I vividly remember six years ago when I received a call from a former colleague that someone wanted to meet with me to discuss a business opportunity. At the time, I was an Associate Director at a Big 4 Accounting firm in Nigeria. The mystery man turned out to be my current boss, Olaleye Adebiyi. Before the meeting, I checked him out on LinkedIn and realised he was the Managing Partner and Founder of a relatively small Tax Firm, WTS Adebiyi, made up of lawyers. I was disappointed. I told my wife there was no point in honouring the meeting, it had to be one of the other Big 4 firms, or there was no point leaving. However, my wife convinced me to honour the meeting. I met Mr. Adebiyi at the Southern Sun Hotel. He shared his vision of reviving the iconic Andersen brand in the Nigerian market by reclaiming its past status as the most prestigious firm in the industry against which other firms are benchmarked. That is how my Andersen journey commenced, with one meeting and a great vision.
Reviving the iconic Andersen brand in a market where it attained great success in the past has been no mean feat. Not surprisingly, in the beginning, the expectation from the public was pretty low. I quite remember visiting the FIRS office to introduce my new firm and Transfer Pricing (TP) team to the leadership of the International Tax Department when someone asked, with a look of deep concern, where we were going to get clients considering how saturated the industry was with the Big 4 firms dominating with a huge market share. Clearly, there were a number of challenges that we had to deal with from the onset.
First, we needed to have the right people on the bus to drive the firm towards achieving its vision. This meant looking for like-minded professionals who share our core values of providing best-in-class services to our clients, willing to be stewards of the firm by ensuring we pass on the firm to a well-prepared next generation in a much better state than when we got on board, being transparent in all that we do to help build trust, and willing to work seamlessly with other teams across the network of firms. Second, we needed to position ourselves in a saturated oligopolistic professional services industry as a first-tier direct competitor to the Big 4 accounting firms. This meant having exceptional people providing best-in-class services to our clients.
It also meant differentiating ourselves from the Big 4 firms. For example, as a much smaller firm relative to our direct competitors, we differentiated ourselves by ensuring that partners rolled up their sleeves to work closely with team members to provide quality services to our clients irrespective of the size of engagements. Further, our core value of independence exhibited by not providing audit services meant we could be strong advocates for our clients without having any conflict-of-interest issues.
Finally, to be perceived as direct competitors to the Big 4 firms from the onset, we needed to hit the ground running in terms of creating market visibility. Our widely read weekly publication in the Business Day daily newspaper on tax, regulatory and business-related issues helped us ascend to the forefront of thought leadership in the industry.
We also organised technical sessions, shared our technical views on TV business programmes, and later organised webinars to share our thoughts on topical issues. On business development, we needed to assemble technically sound partners, well-known in their respective areas of expertise with Big 4 experience to lead key service lines. It also helped that our address was at the plush Heritage Place, located in the high-end commercial area along the Alfred Rewane Road in Ikoyi which was close to a number of our clients and prospective clients.
Implementation of some of these strategies came with significant upfront costs, but they were worth the investment. On our 6th anniversary, it is imperative we assess where we are on our journey to enable us commend ourselves for a good job done so far, while we continue to work diligently to achieve our goals and vision.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.