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Sue Thomas

Sue Thomas has been a director at Career Evolution Ltd in Wythenshawe for the past eight years. The company helps organisations and supports employees going through change. They help people find new roles after being made redundant, and deliver coaching for managers and directors.

EXPLAIN A TYPICAL WEEK IN YOUR WORKING LIFE: I’ve always made sure that my week consists of activities that help and support my corporate and individual clients as a priority.  This means travelling to organisations to form relationships and understand the complexities for change.  This accounts for about 80%+.  Working on the mechanics of a small business inevitably brings finance and admin into the mix, but as a team we communicate daily to avoid unnecessary meetings.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING YOUR INDUSTRY RIGHT NOW? What people need most when they are going through change of any kind, particularly if it is job loss, is a person to speak to on a face-to-face basis who can be their touchstone. A number of our competitors use computer-based resources which obviously cost less but don’t have the human touch.

AND WHAT ARE THE BIG OPPORTUNITIES? There are lots of opportunities!  Being niche and spreading the news about how effective our services are.  Additionally, there are new areas we are working in now with our director, Jo Clancy, who was appointed last year.  These include management development and mediation.

HOW DO YOU GET THE BEST OUT OF YOUR STAFF? Daily updates including chat – we get along well which means we are supportive of each other.  Obviously, ongoing CPD means that we all feel valued by adding to our own portfolio of skills as well as enhancing the company’s offerings.

WHAT WAS YOUR LAST MEETING ABOUT, HOW LONG DID IT LAST, AND WAS IT PRODUCTIVE? It was a serious dissection of the NHS Confed18 exhibition, which we had exhibited at to make sure we got the most benefit from.  It lasted about two hours and with all stakeholders involved we had a great time at Corks Out in Chester’s city centre, and with no phone signal, there were no distractions!  We walked away with an action plan, which is being rigorously followed up.

HOW MANY EMAILS DO YOU GET IN A DAY, AND HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU HAVE TO READ THEM? Probably about 40 emails but some of them are worthy only of the delete button.  I spend early morning going through them, 7.30 am is a good start to the day and means I can clear most things within an hour before the phone starts ringing and I’m out on the road.

DO YOU ANSWER WORK CALLS OR EMAILS AT HOME? WHAT’S THE RIGHT WORK-LIFE BALANCE? I do stay connected and my clients know they can get hold of me in the evening.  It is rarely abused though.  I’m afraid I do look at my laptop to see what is coming in too often during the evening and shutting it down before dinner would give me a better balance.  Working for yourself can be tough and you always want to give people your best before thinking about what’s best for you.

HOW DO YOU HOPE YOUR COLLEAGUES WOULD DESCRIBE YOU? A positive leader who has a great deal of enthusiasm and passion for the business and those working with us.  Tolerant as well so people can go ‘off piste’ and make sensible mistakes without reprisals.

BREXIT – WHAT’S YOUR VIEW OF WHAT IT’S ALL GOING TO MEAN? Both my head and heart believe it’s wrong to isolate ourselves in all ways.  For business, those that we come into contact with largely see a stagnation as solutions are still being worked on by Westminster.  The clarity which we should see before too long (hopefully) will always allow companies to make informed decisions and I think the economy will benefit from it.

HIGHLIGHTS OR LOWLIGHTS OF YOUR CAREER SO FAR? Highlights are most definitely taking people from a low point in their lives when they have lost their job and giving them the confidence, tools and knowledge to get something that’s right for them.

Lowlights have been attending too many meetings in the past and seeing how unproductive it is.  If you have good people, let them get on with it!  I know that’s easier to say in a small business rather than a large corporate structure though.

PET HATES? Inertia.

IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF SOME WISE ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Stand up to people and don’t be intimidated.  Don’t let others take advantage of your good nature because there are lots of people who surely will.  Self-denigration serves no purpose.

HOW DO YOU RELAX AWAY FROM WORK? I love holidays and having a great team means I can travel without the encumbrance of phones, laptops and tablets – believe me it’s a great liberation!  Travelling the world with my family is stimulating.

Taekwondo is a twice weekly passion and starting it in my late 40s after little (read none) formal exercise and achieving red belt at the moment increases my fitness levels and releases those endorphins that are so beneficial.

WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS SPECIAL ABOUT CHESHIRE, AND ITS BUSINESS COMMUNITY? There is great support for small businesses and organisations such as BNI that allow people to speak freely about how they are doing without being judgemental.  We’ve also benefited greatly from initiatives in Cheshire which have given free and matched funding to accelerate the growth of our business.

TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOU THAT MOST PEOPLE PROBABLY WOULDN’T KNOW: I was one of the first people in the UK to get an ‘O’ Level in Mandarin.

YOU CAN TAKE ONE BOOK, ONE FILM AND ONE CD ONTO A DESERT ISLAND – WHAT WOULD THEY BE? Lord of the Flies would be appropriate and I always love revisiting my childhood literature; the film would be Working Girl with Melanie Griffiths and Harrison Ford (it shows how hard work and perseverance equal success); and the CD would be Elgar’s Planet Suite - and if I’m allowed another one (!), Blondie’s Parallel Lines.

YOUR FIVE DREAM DINNER PARTY GUESTS, DEAD OR ALIVE? Boy George, Angela Merkel, David Attenborough, Victoria Wood and Jeanette Winterson.

WHAT WOULD YOU COOK FOR THEM…? Pumpkin soup, tuna steaks with samphire and new potatoes, orange and treacle tart.  Anything fizzy and fun to drink.  This purely disregards their preferences and relates to what I can cook!

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