Unprecedented with Jo Ferreday

Published 5th March 2021

We got the opportunity to talk to the Managing Director of Sheer Edge Ltd, Jo Ferreday. She spoke to us about leadership and adapting Sheer Edge Ltd from events to virtual events during the pandemic.  

A background into you and your business?

Sheer Edge is a multi-service award-winning hospitality and events agency. Responsible for finding the perfect venue for our client’s events, sourcing the best corporate hospitality at sought after events and providing complete event solutions for virtual, hybrid or in-person events.

Define leadership and what being a leader means to you.

Leadership to me means being prepared to stand up for what you believe in, support those around you to achieve what they feel passionate about and be prepared to get stuck in and get the job done. It’s leading from the front, not asking others to do what you are not prepared to do but also knowing the areas you are weaker and where others would flourish.

Who are your Leadership role models/inspirations

Most definitely; Richard Branson, Barack and Michelle Obama, Baroness Brady, Sara Davies. 

What would you like your Leadership Legacy to be?

To ensure that whoever I've come into contact with has gained value and insight from my knowledge and experience. For people to understand that there are no limitations to achieve what you dream, you just need to make sure you have a great team around you on the journey with you to achieve that dream.

What impact has Covid-19 had on you?

The pandemic undoubtedly has had a profound effect on how we operate, think and feel. For me, it enabled me time to spend with my little family. The first lockdown was on the lead up to my son starting school for the first time, so whilst tricky times they were also cherished times. I found a new love for running and did so every other day over the past year, I also managed to raise awareness and much-needed funds for some fantastic charities.

Whist running I also managed to listen to some fantastic authors and focused on my wellness and what I can control. I’d say the pandemic has enabled me to grow as a person along with taking the time and being in the moment so much more than ever before.

What impact has covid had on your business?

Covid has had an immense impact on the business. Up until 8 months ago, everything our business offered was to do with live events or live event support. We were not prepared to just sit back and watch the situation decimate our business, we found a new way to trade. Our virtual/hybrid event support became a brand new revenue stream.

Are there any people within your support network who made a big positive impact on you as a Business Leader during those early weeks/months?

Yes, I can hand on heart say that some of my connections were a guiding light during this time, Dean Seddon, CEO of Maverrik was one of those people. We spoke about how we could transition, what that proposition looked like and the best way to move things forward.

What was your internal comms strategy at the start of lockdown? Has that changed?

It has and always will be open, honest, supportive. Focusing on what we can do to support our clients and each other. Ensuring we look out for each other and that we give each other time if needed.

What have been the Unprecedented decisions you have made? Those where there was no playbook.

Deciding to take on uncharted virtual event requests and running with them. Creating bespoke virtual entertainment with lockdown restrictions imposed.

Whatever decisions I make it will always be to ensure we can deliver an outstanding supportive service, that is never in question. But learning how to adapt to a new way of working was initially a tense time, like anything new we have to embrace and move forward and that is what we have done.

The word pivot was used unprecedently in May/June. What have you done to innovate or differentiate you or your business?

While our venue finding and corporate hospitality side of the business was ‘resting’, we launched #virtualchats with industry experts, giving others guidance on what they should be focusing on at that time.

We launched a podcast and vlog called Sheer Business Inspiration, speaking to some amazing business and leaders. Aiming to inspire others who may have their heads low, or considering starting up their own business.

Rather than pushing one particular platform or virtual/hybrid event style we take the time to consider our client’s requirements and needs and match that requirement for them. We will never push one option if we can offer a range of options for clients to consider.

What were the 3 biggest (or best) decisions you have made in 2020?

  1. To support our clients with their virtual events and virtual entertainment requests.

  2. To reach out for support and guidance when we needed it.

  3. To support our clients and connections with guidance from our virtual chats.

What remain your 3 biggest challenges? 

  1. Continuing to navigate through this period until live in-person events return.

  2. Directing the business in the right way.

  3. Educating and supporting our clients to transition from what would have been a live event to a virtual or hybrid solution for now.

How have you (your business) coped from a mental health/stress perspective?

I feel we have most definitely supported each other, given each other time where needed, kept the conversation going and made sure we check in with each other regularly. Encouraging going for that walk/run time outside away from screens and where possible time away from social media.

Looking ahead to 2021 what are your predictions for the economy? For your sector?

I personally feel that we won’t see a return for larger-scale in-door events until the end of 2021, Q1 of 2022. But there will be some great ways that smaller events can take place and the one thing about the hospitality and events sector we are a resilient and creative bunch. I truly hope that from June 2021 we will see a return of large scale outdoor hospitality/events.

We are putting together some options for our client’s calendar of events this year, a real mixture of options, small pods, taking over smaller intimate venues and creating their own events. There are still some great options, it’s about looking at what we can work with and making sure attendees are feeling comfortable.

At the beginning of 2020, we were in a talent short market. What is at the top of your "people strategy" agenda for 2021?

For me, it will always be about the right fit and culture for our business. We absolutely are embracing working with local universities and I'm mentoring one of the students right now and giving them as much exposure and experience in the virtual chats and events we hold.

Making sure we have a team that is passionate, hardworking and a can-do attitude will never change, it's the core of what we do.

What are you doing to retain your superstar / Leaders of the future?

Making sure I keep having those conversations, playing to people's strengths and passions, there is little point in having a team who are not fully on board with vision and goals. But equally, I've been in a job role in the past that I never really felt appreciated or that I was able to flourish, that’s so important to me. I want to see people growing in their skills, expertise and achieving their goals and aspirations.

What advice would you give to those entering the workforce today?

In joining Sheer Edge, we always encourage people to be open to working differently, being honest, giving their opinion and not being scared of doing that. We will always operate an open and honest dialogue regardless of service within the business. In entering any business, make sure you are prepared to absorb as much as possible, learn from your peers but don’t be scared to give your thoughts on things, we all learn at different levels, stay true to your own set of values and never compromise on those.

The Pandemic has caused many of us to reassess what is important in our lives. In what ways have you recalibrated your own priorities and goals.

For me, as much as I love what I do, family will always come first, that hasn’t ever changed. I would say, I have become less hard on myself and given myself more time, previously I’d be putting a whole heap of pressure on myself that wasn’t needed. By slowing things down and really assessing what is essential to be done now and what is ‘nice to have’ and adjusting my working pattern accordingly.

If you found Jo Ferreday’s story of the immense impact the pandemic had on Sheer Edge Ltd, head over to her Linkedin or like Sheer Edge Ltd on Facebook and follow on both Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date.

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