The entrepreneur spotlight interview this month is Margaretta Noonan who, after a lengthy talent management career with global Fortune 500 companies, recently launched ngage, a technology-based solution that creates a conversation between employees and managers about the issues that are critical to organizational success.
Marcia: Tell me about your business and why you started it.
Margaretta Noonan: Ngage is a new way to foster employee engagement, which is a hot topic for CEO’s and executives. I know, as a human resource professional, that there is dissatisfaction with the tools out there to measure employee’s feelings about their workplace. I realized there was market demand in an area I know something about. Ngage is a technology software service that changes the way employers get valuable dialogue and data across the organization. It turns real time feedback into real time action.
Marcia: What are some of the challenges and satisfactions?
Margaretta Noonan: Let’s start with the fun things: I’ve spent 30 years in human resources in big corporations and the last five years in executive coaching and management consulting. It feels like everything I have learned in my entire work life is pointing to where I am now. I have so many lessons learned to draw on; it has just been amazing! I never built my career to say “I eventually want to do this.” It’s been serendipitous, yet, it’s everything I was meant to do.
I also found working with three partners, whom I’ve known and worked with for years, is a joy. We learn from each other. I’ve scratched the entrepreneurial itch without being and feeling all alone in it.
Now the challenges: It has been an incredible experience. I’ve learned so much that has led me to this point, and I’m faced with so much to learn. I know so much and I don’t know even more.
Because it has been well received, there isn’t enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do. I’m working harder now than in the past twenty years. What happens with many senior level corporate people is that they go through a period when they are not all there. They feel under-employed. I am “all in” now.
Marcia: Being in the second half of life, how has that been a benefit in your business journey?
Margaretta Noonan: First, it goes back to the realization that I have learned a lot over the years. At the same time, I’m comfortable being honest with a client saying: “I don’t know everything – I have advisors to help us.” That is part of the courage and confidence that comes with age. In youth, one tends to feel “I know everything and will live forever.” Neither one of those are true. I know I’m mortal and there’s a lot of what I don’t know.
Second, it’s having an extensive professional network. My partners and I have built good relationships with many people and organizations over the years. Many of our early prospects and buyers come out from our professional network. They’ll take our call. It’s much easier than cold calling.
Marcia: What are some lessons learned so far in your journey of building a business?
Margaretta Noonan: Building a business take a lot longer than I thought. Everything takes longer, from raising capital to getting the product up and running to scheduling a meeting with a prospect. And, because there are missteps and delays, you need to have patience and persistence. A quote that says it all is, “Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.” – Newt Gingrich
Also, you can’t do it by yourself, or it’s a lot easier not to do it by yourself. When you’re having a bad day and everything is falling apart and you want to quit, inspirational quotes can take you only so far. Having colleagues that can help you and give you confidence goes a long way.
Marcia: What about your legacy?
Margaretta Noonan: I had the opportunity in high school to attend a leadership program. One of the speakers said, “You never know the seeds you plant.” I still remember that. I spent so much of my career trying to have a positive impact on big organizations. Some of my legacy is invisible to me. I may have championed specific policy changes that made an enormous impact, but I do not know about it. And that’s OK!
I don’t know what seeds I’ve plant throughout my life. I’m hopeful I’ve had positive impact on people. I’m not famous nor likely to become famous. What I hope is that I have been a good role model and continue to be one. Also. that I will continue to have a positive impact on people and organizations with ngage.