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Meet Rebecca Nicholson: The consultant helping entrepreneurs execute their vision, strategize for success and unlock their highest potential!

Hello Rebecca! We’re thrilled to be chatting with you today at FEM-START. Could you share what sparked your journey as a consultant for startups and scale-ups?

My career journey began in media and advertising, where I quickly rose to the role of managing director, overseeing a significant business transformation. This experience exposed me to the early-stage challenges faced by CEOs and founders, such as managing multiple operations and assuming various roles within a fast-paced environment. Transitioning into the tech industry allowed me to collaborate closely with growing founders, igniting my passion for working in dynamic, growth-oriented environments. Recognizing the opportunity to support ambitious entrepreneurs overwhelmed by the demands of scaling their businesses, I ventured into consultancy. Leveraging my firsthand experience and high-level leadership skills, I established my consultancy to offer founders strategic guidance and hands-on operational support without the need for full-time hires, which often requires long-term financial commitment, costs and low flexibility for the employer. I act as a “swiss-army knife” who can help founders and CEOs to streamline their operations, grow their business and build robust teams. 

Can you highlight some key steps and strategies you employed to kickstart your consultancy journey? 

Transitioning as an independent consultant was a recent decision for me. I took a step back to assess where my strengths and passions lay, identifying areas where I could add significant value. Engaging deeply in introspection, I sought clarity on my purpose and engaged in extensive discussions within my network to understand the nature of the work and its suitability for me. Building and nurturing relationships, seeking inspiration, and continuously seeking guidance have been pivotal in shaping my consultancy journey thus far.

What are some common challenges and pains that you see when working with startups and scale-ups going through transitions and growth phases?

Startups and scale-ups are inherently chaotic and fast-paced, encountering diverse challenges and obstacles at different stages of growth, influenced by their unique contexts and circumstances. Leveraging my expertise in leadership, operations, and business development, I often adopt a holistic perspective when assessing businesses. Despite the initial emphasis on achieving market fit and product development, there is often a lack of attention given to establishing the necessary systems and processes for sustainable scaling. I view systems as fundamental building blocks for fostering growth, essential for both the business and its personnel to thrive. Overcoming resource constraints, whether related to funding or revenue generation, presents a significant challenge. Additionally, issues pertaining to leadership development and team dynamics, especially in nascent visionary startups, can impede progress. Key pain points also include client acquisition, maintaining competitiveness, and adapting to evolving customer needs. Addressing these challenges requires a strategic approach focused on creating solid foundations across the business to enable effective growth

How can these be tackled, what advice would you give to those experiencing these pains?

To tackle these challenges effectively, my advice is to adopt a human-centered and data-driven approach. Begin by delving deep into the issues, asking why they persist, and searching for their root causes. A useful method I recommend is the “Five Whys” framework, which helps explore the relationships between problems and their underlying causes. By peeling back these layers, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of what’s truly going on beneath the surface, and how to take action. Taking the time to do this thoroughly, and early on will save you hiring the wrong people solving the wrong problem, and incuring unneccessary costs in time and money later down the line. Such an approach requires resources and capabilities that the business lacks. In such cases, consider hiring an external consultant or freelancer on a fractional basis for the expertise and support needed.

Reflecting on your journey, what were some significant mistakes, and what lessons did you learn from them?

In hindsight, my most significant mistakes revolved around indecisiveness and succumbing to limiting beliefs. Overthinking and procrastination held me back, leading to missed opportunities and unnecessary energy expenditure. I learned the importance of capitalizing on opportunities, trusting the process, and understanding that time and energy are precious resources best invested in progress rather than perfection.

What stands out as your biggest achievement since you started your successful journey?

Professionally, leading a company through the challenges of the pandemic while serving as a managing director at the age of 27 stands out as a significant achievement. Moreover, deciding to transition into an independent consultant required courage and resilience, marking a milestone in my journey. The mental fortitude and perseverance demonstrated throughout this process underscore my ability to thrive in the face of adversity.

Based on your experience, what advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs, particularly those who do not believe they can do it?

Challenge your limiting beliefs and perceptions! Often, we magnify obstacles beyond their actual magnitude, allowing unfounded fears to impede our progress. Believing in oneself, seeking mentorship, and cultivating a supportive community of like-minded individuals are crucial steps in overcoming self-doubt. Authentic leadership, grounded in personal values and integrity, serves as a cornerstone for resilience during challenging times. Remember, fortune favours the brave—embrace your journey with courage and conviction.

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