How to build diversity into your business from the start

Take Flight

How to build diversity into your business from the start

Claud Williams is an entrepreneur, executive coach and public speaker. His current business, Dream Nation, is a personal development platform with an emphasis on helping young people reach their potential. Claud is one of the judges for our Take Flight business competition.

What does diversity mean to you as an entrepreneur?

Diversity for me means having different points of view around the table when discussing ideas, developing your team culture, exploring new products and making decisions. It means thinking about the intersectional elements of someone's identity and embracing different experiences and perspectives. For example, I am a black dyslexic man.

As entrepreneurs, we need to actively seek diversity and understand that it actually strengthens your organisation. Diversity is not a threat, it's an opportunity.

What steps can employers take to make sure their hiring process is fair and inclusive?

I’m a huge fan of making applications as blind as possible, especially in the early stages. It's still important to collect demographic information because that will give you an insight into who is showing up in the first place.

For example, if you find that people from one demographic, for example Asian women, aren't applying, you can ask people from that demographic for their thoughts on the job advert, especially the language used, and try and fix it. So collect demographic information but keep that completely separate from how you review.

I'm also a big fan of not focusing on CVs. Instead, ask questions that are relevant to the job at hand.

How can employers make sure that everyone in their team is supported?

Embrace the idea of looking at the individual in front of you and identifying all the things that make them unique, that make them great, and all the things that might be holding them back. Ask them what will help them and also learn from experts - that individual may not know what would best support them.

Here's a simple example. One thing that I do with my emails is that at the bottom I put 'Delightfully dyslexic'. A previous employer told me that I wasn't allowed to have it there. And that put pressure on me. That phrase provides context if there's a typo and hopefully avoids a situation where that person receiving the email thinks I'm lazy or sloppy or don't care. Instead of focusing on every minute detail, which is my weakness, I can focus on doing my job and doing it well.

What is your advice for someone creating an inclusive website for their business?

The more human you can make your product or service, the better it will sell. Think about who you want your customers to be. What are all the different parts of identity? Gender, age, height, sexuality, race. Then try to represent that across your website in terms of your imagery and language.

It's also really worthwhile talking to specialists in the neurodiversity and disability space, or at least trying to put yourself in other people's shoes. Is the text on your website too small? Are your processes too complicated? Can someone pick up the phone and call you? For Customer Service especially, the more options you can give people so that they can choose what's best for them, the better.

I would also really recommend user testing. Put your products and website in front of customers and see how they react to it, how it makes them feel, see what they struggle with.

How can solo entrepreneurs build more diversity into their business?

Solo entrepreneurs need to understand that they don't need to have all the answers. Advisors can be really helpful and can take many forms - having a board of directors for your organisation, or if that's not appropriate, having a board of advisors or even a panel of customers.

The more you talk to your customers, the more you'll understand them. And the better you understand them, the better you'll be able to serve them, and as a consequence, the better your business will be.

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