Behind The Scenes Consulting Dreams: Michele Young-Crook’s Values-Based Business Strategy
“Don't take on something you're not passionate about, because it will show in the work,” says consultant Michele Young-Crook. It’s a principle on which she’s built a business and a reason she can be proud of what she does and who she is in the business world.
On a personal level, she is of Algonquin, Italian and English ancestry and a mother of three. She was raised by her Algonquin grandmother while spending time with her parents in their separate homes. All this moving around meant she went to over a dozen elementary schools and struggled to make friends. She worked hard to graduate early because she found the education experience so difficult.
One of the struggles she dealt with was imposter syndrome, having grown up in more than one culture. “It's really hard identifying who you are, and where you stand,” she recalls. Walking in two worlds, she wasn’t accepted by Indigenous kids in her school and she didn’t feel accepted by non-Indigenous students either.
The social circles she found acceptance growing up included kids who shared her interests in hip-hop, dirt biking, reading, and dance. When she was pursuing travel and tourism studies she made friends with other single parents who could relate to her struggle with sleep deprivation and studies. Later, Young-Crook struggled to find acceptance in the workforce in some ways.
She worked in an organization and grew into the CEO role but sometimes faced criticism due to her lack of educational credentials, having only gone to school for travel and tourism, which was unrelated to her work. She led the organization for fifteen years based on her ability to adapt, research, follow policies and procedures and good governance skills. Despite the criticism she faced, she enjoyed the work she did and formed some strong friendships and relationships before leaving to start her own consulting business.
As a consultant, she works in marketing, digital media, event infrastructure, tax strategy, board governance, branding, program development, policy review and reputation management. She recommends aspiring consultants take a project management course and establish strong documentation practices for their client work. Young-Crook says that communication is key, as well as clarity around what will be delivered.
Sticking to honesty being the best policy and doing what she says she will do, she’s built her practice through word of mouth and referrals. She also believes in charging what you are worth and working in a sustainable way to avoid exhaustion. Young-Crook only works with clients whose goals and methodologies she is aligned with and is grateful to be in a position to choose.
She is glad to be consulting instead of leading a national organization because she doesn’t have to attend big events and she can work in the background. She enjoys the work-life balance she has to be a mom and wife because her pace with meetings and travel were hard on her relationships. Now she can go to the park, walk in the woods or snuggle her kids whenever she wants to.
Outside of work, she lives on a big piece of land with her own garden in the suburbs. In the future, she longs to live off the grid. She has been writing children’s books and wants to do more writing and open up businesses that are different from what she’s doing now. “I pictured myself on this big piece of land, looking out into the trees, or water and writing books, kind of like a Stephen King novel, but no one dying,” she laughs.
Her advice to youth is to be mindful of what they post on social media and how it can come back and bite you when you are looking for work. Photos of partying can look bad to employers and clients.
“If you have something on your social media, and you don't want your parents to see it, chances are, it should not be on your social media. It doesn't hurt to ask someone who's older… because chances are someone in that age bracket is the one that's going to be hiring you,” she advises. “Be careful what you tweet, those things last forever,” she concludes.
Having a strong reputation means she doesn't have to take on something she’s not passionate about, so she doesn’t have to worry if it will show in the work. Michele Young-Crook has built a business where she can be proud of what she does and who she is in the business world, informed by who she is on a personal level, an Algonquin woman who had to find her place in the world where she didn’t always feel like she belonged. She once struggled with imposter syndrome, but now she knows exactly who she is.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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