How and Why Allison Manswell Went Out On Her Own

Allison Manswell, founder, Path Forward Consulting

When Allison Manswell had the idea for Path Forward Consulting, she knew she wanted to strike out on her own. The problem was she didn’t have the resources. But she knew what she wanted to do and today she and her team provide services and strategies to shift organizational behavior in business settings, providing meaningful change both in production and in practice.

Manswell, the author of “Listen In; Crucial Conversations on Race and the Workplace,” also works on bias training, building sustainable dialogues in the office, and helping companies diversify their leadership pipeline.

She tells how she launched Path Forward Consulting without funding and no savings.  She also discusses how to deal with race in the workplace and toxic work environments. What led you to start Path Forward Consulting?

Allison Manswell: In my last corporate role, I was responsible for leadership development for a major corporation of 30,00 employees. My responsibilities included assessing our leaders’ needs and sourcing vendors to provide training, consulting, and coaching that achieved our results. I simply built the company that I always wanted to work with. We make every content and business decision with a rich memory of those client needs and we confirm the current needs with each new client. When did it launch? 

Allison Manswell: My first day as a full-time entrepreneur was July 1, 2017. I did give myself the gift of a two-week trip to Ghana and another two weeks to rest and restore my soul, so the real work started on August 1, 2017. How did you fund the startup?

Allison Manswell: This may be the most inspirational part of my story. I had no funding and no savings. I was a single mom with a bright idea. I had a request from my former employer to remain available as a contractor and a handful of people from my network who expressed interest in working with me.  My faith says that I should share that broadly to motivate others. But my business sense says it may not work for everyone else since there are several other conditions required. What are the goals of Path Forward Consulting? 

Allison Manswell: Our goal is to change the lives of people in underrepresented groups (specifically, people of color) by equalizing their participation in the talent management decisions at their organization. By helping organizations manage talent as their biggest asset and their biggest expense, we also help organizations to achieve the business goals they have established. What does the company actually do?  

Allison Manswell: We show companies how to leverage 100% of the talent they have and have access to through: cutting-edge curriculum content and engaging facilitation of training; insightful consulting; and customized coaching. These services are all delivered by professionals with decades of experience in sophisticated work environments. Why is now a good time for companies to use your services? 

Allison Manswell: It has always been a good time to use our services based on the business goals, diversity statements on websites, corporate responsibility reports, and legal requirements that have always been in place. The current energy around racial equity since George Floyd’s killing has created a refreshing movement towards tangible, sustainable change that makes us the top choice in this regard. We are one of the only firms that have such a well-developed track record around racial equity in corporate America. My book, Listen In: Crucial Conversations on Race in the Workplace was published in late 2015. However, I have been focused on these solutions for at least 25 years of my career. What are some necessary dialogues that need to be happening in the office?  

Allison Manswell: We need to be talking about the experience of diversity in a more comprehensive way in order to get to the solutions we say we want. We use the following formula to facilitate effective conversations that lead to real change. I will use race as an example of a specific diversity element that we need help having conversations about.

We need to ask the questions:

-why don’t we talk about race at work?

– why should we talk about it?

– how can we talk about it in a way that moves the needle on our goals and leaves people feeling whole in the process? What are the top three signs your company has a toxic environment?  

Allison Manswell: This is not an exact science. Each of the following indicators could be clouded by other factors but in a  very general way, our top three indicators of a toxic environment.

1. Employee Engagement Survey Scores and Verbatims: If you ask employees the right questions, then you should trust the data that they give as an accurate reflection of the environment.

2. High Turnover Rates: If people don’t stay long (relative term depending on industry), or people in a certain demographic groups stay longer than others, then your culture clearly doesn’t work for everyone.

2. Absentee and Productivity Rates: If you have metrics to measure when people show up to work and how much they accomplish while they are there, then declines in those numbers could reflect a toxic culture that demotivates people.