Shweta Anand Arora
Name of Business
The Core Questin
Size of Business (Annual, US $)
Number of employees
Our dream is to enable leaders, teams and organizations to find and live their full brilliance. To unleash leaders and workplaces that are truly alive, inspired, thriving, and human-centric.
1. Hello! Who are you and what expertise-based business do you own?
I am Shweta and I founded The Core Questin, a consulting and coaching firm, with the dream of helping leaders and organizations unleash their full potential. We work with senior leaders across the corporate, non-profit, and start-up worlds, at the intersection of purpose, strategy, leadership, and culture. We support leaders and leadership teams to solve business challenges through the human lens – by helping individual leaders to grow and develop, teams to become more effective, and organizations to thrive by aligning around a common purpose and culture.
2. What were you doing before starting this business and what is it that you wanted to accomplish in life?
I started my career in consulting with BCG, but early on, switched to the education sector in search of meaning and purpose. The human potential was always an important theme in my work – and I spent many years working on education reform, with the lens of creating systems that can unlock children’s true potential. After spending a decade and a half in leadership positions at an education startup and then a non-profit, I went back to BCG’s Social Impact practice to work on large-scale education reform. A health crisis led me to take a break, and then to the question – what next?
I knew I wanted to build something that continued to hold purpose and potential central in my life. My journey into this business started when I discovered coaching through an amazing coach training program and realized how much possibility it holds in supporting leaders’ learning and growth journeys. I found myself growing tremendously, both as a human being and as a leader, as I learned this work. I also realized how much it could have added to my impact in all my previous avatars.
The Core Questin was born from that realization – that leadership is a journey that starts every day. And it’s a journey that doesn’t have to be walked alone. On this quest of self-discovery, of stretching & learning, failure & courage, and digging deep to fulfill our own potential and the potential of those we lead – a journey-partner can add depth, beauty, and adventure.
We started our work with individual leaders and then expanded to work with the systems (teams and whole organizations) in which they operate – in order to create deep, long-lasting, and sustainable shifts.
3. What problems were you facing in achieving your dreams before this business even started?
In sports, it is well-accepted now, that the highest-performing athletes are not necessarily those with the highest level of skill or endurance or technical mastery. They are the ones who’ve been able to master the ‘inner game’ as much as the ‘outer game’. In the words of Timothy Gallwey, who first introduced this concept, the inner game is:
‘the game takes place in the mind of the player, and it is played against such obstacles as lapses in concentration, nervousness, self-doubt, and self-condemnation. In short, it is played to overcome all habits of mind which inhibit excellence in performance. . . ‘
I have realized that leaders too need to master the inner game, as much as they need business mastery, strategy, and technical skill. When I look back knowing what I know today, I think my biggest failure in my previous Iife was that I hadn’t mastered my ‘inner game’. I was holding myself back in so many ways – through self-doubt, anxiety, and the pressure to perform. I was definitely not being the best leader I could be.
And when I look back at the organizations I worked in and with, I can see how much the ‘system’ impacted how people showed up. Did the culture create safety, thereby allowing experimentation, learning, and innovation, or did it place very high stakes on performance, keeping most people in their ‘safe zones’? Was there a sense of shared purpose that connected people to something larger than themselves, that created a fire in their bellies to go out and make a real impact? Were teams at the top aligned, creating alignment throughout the organisation, and the sense of rowing in the same direction, or were there misaligned silos, leading to second-guessing and politics?
I had the privilege of working in some wonderful organisations. As I reflect back on these questions and draw on the research and expertise on organisational health and culture, I can see what enabled great performance and what came in the way. And I can see the opportunity of creating organisations and systems that truly unlock performance and potential at every level.
4. What insight led you to start this business?
My insight came at two levels – one was personal, and the other more universal.
Personally, I knew I had to feel passionately enough about something to dedicate myself to creating a business around it. The idea of The Core Questin – and the themes of purpose and potential – were exactly in that zone.
At a more universal level – I knew I wasn’t alone in letting my ‘inner game’ come in the way of my leadership. I realized that many leaders, leadership teams, and organizations, need to do this work in order to truly be their best. We often talk about talent being a strategic advantage – however, most organizations haven’t yet learned how to truly unlock that talent. Those that do will hold a key competitive advantage in the years to come.
I also realized that currently, this space is fairly nascent, and is only set to grow as organizations realize the investment they need to make – in individuals and in creating the right conditions – for their talent to really thrive.
5. How did you acquire your early customers, and validate your market?
My first foray into the business was with senior leaders, delivering 1-on-1 coaching. These leaders came from diverse backgrounds and geographies and many of them funded their own coaching journeys.
The initial communication was all through personal networks, professional groups, and LinkedIn. We also created a website that reflected the purpose, values, and services of the company. A large part of the communication centered around my own story, my belief system and values, and my purpose.
We realized that there was much curiosity around the subject and possibly an unmet need, but a lack of awareness and information. The content was key to this phase. We also offered sample sessions and freewheeling chats to anyone who wanted to speak about their needs and get more clarity on a potential coaching journey.
We were pleasantly surprised by the response. In our first year, close to a hundred senior leaders across industries have experienced coaching, The Core Questin way. In working with these first evangelists, we got a clear sense of the market and the need gap. They also provided us a clear pathway towards our foray into companies and organizations.
6. What were some big setbacks in your early journey?
The Core Questin was born in a Covid economy. There are many pros and cons of setting up a business in these trying times. But when illness and tragedy struck me and the partners, it called for much fortitude to keep going. Many of our clients have been through a lot as well, which meant there was rarely a moment when it was business as usual.
But we stuck it out and stood strong for our clients. We are now reaping the rewards of stronger relationships, having partnered with many of our clients through adversity and challenges.
7. What were the big achievements after your early journey?
As we began to understand the market better and build a more sure-footed approach to connect with our audience, our business model also evolved. We continued to actively build our B2C work because companies at the time were in survival mode. That helped us stay afloat, build a great roster of clients and continue to build our experience and skills, even though the B2B industry was slowing down.
At the same time, we realized that eventually, B2B will be the more sustainable business model – so we continued to invest in and nurture relationships on that front. We began to see the connections between leadership effectiveness, purpose, culture, and strategy. We began to explore larger impact projects and looked to work with organizations on more expansive briefs. We also explored what we can do to accelerate our learning curve to deliver on these briefs through collaborations, partnerships, and mentorship.
Our website reflects many testimonials on the impact we’ve had (though many of these are from our early journey): https://thecorequestin.com/testimonials.
8. Which tools were useful in growing your business?
A large part of our marketing and brand building has centered around content and direct marketing. LinkedIn played a key role in laying out our purpose and connecting with our audience. Personal and professional networks were useful starting points in building the first set of evangelists.
The research and knowledge base that informs our work:
Our approach is rooted in multi-disciplinary origins: neuroscience, positive psychology, research on leadership & purpose, approaches to innovation, including design thinking and lean start-up, and the work of coaching masters such as Peter Reding and Marcia Reynolds.
Our organisational leadership work derives learning from the work of Patrick Lencioni. Our transformative and cultural work is based on our work with values and systems that utilize this as the core.
Tools and platforms that support our operations:
In many ways, it’s become so much easier to run a business these days. We were able to create a lot of what we needed in-house, using platforms such as WordPress and Canva. G-Suite, Slack, and Miro enabled collaboration. Zoom has been our default delivery platform in a locked-up world.
9. What habits and systems did you build for your growth and transformation as an entrepreneur?
This work has been personally transformative for me. As I have learned to do support leadership growth in others, I have learned to strengthen my own inner game so dramatically. I’ve created systems to do that – working with a coach myself, reflecting on my own inner patterns, and catching them early so I can change them. This is something I am always conscious of. Part of me is doing the work, and another part often steps into the observer role – processing how it’s all going, my role in it, and what I can do differently. Also at a systems level, building awareness of what’s at play in our team and doing the work on team effectiveness and alignment for ourselves that we help other teams and organizations to do.
I’ve also intentionally crafted my working week in a way that gives me time for reading and learning, continuous professional development, and upskilling for myself. Most people start their weeks with a very busy Monday. I try to actually protect my Mondays as much as I can. I take that time to slow the action down, step back, think about priorities, read and learn. It helps me be a lot more intentional about the rest of my week. Of course, having a fully clear Monday is usually a luxury – but I guard it more protectively than any other day of the week. As a team as well, we’ve created time and space to come together regularly to learn something together and share reflections.
10. Which books, podcasts, blogs, or newsletters have influenced your work the most?
I am constantly reading, and there are so many books I’ve learned so much from. If I have to pick the ones that currently influence/inform/inspire our work the most, I would include Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team and The Advantage. Research shows that the two levers that most impact leadership effectiveness at an organization level are purposeful vision and teamwork right at the top. These books point to how one can create that.
I love the work (papers, books) of Bob Anderson and Bill Adams, co-founders of The Leadership Circle – for its solid research base, their unified model of leadership that builds on decades of thought in this field, and the strong correlation between leadership as they define it, and business performance. Much like them, I believe that the quest to be a better leader is fundamentally the same as the quest to be a better human. I also love that our spiritual growth and the evolution of our consciousness find a place in their work.
Some of the podcasts I love are Work-Life by Adam Grant, Curious Minds at Work by Gayle Allen, Play to Potential by Deepak Jayaraman, and Hidden Brain by NPR.
11. What advice would you give to a 5-years (or 10-years) younger self?
Continue to follow your purpose and your passion and it will lead you to where you need to be.