Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal and business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Michael Allison, Founder of Michael Allison Consulting, located in Oakland, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

My business is helping a wide range of nonprofits, both in scale and mission, be more successful and sustainable. I focus on strategic planning, board development, and organization development, including team building.

Tell us about yourself

I was drawn to social change work in college. After graduating, I worked as a community organizer and then Executive Director of the same organization in Hartford, CT (my hometown). I am deeply inspired by the work of nonprofits, whether it is social service, policy advocacy, or capacity building. By supporting these organizations, I know I'm participating in making life better for many thousands of people and, more broadly, in bringing about systemic change that lasts. By being a consultant, I could work with many organizations in many fields over time.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

First is facilitating a 50-member body (government, nonprofits, and activists) convened by the AIDS Office of San Francisco during the height of the AIDS crisis to create a comprehensive prevention plan. The AIDS Prevention Plan we produced (500 pages) was ranked by the CDC (the funder of this work) as the #1 plan in the US. Second is co-authoring a book on strategic planning (now in its third edition) that was sold nationally and used by thousands of nonprofits and as a text in many Business and Nonprofit Management undergraduate and graduate university courses.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Building and managing teams of consultants for larger projects could be challenging at times. And, turning down work that is not a good fit takes time to get comfortable with but is critical.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Do something where you love the actual work and deeply value the impact you seek to have.
  2. Be clear about your financial goals.
  3. Seek colleagues in the same business with whom you can both learn and build a supportive community.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Be clear about what work you seek, what work you will not take, and the necessary conditions, including relationships that will help you be successful and enjoy going to work.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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