Business & Economy
Q&A: Michael Hall, eQuality Solutions’ chief executive
January 29, 2024
Michael Hall is chief executive of Hebburn-based eQuality Solutions, a diversity, equity and inclusion specialist. From a banking career to leading transformative acquisitions, Michael is responsible for spearheading the firm’s vision of a more inclusive world. Here, he tells North East Times about eQuality Solutions’ mission, its core values and plans to go from a good business to a great one.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role?
I grew up in a very small, former mining community in East Durham. I attended local schools and went on to do business studies at the University of Sunderland. However, the opportunity of a full-time job was too appealing and I left university after one year to start a career in Barclays. I worked in the small business department, then corporate banking, as a relationship manager, before entering the world of self-employment in 2010. I ran a small consultancy for four years before taking up the role of finance director at a rapidly-growing facilities management business, where I was involved in four acquisitions. I joined Equality Solutions (eQS) six years later as chief finance officer and was part of a management buyout in 2020, before taking up the role as chief executive in 2022.
As chief executive, I am responsible for strategic direction, overall performance and ensuring the business continues to have future growth opportunities that fulfil our vision and values.
What drives you in your role?
I’m driven by the positive impact of my colleagues and our business on people’s lives, and feedback from clients tells us that, in many cases, this impact is life-changing.
At the forefront of any acquisition we make, or new service we launch, is impact. Our ambition, over the next five years, is to scale the impact of our work to five times its current number and support 200,000 people on an annual basis.
I am also driven by the overwhelming evidence that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is a force for truly positive and transformational change. The workplace is incredibly diverse and there is vast research and data to prove that DEI teams outperform homogenous teams on many levels.
I love to see our people flourish. It’s a pleasure to be part of someone’s career journey and watch them grow. Providing an environment where our people can thrive is not a responsibility I take lightly.
You’ve said over the next five years you want to transform eQuality Solutions into a ‘great business that does great things’. How will you approach this?
When we embarked upon our acquisition strategy in 2020, we knew we had a good business that did good things, but we operated in a niche market that limited our growth potential.
Our aim is to build a business, at scale, that makes a positive difference to society and we want to acquire businesses with strong track records of doing just that, which share our ethos and complement our service offering.
We’ve now successfully acquired and integrated four businesses, each one adding incremental value to our value proposition. It is truly exciting to enable them to build and grow.
We are one of the largest independent businesses in our sector in the UK, and I’m extremely proud to have built that from our North East base with a total of three offices across the country, including London.
As a company focused on education and removing barriers, what initiatives or strategies do you champion for the development of your employees?
The leadership team has prioritised our people proposition with the aim of harnessing the power of our own in-house DEI expertise to build an inclusive culture internally. This work is continually evolving to support the next phase of growth and integrating the acquired businesses in a unified culture.
Our people are instrumental to our success. We are committed to becoming a leading employer by creating an organisation that is agile, resilient and develops exceptional people who share our vision to create a more inclusive world. We have increased our headcount from 40 to 100 in the last 24 months, and are continually seeking to attract new talent.
We have embedded a leadership programme for those colleagues who will drive the business forward in the future, and encourage our senior team to identify mentors who can help guide them in areas such as strategic decision-making. We also ensure they have access to our board of directors, to benefit from their knowledge and business acumen.
We run a regular CPD programme for all employees across the group to promote continuous learning in DEI, which is critically important, as new ideas, concepts and initiatives are constantly being introduced into the DEI sector.
We provide holistic, reasonable adjustments, to meet individual employee needs and practice a culture of listening, to ensure we always consider new ways to be more inclusive, based on lived experience.
Last year we launched our inaugural, annual ‘Unified’ event for our employees. This is a full-day event, where all of our people can come together to socialise, learn and feel inspired with thought leading guest speakers, as well as gaining strategic insight into the next phase of growth in pursuit of our mission.
This also helps each employee understand how their personal role contributes to that overarching mission. Focusing on our internal culture and forming real connections, has helped uncover new opportunities for collaborative work and development across our teams.
Looking ahead, what is your vision for eQuality Solutions’ global impact? How do you plan to lead the company in expanding its reach and influence on a global scale while staying true to its mission?
We already work with multinational organisations, through our UK teams and our north star metric, which we use to drive all our activities.
Ultimately, we are a human business, our people are fundamental to us reaching more people and positively impacting lives across the world.
Therefore, continuously investing in our people and culture strategy will be key to driving our mission.
We live in a global community, so we know there is much work to do that can translate across geographies and cultures, and we aim to be at the forefront of leading that positive change for our society and generations to come.
eQuality Solutions works with clients locally, nationally and internationally, providing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) solutions, such as consultancy, assistive technology, training, e-learning, mentoring, coaching and learning support across workplaces and educational settings.
Pictured above, from left to right, are eQS Group chief executive Michael Hall, managing director Andy Gough, head of people and culture Camila Williams-Johnson and EW founder Femi Otitoju