Nigeria’s Top 10 CEOs of the year, 2019 – Steve Babaeko
CEO, X3M Ideas Limited
Mr. Steve Babaeko, Chief Executive Officer, X3M Ideas Limited began a journey as an advertising professional in 1995 when he packed his bags after his National Youth Service Corps programme and moved over from Kaduna to Lagos. He didn’t know anyone but he knew what he wanted and was on the lookout for it. All he had was passion for advertising wrapped in hopes and dreams.
His focus for a job was on advertising agencies and he made out a list of target companies. He began to make contacts with them, just taking chances until a door opened unto him as a trainee copywriter/radio-TV executive at MC&A Saatchi and Saatchi. Seventeen years of experience followed – built up from three different companies and then the big step forward into X3M Ideas happened in 2012.
The company is his advertising and creative agency, which has gone beyond advertising to impact creativity and branding in Nigeria. Apart from running X3M Ideas, he is also the founder/CEO of X3M Music.
Babaeko has today ascended to the commanding heights in advertising in Nigeria and beyond. He is the only Nigerian on the exclusive list of international icons, which honours people whose ideas are advancing the advertising world.
The same way he landed at Lagos without a roadmap, he also pounced on the business without a business plan. “The business plan was in my head”, he said. “I knew what the revenue streams were and what the major challenges would be”, he added. The biggest asset in his hands then was the 17 years of tutelage that had groomed him in the business as a marketing communications expert.
As an expert, he knew precisely what to do in the business but without a plan, he did know how best to get it done with the resources at his disposal. Inexperience in cash flow management took its toll in financial strain at the initial stage and left for him hard lessons that charted the course for success.
Passion and professionalism are easy to identify by clients who know what they want to accomplish in their brands. Babaeko had them combined, which soon delivered in his hands two big accounts that announced his entry into the business from the top. The first was Mayora, makers of Kopiko candy and the other was Etisalat, which he was the account handler in the last company he worked for – 141 Worldwide.
He didn’t collect the business from his former employers but part of the account domiciled in another agency was transferred to his company. He, it was, who introduced the brand in Nigeria and with the success, the client followed him where he went. “That’s how we landed our first big account, and it put X3M’s name on the map because of the kind of work we did for them”, Babaeko recalls.
He has grown X3M Ideas into one of the biggest agencies in Africa. He has ventured outside Nigeria to Lusaka, Zambia; Ghana; South Africa and South-Central Africa. The spread is his own contribution to growing the economy of the continent, which he said isn’t going to happen without Africans taking their destinies into their own hands, breaking barriers, creating values and reducing poverty.
His company’s client portfolio includes some of the heavyweight brands in Africa: Dangote, Glo, DStv, Peak, Absolut, Conoil, and Martell, among others. The company commands a staff strength that Babaeko speaks of as his biggest investment. When it comes to awards and recognitions, he gets it “but I didn’t do the work all by myself”, he said.
He points to human capacity as the key structure for organizational accomplishments. He runs a company in which staff welfare is at the high end of organizational preferences. Caring for the needs of his team is his strategy for obtaining high level performance. “I still need a strong team with everybody firing at 150 percent in different positions”, he said.
Babaeko sets an example of how any company that claims that ‘our people are our greatest assets’ should show it and guard those assets. Speaking of the facilities that are part of the working environment of his company, he said, “we have built this place to allow people to thrive”.
His company has on standby a full-time nurse on the premises who attends to emergency health matters of employees. The lives of two employees have been saved because of the presence of the nurse. The company also has a fully-equipped gym along with a games room, a pool table, a bar and a cafeteria.
In a sense, Babaeko isn’t out in the business field for money. He is using the company to drive his purpose of building people and institutions, which in turn, build the builder. The idea of his X3M Ideas is to use the platform to help other people find their own purposes. It is for him a great fulfillment to be the man who opened more doors of opportunities for more people than most other people who have travelled the same way.
An experienced marketing communications professional, Babaeko has utilized varying storytelling techniques to deliver winning campaigns for his clients’ world class brands. He is confident about the future of Nigeria’s advertising industry.
“Nigeria is the next big thing to happen on the continent as far as advertising is concerned,” he said. He wants agencies to shape up for the new chapter by thinking global and making impact by putting great ideas on the digital space.
For his far-reaching impact in helping people and institutions reach their goals through creativity and for his contributions in advancing the pace of advertising in Nigeria and beyond, Babaeko is named one of Nigeria’s top 10 CEOs of the year, 2019 by The Top 10 Magazine.