5 minutes with... Lara from Momentum4

In a new regular series, our Community Manager Daisy interviews new arrivals at Sussex Innovation about their business, why they joined, and their plans for growth. Today she chats with Lara Williams from Momentum4.

So Lara, can you explain what it is that Momentum4 do?

Momentum4 are a people performance consultancy. We used to call ourselves learning and development but we’ve just changed the wording because ultimately what we’re interested in is taking people from one place to a higher place…so going from best in class to world class. It’s all about how people perform, whether that’s a leader in business or whether that’s a team, a top team, a leadership team, or whether it’s a middle management team, we’re ultimately looking at how we can improve what they do and how they perform. So, it’s people performance, business growth, that’s our slogan.

What was it that made you want to set up the business in the first place?

Both Chris and I, who are the founding partners, also husband and wife, were independent consultants. [Chris] was an independent consultant purely working on his own and I was working for a consultancy at first and then went as an associate consultant. We got to a place in our lives where we thought, this is silly, we should join forces and create a business that we both feel very passionate about and utilise all those skills that we have, and take it forward, so yeah that happened about 10 years ago.

Were there any specific challenges that you faced as you were setting up?

Definitely, the initial one was that we set up around about the time of the recession and it was a risk but it was a risk that was worth taking. People were cutting back on luxuries such as marketing and training and coaching but ultimately, we felt that long term it will always come back, the investment in people and how they perform and wellbeing of employees will always come back. So, I guess that was our initial challenge…were we actually going to continue making money.

Working together as a husband and wife team…

I was going to ask about that!

…it’s also a challenge! Work-life balance, when does the laptop get switched off, who’s going to pick the kids up, those sorts of challenges continue. Actually, the challenge is, what do we want out of the business and how far do we want to progress with it to ensure that we maintain that work-life balance but also see enough return for our family.

Some challenges then, but I’m sure there have been successes, what has been your biggest success to date?

Our biggest success I think is us, people want us, but it’s a double-edged sword. Ultimately our biggest success is our energy and our ability to go in and transform, whether it’s leadership or teams or organisations, and yet for us to grow we need to look at other talent…Our success could be our downfall in growing as a business but I think that we have the ability to build very long term, sustainable relationships. We’ve got a great network of people that we utilise and that continues to grow and that’s where our business tends to come from, those relationships.

Building relationships and networking is very important?

Yes, very important. And ensuring that people know who you are, truly who you are, what’s important to you, what you’re passionate about. I think that’s why people come back to us, that’s why people pick up the phone and say: “Lara or Chris can you come back?” I’ve heard it so many times, people say: “We want your energy” and that’s why we called the company momentum because we looked for a word that encompassed energy and movement...that’s where momentum came from.

I guess the next question is, why have you decided to join Sussex Innovation?

For us to join, it seemed like a natural progression. At this stage it’s a virtual membership…I think the slowly slowly approach will do us good, we’re finding out what [Sussex Innovation] can do for us and finding out how much we want to grow and whether it’s about employing people or whether it’s maximising the students' capabilities on campus. We may be looking at research so that’s something we initially talked about… I think it’s also about not feeling so isolated, and being part of a team… especially in a husband and wife team, you can’t get away from each other (in the nicest possible way!) It’s reconnecting with other people, where those ideas spark and creativity flows. Sometimes you need a change of environment.

So being part of a community…

Definitely yep.

In terms of engaging with the University, you’re looking at connecting with students on campus?

Yes, I initially spoke to [Peter Lane, Innovation Support Manager] and we were talking about the company that we currently partner with, it’s an academic company, we use their assessment tools and their diagnostics. At the moment it’s very American, very Australasian, it’s not UK.  We are the first UK partner so it’s very exciting for us but there’s no data on UK clients. I’d like to go out and do some research and give people the opportunity to use the assessment tools and diagnostics and Peter said we could maximise the potential of the students here, that’s something you can offer...Also, [our partner] would be really interested in talking to [Sussex Innovation]… their main focus is spreading the word of EQ (emotional quotient), emotional intelligence, and how we do that doesn’t matter. They want the data, they want people to use their assessment tools and diagnostics to grow and utilise emotional intelligence, so that’s their outcome, it’s not a monetary outcome.

Read more '5 minutes with...' interviews here.