60 seconds with: Fiona Donnelly, CEO, Nexus Consulting

Business, Interviews | Tue 19 Sep | Author – Business & Finance fiona donnelly ceo nexus consulting
Fiona Donnelly, CEO, Nexus Consulting

Fiona Donnelly, CEO, Nexus Consulting, takes on the Business & Finance 60-second interview challenge.


Q. What was your first job?

I was very keen to work as a young teenager and my first real paid job was at aged 15 as a part-time sales assistant in a well-known card shop in Cork city. I worked there after school on Wednesdays and on Saturdays. It taught me so much in relation to timekeeping and being responsible, as well as understanding aspects of how a small business functions. The hectic times were challenging, such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, where I could spend half the day on a stepladder successively handing down supersized padded cards from their display up high, to a heaving mass of customers! But I loved working and received more responsibility as time went on. I stayed there almost right up to Leaving Cert. It gave me a great grounding in the day-to-day requirements of a customer-facing business, and an early appreciation of people management skills.

Q. What would you regard as your greatest achievement in business to date?

On a personal front, it would have to be my five children – it’s a privilege to watch them grow up. They’re a great bunch and we do a lot together as a family.

Professionally, my background of owning a group of small retail stores over 17 years provided me with many transferable skills that enabled me to develop a new career direction about six years ago. Although I had a well-honed level of commercial awareness from this entrepreneurial backdrop, I knew that my heart lay more in the organisational and talent-development side of business. I rejoined university in 2012 to complete a master’s degree in this field. Today, I have truly found my niche in employer branding, which is the sole focus of my business, Nexus Consulting. I am proud of what I have achieved professionally while we also raised a large family.

Q. In three words or less, how do you define success?

Success to me means “helping others achieve”. When I help others to achieve, whether they are management or students, I’ve attained my objective, and to me, that’s success.

Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“The difference between good and great, is attention to detail”. I think it was my late father that said that to me. I am a firm believer that the devil is in the detail, and whilst it is important to be able to see the big picture also, paying attention to the detail is often where the real answers lie.

Q. How do you motivate yourself and your staff?

I have always been self-motivated, with a strong work ethic. A sense of curiosity and a competitive nature are my internal motivators. Lifelong learning is important to me, too.

Many organisations focus on external motivational drivers when in fact many employees are often self-motivated – the old-style carrot-and-stick method will not work with this mindset in any sustainable fashion. It’s so important to truly engage with staff across all generations, at all points in the employment cycle, to understand what motivates them. When I managed staff, I led with a collaborative, facilitative style. However, the most critical motivator, in my view, is when companies consistently uphold the promises they make to employees at the outset and along the way. Developing a recognised, great place to work is a powerful motivator for staff.

Q. If you could step into the shoes of one business person for the day, who would it be and why?

Arianna Huffington – formerly of the Huffington Post and now CEO of Thrive Global. Part of her outlook towards achieving success is the importance of well-being in an effort to lower stress and burnout. This is becoming a hot topic in workplaces and I strongly support this view.

Q. How do you relax?

I relax by reading – I read every day – everywhere. I like various blogs, online newspapers and journals, but I also like to feel a book in my hand! I like crime novels and I read a lot of business books and biographies. I also like to meet friends, go bowling the odd weekend with the kids or occasionally head somewhere scenic for a stroll.

Q. What’s your motto?

Two in particular spring to mind often… “Be a voice, not an echo” is a thought instilled into me since youth. It’s important to encourage ourselves and others to speak up and let our opinions and ideas be heard. I’m also a firm advocate for “You’ve got to nourish to flourish”. Nourishment of both body and mind is so important in order to take on each day, and achieve.

Q. What are your aspirations for the future of your business?

As an Irish indigenous business, I see great potential to grow our business-to-business client base. I aspire for us to become leaders in assisting companies to transform or reveal their employer brand and talent-development practices, to ultimately become recognised employers of choice.

When I help others to achieve, whether they are management or students, I’ve attained my objective, and to me, that’s success.