Today we spoke to Suzanne Noble, co-founder of Startup School for Seniors, a not for profit that delivers an 8 week eLearning programme aimed at helping over 50s recently unemployed or made redundant to start their own business. She provides over 50s with the confidence, network, skills and marketplace to start a business.
Q1. Did you always want to become a consultant or did you fall into the role?
I definitely fell into the role. In my case, I became drawn to helping others after over 30 years of being self-employed, having transitioned my career many times over. Nearly five years ago, I noticed that many of my peers were losing their job and struggling with how to manifest an income for themselves. They often asked for my advice or for some guidance and that led to the creation of Startup School for Seniors.
Q2. What makes a good consultant?
The ability to listen and respond without necessarily wanting to lead clients or students, to solutions. It’s easy enough to say to someone, ‘Here’s what I think you should do,’ but from my experience, it’s much more satisfying when a client is able to understand and solve a problem for themselves. I trained as an Action Learning Sets facilitator last year and that was a great grounding in how to ask open questions.
Q3. Do you feel you manage yourself well or is it a case of ‘the cobbler’s shoes’?
I have been told that I take on far too much, although I’m happy and willing to delegate to others. I have good relationships with my co-founders (I also run a tech-for-good business called nestful) which has come about over years of working out what I’m good at and enjoy doing and where I need support. Finding great colleagues is half in the battle in managing one’s time efficiently; knowing there are others around whom you can trust.
Q4. Are there enough hours in your day?Not nearly and I’m often working weekends. I blame COVID-19 to some extent as what constitutes a workday or a non-work day have become very blurred. I’ve been working from home since 2008 so it’s not a case of being disciplined the way I imagine it is for those who are less familiar with working from home. In my case, I do find it hard to switch off, especially since both of my businesses are early stage and I’m constantly considering ways they can be improved!
Q5. If you could magically stop your clients from making one mistake – what would that be?
Trying to arrive at a solution before they’ve fully understood the problem. It’s almost unavoidable and we all do it.
Q6. What do you find is the best way to market yourself?
I’m a PR person at heart so I’m on high alert for opportunities to get the word out about what I’m doing. I’m a great believer in saying yes to every interview – no matter how big or small; you never know where it’s going to lead. Working in a specialist area (the over 50s), I am often asked for a comment or to write an article and I belong to a specialist group on Facebook that is solely for entrepreneurs and journalists from which I’ve managed to secure features in national newspapers and magazines.
Being helpful, more generally, especially when it comes to supporting those who may not be so experienced, often leads to word-of-mouth recommendations. I’m active in a number of groups and social media platforms, where I often contribute to conversations around starting a business. If you’ve helped someone avoid wasting time or money, they’re more likely to recommend you to others.
Q7. What do you do to unwind?
I’m part-time jazz and blues singer and I’ve recently started rehearsing with my pianist again for gigs we have lined up in the summer. I reengaged with music about three years ago after more than 30 years away from it and it gives me so much pleasure to sing and perform in front of others.
Q8. What advice would you give a starting consultant?
Have a niche that you understand. It’s much easier to get known within your industry as the person who only works with a certain audience than someone who tries to be all things to all people. The more you can become a spokesperson for the group you represent, the easier it will be to attract clients.
Q9. What’s your guilty pleasure?
85% dark chocolate.
I can’t buy it anymore as it’s too tempting.
Q10. What’s your goal for next year?
To solidify both Startup School for Seniors and nestful into sustainable, recurring revenue businesses and scale. To record an album!