Firm goes for growth after lockdown
“The pandemic tested our resistance, with a tsunami of problems, but we have come through it stronger than when we started. I’m so very proud of our people.”
Those are the words of Jo Edwards, co-founder of JE Consulting, one of many businesses based in the thriving Sutton Coldfield area.
The firm, founded in 1998, is emerging from the pandemic with new clients and optimism for the future.
More than 99 per cent of businesses in the UK are small and medium-sized enterprises or SMEs and Sutton is a prime example of that.
Jo said: “Sutton businesses are not corporates, we do not have a Toyota, Nissan or Google on our doorstep, but strong SMEs are the backbone of a local economy and we are glad to be part of that.”
As they emerge from the pandemic and various lockdowns, the company is continuing to grow with new clients, with a diverse and professional team and confidence for the future.
The company provides marketing, PR and digital services to a range of professional clients, from accountants to solicitors and health care providers. They have around 140 clients, with some with them since the beginning.
Jo and business partner Paul Edwards are both Sutton born and bred and started their business on 1 April, 1998.
They have not looked back since as the company has gone from strength to strength.
Both are natives of Sutton and educated locally, Jo at John Wilmott and Paul at what was Riland Bedford, but is now Plantsbrook.
They initially started with a small office in Gate Lane, Boldmere, but soon outgrew the premises and moved to their current location at Mitre Court in Sutton, an office development nestling somewhere between Bishop Vesey school and the Birmingham Met College.
While initially a marketing consultancy, the firm has diversified and grown and now offers graphic design services, web design and SEO services and PR expertise. It employs people from very different walks of life and offers a relaxed but professional working environment.
It all started nearly 24 years ago. Jo had been a marketing director at another company but then moved to working as a consultant for one company supplying software to accountancy firms.
Word spread and other firms approached and that was when she and Paul decided it was time to go it alone as a separate company.
Working mainly with accountancy firms, they began to employ staff and soon solicitors came on board, followed by health care providers, usually referred by those accountancy firms.
The growth in clients in the south-east of the country led to a base being set up in London and Jo splits her time between there and Sutton, while also spending plenty of time on the road meeting clients. Paul, together with operations director Niki Dale, looks after the day-to-day operations of the firm.
Jo said that 70 per cent of clients are south of Watford and the referral base is much more vibrant, less price resistant and more open to bringing in experts and that’s why it was vital to have a presence in the south.
“You need to be within the bubble. And our new London presence opened doors for us,” said Jo.
Growing all the time but their commitment to Sutton Coldfield remains strong.
“We started our business in Sutton and we have no intention of leaving,” she said.
Marketing firms need to be agile and receptive to change and JE has had to keep pace with the growth in the internet and the huge changes triggered by digital technology.
Jo noted that over the last few years there has been a significant move from traditional marketing methods like direct mail to a more digitally focussed business, which has been embraced by professional clients.
She said: “Digital growth through the pandemic has shown marketing objectives can be achieved on digital platforms.
“Referrals are still important, but digital is key as the next younger generation of business owners have grown up with the internet. First resources used tend to be Google searches for finding suppliers or contacts.
The company takes an enlightened approach to recruitment, being colour blind to ethnicity, gender and age.
Jo explained: “We have always looked for quirkiness with individuals. We do not necessarily expect university degrees, previous experience, or knowledge of the accountancy market place.
“Personality is important to us, employing the right person with the right attitude. You can teach the right person to do a professional job and the best possible training in marketing is doing the job.”
While the pandemic is still with us, the firm has taken a flexible view on working arrangements.
During lockdown, nearly all worked from home, but since restrictions were lifted, there is a combination of home and office working.
While accepting the current arrangements, Jo says she cannot imagine working from home permanently. She believes staff miss out on mentoring and young people in particular have missed out on the social aspect of the workplace.
Looking to the future, she is happy to further expand but values quality over quantity.
She added: “We are seen by clients as part of their team and yes we can expand and provide off the shelf packages for social media websites etc, but every business is unique. In marketing one size doesn’t fit all and we provide excellent support for good quality clients that value us and stay with us.
“As to the future, we will stay in Sutton, but if the need arises we will expand and open offices in Manchester, Tyneside, Scotland or wherever necessary. But we are very much Midlanders and that is our business base.”
Fore more information on JE Consulting visit the website here