4 things of which I am certain, in a very uncertain world
We are proud to celebrate the 6th anniversary of MASF Consulting.
Reflecting back, we want to say a big thank you to everyone who has helped over the years from when we were just starting out, through the challenging Covid times, and still today as an established business.
I also wanted to share some thoughts around our experiences along the way ...
(i) Starting my own business was (and remains) the best professional decision I ever made
6 years ago, I formally registered my Equity, Diversity & Inclusion ('EDI') and Coaching business - MASF Consulting Ltd. I was excited and nervous in equal measure. At 44 I felt that maybe I was too old to start a business. The dynamic space of EDI seemed crowded with passionate, knowledgeable, activist, and often youthful voices and one where I felt quite different as a white middle-aged, middle class, heterosexual, able-bodied man.
I was wrong. I had a clear purpose and real passion and that proved powerful. By 44, in fact, given my 20+ years experience in international business and the fact that I had been so fortunate to spend nearly two decades working and living outside of my home country, I was well placed to provide authentic support, initiative and solutions to an international clientbase.
6 years on - now 50 - I've never been so committed to what I do and whom I support every day. Although often challenging, the satisfaction that I gained from building services and delivering to thousands of people around the world is immense. The ability to manage one's own business decisions, to be more flexible and available to my family and to feel that personally I can, even in just a small way, make a difference is rewarding. The freedom to fully express myself and the opportunity to learn so much from a diverse set of clients are things that I cherish.
(ii) Business development is non-linear, hard fought and at times unexpected
When I established MASF Consulting 6 years ago, I had a clear plan of what I wanted to do and for whom. I made assumptions about how my previous corporate experience would translate into networking into and securing certain individuals and supporters and businesses as clients.
I was wrong. A business plan on a whiteboard never translates into a real business on the ground. An assumption of opportunities is just that - an assumption - and one that can prove far from true. In fact, some of my initial clients came from more serendipitous scenarios. Chance meetings at a networking or industry event, sharing a cab with a business leader even though I was going the wrong way, a random internet search that led me to people or them to me and so on.
As John Amaechi says 'sometimes talent does not come in the package that you expect', and the same is true for business opportunity. I needed to cast my net wide, seek out different arenas with which to engage and constantly be open to soft connections that can - over time - result in lengthy business relationships.
By early 2020, my business was doing quite well and I was confident of the future. Then came Covid and the lights went out. Meetings were cancelled, projects shelved, business development came to a halt and my diary was suddenly eerily empty. Given that my wife and I both work in the business, it is therefore our sole source of income. The future now looked uncertain.
But the tragedy of Covid also yielded opportunities. An embrace of remote working technology and the ongoing need for (now virtual) colleague interaction made the importance and influence of inclusion even more profound. Without the time spent of travel and set-up, the new ways of working driven by Covid provided us with the ability to now engage with multiple, international cohorts of clients across the same day and that has proven to be the lifeblood and heart of the business ever since.
(iii) Agility and authenticity are essential ingredients for business success
Whilst purpose and passion are key building blocks to establish and grow a business, I have found that agility and authenticity are essential for sustainable success. This is especially true in an area such as EDI which is full of nuance, personal perspective, dynamic understanding and emotional investment.
Whether it was the realisation that my business plan assumptions were wrong or the impact of Covid, business success relies upon agility. Re-shaping, re-framing, re-imagining why & what you do, how you do it and for whom are critical steps to take and requires an agile mind and an agile approach.
In parallel, if you are not authentically true to yourself, to your values and beliefs and to what your clients need, then you will struggle to maintain your passion, provide a consistent support that people can believe in and reply upon and ultimately continue to pump oxygen into your business.
(iv) But the most important is the strength and support of colleagues and family
But all of the above pales into insignificance when compared to the true engine of your enterprise. It is not you. It is the people around you. In my case, I am so fortunate to have both a brilliantly supportive family and a wife who works alongside me and without whose skills the business would simply not work. I am also fortunate to have the opportunity to tap into a small, trusted group of associates, mentors and advisors who continue to support me and the business in innumerable ways.
So - on this 6th anniversary of MASF Consulting - I wanted to reach out and say a big thank you to everyone who has made this possible as we look forward together for many more years of business success and personal fulfillment.