Francis Mainoo - Leaders with Ambition

Leaders with Ambition - Francis Mainoo

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The career of Francis Mainoo, Head of Sales at Moore Kingston Smith, illustrates the power of possessing a growth mindset. Whether out on the field as an Army Cadet or as a candidate at Harvard’s Executive Programme, Francis embraces every challenge as an opportunity to grow. Francis has also been willing to fail, knowing that his support network will always be there to lift him up - as he too lifts up others coming through the ranks.

On this episode of Leaders With Ambition, we learn about Francis’ focus, determination, positivity and vision for what might be achieved, not just on the job, but across society. It has all been part of a learning journey that has taken him through a series of demanding roles at firms such as EY and Merrill Lynch. Francis’ many successes have been achieved by challenging existing sales channels and strategies and identifying ways that businesses can enhance their marketable activities.

One of the superpowers that Francis shares is his openness to vulnerability, whether in playing the role of trusted advisor to clients or himself relying on advice from others. “Don’t try to be the smartest person in the room,” says Francis, who was raised by strong, wise women who guided and empowered him. “You should want to be in a room where you can learn and grow.”

Francis has reached one career peak after another by working hard and – as importantly – bringing his most authentic self to every interaction. You’ll enjoy hearing about his passion for serving as a mentor to others, fostering equity, diversity, inclusion and a rich web of colleagues who, like Francis, will go on to pay it all forward again and again.

​Listen to the episode

Key takeaways from this episode:

Starting Out

Francis’ education and early on-the-job experience surprised him with the gift of accounting skills that would last him a lifetime.

His experience at EY's marketing department exposed him to the narratives of a variety of entrepreneurs, their minds and the challenges they face. This was where he first developed his curiosity in the transformative power of Executive Coaching and is why he delights in coaching board members of dynamic businesses.

A Particular Passion

Francis is fascinated by how dynamic leaders form teams, create and execute initiatives and navigate challenges.

A seven-year stint at Merrill Lynch introduced Francis to his “inner geek,” and he embraced the copious research, data and analytics available to advance sales and other decisions.

Raising the Bar

Francis describes the life-changing impact that a single teacher had on the entire trajectory of his career by expanding what he thought was possible.

His desire to stretch his limits derived in large part from the talented industry leaders he encountered coming up at both EY and Merrill Lynch. And a shout-out for his older brother, who was a literal pace-setter for Francis growing up.

Francis’ stint in Client Services at EY, focused on Competitor Intelligence and Deal origination. It was a period of personal growth, even when it bumped up against some of the received cultural wisdom deriving from his Ghanaian roots.

Francis went on to drive revenue growth and market share at Grant Thornton, where he led national multi-service Private Equity BD activity, specifically supporting mid-market PE houses and their portfolio companies. It was a forward-thinking role fuelled by Partners who were tremendously supportive.

A Change of Course

Francis was intrigued by a growth opportunity with a French consultancy that ultimately collided with an unexpected acquisition, at which point he pivoted to a start-up – a big decision!

Given his own entrepreneurial bent, Francis was eager to get a hands-on perspective of a bootstrapping enterprise. It proved a wonderful learning experience that would ultimately dovetail perfectly with the next chapter of his career.

Trust is a key word

Beyond consulting skills and data, Francis prides himself on providing for his clients a space in which to be vulnerable, challenged and supported.

Francis cultivated his network early and deliberately to compensate for his lack of insider industry knowledge or social/familial connections out of the gate.

From both sides of the fence

Francis is constantly heartened by how generous senior mentors make themselves available to younger people coming up.

Francis is committed to the transformational role EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) has to play and its importance to future generations.

Mentoring goes two ways for Francis, who is challenged by his mentees to stay visible.

Challenges (which Francis sees as opportunities) have included:

Personal growth and building confidence.

  • Learning how to embrace his personal learning style.

  • Finding programs and strategies that suit his requirements.

  • His network of trusted advisors has been critical to keeping Francis stay on track and leaning into challenge, especially in the face of Impostor Syndrome.

The future of marketing and business development:

  • Powerful new automated software for lead generation.

  • Tools to cut through the noise to identify pivotal data and qualify leads.

  • Better communication between technical and non-technical audiences. Francis has delivered BD training to over a thousand participants across the globe since H2 2020, receiving feedback that has confirmed the disconnect that can sometimes exist.

An early military experience proved formative, teaching Francis how lead effectively, foster unity, challenge racial marginalisation, manage logistics and assess risk.

Framing is Everything

Francis was fortunate to have been raised by a mother, prominent aunts, and godmother – strong women – who instilled in him an abiding knowledge that racism is a problem that belongs to those who perpetuate it.

Words of Wisdom:

  • Own your own career.

  • You decide how much to grow and stretch.

  • Embrace your network – as well as your network’s network.

  • Change will not come if you wait for some other person or some other time.

  • Don’t be afraid to fall, then (with support from your network) get up again.

Key quotes:

  • “Don’t try to be the smartest person in the room. You should never want to be the smartest. You should want to be in a room where you can learn and grow.”

  • “It was a great time to be able to deliver my plan, having market-facing commercial BDs who knew their sectors, could add value, could challenge Partners as well as support them.”

  • “(I’ve appreciated) having an opportunity to interact with my network and for them to be so welcoming and open and allowing me to grow.”

  • “The more people you meet – even talking about the same subject – you’re seeing it through the different lens that people have. It allows you to grow and to see how big their network is.”

  • “For someone like you that has been through a journey and has now got his own position of power, really paying it forward is amazing.” (Nicky)

  • “It’s rewarding and gratifying … I’m always trying (to mentor others) not just for me but for the person coming through who will then pay it forward as well.”

  • “Taking a step back and allowing people more knowledgeable than me to help me grow has been wonderful.”

  • “Most people have wanted me to be on their team because I brought my authentic self and they engage and see what I’m about … (Racism) has been more a problem in my personal than my professional life.”

  • “Really push and really strive. You will be astounded if you’ve got people who can support you when you fall … (and) make sure you do fall, then just get up again.”

  • “You are a member of a team and a team leader. You get people to really come on those journeys with you and I love how much commitment you give to mentoring and coaching and developing other people.” (Nicky)

About Francis Mainoo:

Nearing 25 years’ experience in financial and professional services, Francis has spent most of his career engaging with business owners, private equity houses and decision-makers to support their commercial growth. His many successes have been achieved by challenging existing sales channels and strategies, and identifying ways that businesses can enhance their marketable activities. Francis has developed an extensive network of contacts and has a proven track record of consistently delivering value to employers and contacts.

About Nicky Acuna Ocana

Nicky has led high performing recruitment teams for over 20 years. As the Regional Managing Director of Ambition UK, Europe and USA, she leads a team of highly-skilled recruitment consultants who are experts in recruiting for Professional Services firms.

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