An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Teams with increased diversity have shown to be better at creative problem-solving. Given that 90% of business is solving problems, a diverse team may be the secret to accelerating growth and more efficient business operations all around because they are able to more effectively and efficiently remove roadblocks, eliminate bottlenecks, and find better ways to achieve difficult tasks.

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Muna Ikedionwu.

Muna Ikedionwu is the founder and president of M.KEDI, a business strategy and diversity and inclusion consulting firm. She works with mission-driven, investor-backed companies as a trusted advisor, facilitator, and advocate.

Prior to founding M.KEDI, Muna worked as Associate Director of a strategic communications agency, a chemistry researcher developing 30+ patent pending molecules, and a fashion writer executing content partnerships with notable brands such as Warby Parker, Coca Cola, and the New York Times.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?

I’ve always been fascinated by business and how it intersects with culture and society. As a teenager, I would research all there was to know about the companies behind all of my favorite products. I eventually went to Vanderbilt University for college, where I got the chance to study the unique relationship between sociology, business strategy, and science; especially as it pertains to the fashion, beauty, and media industries. It was bold and risky to focus on such niche topics that early on, but it led to a number of great opportunities including working with some of the most culturally relevant brands of our time.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

In hindsight, one of the funniest moments from early in my career happened when I was an intern. I had never used a coffee maker before, and I was tasked with brewing a pot for the whole office. I was so scared to admit that I didn’t know how to operate the machine, that I just started pushing buttons and moving things around until what I thought was coffee started coming out.

I later realized that I served my bosses coffee ground runoff that tasted no better than tainted, dirty water but no one ever told me. Instead, I was moved off coffee duty and “promoted” to more meaningful tasks. For nine months all the managers made their own coffee because they were too afraid to tell me I did it wrong. And for nine months I missed out on the valuable lesson of asking for help even when the task seemed simple or obvious. This is a lesson I now always keep top of mind. Asking questions, offering judgment-free guidance, and being brave enough to not know, are powerful tools.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you tell us a story about how that was relevant in your own life?

“Be scared and do it anyway.” This reminder has pushed me to take risks and embark on career adventures that I wouldn’t have otherwise, out of fear of failing. As a business owner you can spend a lot of time trying to overcome fear. The real secret sauce to success is taking the leap in spite of it.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

I am forever grateful to Libby Callaway who took a chance on me when I was a science student looking for opportunities in the fashion industry. She founded a creative agency in Nashville that brought some of the biggest names in fashion to the city — Cartier, Hermes, Vogue. I was one of her first interns and experienced firsthand what the early days of building a successful agency look like. I’ve leaned on that knowledge ever since, especially when it came time to launch my own consultancy M.KEDI years later.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

At M.KEDI, we are completely judgment-free and focus on making diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practical for our clientele. We’ve found that the most successful way to help growing companies with diversity and inclusion is by taking a pragmatic and emotionally intelligent approach where we encourage and empower leadership to make good decisions rather than shame them into making change.

We recently worked with a client as they were raising venture capital funding to develop an effective diversity and inclusion plan. As a mission-driven company, this was an important part of turning their words into action, but it presented a number of challenges for the business.

We were able to have candid conversations with the founder and staff to translate their core beliefs into a DEI strategy that they’d be able to get investors on board with, while staying true to their values. It was the best of both worlds where investors, the company, and their customers benefited.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

I’m currently working with a few companies that are either in the process of investor fundraising or have just closed major investment deals. It’s been incredibly exciting to help reframe diversity and inclusion as an asset versus a liability. I think each of these projects helps the general public by showing investors and key stakeholders that sustainable, scalable DEI does exist and can be a value-add for the bottom line.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

My consultancy is rooted in social impact so I try to bring goodness to the world through my client work. All of our clients have a social impact component as a core part of their business model. It’s a fundamental part of how they do business and, through M.KEDI, I help them increase, expand, or sustain that work.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line.

#1 It Mitigates The Risk of a PR Nightmare

Increased diversity can help your business in a myriad of ways. First and foremost, it de-risks your business as the tides continue to shift in consumer attitudes. As we all saw in June 2020, there can be major consequences for not having diversity in place when consumers call on you to share your stats.

#2 It Increases Customer Loyalty

A Nielsen study found that consumers were more likely to repurchase from brands they felt supported the betterment of society. This means increased diversity efforts can have a direct, positive impact on your customer lifetime value (CLV).

#3 It Increases ROI on Customer Acquisition Efforts

On the flipside, increased diversity can help customer acquisition. If you’re not thinking about customer diversity, you’re leaving a significant portion of your target market untapped. By ensuring the messaging and brand imagery you utilize reflects the diversity of your total addressable market, you’re able to increase your potential market share.

#4 It Helps Build More Effective and Creative Teams

Teams with increased diversity have shown to be better at creative problem-solving. Given that 90% of business is solving problems, a diverse team may be the secret to accelerating growth and more efficient business operations all around because they are able to more effectively and efficiently remove roadblocks, eliminate bottlenecks, and find better ways to achieve difficult tasks.

#5 It Reduces Employee Turnover

Lastly, given the current labor market, increasing diversity can help your bottom line by increasing employee satisfaction and decreasing employee turnover. I recently worked on an employee retention initiative for a client with 200 employees. Time and time again we found that more than anything, employees wanted to see more diversity throughout the company.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?

Employees thrive when managers see them as a whole human, not just as a worker. All employees exist outside of their 9–5 job and supporting them in and outside of the workplace makes a world of a difference in their productivity, engagement, and overall commitment to the job. For an increasingly digital connected workforce, business leaders can help employees thrive by setting boundaries around work hours and offline hours. This is a small, but mighty way to reaffirm your commitment to employees’ wellbeing and productivity.

What advice would you give to other business leaders about how to manage a large team?

Managing a large team can decrease the amount of 1-on-1 time you get with your employees and make the little time you do get together strictly about the logistical and brass tasks portion of their role. To combat this, I encourage managers to ask “is there something you’ve been working on lately that you’re particularly proud of?” in their regular 1-on-1 with employees. This simple check-in encourages employees to take pride in their work, gives you an easy yet meaningful opportunity to congratulate them on a job well done, and illuminates where they may be interested in taking on more responsibility.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

I would love to have lunch with Pilar Johnson and Bobak Emamiam, the co-founders of Debut Capital. I’ve been so impressed by their work with this next generation of consumer start-ups. I’d be honored to talk with them about social impact, economic empowerment and the many ways diversity, equity, and inclusion is moving the VC world towards a better future.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

They can follow me on LinkedIn @Muna Ikedionwu for more and visit my website to work with me.

Thank you for these excellent insights. We wish you continued success in your great work.

Muna Ikedionwu of M KEDI: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Recommended Posts