In a recent blog, I put out a call tfor Detroit-area entrepreneurs to contact me directly so I can share their story this year. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed by the number of responses. What is clear to me is we live in a region where entrepreneurs not only want to be successful, but they are proud of Detroit and want to make a difference in this city’s future. Some are originally from this area while others have relocated to Detroit believing they can and will make a difference.
While this region has grappled with many issues over its history, Detroit-native, Nichole Pardo wants to make a difference. Pardo, founder and CEO, Global Alliance Solutions, shared her story of wanting to continue to assist individuals, organization and communities to initiate personal and systemic change in an effort to build an inclusive society driven by diversity.
For eight years, Pardo was an Investigator for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) and used diversity training as a negotiation tool and vehicle to contribute to high case closure rates. With the support of former colleagues at the MDCR, this experience provided her with the confidence to create Global Alliance Solutions–an organization focused on inclusion and diversity.
Lee: It seems as if you have a real passion for the revitalization of Detroit. In light of this, what are your thoughts about Detroit’s future?
Pardo: I am excited and energized about seeing Detroit bounce back from the recession in 2008, because it had a direct impact on me. During this time, I was an Executive Director for a non-profit agency located in the heart of the city servicing victims of domestic violence. When funding became scarce, the Board and I decided to dissolve the agency, which was devastating. On a lighter note, it warms my heart to learn of the new non-profits and small businesses are thriving and helping uplift and support the city! It also seems as if Detroiters are not shying away from real issues such as race, violence, homelessness, and other topics that are relevant when reforming a major city.
Lee: How do you see yourself and your company taking part in this recent turn around?
Pardo: I see Global Alliance Solutions being a fundamental part of the resurrection of Detroit. The city is attracting companies from all over the country, and the natural progression is appealing to other countries that will eventually create a global economy for us. However, globalization can also contribute to “culture clash,” and international companies must be made aware that there are state and federal laws that enforce harsh penalties if these laws are violated. So Global Alliance Solutions’ Diversity and Cultural Awareness training and EEO Training for Managers and Supervisors is a real necessity.
Lee: You had interesting experiences in your career. What was your motivating factor for becoming an entrepreneur?
Pardo: To be honest, becoming an entrepreneur was not by choice. I filed charges against a previous employer with the EEOC which was resolved in a mediation hearing. I then found myself in search of a career that focused on diversity and inclusion, program development, diversity training, EEO training for management, and the ability to develop EEO plans for companies, however, I did not find this position. It finally took my husband and my village to do an intervention with me and encouraged me to create my OWN position!
Lee: And what influenced your decision to create Global Alliance Solutions?
Pardo: It was discrimination that I experienced against based on my age and race by a previous employer that influenced my decision to create Global Alliance Solutions. Because I was previously an Investigator with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and EEOC, I was fortunate enough to have extensive knowledge of state and federal civil rights laws. After this experience, I vowed I would dedicate my professional life to educating employers on ways to prevent EEOC violations and lawsuits, and make employees aware of laws that protect their civil rights. I also want to help employers realize the positive effects of celebrating diversity and inclusion, and their employees to feel celebrated and valued for their differences.
Lee: What challenges have you had to overcome and what advice would you share with aspiring entrepreneurs?
Pardo: The biggest challenge thus far has been work/life balance. When I began my company, I was working from home and would never “turn off.” It felt like I was working 20 hours a day and only sleeping the remaining four hours. This contributed to an episode of insomnia, I was irritable, and I began to lack focus. I finally balanced everything out by securing office space. Although I still work approximately 70 hours a week, I am now thinking clearer, and I am more focused and driven. Another challenge is not having co-workers. I actually miss the water cooler! All week, I am meeting with potential clients, networking, and buried in my curriculums, so I make it a point to have standing weekly dinners with my friends and family to maintain a social life.
Lee: You have a strong system or a “village” so to speak. Please share the importance of having a support system, including benefits as a person starting out.
Pardo: If a person is contemplating entrepreneurship, I highly recommend they do two things. First, create a very sound business plan, and secondly, assemble a group of soldiers who will give you brutally honest feedback, and support. Your core team should provide encouragement and pick you up when you are exhausted. I have an extremely strong village, which definitely helps because Global Alliance Solutions would not exist if I did not have such an army behind me.
Lee: How would you interpret race relations in the City of Detroit at this moment?
Pardo: I think it was a brilliant concept that companies such as Quicken Loans, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and DTE Energy have extended incentives to their employees to live in the downtown Detroit area. I am sure this has lead to the diversity we are seeing downtown, and it is equally as great to see the neighborhoods becoming more diverse as well. I believe the city of Detroit is going to integrate organically. Some might believe I am being too optimistic, however, I truly believe this. I currently see it happening in my son’s school which is located in Detroit. Within the past year, the school has become a collage of families from various races, nationalities, and social-economic backgrounds. The month of July in the year 2017 will mark the 50th anniversary of the 12th Street Riot which contributed to the Detroit’s “white flight.” I predict the city will be even more integrated then and serve as model for other cities in the United States to mirror.
Lee: You mentioned that you work with companies to prevent EEOC charges and what to do if accused of violating employment laws. What advice can you share?
Pardo: Since I worked for the MDCR and enforced civil rights laws, and I have had to file a complaint with the EEOC against an employer that was resolved in a mediation hearing, I now have experience on both sides of the coin. This is what makes Global Alliance Solutions so unique. I advise all employers to know employment law! When I was working for the Department of Civil Rights, I was amazed at how many employers, more specifically Human Resource Departments, were unaware of the laws they were violating. These violations can end up costing companies a lot of money and negative publicity. If employees feel they are being discriminated against, contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or seek counsel immediately.
For more information, please go to www.globalalliancesolutions.org.