London-based, Minter Dial, credits ‘robust word of mouth’ as the critical success factor for the growth of his boutique branding agency. In this Interview, explains the ‘why’.
- Give a brief description of your company.
I am founder and Director at Mydial Co., a boutique agency focused on branding, leadership and digital transformation. In conjunction with a select network of allied companies and professionals, we provide consulting and workshop facilitation for blue chip companies globally. I pride myself in delivering engaging and provocative speeches for corporate boardrooms and events, as well as being keynote speaker at major conferences around the world.
- How did you get the idea/ concept for your business?
I’ve long thought of myself as an animator, one who brings energy and spirit to people. The key was to identify relevant topics where we could provide a differentiated offer based on our combined experiences. The Y in Mydial stands for WHY: Putting the WHY back into business.
- Give a brief account of your education background.
MBA from INSEAD (1993); BA from Yale in Trilingual Literature and a minor in Women’s Studies (1987); Eton College 1978-1982
- Did you always know/ ever think you would become an entrepreneur when you were younger?
The concept of being an entrepreneur was entirely foreign to me when I was younger. I grew up in Europe and it seemed that everyone around me was working for business. However, right after graduating from university, I went to work in NY for the investment bank, Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, and while at the bank, as a side-hustle, I created my first company, Gladstone Co., making handcrafted high-end leather bags. I then left DLJ to found a second start-up, a travel agency for entertainers. Having failed at both these ventures, I then returned to corporate life, spending 16 years in L’Oréal, but always applying an entrepreneurial mindset within the business.
- Is entrepreneurship a common trait in your family?
In my immediate family, I’m the first. However, my great-grandfather on my father’s side was a serial entrepreneur of great repute and I have a first cousin on the same side of the family who is also a serial entrepreneur.
- Did you have prior knowledge of the consulting industry before setting up your company?
Before becoming a consultant, my only experience was as a client of large consultancies. And that experience was rarely positive. My biggest takeaway was that consultancies often provide bad advice because they don’t have experience in operating a business. For starters, they generally don’t know better than their client the specifics of the industry. Their strengths lie in providing extra manpower, insights and lateral thinking. In general, at Mydial, we focus on lateral thinking and helping to have emerge the best solutions from within the company. As a speaker, I was a spokesperson for L’Oréal and was able to hone my skill particularly while running Redken worldwide.
- What was your previous work experience (if any)? Do you think this gave you an advantage when setting up your business?
I worked for 16 years at L’Oréal as a senior executive in a variety of roles, including brand development (Kerastase & Redken), operational marketing (L’Oréal Professionnel, Kerastase), country manager (Canada) and Executive Committee worldwide for the Professional Products Division]. These experiences have been incredibly important in providing a solid operational basis for my consulting as well as valid and first-hand content for speaking content. Having directly managed people and negotiated internally with colleagues in separate divisions or parts of the business, for example the laboratories and factories, you immediately understand that each culture, company and industry has specific challenges that don’t have cookie-cutter, clean solutions that can be resumed in a PowerPoint presentation or a traditional consultant’s “deck”.
- What characteristics do you feel benefited you most when starting your business?
I’m happy to do whatever it takes, including getting my coffee and running my own social media accounts. A second important trait is the ability to listen, especially to those with differing opinions.
- To what do you attribute your company’s success/growth?
A robust word of mouth
- What is your opinion on the importance of a professional network for an entrepreneur?
A strong network is absolutely crucial. This should not be limited to the professional side. I strongly believe that a network is both personal and professional. One important credo I have used is to consider LinkedIn a network of people I know and trust. As such, it’s important to accept and connect only with people who you feel you’d recommend or would like to be recommended by. It’s not about the quantity, but the quality.
- What broad trends do you see in the businesses with which you work?
I tend to work with large multinationals, where I see two major trends. The first is the predominant need to understand better their clients. This includes figuring out how to make a seamless customer journey according to the different profiles and reconfiguring the internal communications, systems and policies. The second, which is related, is the need to find, retain and animate the best quality talent. If digital transformation is a challenge for many if not most companies, the major underlying issue is one of adjusting the internal culture, starting at the top.
- What are the major trends in new tech for the next 24 months?
New tech is almost a misnomer. There are surely many new technologies coming on board, including quantum computing, genomics and fully autonomous driving. I believe the big trends relate to new uses and developments of the existing technologies, including with smartphones, social media and, of course, artificial intelligence. As such I see a couple of important trends. The first will be the sophistication of AI but in more narrow usages. For example, applied AI for enhancing customer service or improved logistics and inventory management. The second major trend will be around the trifecta of security, transparency and privacy. Companies will need to grapple with ever greater threat of cyber-attacks and increased transparency, while balancing the consumer desire for privacy with the need for personalisation.
- What are the major difficulties that entrepreneurs and business leaders are facing?
I would put it down to sustaining their energy. For leaders and managers, it will be about tapping into the discretionary energy of each member of their teams. In many cases, there’s a real threat of burnout. My observation is that companies that don’t have a strongly defined and well-shared strategy will suffer from overstretched people and budgets, and ultimately shortfalls, if not failure. One of the keys is knowing and sticking to a real why for your business. Can you answer the following key question: how would the world be worse off if your business disappeared?
- What is the most counter-intuitive advice you have for business leaders?
In a digitally and new-tech-infused world, I believe success lies in the analogue. We ought to reconnect more frequently with our own humanity. This can include disconnecting from the multiple devices and taking walks in nature, to reading fiction and meditating, to hiring people with degrees in the humanities and social sciences (e.g. anthropology, history, sociology…).
- Do you think entrepreneurship has changed in recent years?
The biggest difference I see over the last few years is the way we use social media. As the platforms have evolved, we have to continue to adapt our usage and presence online. As entrepreneurs, we are the brand and, as such, need to be wise about how we present ourselves. Depending on the personality and the strategic imperatives, it’s generally better to be ‘real’ online than to present a stiff self or have no presence at all. Of course, that’s a fine line to find, but then again entrepreneurship is hardly the easiest route to follow. Otherwise, I would add that the entrepreneurial route continues to provide an ever-stronger appeal to individuals up and down the age scale versus the corporate life.
- Would you ever consider starting another company or involving yourself in new start-ups again?
100%. In fact, I’d love to be involved in a few start-ups, whether as an angel investor or advisor. I’m always on the lookout to provide counsel or be part of the advisory/board of startups.
- If you had one piece of advice for a new entrepreneur, what would it be?
It’s oftentimes a lonely experience. You need to make sure you know why you’re doing what you’re doing. I like to suggest to entrepreneurs to consider why their business idea is important: how would the world be worse off if their envisioned business didn’t exist?