Siv Selva battled adversity to become a successful entrepreneur and change management consultant. The founder and CEO of Queen Consulting, who has been named “Employee focused CEO of the year – Sweden” in the 2023 Business Worldwide CEO Awards, talks to us about her philosophies for life and business.
One cold December day in 1989, Siv Selva touched down at Arlanda Airport with her sister and mother, arriving from Sri Lanka after fleeing the civil war. Her father had found Sweden and was awaiting their arrival, standing in the terminal holding winter jackets for Siv and her sister in one hand, and a thermos filled with warm tea in another. This moment marked the beginning of a new life in Sweden – a story filled with the challenges of integrating into a new society, passion for the new language, and above all, the longing for belonging.
Siv’s personal and professional lives began to intertwine early on, after events led to her marrying at the tender age of 17 and becoming a mother at 18. By the age of 23, she found herself a single mother, abandoned by her own family and suddenly solely responsible for her young daughter. Finding themselves completely alone, Siv was forced to build an entirely new family for herself and her child, and she found solace in work. Colleagues became friends, and with each job, lifelong connections were made.
Today the founder and CEO of Queen Consulting is a successful leader focused on changing the modern workplace for the better. Reflecting on her past, Siv realised that the foundation for the company — and its name — were laid during those times, when a desire to work alongside friends and call them family were the key to her survival. She explains that she has always been driven by curiosity, and grappled with questions of belonging and moments of feeling left out:
“It was these very experiences that inspired a deep-seated ‘Why’ within me. I realised that if I yearned for a place where everyone felt included, others might be seeking the same. Driven by this realisation, I founded a company that goes beyond just being a workplace; it’s a haven, a family. I wanted to create a space where everyone feels at home, where every individual knows they belong, and where no one ever feels left out. It’s not just about business; it’s about community and connection. It’s about making sure that what I once missed is something nobody in my company will ever have to experience.”
The Queen Story
Queen Consulting is a consultancy company that challenges the notions of micromanagement, cost over value and company politics getting in the way of quality time with customers.
When QGroup, the umbrella under which Queen Consulting now operates, presented an opportunity to initiate a management company within their portfolio, Siv seized it with both hands. QGroup operates on a philosophy that contrasts the conventional. Rather than fitting people into pre-existing companies, they build companies around individuals, championing the idea of businesses powered by personal excellence. Interestingly, this was the first role where Siv had been chosen by the employees themselves rather than by upper management, and she says it’s thanks to QGroup that Queen Consulting could come to life.
Siv and her team had grown tired of leadership without a cause and directions without communication. “In essence, we were done with everything that shifted the focus away from employees, customers, and results” she explains.
They decided to bring their years of knowledge and wisdom together to create the dream company. Together, as one team with joint responsibility, they made it their mission to build a company that everyone could be proud of.
At the core of Queen Consulting is the belief that if people enjoy doing what they do, that joy will show in their work — which translates to happy customers.
Siv says, “People often use the mantra ‘the customer is king’ in business to reflect the customer’s absolute value. We decided to be the queen. Did you know that in ancient chess, the queen was known as the advisor? Even with the king in the centre, the queen is the most important player in the game. At Queen Consulting, the queen equals our employees. Our goal is to create a partnership with our customers based on trust in our work, just as much as we trust our employees. Our one and only rule is that we must always deliver 100%.”
A new approach to change management
In today’s intricate market and economy, consulting firms face unprecedented challenges. The rapid pace of technological advancement, evolving business models, and heightened global competition necessitates a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to consultancy. It’s a realm in which depth of knowledge, breadth of experience, and collaborative synergy are paramount.
Many leadership teams hesitate to collaborate with consulting firms, often out of pride, thinking, “Can we handle this ourselves?” This mindset can lead to wasteful spending on new hires, technologies and staff hours, without proper foresight.
While solving problems in-house has its merits, management consulting offers a more efficient alternative often overlooked by modern organisations. Consulting firms are most beneficial when initiating significant change, providing expertise to realise goals faster, with reduced risk and cost than trial-and-error approaches. Leadership teams set the tone for change. An external consultant brings an unbiased perspective, offering constructive insights that facilitate change from the top down.
One-man consulting firms often lure clients in with tempting price slashes, which might seem cost-effective initially, but can seldom offer the vast array of expertise and resources of a diverse team. Additionally, their lowered prices often come with hidden costs: limited availability, potential for biases, and lack of robust backup in case of unforeseen circumstances.
Siv says that when opting for a consultancy partner, it’s imperative to look beyond the price tag. The insights, collective wisdom, and risk mitigation a well-rounded team provides can be the difference between a solution that merely addresses the surface issue and one that catalyses truly transformative growth.
She has come a long way in her personal and professional journey, and says that her own motivation came from both the absence of leadership, and a few exceptional leaders who recognised potential and capabilities — no names mentioned, but none forgotten.
In her journey as a leader, Siv has come to understand that true leadership goes beyond titles, hierarchical positions, or a commanding presence:
“For me, it’s deeply rooted in recognizing and nurturing the potential within each individual on my team. I firmly believe that my most significant assets aren’t the strategies I implement or the services my organisation offers, but the people who bring these visions to life: my dedicated employees. To me, people are the heartbeat of any venture. They are the ones facing challenges head-on, innovating solutions, and passionately driving our shared objectives forward.
My role, as I see it, is to provide them with the resources, environment, and the motivation they need to excel. When my team feels appreciated, empowered, and understood, they not only perform at their best but also become true champions of our shared mission and ethos. In essence, my leadership approach hinges on the principle of empowerment. Because when my team thrives, we all succeed together.”
But perhaps the most unique aspect of Queen Consulting is its philosophy: the belief that Queens are everywhere; symbols of people who lead beyond constraints, and dreamers who dare to make a difference. If you believe you can make a difference to the world, Queen Consulting sees the regality in you.
To find out more about Queen Consulting and view the full range of services, visit https://www.queenc.se/