A Mindfully Inclusive Workplace is a Smart Way to do Business

If you don't start with diversity as a priority, if you don't plan it into every step of your business, then you won't find the talent you're looking for.

Keith Spiro is a fellow member of the angel investment group, Astia Angels. He is a business strategist and works on building communities around individuals and organizations that he thinks make a difference. He sits on the advisory board of a couple of startups. Also, he is doing some significant behind-the-scenes work in several well-established businesses.

His theme is always the same. Diversity is important. In regards to women specifically, how do you ignore half the population at any given time? We need workplaces that are inclusive, embracing people of color, people who are LGBT, people of different abilities and capabilities.

Keith’s background coming from the corporate world taught him the importance of getting lots of opinions out there. These days, he is particularly interested in organizations where there is diversity at the “C suite” level (that means CEO, CFO, COO, CTO, etc.).

He says if you don't start with diversity as a priority at the top of the list, and if you don't plan it into every step of your business, then you won't find the talent you're looking for. He says people who say "I can't find talent," are not working hard enough.

Success is built upon listening to different voices. You can’t hear those voices if you work in a monoculture. What we need to do to succeed is listen to what our buyers’ needs are, what our investors’ needs are. We used to call it the voice of the customer. That’s the way Keith and a lot of business leaders were trained. And the majority of consumers in many industries industries are women.

He started his career in science but soon learned that sales and marketing are essential to growing a business. So if you want to be an entrepreneur, learn to excel at sales and marketing.

Established businesses are learning from entrepreneurs and investors at startups. Keith points to crowdfunding, noting that a lot of bigger companies have muscled into that space. They're using it as a pre-sale space and competing with the very entrepreneurs who created it.

The reality is, we can put ourselves into the buyer’s shoes or the investor's shoes. That is what we learn from listening. We all give clear signals of what our needs are in any kind of conversation.

When he coaches entrepreneurs, one of the terms he often uses is “evangelist.” The way Keith sees it evangelism is even better than selling at the early stages of a startup because it's a test of market acceptance.

If you are going to launch a startup you need to learn that role. You are the company evangelist. And great entrepreneurs get it because they have the passion, they know the message, and they'll "bounce off doors" until they find the right door, the door that is open to their message and the door where there is a willing customer.

Barbara Clarke