I had the pleasure interviewing Elena Meskhi. Elena Meskhi is an entrepreneur, business coach and best-selling author of Rewire Your Business For Success
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I came to London from Russia with an economics degree. However, I very quickly realised that it was going to be difficult to get a job straight away. My qualification was not recognised here and I could not be an accountant let alone a tax advisor. I needed to have a professional certificate in order to practise so I started studying for this.
It didn’t end there and I was faced with another difficulty. There were lots of accountants in training who were native speakers, who had credibility and the competition was very high. At times it felt close to impossible to find a job as an accountancy trainee. I think this was especially true for newly arrived immigrants. But, finally, an innovative and forward-thinking firm offered me an internship. It was an absolutely incredible opportunity. It was up to me how I demonstrated my skills, and how quickly I absorbed the information. I took no time to demonstrate it and after six months I was offered a fully paid position. Ironically, my salary for the next six months, after accepting the position, was the exact same as I had been paying them for the training. But that’s life and is was worth it. It was a hard but very happy period of my life.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
I am a strong believer that there are no mistakes, there are only lessons. So as much as I look back and think about past experiences, decisions I made and the steps I’ve taken I don’t think about them as mistakes.
There was one particularly ironic story. After I left public practice and took up a position as a financial controller in a private oil trading company, I quickly realised the structure of the business meant that there were a lot of duplicated roles and unnecessary stages which could easily be reduced. With permission from the management, I took some time to look at the implementation stages, to change the structure and actually made myself redundant! At the same time as making myself redundant, I also made another five people redundant, and saved the company almost half a million pounds. The takeaway I learnt from this experience is that there is always a way to improve the system and automation. And, yes, the ironic thing was I improved it to such a level that they made me redundant. But the funniest thing is that this company then became the first client of my accountancy practice. So, it worked out in the end!
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
How to Have the Best Year Ever by Jim Rohn. That’s the book I found most inspirational. I loved it.
It was a breath of fresh air, without actually being patronising, with its humour describing how business owners are trapped. They are trapped because they set up a business with the idea of running the operational side of it. Yet the key to business is actually doing business. I think every entrepreneur should read that book, in order to be able to distance themselves from the business. It’s so easy when you run a business to just get on with the operational side, roll up your sleeves and get on with the minutiae. Once the business is set up, business owners should take a step away and concentrate on running the business. This book helped me to see this.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
When I started my company I had loads of enthusiasm and drive. At that time, I did not truly think about the purpose. I considered my purpose was to do accounts, payroll and earn £1000 a week. I was fully absorbed with the operational part of the business. It wasn’t until five years later that I started to really discuss my vision with my first business coach. This gave me the chance to consider the purpose, to make me think what is it all about. It was only when I had a team that I was able to step away from the business to think about the vision. I believe when you formulate the vision and the purpose of the business, this is when you become more successful. This is the turning point when you change from just being a startup.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Yes, to know and be true to your personal values. In order for the business to be successful, it has to share those values. As soon as there is a duality between the business owner’s values and the business values, success can start to blossom.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
COVID massively impacted the business. We also had a very difficult personal experience during that time. We lost a member of the family which was an absolutely devastating experience. And then, the feeling of loss during that period actually created a shift in perspective. On a personal level, it was complicated. You have to be focused to work at home. Everyone is at home, you’ve got kids, a partner, a household with all its distractions and non-stop demands and requests. The challenge was to actually have time and dedicate it to the business. I think it was a time of personal growth for me, and the key solution in any challenge is that you adapt quickly and you have to be open-minded. The lockdown definitely put a lot of pressure on us. When you have to reevaluate yourself, you have to reevaluate your business, you have to reinvent your business. The situation happened so fast and no-one had an opportunity to actually sit down and think. You had to make decisions there and then otherwise you would just disappear. It was so easy to get distracted and binge on Netflix, on food, on an argument, on anything, and to become a victim in that situation. However, I managed to take advantage of the situation, shifted my perspective and asked myself what can I do with this situation, and how I can adapt?
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
My team did not stop working for a single working day. We sensed that something was going to happen before the lockdown had been announced. We actually moved to working remotely a week before the official lockdown was announced. It was challenging moving to working remotely from all perspectives, the technical, the personnel, communication-wise and so on.
The biggest work-related challenge would be the communication between the team. Making a team successful in any business is about collaboration. Working remotely may sound like a desirable opportunity but there are many downsides. You miss the social part, standards can slide, processes can be duplicated, and you don’t always realise. At the beginning you feel like ‘Hey finally I’m at home and I can work’ especially if you’re on your own and you don’t have any distractions from your household. Then you realise that you need to check in with a person, you start to feel a vacuum, the bubble around you increases and you can feel lonely and empty. To overcome it we decided to do daily Zoom meetings with the whole team where we have the opportunity to talk about the jobs, the clients, the cases, the questions from clients we have, and also discuss some social elements — they were probably 80% work and 20% personal. For example we discussed what physical activities each of us does, where we buy groceries, personal challenges like how do you cope working with kids at home, how do you entertain them. Daily Zoom calls made our team stronger and we actually got to know each other better than in our office life.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Healthy food, fresh air, and a lot of personal time with them. For me, a happy life consists of 3 things: what you eat, what you do and what information you absorb. With my family I kept all those 3 fields clean and pure. Uncertainty and fear comes from hearing too much bad news and incorrect information. Of course, we watched Amazon and Netflix but we only did an hour a day maybe. Loneliness was out of the picture as we played, learned, worked together, and at the same time each member had their own “me time” opportunities. Anxious feelings can arise when there is a chemical disbalance in the body and that’s why we had a lot of fruits and vegetables and home cooking. I have never done so much cooking in my life. We actually have a chef now!
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
Absolutely, I so much agree that we should look at this situation as an opportunity. It’s a fast-developing spin of the economy and the world around us. The first opportunity would be that the competition will be much easier, because a lot of businesses are going to close down. If you are confident, if you adapt quickly, if you can reinvent your business you can take this opportunity first. Once you grasp that, be brave and reinvent your business. Think about the trends and use it in your business. The second opportunity is a lot of people sadly will be made redundant. As a business owner, I think it gives me the opportunity to hire talented people and to expand my team. But it will only be possible if I took opportunity number 1. If you are a training provider, think about online training courses, if you are service provider think about more interactivity. If you’re selling goods, think about selling online. If you are a service, think about how you can provide your services online and do it fast and do it differently. But whatever you do you need to make sure that all changes are congruent with the values of you and your business.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
We have seen already that more people are continuing to work remotely. We are more careful in the way we interact with people. People could become more reserved and that will have a big impact. So, you need to consider this when you reinvent your business.
Another trend will be considering more about values than volume. Being at home and realising that there is a limit to how much Netflix you can watch. People will evaluate that they do not need as many staff, there will be a lack of jobs and hence money. That will make people be more appreciative in what they have and what they need. People will go out less and have less to spend on entertainment and designer clothes. I recently went to the shopping centre and the lack of people in there is frightening. .
A lot of businesses will go online. Businesses which perhaps before were concerned with volume and low prices will probably struggle. They were used to compulsive buying but now with people buying from home, they have much more time to make a decision, so there is going to be less compulsive buying.
I think binge watching series or watching TV and entertainment will decrease. People will feel the need to develop themselves, invest in themselves and consider training courses.
Changes in the medical sector have been huge. The medical sector has a lot more precautionary regulations now, protective equipment and measures they have to take in order to keep their services safe. Unfortunately, it is unavoidable that prices on such services will go up. Better and quicker healthcare will be available for wealthy people. Perhaps people will consider that they can no longer eat and drink as much as they want in case something goes wrong. Private medical care will increase and be very expensive and the National Health Care Service will have long waiting lists. So, we need to be prepared that it is now our responsibility to stay healthy. Consider nutritional levels, a healthy diet and exercise.
We need to avoid the tendency to be consumed by social media. This is a waste of energy. Ten minutes here and there soon adds up and you can become disorientated.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
Coincidentally last year I was writing my book “How to rewire your business for success” and it was finally published in April this year. The book became a bestseller a few months after being published. During the pandemic I have been absorbed in writing and putting together my training courses for business owners to reinvent their business. Business owners are looking for more guidance to support them through these changes. This is exactly what the training course provides, with step by step guidance, your own accountability group and a mastermind group. This is where you will have the opportunity to speak with like-minded people, business owners, just like you.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
I encourage you to invest in yourself and embrace your business. Make decisions and changes. Don’t try to sit around and analyse everything. I think now, post COVID, this is a rare occasion when you need to act, as scary as it might sound. But that’s the right thing to do. Overthinking will paralyse any sort of activity. The way to make a decision is quickly and if It wasn’t hundred percent right then you fix it, by making another decision. These are the people who are going to catch the wave and ride it out.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Glen Carlson, business coach and entrepreneur says “Be brave, have fun, make a dent in the universe!”. I made this my moto in life.
How can our readers further follow your work?
There are free resources on our website www.rewire4success.com. You can do a scorecard, and actually evaluate how successful your business is. Once you have done this you will receive the report which will give you the guidance on where to start, what to implement and what needs to be done, step by step. This is a good way to start your reinvention now.