“My career has really been an integral part of who I am,” begins international business mentor Nadia Pace.

Describing herself as ambitious, with a passion for growth – both personal and in business – Nadia looks back on her journey fondly, having had the opportunity to form part of several companies that were looking to scale up, or embark on a transformation. 

“I’ve always been interested in business development, and the more outward or forward-looking parts of a business,” she says, explaining how she began her trajectory with EF Language School, helping the company to set up a school in Cyprus. She went on to live in Greece for three years, working mainly with the manufacturing sector, before returning to Malta and joining the business development department within World Aviation Group. 

After some time, in which she helped restructure and rebrand the group, Nadia made a brief foray into the insurance sector. While this wouldn’t ultimately be the best fit, she highlights the great team she had the pleasure of working with during this time, before going on to rejoin World Aviation Group as their CEO. 

“My mission was to transform the culture while making sure that the organisation was running as efficiently as possible,” she maintains. When it came time to move on, she had a decision to make – move into another C-level position with another company, or go it alone.

She chose the latter. “I decided to set up my own business, and the idea was really to focus on the things I love and enjoy the most. Today, my focus in my company is on three main areas – non-executive directorships at board level, executive mentoring sessions, and assisting companies with internationalisation,” Nadia says.

Delving deeper into her mentoring programme, she reflects, “my leadership style has always featured a mentoring approach. I’ve been lucky to have a number of great mentors throughout my career, helping me to flourish and overcome personal challenges and psychological boundaries. If it wasn’t for my mentors, who believed in me and challenged me, it would have probably taken me much longer to get to where I am today.”

And now, she considers it her biggest satisfaction to mentor CEOs and entrepreneurs, giving back the knowledge that made all the difference to her. “The role of a CEO can be lonely – you really have a 360 degree decision-making responsibility. As a mentor, it is my role to ask the right questions, and build a space where executives can bounce off ideas.” 

Speaking of how the business landscape has changed since starting out, Nadia highlights two main aspects she considers to have had a major impact: the human resource, that is, attracting the right skills and competencies and adopting the flexibility which is expected from them; and the need for adaptability, where automisation and digitisation needs to be a continuous investment. 

“It is still very much an employees market, and today, employees look for purpose, for companies with a soul; and companies which emphasise personal development. Platforms need to be scalable, to adapt to changes in the environment and the industry from clients, and to also support this flexibility when it comes to the workforce. Technology is an enabler – this is one of the things that we should really retain from the lessons brought about by COVID-19,” she asserts.

As for where leadership fits into all this, Nadia believes that primarily, a good leader needs to be able to build trust – with the investors, shareholders and their team. “Once a leader has built that trust and are true to their word, they’re able to really make changes, and growth becomes very natural. Communication is also critical to build that trust,” the business mentor says. 

“Actions speak louder than words,” she continues, stressing how one should strive to underpromise and overdeliver. “You have to build trust by showing that you really mean what you say. Leaders have a huge responsibility to be an example themselves, and this is one of my basic principles: I wouldn’t do anything that I wouldn’t want done to me. Leaders needs to have clear values, and these need to be in line with the values of the business.”

And trust, she has learned, also needs to be directed inward. “Looking back on my own journey, there were times when I didn’t trust myself enough. It’s been a part of my growth process, so now, during my mentoring, I make sure that I also pass on that lesson. Mentoring is not about showing the other person what to do, but about unlocking the individual’s potential so that they can see a clear path forward,” she smiles.

Looking ahead for her business plans in 2023 and beyond, Nadia has her sights firmly set on internationalisation. Revealing plans to work on a new project in South Africa, she explains, “culturally, there’s a lot that is aligned with my own purpose. There is a cohort there that would like to do good and leave a positive impact in society. For me, it is a learning and sharing experience, and I’m really looking forward to spending some more time there.”

Apart from that, Nadia is also looking forward to embarking on a new project in the UK, while Greece and Cyprus remain in her wheelhouse with several connections and projects. “This is what continues to keep me excited,” she laughs, admitting that there is also a challenge in going through this growth phase. “With internationalisation, it’s really important to build a scalable model that is still very much in line with my purpose, values and brand. So, I’m currently devising the methodology of how best to go about it,” she notes.

Still, she’s brimming with excitement at the opportunities ahead. “I feel a very good, positive energy. With every downturn that is challenging to business – recession, inflation, rising interest rates – there are always opportunities. I’m excited about my internationalisation project, and it will also help me to give back to my local clients too.”

The interview forms part of the 50 Business Leaders project. The online serialisation on MaltaCEOs.mt will feature 50 distinguished business leaders, CEOs, and emerging business minds to create debate and encourage business leaders to share their journey with our readers.

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