Jo Whitfield’s CEO event facilitated by The Marketing Society was a uniquely candid and relaxed setup. Never before have I had access to a CEO in an environment that was so honest and approachable. It was therefore really effortless to gain a lot of real, out-of-the-board-room advice, tips and insight from a hugely inspirational woman at the top of her game. Jo was hugely aspirational and her style of leadership makes a refreshing break from the cookie cutter mould of what is typically held up as a stereotypical CEO.
Jo’s career path strikes a relatable balance between strategic and calculated steps and decisions, networked opportunities, family considerations and impacts of choices as well as knowing when to specialise and when to generalise. Jo gave an incredibly open and holistic account of her own career progression and path that you rarely hear from such high-profile leaders. She was very honest about the more unseen and political nature of senior leadership roles and board dynamics.
Jo went on to tackle how she approaches the challenges many UK consumer brands are facing right now with growing commercial pressures, consumer reduction in trust for brands and their increased demands and expectations that transcend sectors. She also detailed the unique challenges that come with managing a cooperative and how that impacts and influences the decisions and trade-offs she has to make. Jo’s clearly constantly making sure she’s connected to both her customers and members and always makes time to get back to what matters to them. As ever, it’s always refuelling to hear how similar business challenges are being addressed within different sectors and this session did not fail to deliver (responsibly sourced, obviously) food for thought.
By Clare Coughlan, O2 Brand Lead.