When Michelle was younger, she wanted to be a lawyer. She used to love to argue and debate (now she can’t stand it and prefers peace :-)). She grew up in Queens, New York and fortunately was able to get into a high school that specialized in law. She took prelaw classes and thought she was on her way, until she decided to take an accounting class. She took it because she figured when she got older and made her own money, she would want to know how to count it!
Her teacher was a retired Wall Street guy who kept her after class and told her that she would be an accountant. After arguing, they agreed she would be a corporate lawyer. She ended up becoming a CPA. Then when she got to a point where she wanted to be a part of making numbers happen instead of just reviewing them, the universe sent her a friend of hers at work that told her about strategy consulting. She did not even know what it was and had never heard of it. However, she loved what she heard, got her MBA from Duke, and has been practicing consulting ever since.
CONSCIOUS ENTREPRENEURSHIP – What meaning do you give this term?
I believe conscious entrepreneurship is based on creating and running businesses and organizations that make the world a better place. It is not only values driven in terms of what is done, but how it is done, and the corresponding impact it can have on all stakeholders.
MENTORS — We all need a little help along the journey. Who has been an invaluable mentor for you? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
Steve Beezer. When I first started out in my career, I was a part of a finance and accounting rotational program at a large company. I met Steve because he was the executive who oversaw my first department. He was very down to earth and funny, often playing practical jokes on people. I related to him instantly because I like to laugh and joke a lot as well.
I have a tendency to learn things quickly. I figured out and mastered my role in my department in a few weeks and became bored. I told him how I felt and after confirming with my supervisor that I was doing an excellent job, he put me on a challenging, special assignment, where I worked with executives on a high visibility project. After that time, he became both my mentor and champion. He knew I always worked best when I was challenged, and rather supported me when I was up for or ensured I received those types of opportunities.
I remember a time when I wasn’t given the opportunity to work in the global/ international division. I was told there was no opportunity available, but then found out that certain positions were being held for people who came from certain schools. The undergraduate school I attended was not well known, so I did not qualify. However, Steve ensured I had an opportunity to compete and I ended up getting the role.
That 3+ year rotation in the company’s US and International divisions gave me a solid business foundation that was well beyond my years and put me at a competitive advantage above my peers. It also made me understand the importance of having a great mentor and people who believe in me. I would not have learned so much or been so prepared for the next steps in my career and life if he had not taken the time to mentor me. I will always appreciate him for doing so.
TO THRIVE — When you see yourself thriving: Do you see yourself opening up opportunities for others along the way to participate in your success, and how?
I thrive when my clients and their companies thrive. When their companies thrive, jobs are created, wealth is created, and a better life is created or enhanced not only for the CEO and employees, but for all beneficiaries of products and services that can now be offered in a way that is typically ‘faster, better, and/or cheaper’. On a personal level, when I thrive, I am able to mentor and educate others on what I do and hopefully inspire the ones who are meant for entrepreneurship to take the leap. It can be both a challenging and rewarding journey. I also am able to open up opportunities for others along the way to participate in my success by bringing them on for certain projects or engagements and hiring support staff. To the extent that I can create jobs and pay it forward, I will do so.
CAUSE — What are the causes close to your heart, and you are supporting right now? Can you share a story how you got involved? How did it make you feel?
I have led efforts, supported, and volunteered for the United Way, March of Dimes, Boys & Girls Club (Tap Teacher), Big Brothers Big Sisters (Big Sister for 12+ Years), Girls, Inc., Habitat for Humanity, and many other organizations and community initiatives. I care about mentoring, children, education, and adequate housing.
One story that I can share is how I got involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS). I was going through a divorce at the time and was in a new city. I was trying to wrap my head around what I wanted to do with my personal life going forward and attended an event where BBBS mentioned they were looking for mentors.
I was fortunate from a very young age to always have mentors. I had a lot of people when I was growing up, who decided on their own accord to lead, guide, support, mentor, expose me to great things, and most importantly, believe in me and allow me to be myself. As a result, I always try to mentor. That is what drives me to ‘pay it forward’ to as many people and organizations as I can.
However at that time, I was not sure that I could be effective, given my emotional state and did not know if I could handle the responsibility of pouring into someone’s life, when I myself, felt so tapped out. However, BBBS did a great job in matching me with the perfect ‘Little Sister’. When I was unsure, she was sure, and her youthful optimism helped me to shift from what I was going through to moving forward. I was officially her Big Sister for 12 years (from when she was 10 to 22 years old). I am so proud of seeing her go from having two pom poms in her hair to owning her own home. The experience was rewarding and makes me feel great.
You sometimes don’t know when a wonderful opportunity to give back and in turn, receive so much will come across your path. I am grateful for the experience and have continued to support BBBS because of it.
THE FUTURE — How do you see the face of entrepreneurship in 5 years? How do companies /brands need to adapt to secure their place in the future?
I see entrepreneurship exploding in the next five years. This pandemic, social unrest, acceleration to digitization, and technological advances are pushing more people who did not think of entrepreneurship as an option to take the leap and others who are already entrepreneurs or entrepreneur-minded to dive in with full force to solve problems and enhance the lives of everyone in the world.
Companies/ Brands need to adapt to secure their place in the future by becoming ESG champions and understanding that not having a digital presence will in essence make them obsolete. Working off of old business models and legacy strategies of the past won’t work. Anticipating and then creating solutions to address both realized and unrealized needs in a way that promotes connection and trust with customers, investors, and all other stakeholders going forward will be key.
ADVICE — What kind of advice would you like to give to an aspiring entrepreneur who feels limited due to their background or lack of resources?
There is a quote by Henry Ford that I love that states “Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal.” The great thing about being an entrepreneur is that your background does not matter, where you came from does not matter, etc. The only thing that matters is that you do what it takes to turn your ideas into action.
It is true that if you start off with more money and resources, it can be easier. However, for someone who does not have that, it is ok to start small.
You will be surprised by how much you can accomplish when you simply begin. As your business becomes successful, you will be able to build and then manage your resources accordingly to take you and your business where you want it to go.
DRIVE — Do you sometimes feel bad for “wanting more out of life”, and if so, why? What is your personal motivation that leads you through the hardships of entrepreneurship?
Absolutely not! I never feel bad for wanting more out of life. I believe we are all here to enjoy our lives and live it to the fullest. Suffering is something that should be overcome. It is not the way to have a good or great life here on this earth.
My personal motivation that leads me through the hardships of entrepreneurship is that I believe in myself and the value that what I offer provides to countless companies and businesses. I know that I can help CEOs and companies accelerate and grow faster and more profitably than they can on their own.
When I experienced the hardships of entrepreneurship, there were times when I felt like giving up. However, usually right after feeling that way, I would get a huge contract or opportunity that turned everything around and got me and my business back on track. That gives me the motivation to continue to move forward.
CHALLENGES — Entrepreneurship is very challenging. We each have our own coping mechanism. Mine is humor. What is yours? Can you share a story?
Actually, my coping mechanism is a combination of both humor and dance. When I feel like I need to ‘shake the stress off’, I go online and watch something funny like when Elaine from Seinfeld dances or the skit where Dave Chappelle gets Oprah pregnant :-). I also love dancing and listening to a wide range of music from old school hip-hop and R&B to Queen. I have been trained in modern, jazz, ballet, and tap, so I often picture myself dancing on stage and make up routines.
It brings me endless joy and raises my vibration high enough to be in a great mood, opens up my mind, and gives me the energy and strength to overcome any challenges, so I can move forward.
Learn more about Michelle Diamond’s Beverly Hills-based boutique growth strategy agency Elevate Diamond Strategy.
Demee Koch about the MEDIUM interview series on CONSCIOUS ENTREPRENEURSHIP:
Conscious entrepreneurship for me is about building a sustainable business that values and respects the resources used and makes an effort of giving back to society.
I believe we need entrepreneurs to really get involved in the causes close to their heart.
This is why I reach out to entrepreneurs that aim for more than generating profit. With this interview, I aim to share entrepreneurial purpose-led passion to inspire others.
Looking forward to learn from you. Reach out to me via LinkedIn.