Dr. James Orleans-Lindsay – Entrepreneur of The Month


TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF.

I was born in Cape Coast, grew up in Koforidua and in Accra.

My mother is a very strict and courteous Fante woman who valued discipline above all else. She is also a staunch Christian who would make sure we went to church every Sunday I remember; my mum would even punish me for the mistakes of my younger siblings. Whenever that happened, I felt she was picking on me but later in life she explained to me that she wasn’t picking on me but rather she was training me to be my brother’s keeper. She explained that since I was the eldest I had to defend my siblings at all times.

Humility is the bedrock of my existence and everything I do is guided by that word. When I was younger, I was older people gave me gifts just because I was so humble. Mind you “humility and not timidity”. These are values I picked from my beginning.

My mother insisted I go through the Catholic education system so I did. I started preparatory at Madonna in Koforidua and then to St. Peters High School, Nkwatia. It is one of the best schools I have come to know because the value of self-reliance was instilled into us at that tender age. This has greatly affected my life.

I went to St Augustine’s College in Cape Coast to complete my 6th form. My love of logical reasoning steered me to the debate club whiles in St. Augustines.  St Augustines instilled in me the virtue of being my brother’s keeper. That value coupled with the need for self-reliance from St Peters, laid a very solid foundation for me.

I went to Budapest University to study medicine after secondary school. I started well but after 10 months, I called my dad and told him I couldn’t continue because the Hungarian language was difficult. My dad understood because he knew languages was not my forte. Coming back was difficult because my colleagues from St Augustines were already ahead. This did not deter me at all. I persevered and the result is clear for everyone to see.

I have a green thumb so while in university, I cultivated vegetable gardens. I sold my produce to some hotels and made a tidy profit.

I was fortunate to have father who believed in travel so in the early 80’s, I frequently travelled outside Ghana. On one of the trips to London, my father gave my younger brother and I 20 pounds as allowance. We went to a Turkish restaurant for dinner. Our total expenditure at the end of the night was 2 .50p and when we were ready to leave, my brother asked the waiter to keep the change. We did not know the value of what we gave away as tip until we started earning our keep.

 

My father was into politics, “but during the 80’s, there was a coup d’état and we almost lost everything. Our family experienced hard times and it was a tough time for me. I moved from a moment of having everything, next losing everything. Once rich but now struggling.

HOW DID YOU HANDLE THAT PHASE OF YOUR LIFE THE TRANSITION FORM AFFLUENCE TO POVERTY?

First of all, you need to know yourself. I worked through that situation with the leadership and guidance of my parents. “Your parents are the leaders who should control your exposure and also, teach you to be content with your lot. “. You must count your blessings one by one because being content with what you have will see through some difficult times.

The transition from affluence to poverty wasn’t easy; it took bit of effort to overcome that situation. I developed my love for reading during that period when my mum’s coping mechanism was to make us read, read and read some more.

 

WHAT DID YOU DO TO INFLUENCE YOUR OWN LIFE?

I buy a book every single week and I read wide. The knowledge I have gained through reading cannot be quantified have also picked up values like the need for education. Talents need to be are nurtured over a period of time and Education is the key. I should have done construction from the onset, because from primary school, I used to go with my dad to his construction sites but the education I gained form the books I read opened my mind to a wide scope of ideas. I appreciate reading the sciences, though I love construction.

 

In Ghana, many parents want their wards to follow in their footsteps or live out the parents’ dream. Is your story different?

Yes, my mom always wanted me to read medicine because there was a hospital ready for me when I qualified as a doctor. My father also wanted me to go to medical school to secure my future.

I always advise my clients against investing their money in houses. I tell them that although it is good to secure houses for their children, I believe it is better to invest in quality education. The rationale behind this is, the children may want different houses by the time they grow because real estate is dynamic.

I tell the parents “Money grows exponentially, save 50 Ghana cedi a day and in ten years you would be shocked by the amount you would have saved. Save money now and build your life so that when you grow you can enjoy your investments. You cannot rely on your pension to care of you in your old age.

It is not enough. I strive through perfection, thus excellence. Whatever you, do it well.

In respect to the question; though my father wanted me to be a doctor, I later ended up as a Contractor.

 

 

TELL US ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS.

I run a real estate company called JL PROPERTIES Ghana. This is the first company I set up and have since added over seven more. I am a serial entrepreneur with interests in petroleum, banking and finance, paint, consumables etc. I am the executive chairman of JL HOLDINGS LTD. There are over 10 subsidiary companies under the Holdings brand. JL Properties has projects in Weija, Sakumono, Spintex, East Airport and Achimota.

 

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MEMORABLE PROJECT SO FAR?

My memorable project is the estate at Achimota. The area was a stone quarry turned refuse dump. There was a lot of cutting and chipping away the rocks to level the site. It was a difficult project, converting a forest a habitable environment but it was worth it. I was always at the site to ensure high standard from foundation to roofing.

 

 

How did you feel landing your first project?

I was building a house for myself, when a white man approached me and bid for the house. I did not hesitate in saying yes. I had a lot riding on that deal so I spent the night praying he wouldn’t change his mind. I built two houses from the proceeds of the sale, thus begun JL Properties.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR VALUES AS AN ENTREPRENEUR?

A true entrepreneur is a pathfinder. You should also stay true to yourself. Humility, excellence, sacrifice, discipline and consistency should be the hallmark of every true entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, you should not spend your profit but rather re- invest into your company. Imagine if I had spent my profits from the first house I sold, I would have swallowed JL HOLDINGS. I reinvested, built two houses now I have built over 400 housing units.

 

WHAT ADVISE WILL YOU GIVE A PERSON WHO WANTS TO GO INTO REAL ESTATE?

Location, location, location. These three things are very vital. It is better to sell two houses in city than struggle to sell 50 houses. It requires more capital to build far away from town than building in the city. If you want to invest in real estate watch your location {1] watch your location {2} watch your location {3} and you will be very successful.

 

 

 

WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE NEXT 5 YEARS?

In five years, we are going to build on what we have and set up other companies. I believe in giving everyone the opportunity to grow so I will spend the next five years grooming and empowering my staff (majority of whom are youthful.

WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR BAD MOMENTS IN TERMS OF YOUR BUSINESS?

2008/2009 was a bad period for us. We had started a 200-housing unit at Weija with financial backing from a bank. The bank pulled in the middle of the project citing change in government as a reason. The Bank explained the nation was in an economic crunch and this nearly crushed my business.

 

WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY IF YOU HAVE THE CHANCE TO START ALL OVER AGAIN?

Truth be told, if I knew I would be this deep into construction, I would have studied it in school and gone into business with my father.

I wish I had used my time to make people’s lives better. Philanthropy is my passion and I hope to do more before I pass on.

WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE TO YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS?

  1. Focus on what you desire to become and pursue it to the best of your ability
  2. Don’t copy people’s successes, be original and be ready to work at your idea
  3. Also, don’t focus on money, focus go for the money first, go for the business and it will grow, stay true to yourself.

 

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST INSPIRATION SO FAR?

JESUS CHRIST.

My name is Dr. JAMES ORLEANS – LINDSAY….THIS IS MY STORY

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