In a career path that started as Suzanne Donaldson describes as “boots to suits,” she worked as a heavy equipment operator on the weekends and worked in financial services during the week while raising daughters as a single mother.
She founded Donaldson Enterprises in 2002, later changing the name to Donaldson Consulting. As CEO of the Native American woman-owned firm, she advises her public and private clients on managing their projects efficiently; implementing diversity, equity and inclusion; providing business coaching for underutilized firms; and ensuring agency contracting compliance.
“I started my business initially at the advice of my attorney, who suggested that I go to the courthouse and pass out my resume in the ‘lawyers lounge’ to offer legal administrative services,” she said. “It worked! I had a few attorneys contract with me the same day.”
She added, “Within six months I was in contracting where I was sent to the diversity meetings. It was at those meetings that I formed relationships that I still have 20 years later.”
Donaldson is committed to being inclusive and working with other small, certified, diverse business owners for ancillary services such as graphic art, marketing and website maintenance. She also employs part-time support when needed.
She said she appreciates the mentoring that goes along with her DEI consulting work, and the chance to learn from clients who help her grow her skill sets and capacity by mentoring her and providing opportunities to expand her project management services on large projects.
“I also enjoy qualitative research throughout the country as it gives me a chance to communicate with other business owners, specifically, about how they became successful and what challenges they face through my work as a subconsultant on disparity studies,” Donaldson said.
Among the lessons she has learned as a small business owner is that it is best to communicate with clients and team members throughout projects, and especially during the contracting phase. She said she also is excited about being a member of NAMC-OR during this time of growth and inclusion.
“I particularly enjoy the Friday Office Hours with Molly. I enjoy talking with other diverse-owned businesses and building new relationships while expanding others,” Donaldson said.