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Mac Alonge – Founder and CEO, The Equal Group
Entrepreneurship

Mac Alonge – Founder and CEO, The Equal Group

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SPECIAL FEATURE FOR THE ‘MIDLANDS ENTREPRENEURS SHAPING THE FUTURE’ CAMPAIGN IN PARTNERSHIP WITH LLOYDS BANK

Meet Mac Alonge, the visionary CEO of The Equal Group, a groundbreaking company dedicated to promoting equality and diversity in the corporate world. Since its inception in 2018, The Equal Group has been at the forefront of driving positive change, challenging the status quo, and empowering organisations to build inclusive cultures.

Headquartered in Birmingham, the company has a national presence with consultants nationwide. Under Mac’s leadership, the team of 20 passionate individuals has successfully collaborated with over 50 private, public, and third-sector clients, delivering transformative results, including KPMG, National Grid, Scottish Power, Capita and the Scottish and UK governments.

With a turnover exceeding £1m, The Equal Group is making waves as it reshapes how businesses approach equality. The Equal Group is a data-focused equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) organisation, specialising in making it easier for companies to implement sustainable and measurable approaches to improving their EDI outcomes. We collect, analyse and visualise quantitative data to demonstrate where improvements need to be prioritised and the areas of progress over time.

Mac started The Equal Group after spending ten years as a regulatory consultant in the energy and utilities sector. He loved the sector and his daily work but didn’t feel he was adding much value to society. Being in a very comfortable position regarding his career and financial security, he reflected on his legacy and the type of world he wanted to leave to his kids (albeit he wasn’t a parent at the time). He decided he wanted to work towards something more existentially meaningful. Having reflected on the barriers he’d faced and those faced by his family, friends and other peers, Mac settled on equality, diversity and inclusion as something he could add value to.

Looking at the EDI space, he discovered at the time that there wasn’t much focus on data and impact. A lot of the focus was on storytelling and pulling on heartstrings. His background in regulation shaped a need for measurable outcomes and datadriven impact. This niche became the foundation of the idea for The Equal Group. He then spent significant time talking to leaders predominantly from the energy sector to get their perspectives on the need for change and the challenges they were facing -they articulated little confidence talkingabout diversity and inclusion (being mostly White, middle-aged, middleclass, able-bodied, heteronormative men), as well as a fear of doing it, saying the wrong thing.

These initial conversations demonstrated a need for organisations and leaders to feel supported in advocating for change and using quantitative and qualitative data to contextualise the need for change and the progress being made. Within five years, The Equal Group aims to be synonymous with high-quality, impactful, data-driven equality, diversity and inclusion. They want to be the standout brand for EDI in the UK as well as starting to look at opportunities internationally.

The company’s work has won an award for inclusion programme of the year at the Engineering Talent Awards 2021. It has also been featured in high-profile publications like The Independent, Financial Times, City AM and the Metro. Mac is a board trustee for Town Hall and Symphony Hall Birmingham and a Lloyds Bank Black Business Advisory Committee member. He was previously shortlisted for both NatWest’s Midlands Entrepreneur for Good and Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce’s Future Face of Entrepreneurship Awards.

 

Tell us about your childhood/ teenage years and any experiences shaping your entrepreneurial journey.

I was born in Liverpool, Toxteth, in the mid ’80s in the aftermath of the Toxteth riots, with my first experience of overt racism being in the playground at the age of 4. My family moved to South East London in the 90s, and I grew up in a working-class environment. I deeply enjoyed primary school partly due to the multicultural nature of the school – we had people from all backgrounds, faiths, and life experiences, and there was a rich innocence about it. I then went to a grammar school in a relatively affluent and deeply racist area (for context, it was 3 miles from where Stephen Lawrence was murdered).

I have always wanted to be a businessman, but my secondary school killed my drive and filled me with a lack of confidence that held me back for several years. My experience with racist teachers and an education system designed to serve some and under-serve others made me withdraw and coast. Reflecting on my formative years, my interactions with structural or covert racism, more than overt racism, have influenced my ambition to create environments where everyone can thrive, regardless of race, gender, circumstance or any other point of ‘difference’. I also think that growing up in a working-class environment, born to immigrants, provided me with the resourcefulness and resilience that has contributed to my journey.

 

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced running your own business?

People – without a doubt. My biggest personal growth area is growing a team and bringing people along on the journey with me. Over the years in the energy sector, I have built, led and grown teams, however, this is a lot more difficult when it is your own business, and all of the risks are squarely on your shoulders. Setting up a people-centred business from scratch has been a hard slog, but it has been the most fulfilling. Bringing people into our team and seeing them grow in confidence and flourish has been amazing and a lot more rewarding, knowing all the hard work we’ve put in to build and grow the business from nothing.

 

What have been the highlights of your entrepreneurial journey so far?

The highlights are in the world that goes on behind the scenes when we deliver on the client site. Our bread and butter are seeing clients grow confident and deliver against EDI ambitions. We love to deliver impactful work for our clients and believe the impact goes beyond their organisation to their staff and customers.

One stand-out project has been our work with the Greater London Authority, which saw us design and deliver a programme working across the utilities, infrastructure, construction and technology sectors to tackle the underrepresentation and lack of progression for young Black men across London. The programme focused on upskilling organisations to be aware of their shortcomings in providing workplaces where young Black men could thrive, setting meaningful actions to change their cultures, and having the opportunity to engage with over 3,000 job seekers. Many get jobs through this programme and continue sharing their success stories.

 

If you could start all over again, what would you do differently?

I’d probably take more time to be grateful for the progress and the hard times – but ultimately, I wouldn’t change anything because it’s all led us to where we are now, and I’m really happy with where we are today.

 

The Importance of Mentoring

I have had a business mentor for the last few years who challenges me on a regular basis and encourages me to ensure I am getting the most out of this entrepreneurial journey. As entrepreneurs, we can often focus entirely on the business and neglect ourselves, which isn’t beneficial. Having regular (bi-weekly) catch-ups with Anthony allows me to refocus and learn lessons from someone who has been there and done that across multiple areas is crucial.

 

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to scale their business beyond six figures, what would it be?

My general advice would be to focus on doing the little things well – compounding effort over time delivers great results, so being committed to the ‘small’ disciplines will add to big results in time. You must be committed to the long-term, even when no one is watching.

However – everyone has to figure it out for themselves; if you’re doing something that has never been done before, there is only so much advice you can listen to. To some extent, you must trust yourself and your intuition (within reason).

 

Advice to Start-Ups

Be clear about what you want to achieve and understand what you are/aren’t willing to sacrifice. In this Instagram generation, there are a lot of people that want outcomes without the willingness to sacrifice anything to get them.

 

My Favourite Holiday Destination

Barbados – no contest

 

Black-Owned Business I Love

For scale and impact, it has to be Calendly, the appointment scheduling software and for enjoyment and good food – Enish Nigerian Restaurant.

 

Favourite Thing to Do for Self-Care

Travel when I can and get massages again when I can. I’m trying (and failing) to make gym and football a regular part of my routine…I’ll get there one day!

 

What are you currently reading/listening to or watching?

Currently reading ‘Winning’ by Jack Welch – I’m also a big fan of ‘The Diary of a CEO’ by Steven Bartlett.

Website www.theequalgroup.com

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