For Black History Month, Nathaniel Ogunniyi is sitting down with some black faces in high places. Guests include Abimbola “Bim” Afolami, the Tory MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, Daniel Taylor MBE, CEO of Metro Design Consultants, whose clients range from Unite to the Tory party, and Sir Kenneth Aphunezi Olisa, Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London. Below is the interview with Mr Taylor, his first guest.
When I ask Mr Taylor about his life journey, his words seem to sprint. He started MDC (Metro Design Consultants) 21 years ago, wrongly thinking it would be less intense than his time as Europe and Middle East VP for a major multinational. As we speak, he’s preparing for meetings in the US, as many of his clients, including MTV, Disney and Facebook are headquartered there, making international travel a necessity. Of the illustrious clients he’s had, a few stand out. He mentions working with Lord Saatchi of the Conservative party to design the party’s former national offices in Victoria as a highlight, and I can hear in his voice the pleasure he took in designing 12 Unite offices, from London to Leeds. Similarly, we talk about the Boeing and Norwegian airlines, Sthree and the NHS.
He beams when I talk about the future. This is a family business, and he’s passing on the baton to his daughter, of whom he’s clearly proud. Female leadership brings a ‘new brand and look’, and this industry needs it. Just three of the world’s 100 biggest architecture firms are headed by women, and in general women occupy 10% of architecture leadership roles.
Still, the challenges congregate. “Our industry is colour and gender biased”, he says. Many contracts rely on an old boys network, of which minorities are unlikely to be members. He talks extensively of the need for more BAME diversity in senior management and the need for more black-owned businesses. He’s a judge on the BBBA, the Black British Business Awards, which recognises the UK’s rising stars and established leaders thriving in their respective sectors, one of many initiatives attempting to recognise thriving black businesses.
Some years ago, a group of black leaders created the ALETO foundation, chaired by Sir Kenneth Olisa. My interview with him will soon be available on the Wessex Scene website. The programme creates friends, Mr Taylor tells me – I should know, as I was a delegate this year. Two past participants, Tim Armoo and Ambrose Cooke, jointly started Fanbytes and now count Apple and Deliveroo among their clients. The summer mentoring programme has benefited from Mr Taylor’s wisdom in past years, as he’s mentored dozens of young black leaders, and he now serves as a trustee. To find out more, visit the ALETO website.
The opportunity to ‘give back’ is one he clearly relishes. It’s an opportunity available to all of us, and appears in many forms. Some give their money, others their time and skills and as students, it’s likely to be the latter. Statistics show that while 12% of the entire adult population is 18-24, only 0.5% of trustees on charity boards are 18-24. Trustees’ Week this year is the 4 -8 November, and many charities will be highlighting their trusteeship vacancies.