Startup stories: Matthew Daniels and the LGBT Leadership Programme

We’re always delighted to be able to share some of our clients’ start-up stories, whether they’re building Darth Vader-related hi-fi equipment or powering the Belfast tech scene.

This week’s chat is a genuinely great story, and we’re thrilled to be able to support Matthew Daniels – an independent business consultant based in Birmingham who is currently in the process of launching one of the UK’s first LGBT leadership programme – in both his day-to-day business and the telling of his tale. Pull up a cup of tea, strap on your eye goggles and let the story commence. 

The range of contracts and clients you work with is quite something. Can you tell me a bit about the work you’re doing with Birmingham LGBT to launch the LGBT Leadership Programme?

The LGBT Leadership Academy Programme is an initiative of Birmingham LGBT, which is a charity supporting the LGBT community across Birmingham and the West Midlands. I was the Chair of the Board of Management for a number of years and oversaw the charity’s expansion during this time. The charity developed a lot of programmes across health and wellbeing, and community, but realised there was nothing specific for professional development of the sector, and it was from recognising this lack of provision that the LGBT Leadership Academy Programme came about.Personally I have a passion for supporting and enabling people, so after I stepped down from my position on the board. When the opportunity to coordinate the LGBT Leadership Academy Programme was advertised, I jumped at the chance to apply and was thrilled to win the contract. I have also since become one of the trainers delivering the programme.

Presumably you decided to do this because you felt that the LGBT community needed your help. Is that the case, or did you just spot a niche?

Birmingham LGBT recognised that, for a number of people who identify as LGB or T, it can sometimes be difficult to fully express ourselves or to reach our full potential due to formative negative experiences in school or workplaces.

People who have experienced homophobia may be more introverted or have less confidence expressing opinions for fear of being ‘noticed’ or singled out, and while many workplaces are changing rapidly, some of our experiences when younger form our approaches and our personalities, and it is difficult to unlearn some of our behaviour patterns.

Birmingham LGBT initially received funding from Barrow Cadbury Trust to develop and pilot the programme, and then were successful in receiving further financial support from Mazars Charitable Trust.This programme provides some solid generic leadership skills such as leadership styles, conflict resolution and communication techniques, but we also delve into what it means to be LGB or T, and to understand some of our own experiences, how these have shaped us and how we can utilise them to inform future actions to be successful leaders.

Why do you think it has taken so long to get something like this going?

The LGBT sector has grown in profile and confidence over the past decade or so, and there are a number of LGBT development and support programmes out there that have made great inroads into mainstream consciousness.

What we are doing with this programme is building on the existing provision, and helping the sector to take the next step by offering this tailored and focussed programme, and it’s exciting to be a part of pushing forward the professionalisation of the LGBT sector through my contract with Birmingham LGBT, as well as gaining great satisfaction in my role as a trainer by supporting individuals to develop their skills and confidence, and reach their full potential.

Have you had a lot of local support in getting it off the ground?

We have had a lot of interest and support but as ever, it’s a new product and we are competing with a wide range of other training providers and budgets, so while we have had a lot of interest and support, especially from the health and public sectors, we are taking an approach of gradually building our presence and utilising the evidence of impact from graduates of the programme to help us promote to new organisations.

Being a new programme means there is a lot of interest, and we want to build solid relationships with organisations who feel this could benefit their LGBT workforce. The programme is nationally endorsed through the Institute of Leadership and Management and this has helped us as it provides a national quality mark.

What do you hope the programme can achieve?

The aims for the course are twofold. Firstly, we hope to develop leadership skills within and across the LGBT sector – providing individuals with the confidence and the tools to become leaders across all industries and sectors. Secondly we hope that these people then work within their organisations to push the equality, diversity and inclusion agendas to help us create fairer, more equitable and diverse workplaces.

What is your background? What makes you the man to offer this training?

My background is in the voluntary sector. For many years I led charities that created community-based programmes aimed at fostering and promoting inclusion and cohesion, and that worked to strengthen communities.

For the past five years I have worked as an independent consultant across arts, culture and migration sectors. A lot of my work has been around supporting organisations to become more financially resilient and sustainable. Over the past two years I have focussed some of my work around delivering training in bid writing, income generation and collaborative partnership development, as well as delivering this leadership training.

What work are you doing with charities? 

It’s a wide range of work, from large scale bid writing for charities through to the management of programmes designed to develop the infrastructure of organisations to make them more financially resilient for the long term.

I am currently delivering a suite of training for a local authority in the West Midlands to a number of charities around bid writing, income generation, fundraising strategies and collaborative partnerships, and I am looking to expand this area of work to offer to other local authorities over the coming year.

How long have you been using My Accountant Friend, and what have been the benefits?

I have been using My Accountant Friend for almost a year now and the main benefit for me is the ease of use of the software. Everything is easy to upload, to check and reference, and it feels a lot less clunky that previous systems I’ve used. The person-to-person contact and support is also really beneficial and feels a lot more like I have someone available to support as and when I need, rather than just at key points of the year.

If people want to get involved in your programme, how can they get in contact?

People interested in the LGBT Leadership Programme, or any other training packages I offer, can contact me direct via midanconsult@gmail.com or on Twitter at @MattD01. For further background information on the LGBT Leadership Academy Programme they can also go to: www.lgbtleadershipacademy.co.uk.

If you’re a MAF client and you’d like to be featured on our blog, let us know via your personal accountant and the blog team will be in touch.