Ketan Dattani on Transformative Decisions in Business and Life
Ketan Dattani is the Founding Owner and Chief Executive Officer of Buckingham Futures and took some time out to share the wisdom and experience they gained during pivotal moments in life and in business.
Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself and your journey as a leader in your industry?
As with many people in the Environmental field, my career path has stemmed from my deeply rooted love for nature and unbridled interest in understanding natural ecosystems. As far back as I can remember, I loved animals, plants, and trees — really anything that was outdoors and wild. As I got older, I comprehended that Environmental matters were of little significance in 80s London; Margaret Thatcher had declared that there was no such thing as society and no one understood that more than the inner-city populaces that bore the brunt of a broken nation. After completing my post-graduate degree in 1998, I struggled to find a role within the Environmental sector and so began my career in recruitment. I set up Buckingham Futures, a specialist Consultancy supplying Environmental Health personnel across the Private and Public sectors on a nationwide basis as I identified an opportunity to aid Environmental Health professionals to fill the gap in the employment sector caused by significant challenges to the global economy caused population growth, increasing demand for natural resources, soaring costs of energy and escalating impacts of climate change.
What specific experiences or decisions in your journey do you believe have shaped your approach to business and leadership?
Learning is a lifelong process. As the saying goes, you learn something new everyday. The most important lesson I have learned about leadership is taken from the old adage 'You lead by example', that is why I work as hard as everyone else to achieve our objectives.
Can you share a story of a pivotal moment in your career that led to a significant transformation in your business or personal life?
I had actually failed miserably in the school system when I was younger, and it was my love for the Environment and nature that brought me back into the educational system. Later on, after I had received my Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Biotechnology, I got a job, but quickly realised that working in a laboratory full time was nothing like what I had expected it to be. So, in 1997 I returned to education and achieved my Masters in Environmental Planning and Management. This eventually led me to recruitment, after I had found great difficulty in finding a role in the environmental sector. Fast forward to 2013 and I set up Buckingham Futures.
What factors did you consider when making that critical decision, and how did you weigh the potential risks and rewards?
The hardest part about the path I've taken was my leaving my corporate recruitment career in 2013 and starting my own business, Buckingham Futures. It was undoubtedly the biggest career risk I ever took was to quit a very well-paid corporate career to set up a self-funded Environmental Health Recruitment Business from scratch from my parent’s box room with no prior business experience. Self-belief played a crucial role in the journey, as it does with any business leader. The confidence and trust in yourself can help you overcome obstacles, make tough decisions and lead your team to success. Also, listening to the advice of those around me. The value I’ve found over the last couple of years from working with brilliant and experienced advisors and mentors has been tremendous. Always listen to what they have to say because they may provide insight that you have not yet considered.
What challenges did you face during this transformative period, and how did you overcome them?
When starting Buckingham Futures, the most crucial challenges are keeping up with the current market competition. Entering a competitive market can be tough. to stand out, focussing on my unique value proposition, niche targeting and differentiation strategies are necessary points to consider. Overcoming these challenges often involves conducting research, seeking funding,acquiring knowledge, effective marketing, legal compliance, building a strong team,managing finances wisely, staying adaptable, and displaying resilience in the face ofsetbacks. Creating a solid business plan outlining the roadmap of business growth, organisational structure, and cash flow management is important to consider.
Looking back, what advice would you give to your younger self at that time, or to entrepreneurs and business leaders who might find themselves in a similar situation?
When starting Buckingham Futures, the most crucial challenges are keeping up with the current market competition. Entering a competitive market can be tough. To stand out, focussing on my unique value proposition, niche targeting and differentiation strategies are necessary points to consider. Overcoming these challenges often involves conducting research, seeking funding, acquiring knowledge, effective marketing, legal compliance, building a strong team, managing finances wisely, staying adaptable, and displaying resilience in the face of setbacks. Creating a solid business plan outlining the roadmap of business growth, organisational structure, and cash flow management is important to consider.
How has that pivotal moment influenced the way you make decisions today, and what lasting impact has it had on your business?
You learn something new every day. Whether I'm in a parliamentary meeting, at a networking event, or speaking to one of my 4 children - I always believe in absorbing as much information as possible. Whatever the setting, always be open to learn. So far, I’d say the 5 most important things that I’ve learned are: 1: Make genuine connections It is not about the number of connections you make, but rather the quality of those connections and treating everyone as if they are the only other person in the room. 2: Stay humble Remain humble, even in the face of unparalleled success.Use your position as an opportunity to serve and never assume your position makes you better than the next man. 3: Maintain a positive attitude A positive attitude has the potential to elevate the level of those you work with. It is also the easiest way to navigate undeniably negative situations. 4: Place emphasis on integrity Let your actions speak for themselves, and take pride in exercising integrity, no matter how small or big the task. Anything less is unacceptable. 5: Learn to read people Conversations have as much to do with verbal communication as they do with non-verbal. What someone says may not necessarily be what they mean, and unspoken communication is often more important than that of the spoken word. Learn to read facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice in order to get what’s really going on.
In your opinion, how important is it for entrepreneurs and business leaders to have these transformative moments, and how can they best prepare for and learn from them?
Learning is a lifelong process. As I said, you learn something new every day. Change is a natural and expected part of running a successful business. Sometimes or external factors can change in ways the founder didn’t anticipate, and in such cases, it’s necessary to take a different approach to your business operations.
The most valuable thing I had during this time a mentor was to help guide me through my entrepreneurial journey, from not making hasty business decisions to fostering valuable partnerships.
Having a mentor is more than just the transfer of advice, knowledge, and insights. Being mentored also provides exposure to fresh perspectives, ideas, and approaches and an opportunity to reflect on my own goals and practices.
The desire to take your company to new levels of performance and profits requires change and adaptation. It requires a break from routine and old habits. It will require a mindset shift with a full understanding of the importance of evolving.