Nicola Dunne has developed a portfolio of roles in procurement consultancy, small business and non-executive mentoring.

What is your background?

I have 28 years business experience in commercial, change and transformation and senior executive activity across both private and public sectors. In the latter half of my career I developed an interest in the people element of major programmes and organisational dynamics.

Initially trained as a procurement professional for Ford Motor Company and operating in many of their global locations, I was able to transfer the continuous improvement philosophies to the mail industry when I arrived at Royal Mail. Becoming increasingly involved in change projects through their in-house fast track programme, I learned the importance of people and their contribution to business performance. I experienced early forays into the field of amateur coaching, through my passion and enthusiasm to encourage others to unlock their potential.

I then spent seven years as a founding Director for a Government Shared Service Centre creating a limited company from scratch and building it to deliver efficiencies with taxpayer’s money. Hugely rewarding, my modus operandi has been to create collaborative teams to deliver solutions that not only saved money but improved scientific research for UK PLC.

During this time, I led many of the organisation development initiatives and was offered the opportunity to study for a Masters in coaching and behavioural change, which has changed both my depth of thinking and career direction.

Taking the opportunity of redundancy, I took my time to decide on a new direction and over the last two years have developed a portfolio of roles in procurement consultancy, small business and non-executive mentoring.

What was your inspiration for getting involved with SME’s?

Through my network connections I was increasingly asked for advice from both a commercial and behavioural perspective. The first two businesses I worked with were both open to change and as I observed them develop and flourish, it was contagious to be a part of their success.

There is nothing more satisfying to me than to see a person change their thinking and unleash possibilities that make significant differences to them personally and their business. To support somebody through an exploration, and witness positive outcomes when it goes well, is extremely rewarding.

Who would your ideal client be?

Any business that needed a trusted advisor and is facing a dilemma. I have most enjoyed the projects where companies need a strategic rethink. Those who have been open to spending time analysing and reassessing their position, then not being afraid to put their thinking into action have been the most rewarding. Also those who try various strategies, who are not afraid of making mistakes, but learn from them and unsurprisingly often make the most progress.

Who do you admire?

I admire leaders who invest in their people first, are emotionally intelligent and aware that performance is achieved through fostering talent within a positive group dynamic. I particularly hold those in high regard who lead from behind, are humble, ego-less and listen first. My first-hand experience of this was being inspired by Adam Crozier at Royal Mail who operated in this way, who quietly achieved a major turnaround and the loyalty of a large proportion of the team. I have also been inspired by Susan Cain, who authored Quiet and espouses this alternative leadership ethos. She also showed incredible courage in overcoming her fear of public speaking through delivering a TED talk. Finally, I have observed in the world of sport the evolution of what Team Sky have achieved with Chris Froome leading the Tour de France effort. From what I have read, I have admired their scientific approach, their meticulous attention to detail, a continued check and adjust approach and their drive and commitment to a achieve a common purpose.  

And, if you had your time again?

Not much! I am a firm believer that the route I have taken, including all the good and bad experiences have brought me to where I am now, given me the skills, capabilities and stories that enable me to mentor and consult in my flavour. I have been fortunate to have undertaken such a wide breadth of roles and activities, meet some amazing people and develop into the person I am now.

If I had to name one thing, it would have been to build the level of self-awareness earlier, during Ford days. The layers I have been able to add through continued learning in the behavioural field have served to strengthen me personally and given me a colourful palette of perspectives to work with.

Any advice you would pass onto a start up?

  • Find your angels, the people who believe in you and support you unconditionally. You will need trusted and objective advisors who will challenge your thinking. They are there for you to listen in times of trouble as well as share in your success. If you are struggling to find anyone think of all the people who have helped you get to where you are now or alternatively access a more formal business mentoring facility.
  • Find someone who has done it before who can give you advice on things to consider as well as the pitfalls. I did this with a previous colleague who was more than happy to spare me some time and I still use his checklist. Generally, people are willing to help if you ask.
  • Build your network and develop meaningful relationships. Pick your networks carefully, those that offer good topical debate related to what you do, that will help you develop and are not full of individuals looking for their next piece of work. It can be lonely out there and having access to friendly faces and ears is reassuring if you are grappling with something. Equally you are often also available to offer support in return as shared experience develops the ongoing relationships.

Lesser known fact about Nicola Dunne…

When learning to ski, I descended the Olympic downhill run in Innsbruck at the end of the first 4 days….in three hours! My class was definitely only troubling the record books for the slowest descent time.

For more information on Nicola please visit here >>  If you would like discuss how Nicola or any of our NXD Non-Execs may be able to help you with your business then please contact us either by email or phone 01483 212892

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