Beginning her career in ICT within central government, Sarah Coleman now owns her own business, consulting on the development and implementation of organisational strategy, large-scale procurement activities, defense and security, and sales and marketing.
Why did you decide to get into consultancy?
I decided to make the move into full-time business consultancy and business coaching when I found that I was spending more time fighting in house bureaucracy and challenging the status quo as a full-time employee, than I was on adding value to my clients. I am now in the very prized position of being able to use my experience and expertise in developing and implementing organisational strategy directly for the benefit of my clients. I have found, quite simply, that I love the variety and challenges this work brings.
Where did your career begin?
I began my career in ICT, first with central government then moving into the private sector. Throughout my career I have been fortunate to be able to work across the public and private sectors in a wide range of high pressure, rapidly changing environments, including financial services, telecoms, systems houses, healthcare, media, food and drink, defence and security, local and central government.
Through this, I have gained extensive commercial, information systems and man-management experience at senior level. My work with ICT included systems design, development and implementation as well as business process re-engineering.
What does your current role involve?
Having set up my own consultancy in June 2007, I now use all my experience and expertise in developing and implementing strategic programmes to the benefit of my own clients. I typically work at senior management and board level to develop organisational capacity and capability. My background in setting up and running high profile and complex projects on behalf of major businesses and public services also provides a strong process structure.
Strategy is all about change, so I act as a Change Agent within organisations having designed, implemented and managed major change and improvement projects for medium-sized enterprises and corporates.
As a consequence, my work on business strategy development and implementation has helped many organisations to bring about significant shifts in direction, shape, culture and performance.
I began my career in ICT, first with central government as a trainee computer programmer, developing business statistical analysis, before moving into the private sector. During this time, I first understood how ICT is a driving force for change within organisations.
Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to work in a wide range of industry sectors around the UK and abroad, and gained different experience which I am able to take from one industry sector to another.
There is a temptation to say that I should have set up my own independent consultancy sooner, but then I would not have had the experience, skill levels and motivation that I have now.
I am looking to consolidate our client base on a specific number of industry sectors, and to extend into Europe and the USA.
What qualities do you think you need to succeed in this industry?
You need to be exceptionally useful to clients in being able to solve their particular issues, and part of this lies in being a great communicator, problem solver and innovator. I have found that my own confidence, ability to challenge in a non-critical way and my diverse experience across industry sectors has helped significantly.
It also helps to have a sense of humour, flexibility in approach and the ability to build trust and relationships at all levels of an organisation.
Finally, I have found that my own love of learning has helped me to build experience from all interactions, as well as ensuring that I keep myself abreast of current thought and best practice, therefore ensuring my clients get the best possible service and results.
Achievements along the way
During my career as an independent, and in recognition of my business consultancy and coaching skills and success, I have been both nationally and regionally recognised with the Institute of Business Award and the High Growth Business Coach Excellence Award.
What advice would you give to someone wishing to join the profession?
Actually, two pieces of advice:
- From my own experience, this is a role which requires maturity, integrity and the confidence to challenge. When part of your role is to face a chairman or a board of directors, you will understand that it is not a role for the faint-hearted.
- Get out there and do it first, then you can consult on it. Our clients prize the fact that we have the experience of senior teams, boards and operations throughout different industry sectors, not just the theory. This means we understand the challenges our clients face: we don’t just talk about it; we get on and do it.
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