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A Conversation With Nselaa Ward On the Path to Business Architecture



Nselaa Ward

Nselaa Ward had known that she wanted to be an attorney since she was eight years old.  She even had the dream from childhood to open up her own law firm, though at the time she did not think it was possible.  Nselaa grew up in a tough neighbourhood with crack houses where people did not have an understanding of a young person’s aspirations to get involved in business or in the legal profession.

Nselaa was able to get a legal education and many co-workers inspired her and helped her to realize that there is nothing that can really stop you from living your dreams.  When she was a practising attorney, most of her legal work involved business and bankruptcy law.

Nselaa is currently based in Atlanta, Georgia and is CEO of the business architecture firm, Ni’ Nava & Associates.  Her firm provides the systems, resources, and team support necessary to help small businesses to properly scale and develop to the next level.

Why did you decide to become a business architect?

I was an attorney first and I had never heard of business architecture. I worked in both business and business and bankruptcy law and I saw hundreds of businesses failing. At first, I just wanted to find out why 90% of businesses ended up closing or filing for bankruptcy.  Unfortunately, the law is a lot more reactive than proactive. Once I understood the patterns I didn’t want to wait until businesses were already failing, I started mastering business architecture and I was able to help companies build systems that put them in the top 10% of successful businesses.

It is challenging because sometimes people don’t understand the actual problems a business architect can solve for them.  The first thing that we do is build the operational systems that clients need to turn their hustle into a true enterprise.

This tremendously differs from consulting or business coaching.  A consultant gives you advice on how they would do things and then watches you do it from the sidelines. A coach helps to pull out your own ideas and then again watches you from the sidelines. Our firm is the only type of company that becomes your CO-CEO, COO, & CFO. .As a business architect firm, we are working in your business with you.  While you are pushing, we are pulling.

Our firm will come in and design the business model using proven systems that are still customizable. We create a blueprint for what happens in all of their business processes using our 10 pillar system.  Our client now has a built-in team and no longer has to work alone.  They don’t have to reinvent the wheel.  Now they have more time and make more profit.

What trends in your industry excite you?

Our clients have found that when customers buy today, they want to know the story of who they are buying from.  People don’t just buy because you are the closest option for them anymore.  They want to do business with someone who is an authority in their industry and that has a story that they can relate to.  One of the trends that we see and are developing more within our firm is working with clients that want to become icons in their industry. They don’t want to just be an attorney.  They want to be the Johnny Cochran of their industry.  They don’t want to be just a physician.  They want to be the Dr. Phil of their world.  Our firm has adopted the business architecture model, so not only do we help to build their company blueprint, but we also help them to establish their credibility.  We build a speaking tour across the country to help them become the authority in their industry.  In addition, we help them to frame their company’s story both on stage and in the brand.

What is one thing you would change in your industry today if you could?

The old school American business model is built on the idea of people working 40 hours per week, people being overwhelmed, wearing 10 different hats, and working in a brick and mortar location, away from home, away from their family, and away from their comfort space.

I think certainly COVID-19 has shown us two things.  #1 that businesses make more money and people can be more efficient when they are in their comfort zone and when they are working from home.  #2, Every business needs to have a digital strategy to make money.  They need to have at least one digital revenue stream, no matter what kind of company they have, and that is something my firm assists our clients with.

If you could change 1 thing you did in the beginning of your career what would it be?

I wish I would have started working in business architecture earlier in my career – even over being an attorney.  It feels alot better helping clients when they are happy and optimistic and not when they are losing everything.   I could have saved hundreds of businesses a lot sooner.

How do you maintain a work-life balance?

My biggest tool is that I have systems in my personal life and my business. How you do one thing is how you do everything.  The same systems I create for my clients are the same systems I created for myself first.  These systems allow me to maximize my quality time at home.

That is really important to me since my children are 9 and 12 years old.  It also helps that I have taught them to be business moguls themselves, so they get excited about business opportunities and projects the same as I do. Even when we are doing business, It still feels like quality family time together since we have that interest in common.

What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?

The hardest obstacle I had to overcome was being transparent in my full story.  As a kid, I was surrounded by people that saw my hustle and ambition. Those people wanted to create a way to monetize that and I got involved in the sex industry at the age of 12.

I was embarrassed. I felt judged.  I feared I would not be accepted as an attorney.  Eventually, I surrounded myself with powerful leaders that looked like me. They helped me to forgive myself and not to define my present by my past. I learned that my past was a comma in my life, not a period.

I decided to be open about these experiences, to be vulnerable and to tell my story so I could inspire others.  For a long time, I was afraid to tell that story, but now every time I share it, I feel empowered.  I learned to let my pain push me until my passions could pull me.

Now I am able to help my clients to tell their stories as well because that’s what your customers connect to first. A sale is just an exchange of stories, so your customer is buying you.

What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?

Be willing to say yes to an opportunity, even if you don’t quite know how to make that yes happen.

What does success look like for you (personal or professional)?

I see success through service.  If I can help their dreams come true, so will mine.