Daughter Follows in Dad's Footsteps to Deliver Value to Businesses

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Megan Patton, managing partner of ODA Strategy, had a colorful and interesting start in life, which she points to as a core feature of her corporate success: experience in international environments with a front-row seat to service and education.

Patton, one of eight children, and her siblings lived in Seoul, South Korea, for four years, where their father worked for the Peace Corps. “[That experience] informed a lot of what I've done since — that early exposure to being overseas, living in a different culture, learning about cultural sensitivity,” Patton tells CircleAround. “You know just what it's like to be a visitor in somebody else's land.”

"A lot of times it's like, ‘Oh, my business is great, if I just didn't have all these pesky people to worry about!’"

Following in her father’s footsteps — joining the Peace Corps and teaching in Asia after leaving college — set Patton up for success. Her years in Nepal that followed, she says, instilled in her a passion for teaching and lifelong learning — this is the driving principle of her strategic communications and operations business, which her father founded.

“I've been teaching my whole life,” says Patton. “It's really how I got into consulting and coaching. All of the things that I do now draw from those early days.”

Armed with that early life experience and an MBA, Patton joined her father’s startup in 2010. While for him, setting up the consultancy was a retirement project, for Patton, it was a second wind for her career, having taken time out of the formal workplace to raise three children.

What began as a small consultancy firm handling international contracts is now a full-fledged operation, which Patton helms. She says that the business grew organically over the years as she assessed business needs and leveraged professional networks and connections.

Trouble Finding Focus

“[My father] was a huge influence on me, and so a lot of the work ethic [I got from him], as well as — most importantly — that thirst for ongoing learning.”

Patton works with a range of clients across the world, from “solopreneurs” to multinationals with the aim of improving the operational and revenue performance of the companies that she engages.

Patton says that a key challenge she observed for individuals launching or running their own enterprises is trouble finding focus and setting accountability goals.

“I can do that one-on-one and work with them to really help give them some sense of direction and accountability,” she says. “It's like, ‘Oh I didn't meet my goals, again, okay. Nobody's gonna know because it's just me,’ but when they have coach Megan calling them on a monthly basis, they've got an answer for that.”

Patton says that working with larger companies presents different challenges, but it still boils down to drilling down on core operational efficiencies, creating a strategy, and having an effective implementation plan. Oftentimes, Patton says, this is rooted in taking a deep dive at how companies engage with their biggest asset: their people.

Patton says that when she first meets with a potential client, she asks key questions, such as, “What keeps you up at night?” or “If you could change one thing about your company, what would it be?”

“A lot of times it's like, ‘Oh, my business is great, if I just didn't have all these pesky people to worry about!’ ” Patton says amusedly. She says many CEOs complain that their employees aren’t effectively implementing company vision without self-reflecting and asking themselves important questions. She says that a refusal to invite employees into the confidence of where the company should be headed is a particular blindspot.

Keeping Secrets

“It can't be a secret,” says Patton. “Leaders need to share the vision of the company with all employees so they can get excited, and they can see a vision. So, sometimes it's just about opening their eyes. It's about educating them.”

Patton continues: “I love seeing the ‘aha’ moments that clients have when they take this amorphous, cloudy fuzzy thing that they're trying to strive for and get it into shape.”

"It’s like a soccer goalie: We're standing in the goal, and there are balls coming at us from all directions, and we just have to be flexible and stay agile.

During the pandemic, when seeing clients has been curtailed, Patton says that she misses the close-contact coaching now that the majority of business communication has moved to socially distanced video conferencing.

“You can't facilitate the Zoom site in exactly the same way you would facilitate a live off-site,” says Patton. “I miss the interaction with people. When I'm delivering content, I can see the room and people's reactions. I can feel their energy — that's gone now.”

Despite these challenges, Patton says that her business’s value proposition has been supercharged during the pandemic as companies continue to create and settle into new ways of working. She is in the fortunate position to be able to create a support system for existing clients, as well as the prospective ones.

“Flexibility is key,” notes Patton. “To be able to stop what you're doing, reach out to your clients and say, ‘How can I help you?’ and ‘What can I do that's going to get you over this bump?’ It’s like a soccer goalie: We're standing in the goal, and there are balls coming at us from all directions, and we just have to be flexible and stay agile.”

Going forward, part of Patton’s own operational plan to stay nimble is to potentially scale. Patton hopes to bring in younger people to build the business, so that she can provide mentorship and continue bringing to bear her lifelong learning and teaching mantra.

“In an ideal world, five years from now, I will have at least two partners who are consultants with complementary skills,” says Patton. “Together, we can continue to deliver the passion projects. They can pursue their passions, too!”

Tags: Tips from Women Executives, Start Up

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Poppie Mphuthing

Poppie Mphuthing is a news and digital media professional. She is well versed in reporti... See Full Bio

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