An interview with Lillian Latto, founder of MATCHFiT Consults
It was a rainy morning at Brawn & Brains when Lillian and I first sat down to talk about her business, MATCHFiT Consults. Still in its infancy at that time, I remember thinking, what a great gap in the field her business was filling. I, myself had just gone through a transition and was wondering where my career path would lead. It seemed to make sense that we would be talking. Forward on about ten months and Lillian is deep into building her business. At its core, I feel it’s a service business, one that helps individuals and businesses get their footing in the world. But unlike recruitment agencies, it’s one with a heart and a soul… the step you take right before you contact a business for an interview or a recruitment company for a job.
Whether you are a mum looking to get back into the workforce, a “trailing spouse” looking for your own field of work, a corporation in the midst of a change or a business about to upsize or downsize for whatever reason, Lillian is probably the person you should be talking to.
Lillian is irrepressible. Her enthusiasm and care for the people and businesses she works with is undeniable. That said, I think it’s best for me to let her tell you her story, in her own words.
Thanks so much for sharing your story with us, Lillian!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I think the first thing to know about me is I’m a wife and mom (never sure which way round they should go as I love them all the same). I have a very supportive and loving husband who has an abundance of patience!! Plus, I’m mom to two crazy, smart, loveable, mischievous, very naughty, funny, kind most of the time, fighting with each other the rest of the time kids. I think of myself as a true mixed culture kid in the sense I’m a Yorkshire woman ‘through and through’ as we’d say back home, with roots and culture from the West Indies that defines a huge part of my make-up.
This combo makes me a lover of good music from Reggae to Rock and everything in between. Love to dance, not that I’m any good at it! A fan of great food from Fish n Chips with Mushy Peas and brown sauce (never ketchup) to Salt Fish and Ackee with Johnny Cakes! Plus any cuisine that is well seasoned with a kick! A people watcher. Don’t judge me. I’m merely a lover of human behaviour. When I’m not eating dancing, drinking or observing I try to keep as active as possible, thankfully the Dragonets netball team and my kids take good care of that. So, that’s me.
We exited a life once known in the UK, said our goodbyes to our loved ones, and at the time a 15-year career in Talent Management which I loved. It was clear to most just how much I loved Talent Management. I spent more and more time with clients, candidates, colleagues, across Europe and elsewhere. It wasn’t difficult as the culture was vibrant, energising (most days), exciting, high energy, ethical and a constant source of learning. I loved it because I was doing the one thing I always wanted to do, transitioning and transforming people from their Point A to their Point B. It felt really good.
As for my family, we (that is myself, husband and our one-year-old son) arrived in Singapore almost seven years ago through a career opportunity for my husband. It was a massive decision for all sorts of reasons, one being putting my career on hold to make the move. That said, it was made easier with our relatively recent status of “parents” plus shortly after we’d made the decision to move, we found out we were expecting our second child.
With that and what we already knew of Singapore – diversity in cultures, low crime rate, abundance of pools, parks and things to do with kids – it was a no brainer. Singapore is such a forward-thinking, progressive country, a leader in commerce, oh and not forgetting it’s hot, hot, hot!!! My favourite type of climate!!
It was a perfect time and perfect opportunity to live in another part of the world, raise our increasing family, embrace a new culture and a new chapter in our lives. It ticked so many boxes, but still made for a difficult and confusing time for me. Singapore held my future in its hands and the flipside was leaving a career, everything and everyone I loved behind. So that was that.
Within a month of accepting the opportunity, my husband was here working and my son, bump and I followed a month later after packing up our lives and saying our goodbyes to our loved ones and all our friends. Let’s say the 14.5 hour flight from Leeds was an emotional rollercoaster and that was without turbulence!!
If I go way back to school days briefly. Around the time when I was deciding what to do – should I go to college and live a student’s life or should I get a job and live an adult’s life – I had already decided that I wanted to help people. But not in a doctor/saving lives type way. The doctor thing was blighted with my inability to succeed in chemistry!! So, when faced with the question “what will you do when you leave school?”, I told the teacher that posed as a career advisor, “I want to be a counsellor”. They suggested otherwise
Luckily for me, after studying for a while, plus a couple of goes in the world of commerce (in areas of no real interest), I was offered employment in the corporate sector and a pay check. I thought I’d better do that because no one had offered to pay me before! At 21, that was high up there on my list of priorities! Getting paid! A young woman starting out on her career journey with the “I’m going to conquer the world and make change” attitude that many young, ambitious, fresh-out-of college individuals possess.
The only other people I can recount in my life at that time who provided a positive “you can achieve and work in any field you desire” would be the females in my family and my dad. Also Margaret Thatcher when she became the Prime Minister of the UK in 1979. I’m no political animal but Margaret becoming PM was massive for me and for her! I didn’t understand all the politics behind the event but it was momentous for both of us for very different reasons. I was excited beyond excitement that a woman not related to me had given me hope for my future.
I still remember how I felt that day. Up until this point and even though I was only 9 years old, I’d figured that there didn’t seem to be too many places where females excelled in the world or in business. With hindsight, I know this was merely down to the fact that I was 9 years old and my limited existence, that said it was still a valid view point even if it was of own little world. Makes you wonder how many young girls and women feel similar today?
Going back to my career… I was fortunate to be in a work environment where, for one of the few times in my life I was told “you can” instead of “you can’t”, or “that’s not for you”, or “you need to be like this and not like that”. From this, I found I had talents that I didn’t know existed and an opportunity to learn and develop other lacking areas to compliment what was innate. I was feeling great! On top of the world!
This newfound version of myself came with a focus and determination like never before. I learnt that I was braver than I thought. I superseded my own expectations. When someone comes into your life who’s not related, has nothing to gain except of course ROI from the paycheck they give you, but not knowing what that would look like or if, indeed, it would materialise, that is truly inspiring. What was even more inspiring was that I had a certain individual as my mentor and my coach. She was then and still is today. She was one of two female senior executives and she is still the epitome of an executive, held in the highest regard by everyone. Not only was she off-the-radar when it came to her role in the business/industry but she was an incredible personality too. It was almost too good to be true to have her in my life.
When I look back at this time, the things I’m most grateful for in this journey, including all the false starts and there were a few, was learning that the biggest thing of all is that you can if you want to, you just have to take the right steps to get you there.
…you can if you want to, you just have to take the right steps to get you there.
What an incredible journey Lillian! With so much potential in the corporate sector, you could have easily gone back to work, why did you decide to start MATCHFiT Consults?
So many reasons. I always wanted to create something of my own and have the freedom to implement what I believed in opposed to someone else’s beliefs. I come from an entrepreneurial background so I guess it’s always been a part of my life even though I chose the employed path for many years. Being an entrepreneur looked so hard!! I think my desire to build a service brand was reignited years ago in a meeting when my then-CEO casually said, “you’ll be sitting in my chair one day, running this company”. At first, I was thinking, “is he talking to me?”. I promptly followed-up with the self-doubt thing. “Oh, he’s just saying that to be nice”. Either way, it didn’t really matter, it’s the impact of his words that made the difference. It made me take stock and think about all the ideas I had in my head. What did I want to DO in the future? What do I want FOR my future? Because, in my hearts of hearts, there was a small part of me that believed I could be that entrepreneurial person.
So with the move to Singapore, the birth of our daughter, extended maternity leave and the to-ing and fro-ing about going back to work, I wondered if the time was right… But then it also felt like time wasn’t my friend. I started to think “is there ever going to be a right time”?
It was only when the kids were in preschool for part of the day that I began to see time coming back to me, albeit in limited quantity. I knew this day would eventually come because the work bug never disappeared… it never went away. So much so, I would volunteer my expertise to friends and people within my network just to maintain my skill level. The fact is, helping my friends was a way of helping myself and keeping my knowledge and skill base fresh and current. Through this and everyday life, I started to see patterns forming.
For my Singaporean friends, it was about the balance of home life. Even with another set of hands in the form of a helper, it was still tough physically and emotionally. For my global expat friends, same same, but there was also always the fear and impact of redundancy. This is an issue now more than ever and the stakes are even higher for those who don’t have PR status.
In the world of business and for companies, in general, I began to see and hear about the realignment of business practices addressing a number of happenings in the market here and further afield.
The common denominator was people wanting to return to work in some shape or form, where ever they were from. And companies were becoming more and more committed to investing in their people for many reasons including an increase in retention, performance, morale, loyalty and commitment. Business transformation was becoming so very important, especially when you add ever-changing technology to the mix.
So I was just about done with my research on starting my own business when I was headhunted and accepted a role. For a moment, I questioned my decision but knew the drivers and motivators were right for that point in my journey. I’m so glad that I took that opportunity. I learnt so much about working in Singapore, other Asian countries and myself which is exactly what I needed! This opportunity proved, beyond doubt, that nothing had changed for me. I still wanted to create something despite everything going well. In time I knew it wasn’t quite the right fit but I also knew what I needed to do to change that.
Through my own transition and transformation AND the 20 plus years commercial experience, I knew exactly how I could help and what was required. That’s what led me to form MATCHFiT Consults.
MATCHFiT Consults, in my view, fillls a bit of a gap in the market. There is so much transition going on here and around the world. Could you let us know what your business is all about and what you believe in?
Thank you and I believe so too. Transition in its many forms is really high on the agenda for everyone everywhere and ever present right here in Singapore.
What do I believe in? That’s deep. From this perspective, I personally believe that as humans we can improve ourselves. We can become a better version of ourselves regardless of our starting point. I believe we’re able to improve for the greater good.
My greater good is my family. I believe it’s important to demonstrate to our kids and the younger generation at large that change is challenging but not impossible. It’s definitely a mindset. It’s not something that happens overnight and it’s certainly not instantaneous, unlike a Google search.
Whatever change we want to see in ourselves might not be mastered straight away. Great if it is, but it’s not like that for everyone. In most cases, we have to work for it, developing over time. That’s where resilience, patience, persistence, dedication and commitment are our friends.
I like to think of MATCHFiT Consults as the helping hand required to achieve your wants, needs, desires, goals and dreams. And that usually means taking some form of risk including pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and through the barriers that inhibit you from being truly great, truly happy. We don’t want you to allow your fear of letting go and trying something new to hold you back. For me, it’s all about lifelong learning. It’s never ending. It’s transformative. It’s a testing journey but one that is worthwhile.
This is one of the many reasons MATCHFiT Consults exists. We’re a learning and development company with three main areas of focus:
- Coaching which has a subtext of career preparation, transition, management and executive coaching.
- Outplacement consultancy which is where we work with companies who are realigning their business objectives and where, in some cases, redundancies are inevitable.
- Business transformation which is all about a company reflecting on themselves. Seeing areas of their business that need improvement that relate to either their people and/or their systems. It’s like a health check on your business.
Why do you think the market is ready for MATCHFiT Consults?
I think it’s ready because it is aligned to what’s happening out there and particularly in Singapore. The learning and development evolution is going on. It’s always been a part of the business lifecycle but when you add the global fight for talent and what’s happening with the economy in the mix, it becomes a complex situation.
Companies are making themselves attractive, “FIT” in a business sense. With that and everything else that effects the economy right here and now, Singapore is keen to ensure Singaporeans, PR’s, citizens and foreign talent are ready for the next chapter in their history and rightly so. I believe that MATCHFiT Consults echo’s Singapore’s strategy for the future.
Who do you feel would most benefit from your range of services?
MATCHFiT Consults is a service for everyone. We cater for people either in a role looking to achieve their next internal step or seeking a new role outside their current company, profession or career. We’re also for those returning to work after a time out, for whatever reason, be it motherhood, a career break or trouble finding their place in a new country. We work with individuals facing redundancy, coaching professionals at the beginning of their management careers up to executives.
We talk to companies that are evolving and transitioning to meet business objectives aligned to today’s needs. All these things are interdependent in one way or another hence we look after everyone. And, I might add, that we have a team of hard core and expert professionals that we have gathered that can help in whatever capacity they may be needed for.
How does it all work? If someone or a business comes to you for help, what can you help them with?
Well, that depends on the situation. I think the best way to answer your question is to talk about our approach which is treat each client with fresh eyes, every time, regardless of whether they’re an individual or a company. We find the best way forward is to perform an initial consultation in person to facilitate open communication. We want to clearly understand our client’s situation and end goal. We seek their opinion on the challenges they currently face, if identified and if not we can assist in understanding what they might be.
What’s important is that we listen. We take that very seriously. In return, we advise on how we believe we can assist in their transition from point A to point B. Which of our services are aligned to their needs and why? This then allows us to advise, co-create, co-develop strategy, come up with solutions, deployment and transition – end result, transformation. That’s how we help.
What’s coming up next for MATCHFiT Consults? Are there any events or courses that you are thinking about offering that we should be excited about?
There are a few things we’re excited about and we hope everyone else will be too!
We’ll be running a “Returning to Work Workshop” in the last week of April. The exact date and location will be announced soon and it’ll be the first of many. Plus we’ll be launching a number of training courses to assist hiring professionals and we’ll keep adding to our current offering. Follow us on Facebook or LinkedIn so we can keep you posted on happenings.
Is there any advice you’d give to someone wanting to start their own business in this industry?
I think once your mind is made up go for it! You have a lot of work ahead of you if you’re still in a role and a lot of work if not!!
- Get a coach!
- Research your business area. You need to know if it’s a viable business idea, who else is out there doing it, if anyone.
- Educate yourself. This, of course, depends on what you did before becoming your own boss.
- Talk to trusted people in your network but be prepared for criticism and/or disapproval. But don’t be put off by someone’s negative opinion. It could be a reflection of them not being able to take the leap of faith you’re about to embark upon.
- You’ll need a business plan. Lots of tools and information online to help if you haven’t done it before.
- Decide who, what and where is your target market. Is there a gap that needs filling?
- Think about how much you can invest – start up costs – do you need to borrow?
- Can you do this on your own or do you need employees – can you afford this from the get-go or not?
- Decide how will you market the business – what vehicles will you use?
- Identify potential clients to contact.
- Begin networking – raise your profile – be seen and heard.
- Enjoy the ride!
Thanks so much for talking to us Lillian!
For more information visit www.matchfitconsults.com.
All images provided by MATCHFiT Consults.
This article originally appeared on vanillabeige.com and may have been edited for this platform.