This guest blog has been written by Rohan Inneh.
Here’s how AIS helped me leave my corporate consulting job to launch my own consulting & fractional COO offering.
Chapter 1 – What is in your hands
Joining AIS opened my eyes to the dynamic world of start-ups and scale-ups, and I instantly fell in love with the thriving ecosystem of passionate entrepreneurs and innovative minds. It was inspiring to see everyone driven by a shared desire to build something extraordinary, creating an environment that was simply irresistible.
AIS made me realize that angel investing is more than just writing a check; it’s about providing value beyond the money.
Although I had the privilege of working for renowned consulting giants like EY, Deloitte, and Capgemini, my heart was always drawn to entrepreneurship. I wanted to do more than just work for great companies; I wanted to make a meaningful impact in the lives of start-ups and scale-ups, creating a better lifestyle for my family on my own terms. But how could I make this a reality?
Faith is the foundation of everything I do, and it brought to mind the story of Moses at the Burning Bush, where he was asked, “What is that in your hand?”
Facing an ambitious goal and contemplating how to navigate from point A to B, I realised that what I held in my hands wasn’t a flashy tech product, but a refined skillset in operations honed over years at top organisations.
That’s exactly what I would leverage to bridge the gap. With proven expertise in setting up systems and infrastructure, I knew that operations were an area many founders despised but one that I genuinely enjoyed.
AIS lifted the curtain on the world I longed to be a part of.
Chapter 2 – The Dilemma
I spoke to Andy about using my consulting skills with startups. He advised me to work in a startup first to gain firsthand experience and credibility. I realized that my corporate background didn’t hold much weight with founders who valued results over resources. However, I couldn’t take the risk of working at a startup due to financial responsibilities.
I faced a dilemma: my skillset needed proven startup experience to be credible, but I couldn’t leave my career for that. I wanted flexibility in my life and didn’t just want another job.
I explored options by speaking to founders and offering free advisory sessions and mini-consulting projects. This helped me gain testimonials and unlearn old habits. I knew there was a space for me, even if I hadn’t discovered it yet.
Chapter 3 – The Value Bridge
AIS provided me with a valuable network that has been instrumental in my success. The diverse roles and minds in the community helped me land my first client and transition out of my corporate role.
My first client, Jamelia, was in my AIS cohort. I offered her a free workshop to improve her sales operations. Although the workshop had some flaws, it taught me two important lessons. Firstly, I realised that my corporate background influenced my approach, using frameworks and language designed for large organisations and not lean teams. Jamelia’s feedback confirmed this. Secondly, I discovered that while building the operations strategy was insightful, the true value lay in executing it.
As I continued doing workshops with other founders, I noticed recurring themes and realised that my language was not resonating with them. They didn’t care about technical details; they wanted practical insights and freedom from day-to-day operations.
Through this process, I not only learned about the types of founders I wanted to work with but also identified the industry I felt most comfortable. I found my niche in e-commerce operations, focusing on business leaders who experienced the pain of inefficient processes and sought structure to scale up. Conversations with these clients became exponentially more impactful, leading to fruitful outcomes.
Testing and validating my value through free or low-cost work was crucial in this journey. AIS provided me with the network I needed to unlearn corporate ways and effectively communicate my value to start-up and scale-up founders.
Simply put I was figuring out who my ideal client what the value bridge was
- What was my understanding of the value I provided and why?
- What was my client’s understanding of the value I offered and why?
- What what the most valuable phrase / sentence that would bridge the two points and bring us together?
Chapter 4 – The Box
Once I understood my value and target audience, I focused on ensuring that the right people categorised me in a mental box as an expert in solving scaling problems through operational expertise.
While still working a day job, I prioritised building my professional network. Professional services thrive on strong networks, eliminating the need for extensive marketing efforts. I confidently reached out to people on LinkedIn, engaging in conversations and sharing my learning journey. This approach broke down any initial defences and positioned me as an operations specialist in their minds.
The benefit of this method is that it shifted the dynamic from a typical seller-to-buyer relationship to an open and transparent founder-to-founder connection. It allowed me to freely revisit conversations and reinforce my position in their minds.
Chapter 5 – The Moment of Truth
This moment marked a turning point in my career. As mentioned, I kept touch points with some founders and Jamelia was one of them. She had mentioned that her business TreasureTress was about to launch its biggest pop-up store, she needed someone who had operations and logistics experience and she knew it would be a perfect fit for me. After a few conversations, I onboarded, and displayed my value in execution and the rest is history as I’m now a fractional COO.
AIS gave me a glimpse into the world I wanted to operate in and provided me with the network to steadily approach my ambition without sacrificing the stability of my family. I had great alumni like Andy, Nithin, Justin, Janet, Ash and Vera who all played large and small roles in either shaping my views or opening their networks.
AIS isn’t just about investing money, it was about developing myself and my networks to be of value to others.
Inspired by Rohan’s story? Would you like to start the transition to kickstarting your portfolio career and future-proof your income? Sign up for our 5-day FREE email course below.