Entrepreneur and Business Maven
—By Anna Colibri, Vice President, Communications
Todd Ghanizadeh retired from being a professional dancer at the American Ballet Theater in New York (Directed by Mikhail Baryshnikov) and the Boston Ballet (Directed by Bruce Marks) at the age of thirty, to become a GGBA certified specialist in helping companies think more about diversity spending in the information technology space.
Todd and his parents: How does their story inspire him?
Todd is a defender of diversity, not just for the LGBT community, but for veterans, women, people of color, and every part of society that is discriminated against. This aspect of his life has been with him since childhood. Todd grew up in Marin County, CA. Todd’s parents are immigrants from Iran and England, respectively. Todd is a second-generation immigrant. “I always knew I would have to work hard for whatever I wanted. My parents came here with five dollars in their pockets. I saw what they could do with nothing, so I always knew I could do this. I could create something that was special,” he said.
GGBA & NGLCC: What is the value of certification?
Todd’s business is a certified LGBTBE. For him, certification is most valuable when you look at how can you give, as opposed to what you can get. He told us how he met with PG&E and took the first steps towards working with them. “You’ll need your marketing materials, your website, and your business cards. And you have to know exactly what it is that you have to offer,” he said. For him, a company needs to be prepared to obtain the certification. “Small businesses of one to five people don’t know exactly what they have to offer and they go into meetings not knowing what they want to get out of it,” he thinks.
“I already have big clients, so I can use my certification to open minds. I send letters to managers congratulating them on how they are using their diversity spend,” he explained. According to him, a lot of people come into this thinking “Oh, I’m gay so I should get certified,” but they do not have a purpose.
The results of being certified don’t happen fast. About his experience, he said: “I went to the NGLCC conference two years ago, and then I had been in contact with American Airlines for about a year, and nothing really happened. So then I thought I would go to GGBA events without anything specific in mind.” By listening to the people around him, Todd saw what the real need was and how he could help his companies become more diverse. “PG&E is in the mindset of building diversity, so when they saw how I was helping other companies, they became more interested.”
Management Consulting Group: What does Todd’s company do?
“We are an IT staffing recruiting company. We help clients meet their staffing demands for temporary and full time equivalent (FTE) employees as well as meet their diversity spend and reporting requirements at the same time. Staffing companies who do this kind of thing are in high demand.”
Todd has worked hard for the last sixteen years at Management Consulting Group, his own IT staffing company. For Todd, the success of a company depends on the treatment and attention given to the staff. “It’s more about the personal attention we give to our thirty-six employees and our clients that sets us apart,” he said. “We are the Jerry Maguire of staffing companies.
Todd has had, among his high-profile clients, GAP, Yahoo, Blackrock, Barclays, Twitter, Marin Software, OFX, Union Bank, BBVA, and more. His principal clients are in IT, but he has also clients who are specific to the finance, asset management, and banking arenas.
Marketing: How did Todd get the first big client?
“There was a recruiter in Boston, who kept calling to recruit my wife to a help with desk position. My wife worked market hours, so she was always gone when the recruiter called, waking me up. I was a little rude, but the recruiter ended up recommending to my wife that I would make a great recruiter. I interviewed at WinterWyman, a big staffing company in Boston. I didn’t get the job, mainly because I talked too much. They gave me the feedback that they were quite interested, but that I needed to be more direct, and I didn’t need to try so hard”.
When he moved to San Francisco, Todd interviewed with a boutique staffing firm, called KForce, and spoke very little. And they offered him the job. “I quickly realized that my talents were perfect for this sort of work, but that I needed a much bigger company.” His dreams started to come true with his experience working for KForce. “I shifted to KForce and worked there for two years. In the first year, I was the “rookie of the year” and I generated over one million dollars of profit for KForce. At that point, they had a program where they wanted to employ veterans, so they let go of my manager, and replaced him with someone who was too controlling and did not know about talent acquisition. As an entrepreneur, I need to have the freedom to do the things the way I do them. The proof is in the pudding. So, they abruptly fired me, which was a shocker. The next day, by myself, I kept working on the project I was working on. Twenty-two people quit to come work for me when they found out what happened to me. So, I needed to come up with $100,000 and started Management Consulting Group.”
About the management of his company, Todd recognizes he doesn’t have to do a lot of business development. “As you build relationships and people in the companies you work with shift employers, they have new projects and make referrals and introductions to their HR departments.”
Todd has a site so potential clients can look him up. “They need to see what are you doing, and who are you working with. You need to show that you understand the industry, and you have worked with like-minded companies.” He thinks smaller companies should get testimonials.
The marketing channel he uses is his three page brochure, that has his clients, testimonials, and certifications. “Dawn Ackerman [GGBA Board President] actually recommended that I come up with this brochure. I did not want to be part of the dot.com thing. I wanted to work with managers directly, and I wanted to seem more established,” Todd explained.
Major Challenges: What major hurdles has MCG overcome?
This successful entrepreneur has a firm commitment to continuous improvement and progressive growth. For Todd, the major challenge in his business is cash flow. “We have to pay our consultants before we get paid. Mainly, I have seen so many pitfalls with partnerships. Also, even if you have a partner who wants to be bought out, you would have to come up with maybe a large sum of money to do so,” Todd said.
Todd had a major win in 2017, when MCG bought a 4 unit building. The company needed a write-off, so this helps him with tax-wise as well as the asset of a San Francisco property.
Beyond his professional successes, Todd is a fighter in his personal life as well. He has survived stage-four cancer. He found it difficult to run a business while undergoing cancer treatment, but his cancer has been in remission for five years and he says that he is enjoying every second of his life.
Expansion: How is MCG growing?
Todd is now expanding his company by buying a building and he would like to open another office of Management Consulting Group in New York City as well as acquire additional real estate properties.
MCG in San Francisco: What does Todd love about the Bay Area?
Todd is a lover of the Bay Area. “When I go away and I come back, I just love the mountains, trees, and the scent of Marin he explained.
Also, he volunteers a lot of his time with Pied Piper Productions, a young adult theatre company that specializes in the development and teaching of talent ages 10-18, so he still gets to do choreography and dance on the side. Their website is piedpiperproductions.org.
What It Means to Be Gay: How has Todd’s sexuality impacted his life, personally and professionally?
The most complex decision that Todd has had to make in his life came when he faced the reality of being gay. He was married and has three children. “I always knew that being gay was part of me, but the 70s and 80s were not a good time to be gay. People were being persecuted and dying, and [not being gay was] at the front of my consciousness. I wanted to be a good role model to my kids, so I decided rather late in life in order to do that, I had to be the true version of myself and step out of the shadows,” he said.
Todd wants to distance himself from the typical stereotype. “I do not want to be the gay vendor. I want to be the best service provider. I am pretty well rounded. I come from an artistic background, but I also am a subject matter expert in staffing for Silicon Valley and I have kids,” he said.
About his children’s acceptance of his sexuality, he told us: “The two young ones never had any issues around it, but my oldest son was thirteen, and he had some issues, but I think they were more disappointed that we were getting a divorce. Being gay was separate from the loss, and it was hard because I was happy in the marriage. We just decided to that we were young enough and happy enough to go our separate ways and we’re still best friends,” Todd explained.
Helping the Community: What is Todd’s advice to newer business owners?
What’s Todd’s perfect method for new business owners? To be able to describe what you’re good at. Telling short stories. “Everything is a thirty second story in my business. Thirty seconds of yourself. Thirty seconds of the client. Thirty seconds on why you’re there. If you have three to five 30-second stories, you will be able to represent yourself really well.”
Todd’s Typical Weekend: What does he do when he’s away from the office?
“I have the kids every weekend, so it’s all about the kids. I go home, I make dinner, I spend time with them. I do a lot of gardening. I like to watch movies, go to movies, talk about movies. I haven’t really gotten around to exercising, which I’d like to do. I miss that feeling of being in great shape, and of performing.”
Management Consulting Group
Today, Todd Ghanizadeh and the Management Consulting Group have been in business for sixteen years, serving the needs of their many clients throughout the Bay Area. Through the GGBA, Management Consulting Group (MCG) leverages its connections to advocate for LGBT acceptance and equality. From humble and honest beginnings to dancer, to advocate, to CEO, Todd Ghanizadeh has forged a career of creativity, cleverness, and brilliant strategy. A testament to his strength of character, Todd has overcome many obstacles to build an admirable business, and personal life.