Having ideas is one thing, getting your whole business on board is the key to success


Considering himself an ‘accidental marketeer’, Steve Suckling came into marketing through a passion for education. Now he’s an expert in helping organisations keep their propositions relevant, generating new pipelines of work, and creating action plans that will get the whole business working towards successful outcomes…

How do you help businesses?

I see my role as translating the aspiration of a business into practical programmes of work. Sometimes that’s because complacency about doing things the way a business ‘has always done it’ has meant that the pipeline of customers or new product has dried up. Other times, it’s a business that knows that in order to stay relevant it needs to keep innovating, and is looking for help to deliver change successfully. Either way, for me, it’s about managing transformation, taking businesses from where they are to where they want to be.

What often seems to get forgotten when companies introduce new ideas, equipment, or business propositions, is the importance of managing the behavioural side of change. It’s imperative for success. You can have the most amazing product, but if people in your organisation aren’t passionate about it, it won’t work.

So, what I do is identify what a company wants to do and package that up in a way that will help them to move forward. That includes keeping an eye on product, price and innovating for the future.

Sometimes I am brought in to help strategise and deliver a programme for updates, changes and new ideas. Often, a company will have tried to deliver change without having considered it a transformation.  I help fill the gap in helping to bring the whole organisation on board.

Naturally, the earlier you plan for change and transformation the more positive the experience. However, often people won’t invest unless they really have to, when they find resistance rather than the open door they expected.

What do you most enjoy about your job?

I think it’s working in different environments and places, delivering and moving on knowing you have helped people through change in a positive way and another successful product or service is launched.

Why do you think a gig approach works well in what you do?

It’s a cost-effective way of getting specialist expertise in for defined priorities of time and activity. It makes sense, especially if you are in a situation of ‘crisis management’ because you can get someone working with you a lot quicker on a fractional basis than if you have to go through a full recruitment process.

What are you currently working on?

I have been working on a customer experience programme for a set of international language schools. My substantive work at the moment is with a Department for Education pilot for accrediting social workers after three to five years of practice in England. It’s a really interesting project.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I travel, walk the dog, I love to ski, I have a passion for food and I watch a lot of Netflix!

Is there a particular book that changed the way you see the world?

Charles Handy’s The Second Curve. He was someone I studied at college some decades ago. This book is about questioning where we’re going. Whether the current direction of capitalism is sustainable. And whether growth is the be all and end all of everything. It’s provocative and thoughtful. It helps to think beyond the immediate two to three year timeframe to the world my nieces and nephews will be adults in and there children beyond…

Do you have a favourite movie and why?

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Goodness knows how many times I’ve seen it, but I still enjoy it. It was a poignant statement of its time. I loved the ‘80s – although I am not sure I realised it at the time.

Tell us one thing most people don’t know about you…

I’m pretty much an open book. I have a passion for education and have had the privilege of working in education off and on for 30 years now. Currently I am a school governor for a big primary school as well. The one that people probably wouldn’t know is that in the late ‘90s I worked on a review of higher education and it was the one that brought in tuition fees. The report was published in print, on the web and on CD all at the same time. It was the first government report to be published on three platforms.