Solomon George can’t believe we’re talking about his two businesses. The former HR executive is only 11 months removed from chucking a very corporate career with Philips, the electronics giant, behind but it seems as if his transformation has been extreme.
He has clearly lost none of his passion for the function, though; by the time he got round to launching his latest start-up in Krakow, Poland he had been consulting companies about HR services for about a year – in his own firm.
But there are still many things that have no connection to Solomon’s new entrepreneurial ambition. Although an MBA has taken care of many of those start-up jitters.
“Absolutely not,” he laughs when I ask if he joined Lancaster’s full-time program to become a business starter. “I can’t believe I’m saying this because I am 100 per cent a corporate person. I never ever thought I’d do something on my own, even for the sake of a hobby.”
So a total transformation, then. It was nearly a decade ago that Solomon entered Lancaster University Management School to put his career on a global scale and brush up on his functional management skills. It took another seven years for him to leave the corporate safety net, however much he enjoyed his roles at Electrolux and Philip Morris International.
On the MBA degree, he says, “there is a sort of evolution everybody goes through”. The thought of start-ups had been with him for some time and, ultimately, proved too strong a lure. “I think the entrepreneurial angle was basically playing on my mind for the last two years,” Solomon says.
“I’d been reflecting for some time, questioning myself. Is it my cup of tea? Is it really what I wanted to do? So I took some time to clear up these hesitations, and find out what I wanted to do.”
However muddled his career plan has been, there is no doubt that he now has a clear path. He is about to close down Human Ace Consulting, the first business he set-up in May last year, to focus on GlobalMBAcareer, a specialized recruitment company.
If there are hints of his HR career still shining through his latest start-up, then the influence Lancaster’s MBA has had on his entire career is glaringly obvious. The business school holds a well-regarded status as a leader in consultancy, and many of their MBAs find work in firms such as Accenture and McKinsey.
Solomon completed no less than three consulting projects for leading companies – including Siemens Energy – as part of the MBA. And consulting would seem a natural earner for his speciality: human resources. Human Ace Consulting provided services to companies which were setting-up shared HR services.
“That’s been my forte, so I think Human Ace Consulting was born because of that,” he explains. He had good exposure to the industry, he says, and pre-MBA worked for three different companies in HR roles across India.
An MBA in the UK allowed him to take that career to an international stage. His consultancy took on assignments across Europe. “HR is just one part of the management functions and I thought I’d go one level up if I understood how they are all connected,” says Solomon. “The UK has culture exposure; it is a melting pot.”
He singled out Lancaster because of the smaller class sizes and people-orientated approach. His brother is also based in the UK. “I’m a people person,” he enthuses. “Whether it is running a big ship or launching a satellite, its people in corporations [that are important].”
Given half a chance, his passion for human resources bursts out. An entrepreneur? Sure. But people are his driving motivation. “HR is always dynamic. Its people, its reactions, its emotions. And dynamism. No two days are just the same so that’s why it really appealed to me,” he explains.
Solomon the HR entrepreneur – that means plenty of long hours, plenty of risk and plenty of hours spent striving for visibility in a crowded recruitment market in Poland. “There’s no quick fix. Certain things take time,” he says.
GlobalMBAcareer, which is just two months old, is a specialist MBA recruitment partner. Solomon seeks to match MBAs with employers – based on an understanding of how the market works through his own experiences.
But as you can imagine, he says, there are challenges that every start-up faces. “It takes time to reach out to potential MBA employers, business schools and MBAs,” he explains. “In the service industry people really need time to know, hear, see and experience the business. Visibility is a challenge.”
So too, it would seem, was securing capital. The former HR exec is well versed in discussing finances, but has had to rely on personal savings and the generosity of family and friends – twice.
Shutting down Human Ace Consulting was a positive rather than a negative decision. “It’s a totally different business direction to GlobalMBAcareer. GlobalMBAcareer career has to do with what I love doing, and is the perfect thing for me,” he says.
The entrepreneurial spirit in Poland has made the transition from the corporate to the start-up world easier. Although family played a part too; his wife is Polish.
His priority now is business development and branding. Spreading the company word will be a challenge, no doubt, but Lancaster taught him to think “outside of the box”. “Critical thinking – Lancaster is renowned for it. And that help’s form an entrepreneurial perspective. Leadership was also a key thing that I learnt on the MBA,” he says.
“And these things put together,” he pauses, “… An MBA is the perfect qualification.”
Something more valuable for a HR entrepreneur, though, was the personal approach. That, he says, was the most important thing he took into the career transition.
He’s only a couple of months into MBA recruitment entrepreneurship, but by the end of the year I sense Solomon won’t be so shocked to hear himself speak about owning his own businesses.
And if this start-up picks-up, he won’t need to pinch himself; it won’t seem like such a dream anymore.