“The flexibility to choose different programmes allowed me to develop my business in real time.”
Inna Malaia, Founder and Virtual CEO at Bevel World
Inna Malaia, Founder and Virtual CEO at Bevel World
I’d spent 15 years in the international corporate world before becoming an entrepreneur. I was the Global Marketing and Sales Research Director for an international product manufacturer in Geneva; it was a great job, almost too great though, because for many years I’d been ignoring the urge to make a change and try something new. Towards the end of 2019, the business went through a huge transformation and my position was made redundant. Despite many of my colleagues encouraging me to stay in the company but in an alternative role, I knew it wasn’t where I belonged.
I left my last full-time position in January 2020 – just weeks before the pandemic hit – with the intention of starting out on my own. I had the backing of my family – my husband and three children – which is all I needed to know I’d made the right decision, and started to think about what I could do next. I wanted to serve other people and help them get through the difficult times in their life, and thought back to when I didn’t feel fulfilled in my previous role but a fear of leaving kept me there. I remember being heartbroken when my position was made redundant, but at the same time, I had a positive attitude and a willingness to not just accept change, but embrace it. It was then that I made the decision to be a person who can empower others in a similar way, which is where the idea for Bevel World started – to work with people in the corporate world who feel trapped and help them reclaim the life they want.
I had the idea for Bevel World, but I needed specific skills to make it a reality. So I turned straight to LBS. I completed the Essentials of Leadership programme in 2014, after which I spent two months re-reading all the materials they referenced during the course, including Change to Strange which Dan Cable, Professor of Organisational Behaviour, had given me, which helped me understand the difference between managing people and being a leader; a book I still use today. It completely changed my approach. I remember my team commented on how I’d returned as a completely different leader. So I’d already experienced the calibre of the LBS cohort, programme content and professors – which were truly world-class – and didn’t see any reason to look elsewhere.
I was drawn back by the School’s entrepreneurial spirit, which really sets it apart from other more corporate business schools. I was looking for a specific programme on entrepreneurship, which LBS offered. The School gives you the rare opportunity to focus on personal transformation, not just business transformation – and as a result, achieving a shift in mindset and perspective.
Joining The Entrepreneurial Edge programme was the perfect first step in the journey of building my business. It gave me the framework I needed to turn my idea into reality in just 12 weeks, and by the end of the programme my plan was voted as one of the top 20 out of over 100 business plans on the programme. Although I didn’t win, it gave me the confidence to start believing in what I’d created – and the feedback from the programme directors and my peers helped me make some improvements and start moving forwards. These courses gave me the foundation I needed to begin thinking about starting my own business, which encouraged me to return to education and obtain the Certificate in Management to continue building on the Bevel World concept.
I chose the Certificate in Management because I wanted to curate my own learning journey. The flexibility to choose four different programmes allowed me to develop my business in real time. After coming up with the initial concept, I chose the Mastering Digital Marketing programme, as I knew I needed to sharpen my digital marketing knowledge to get my company off the ground. At this time, the pandemic had hit and the future of the business world as a whole had become more uncertain than ever. That’s why I joined the Exploiting Disruption in a Digital World programme – it helped me expand my vision from digitising a product to digitising the entire company, and to look at it as one consumer-oriented digital product. I followed this with the Future of Work programme, which was timely considering the impact of COVID-19. It helped me develop my roadmap for future consumer acquisition against a backdrop of organisational transformation and job cuts, which was particularly relevant as Bevel empowers people to embrace change, be present and define their own lives. Next, I’m excited to join the Finance for Non-Finance Executives programme; to assist me with probability, scale and sustainable financing.
From the beginning of the pandemic to today, LBS has helped me to take Bevel World from just an idea, to a fully functioning business – offering inclusive, authentic leadership programmes. The past 12 months have been incredibly difficult for many, and the aftermath of the crisis will bring further uncertainty; I’m just happy to be playing a part in the prevention of human crisis and professional burnout, helping people change careers and ultimately live more fulfilled lives.
It's always risky launching a business in uncertain circumstances, but if anything, COVID-19 has accelerated the need for what we do at Bevel World. With job cuts across industries and people stepping back to reconsider whether they’ve prioritised happiness in their careers, there couldn’t be a better time for me to have started the business. It’s also a fundamental part of the entrepreneurial mindset to take something and run with it, no matter what’s going on around you. It’s about thinking positively and trusting yourself. You’ve just got to jump, which is exactly what I did.
The pandemic has been a moment of awakening for many people. Everyone has been forced to take a step back, slow down, reflect on their lives and think, ‘is this really what I want to be doing?’ Pre-2020, I was spending all my time either in the office or travelling. I’d be going from Geneva to Milan and then Milan to Taipei; my kids would call and ask where in the world I was. It sounds nice, but in reality it was physically exhausting going from one country to another, and mentally draining to spend so much time away from my family. Despite this, it’s easy to become accustomed to replacing happiness with perks like travel, a great salary and lavish business lunches and parties. In the past 12 months, many of those things have been taken away, and when people return to work, they’ll have a much clearer vision of what they want in their life, and will be questioning whether or not their career fits that narrative.
To be successful, existing leaders will have to drastically adapt their approach. If you think of an executive whose bonus is based on team performance, traditionally they would be results-focused, and do whatever they could to ensure their team hits those targets. Those days are gone. Micromanaging will no longer be accepted, and instead authenticity will be key. People have woken up, and will now feel more empowered to push for what they want, whether that’s flexible hours or remote working. Leaders will have no choice but to adapt or risk losing talent. Today and in the future, leaders will need to see people as people, not resources. The time I spent at LBS helped me understand the difference between management and leadership. And now, through Bevel World, I’m proud to be playing my part in helping other leaders to adapt their approach and truly connect with their people.
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