The path to starting her own business was not always lit so clearly for Ahalya Kumaran. In business school, most of her peers chose one of two career streams – investment banking or consulting. Ahalya was immediately attracted to the variety of work and exposure to different industries that the field of consulting would offer her since she had no background in business. She initially chose to pursue HR consulting because of her fascination with the people aspect of business, and recognition of her own interpersonal strengths.
After one year as a full-time consultant at a global consulting firm, Ahalya became a Leadership Consultant at another consulting firm where she had the opportunity to train prominent executives and senior leaders to build a strong leadership culture. This is also the place where she first discovered coaching. Despite her accomplished education and rich experiences, Ahalya didn’t know that coaching was actually a profession. She was thrilled to learn this because coaching was a skill that came naturally to Ahalya as she often had coaching-type conversations with her family and friends. The idea that she could parlay her natural ability into a successful career became the initial spark to starting her business as a Leadership, Lifestyle and Career Coach.
Passion alone is never free from obstacles. Ahalya recognized that most coaches in her field were older and possessed more years of experience; however, she did not let this stop her. Ahalya believed that the richness of her experience throughout her consulting career and personal life, and the quality of her track record would help her build credibility. She became a certified coach and realized that the key to success was to gain confidence in her own abilities as an effective coach. This confidence helped her attract the right clients and make lasting connections with others. Ahalya states that the greatest obstacle in running her own business now is the ability to stay focused on the priorities. “I’m approached with many great opportunities and spend each day generating new ideas. I’m constantly having to choose what to say no to and what to say yes to. Ultimately, I have to accept that I cannot do everything and I definitely cannot do everything on my own”. Ahalya coaches other entrepreneurs and leaders who run into this same problem, among many other common leadership and business challenges.
Ahalya’s advice to young entrepreneurs, which is fundamental to what she does and her brand, is to spend time discovering your “innerOli”, the unique light that only you have to offer the world. Ahalya cautions that sometimes you know what it is but you are afraid to admit it and accept it because of what others may think. Other times, you don’t have a clue what your innerOli is because you’ve never asked yourself the important questions. Once you gain clarity on your innerOli and what you truly want, Ahalya affirms that “opportunities will come your way, you will feel more confident and it will be easy to be courageous, you’ll meet the right people, and you’ll continue to gain more clarity on what to do next”. So every reader should ask themselves: What are my strengths? What are my passions? What are my values? Take time to engage in this process. Get to know yourself and then be true to yourself. Once you do this, your life and career will feel effortless when lit by the light that comes from within.