Michelle Diamond, CEO of Elevate Diamond Strategy, a growth strategy and execution advisory and interim executive firm recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine, CEO Journal, CFO Magazine, Philadelphia Business Journal, and the Interim Association, has 25+ years’ strategy, general management, marketing, finance, go-to-market, audit, M&A, and operations experience.
She has strong expertise in helping high growth companies scale, scenario planning, and in developing, evaluating, and implementing diverse, yet innovative growth strategies, strategic plans, and go-to-market initiatives for acceleration and long-term value creation, leading mergers and acquisitions (pre and post), identifying where to invest and then capitalizing on market opportunities through competitive advantage and differentiation, and in turnarounds/ restructuring to optimize costs and overall profitability, for both domestic and global organizations.
Michelle is an expert, executive, and entrepreneur who has worked on Board and C-Suite issues for 50+ companies ranging from startup, early/growth stage, small/mid-cap, private equity/venture capital, to Fortune 50 in 25+ industries including CIGNA, Colgate-Palmolive, Elsevier, MetLife, Daimler, DEKRA, NRG, and Club Med – to name a few.
Her industry experience includes Automotive, Broadcasting (Television & Radio), Cable, Chemical, Consulting, Consumer Products, Dental, Distribution, Education, Electronics Distribution, Energy, Event, Financial Services, Food, Government, Health Insurance, Human Resources, Insurance, Medical Device, Music, Nonprofit, Packaging, Pharmaceutical Distribution, Printing, Private Equity/ Venture Capital, Professional Services, Publishing, Renewable Energy, Retail, Software, Technology, Travel, and Vision.
Prior to Elevate Diamond Strategy, Michelle worked for CIGNA, where she was the creator and Head, Competitive Intelligence for the $1B+ Group Insurance Division. Prior to that role, Michelle oversaw CIGNA’s $20M Printing & Distribution business (100+ employees), was Manager of Strategy for Accenture, and in Mergers & Acquisitions and Assurance and Business Advisory Services at Ernst & Young LLP. She also held various financial roles at Colgate-Palmolive Company and Citibank, and was selected for Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble camps.
Michelle holds an MBA from Duke University, a BS from Morgan State University (Summa Cum Laude), and attended Wharton Executive Education. She is also a nonpracticing Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
Michelle is a former Board President of the INROADS Philadelphia Alumni Association, a member of Extraordinary Women on Boards, and has led efforts and volunteered for United Way, March of Dimes, Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Habitat for Humanity. She was a speaker and facilitator for the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), the National Association of Professional Women (NAPW), and a growth expert on radio shows Accelerating Your Business™ (creator and host), Executive Leaders Radio, and The Marketing of Business.
She is also the author of the book, How to Grow & Expand Your Business in Times of Feast or Famine.
Michelle currently resides in Beverly Hills and enjoys sports, dance, entertaining, and travel.
Where did the idea for Elevate Diamond Strategy come from?
I wanted to provide growth strategy and execution consulting and advisory services to small to midsize businesses who typically are not aware of or do not have the resources to obtain this high-level of services and solutions that can help them accelerate growth or turn around their businesses.
I also wanted to offer innovative, yet practical and executable growth strategies for large companies that often purchase growth strategies from firms that are never implemented and simply ‘sit on a shelf’.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I tend to plan my workdays for the week on Sundays and then adjust the night before each work day if necessary. I have a schedule and things that I plan to accomplish each day. I used to plan out the day at the beginning of each day and found that was not as effective as the week and night before the workday. I use calendar tools such as Microsoft Outlook and do not make my daily routine public. As a CEO, I have also learned to factor in ‘me time’ and ‘think time’ at least once per day. While my role is to lead the business, I cannot effectively do so unless I make sure that I myself am thinking both strategically and tactically to optimize execution (similar to what I recommend to clients).
How do you bring ideas to life?
The number one thing I love about being my own boss (other than the flexibility to set my own schedule) is that I get to set the direction of my company and many others as well by visualizing and then using facts and building up relationships with people to execute and make it a reality. Focusing on what I want, seeing it (in my mind), believing it, and then taking action is both a skill and habit that I continue to implement.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The trend around ESG (Environmental. Social, Governance). While ESG has been around for a long time, the recent push for accountability and transparency excites me because it is causing companies of all sizes to step up in certain areas where they have not focused or had not had taken seriously in the past. It is creating a lot of change for the better.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am extremely disciplined and have a razor sharp memory. I also know how to both listen effectively and ask the right questions to get to the root cause of a problem or help companies seize opportunities in a way that others don’t typically see or see right away. It helps that I have a background that covers many functional areas, industries, sizes, etc. That gives me a unique perspective, which in turn, makes me more productive.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Always be authentically you and keep moving forward. There will be ups and downs. Just keep going. It will all eventually work out.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Watching TMZ, Wendy Williams, and Access Hollywood, is just as important as watching CNBC and reading the Wall Street Journal, Inc., Entrepreneur, and Forbes. Some people may look at those shows as ‘gossip’ or ‘junk’. However, I think it’s important to understand how consumers think and what they watch, when I am helping to recommend growth strategies for my clients’ companies.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Read and keep learning. It may sound simple, but most people do not take the time to continuously learn. It’s what can set you apart and at the same time make you more relatable.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Building relationships, entering into strategic alliances and partnerships, and creating innovate, yet practical and implementable strategies, that everyone can understand. I usually also train management teams on the strategies developed and try to oversee initial execution to ensure it is effective. Most consulting and advisory firms don’t do that, it’s what sets me apart.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Very early on in my business, I had a partnership with a small consulting firm. We worked on a lot of projects together, that added a lot of revenue to my company. They asked me to work on a project for a large client in an area that I felt I did not have the best expertise. I was honest with them that I did not feel comfortable working on this area, but they said they needed the help and would provide me with someone from their firm as a backup. Unfortunately, that backup was not as available as they had promised and I did not do well on that engagement. We then had money disputes, and a 2 1/2 year partnership along with what was great relationships was severed. It was awful. However, I learned from the experience and never compromised again. I only do work that I know I can do exceptionally well and make sure to never give in to pressure again.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
When you are looking to start a business and need an idea, think of what gets on your nerves. If something gets on your nerves, it probably gets on others as well. That means there is a problem to be solved. If you can solve it, you have a potentially great idea for a business.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I recently spent (the amount was a bit over $100) was at Whole Foods. I love shopping there and usually have a list (because I am disciplined). However, recently I did not think about a list and just got whatever I wanted or whatever caught my eye. While it was still pretty much organic everything, I bought things I do not typically eat and enjoyed them immensely.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I typically use Microsoft office. It is enough to keep me organized and productive.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Dealing With People You Can’t Stand. It is an amazing book written by two doctors that originally studied traditional medicine and then became naturopathic doctors who identified the top behaviors that most people can’t stand and how to deal with them effectively for better health and peace. It’s also very funny and covers both business and personal relationships.
What is your favorite quote?
“It’s better to be prepared and have no opportunity, than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.”
- Always be authentically myself.
- Always visualize what I want before putting it into action.
- Always give back.
- Always be a continuous learner.
- Always be prepared.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.