Conversations: Frances Quinn, Athena Management Consulting

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Athena Management Consulting’s Managing Director Frances Quinn believes in recalibrating and reinventing her approach to deliver the best for her clients and challenge the status-quo.

Tell us about Athena Management Consulting.

Athena Management Consulting is a boutique consulting firm specialising in contact centre and customer operations. We work with clients who seek improvements in their customer experience or staff engagement by helping them get the most from their people, processes and technology; often by way of strategy advisement or transformative initiatives.

During our conversation, you mentioned that you became an entrepreneur by accident. What sparked this venture?
The stars aligned and the universe conspired to push me down the entrepreneurial path! After being made redundant for the second time in three years on a Friday and making the decision to move inter-state over the same weekend, I received a call on Monday from one of my connections wondering if I knew anyone with my specialist skillset to deliver a project in the location where I decided to move! Thus, began my career as a consultant and shortly after came the creation of Athena and my journey as a business owner.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in the formative years and how did you overcome it?
I was lucky to start my journey with a meaty project that kept me engaged for 18 months, so I didn’t think much about marketing and selling my services. I built a website and got business cards, and that was it. When I finished that contract, I had a naive expectation that the next opportunity would arrive at my doorstep. I did very little to get my brand out there; moreover, with zero networking effort and being in a new city, my professional networks were practically non-existent.

I found myself without work for six months, which was exceptionally challenging. When I did come by a great opportunity, I didn’t win the business. After a healthy dose of self-pity, I found some resilience buried deep within and started to rebuild my confidence and thought processes. I developed services-based products and marketing materials, invested in conferences and networking events, and signed my second client within a few months.

What does success mean to you?
Success means challenging the current state and striving for a better outcome. Professionally, it means creating a company that attracts exceptional talent, and a brand that is renowned for providing quality and value. Personally, it means building positive, authentic relationships with everyone in my sphere, backing myself, taking risks and living a purposeful life.

What is the toughest decision you have made and how was this managed?
I started the business with my partner at the time. Together we built two brands, both consulting firms in different industries with different service offerings. However, we had conflicts over professional ideals that leaked into our personal lives. Eventually, I decided to end the relationship. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve made; having both personal and professional ramifications. We had to untangle our lives, belongings and businesses.

This became a time of significant growth, and I had to learn to back myself 100%. I no longer had a sounding board to share in the decision-making. Win or lose; it was all on me. Since then, when bringing on new team members, I apply my own process to ensure their values and attitudes align with those of the business.

What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
1)    Price is only an issue in the absence of value. Don’t undervalue yourself or sell your products/services at the lowest price to win business. Know your worth and focus on how to articulate your value rather than driving price-based decisions. Don’t be afraid to turn down a client if your values don’t align.
2)    Find a niche. You may be great at ten things, but pitching yourself as the company who is great at all these things will dilute your brand. Choose one unique thing and focus on that. Once customers are on board, then they will organically see the other things you are great at.
3)    Be clear on who you are. What does your brand stand for? What are your values? What is your mission? Knowing this will help you choose the right clients and people to help you realise your vision. Make it personal; people connect to real stories, not corporate jargon.


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