Haitian immigrant starts leadership consulting and inclusion training firm
WAUKESHA — Becoming a self-employed entrepreneur at age 37 wasn’t what Djoly Souffrant had planned. While he was a man of faith, he also had been playing it safe, putting in his time as a manager at FedEx, a job he planned to retire from and then start his own business.
But it was a conversation with a family friend a little over a year ago that challenged his thinking process and got him onto the path of launching a leadership consulting and inclusion training firm based in downtown Waukesha.
Entrepreneurship was something Souffrant’s parents encouraged. They had immigrated to the United States from Haiti with Souffrant moving to Florida at age 11.
“I always wanted to own my own business. I was very fortunate to have parents who really encouraged entrepreneurship,” he said from his cozy Waukesha office.
But starting his own business was something he planned to do down the road, perhaps in his 50s after retirement. It was in July 2019 at a get-together during which a friend of his wife’s called him out and said he is not an entrepreneur if he is afraid to take a risk.
This woman, who opened her own law practice, said entrepreneurs are “the type of people that take that leap of faith to go after their dreams.”
That conversation made Souffrant uncomfortable, but it also got him thinking. This past summer he started his business, offering business strategy, personal strategy, organizational training and one-on-one coaching. He also helps companies with leadership consulting and inclusion training.
While Souffrant considers himself “risk adverse,” he was able to take time to prepare his life and family for this significant change of starting his own business.
“It took a lot of other people encouraging me, my parents and my friends, to leap off,” he said.
Since launching his business a few months ago, Souffrant said he has been consistently busy and employs two part-time workers.
His clients so far have primarily been transport companies not based in the area who are often dealing with the issue of retaining talent.
Souffrant said he works with them to lead inclusively and to optimize their businesses from a leadership perspective.
It’s the human capital component of operating a business that is a true passion for Souffrant and something he finds great joy in helping companies’ leadership to understand.
“We are dealing with a climate where organizations cannot afford to not leverage every resource out there,” he said.
Employers are being forced to change to retain young talent they find in millennials and Generation Z, who will soon outnumber baby boomers in the workplace.
The younger generations, he said, are looking to work for an organization that matches their values. When that doesn’t happen, they may simply quit even without another job lined up, sometimes to simply backpack across the country, Souffrant said.
Understanding inclusion is key to leading successfully.
Souffrant described inclusion as how people behave with others. According to his website, inclusive organizational cultures are two times more likely to meet or exceed their financial targets and inclusive organizational cultures are six times more innovative and agile in their work environments.
Inclusion is not a standalone concept, Souffrant says on his website, “It must be part of everything you do as an organization.”
Diversity is defined on Souffrant’s website as “who we are as individuals.”
He cites that organizations with above-average diversity on their management teams report innovation revenue 19% higher than their peers and ethnically/culturally diverse executive teams are 33% more likely to outperform their peers on profitability.
Souffrant says everything he does, he does it to the fullest.
“I may be in the fetal position a lot,” he said, “but quitting is never an option for me.”
For others who want to start their own business, Souffrant says not to let fear stop you. He says to keep pushing forward with goals to help the doors open.
“My mind works in the lens of hope and faith,” he said.
For more information, go to www.djolysouffrant.com.
Katherine Beck/Freeman Staff