Noel Brady’s persona is the same in private as it is in public. The height (he stands at over six feet), well groomed head of pure white hair and a selection of colourful glasses that would put Specsavers to shame gives him a presence that makes him both memorable and interesting.
“But this is me,” Noel says. “I’ve always been a big guy with a big personality. That’s the way I am. Yes it helps when you’re in sales and marketing to have a memorable face or image, but the person behind the glasses is the same as the image: personable, friendly, a bit quirky perhaps, but always very focussed on my clients.”
It’s these characteristics that have helped Noel become one of Northern Ireland’s most recognisable faces and build his very successful business consultancy, Nb1, into what many local businesses find is their first port of call when they need help with a specific business problem or when they are completing a vital public sector tender.
But business wasn’t Noel’s first calling. Fresh from education, he entered the Civil Service at the age of 17 as a clerical officer……….
During an interview I conducted some time ago, my then interviewee told me that when asked how many children she had, his mother always said ‘I have two: one living and the other works in the Civil Service.’
But Noel, who worked in Service from 1975-1991, is clearly confident that it was that experience that proved invaluable in his subsequent career.
During his time working in ICT and procurement he gained an understanding of exactly how the public sector ticks, why tenders succeed and fail, and set up a network of contacts that would be the foundation of his claim today that ‘if somebody lives and breathes in Northern Ireland, I can reach out to them.’
From the civil service Noel moved to CFM Group Ltd and ICL before joining the newly formed SX3 as a founder Director rising to the top spot of managing director before taking the plunge in 2004 to set himself up in his own business: Nb1 – named simply because there is only one Noel Brady, so when you hire Nb1, you’re hiring Noel. His clients have his undivided attention at all times.
“I’ve built my business over the past ten years by providing two very distinct but equally as important, services,” Noel explained. “First, because of my public sector experience and training I can help businesses who are competing in tenders. And as an strategic advisor I can provide executive support services to a company acting as an extra Board Member with a specific brief of sales and business development.”
The art of Tendering
For anybody who has trudged through the reams of information required to complete a tender, then cut their margins to the bone to be sure to win it, only to be told that you were unsuccessful having failed by a few points, the very thought of completing a public sector tender is daunting.
Which is why it is very refreshing – if not a little unusual – to have somebody tell you they love completing tenders. But that is exactly what Noel says early on in our conversation.
“Tendering is an Art Form. 1 savour the challenge of completing a successful tender,” Noel tells me. “Tackling a tender – whether private or public – requires a set of skills and knowledge that most companies just don’t possess. It’s a very specific and exact discipline that cannot be taught overnight and it’s one where simple mistakes can cost the bidder the few points that will make the
difference between success and failure.”
During the recent downturn many companies entered the arena of tendering for the first time as they sought new business and for them Noel’s input into their tenders was – and continues to be – vital.
Whether they handed him the full responsibility for completing the tender or simply requested his experienced eye to double check and ensure they had maximised their strengths, his experience was invaluable.
“Across Europe the tendering process is basically the same providing opportunities for local business to compete successfully on a local, regional, national and international stage,” Noel says.
“By working with clients to help them recognise their hidden strengths and then applying those to the tendering process, we have been able to secure a lot of new business in all of these markets.”
The other hat that sits well on top of that shock of white hair is the role of business builder for many companies either indigenous or those looking for an opportunity to enter the Northern Ireland
As a Belfast Harbour Commissioner, Honorary Fellow and Chairman of the Sales Institute of Ireland, chairman of the Corporate Fund Raising Committee and board member of the Simon Community, chairman
of Sentel Ltd and other non-executive director roles, Noel has clearly been recognised by the Business Community here for his enthusiastic commitment to Northern Ireland. It is a recognition that comes from over 39 years of dedicated working within Northern Ireland’s business community to continually strive for success for the people here.
He is extremely proud of his roots in Belfast City. “Working as a Harbour Commissioner is a dream ticket for me, I love Belfast and to see it grow and prosper into the world class city it is becoming is just awesome.”
And it is all of that experience and knowledge that comes with Noel when he accepts a new client who is either looking for strategic partners to build their business or simply needs an injection of knowledge and governance that will help the business reach its fullest potential.
There are a lot of great companies in Northern Ireland. But there are more good ones that could be great with the right strategy, focus and processes in place,” Noel says. “And often they can achieve those things by inviting a consultancy like Nbl to join them and complete an audit of what’s good and what could be improved within their business.
“Sometimes they don’t have the contacts they need to complete a project and I have helped identify the right people for them. Other times it’s been a matter of completing a profile of their customer base and devising a new engagement strategy that will open more doors. Then it’s a matter of getting them in front of the prospect and selling the product.”
Something this business dynamo has done successfully every day for the past ten years and has no intention of changing the winning formula any time soon!