after some time. Our expertise is our greatest assets but quite hard to find. We constantly search for talents, we have an open recruitment process that keeps looking for the right people who are passionate about re-defining learning in Africa and making learning fun for all ages.

Most satisfying moment

I will say the most satisfying moment was recently when we launched our international website for eLearning. We made a sale within 2 days of launch without advert. There was so much excitement within my team. We never believed it could work so fast. It was amazing. Our international brand – is absolutely doing well.

 Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs

This is purely a knowledge-based industry where you cannot give what you don’t have. Excellence is a must. It will be good for any aspiring entrepreneur to have some good experience before venturing into the industry. It is very essential for Trainers and Consultants to be Subject Matter Experts in their fields. This will engender credibility locally and internationally. Additionally, think about technology early in the starting-up process. This will bring about scalable business that can go beyond Nigeria.