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Case study


My board helped me to turn my mission into a real business

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Yemi Jackson founded talent acquisition and development company Engage Transform to meet the critical need for more diverse workforces, with a focus on the representation of women and Global Majority talent in leadership.

Coming towards the end of her MBA in 2017, and having written a dissertation on effective diversity strategies in the workplace, Yemi decided to take the next step and start her own business focusing on exactly that.

But going from a background in finance to founding a recruitment company came with challenges beyond getting used to a new industry. Yemi found herself asking: what makes a business successful beyond a core mission?

After initially reaching out to business support networks and people who’d been working in recruitment for many years, Yemi joined Be the Business’ Strive programme to gain access to a wider range of business experts from different industries and backgrounds, and learn more about the operational side of business.

It was my chance to pause. I thought yes, [recruitment experts] know the industry and your brand is pretty well-known in the market, but you’re still struggling, and that’s because of all the other stuff you hadn’t stopped to think about.

Business: more than a mission

It can be easy to get carried away at the start of a new business, especially if you hit the ground running with clients from the start. But without a good strategy in place, you’ll struggle to grow your business in a sustainable way. Yemi admits that in the early days, she didn’t have a strategy, or even a business plan.

“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing because I was an ex-finance director and had worked in big corporations. My assumption was that it’s just a small business so it’ll be fine, but you don’t know what you don’t know.”

Meeting with her board from Be the Business has helped Yemi to stay on track with planning, as well as giving her access to different outlooks and ideas.

Developing your offering

Starting Engage Transform with a core mission helped the business to stand out and achieve some early successes. However, it can be easy to pigeonhole yourself and limit your scope to adapt, innovate and grow as a business.

“When I first started the business I was 100% focused on recruitment and never thought about complementary services…I thought I could only offer one product and now I offer at least three products plus other consultancy services. It’s really strengthened our core business.”

Having access to a mix of marketing, IT and finance experts through Be the Business has given Yemi a range of sector expertise to draw on. As a passionate advocate of workplace diversity, Yemi knows how effective a mix of experience and backgrounds can be, and here it has meant she now offers services and products like coaching for candidates.

While recruitment is supporting clients to find candidates, if I can offer the candidates something that will help them to develop, that’s fantastic. I don’t know if I would have developed these other offers had it not been for the programme.

Outside your comfort zone

In addition to broadening the offer of the business, Yemi has also undertaken some personal development after being inspired by ideas from her board. She now considers thought leadership and owning the space around diverse workplaces and leadership an integral part of the business.

Engage Transform also now offer speaking engagements and training with leaders and teams around inclusive recruitment, to support their core offer of finding or developing candidates.

It’s important to know what you want to get out of the process of meeting with an advisory board, Yemi stresses, as she admits she hasn’t used it as much as she could have. She adds that it has been handy to have a place to go to sound out ideas and challenges, and receive helpful tips and real-world examples from other business leaders.

“It all depends on the quality of questions you ask and the problems you bring to the table. You get as much out of it as you put in.”

Resilience through diversity

Having a more varied offer than when the business first started has helped Engage Transform to weather the economic downturn, when recruitment has stalled in some industries. Being able to pivot between working with larger companies and individuals has meant that the company has not been as affected by these challenges.

Yemi has also found that the Be the Business meetings have helped her to stay on top of budgets and forecasting, as it’s something the group discuss and delve into. She says that she now knows the importance of having a clear idea of the numbers, not just having it in your head!

Want expert advice for your business? Or just want someone to act as a sounding board? Be the Business can offer the right support for you – find out more about our available programmes here.

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