Lockdown Stories: Jane Rutter, Zeal Media

As the CEO of a full service digital and creative agency, Zeal Media, Jane Rutter not only manages a team of highly skilled professionals, but she has also established trusting relationships with a diverse client base across multiple sectors.

This has given Jane a unique insight into the full impact this global pandemic has had on the regional marketplace.

Although Zeal Media was unable to escape many of the challenges imposed by the nationwide lockdown, Jane has navigated through this unchartered territory by “remaining positive, energetic” and acting fast, whilst also executing a transformational deal within the business.

As organisations across the country begin to return to the workplace and the economy starts recovering, the responsibility sat on the shoulders of business leaders has never felt so heavy. But under Jane’s leadership, Zeal Media is emerging out of lockdown with a strong aspiration for future growth.

In the latest instalment of our lockdown stories, we hear how Jane’s vast experience and expertise has supported her and her team throughout this unprecedented time.

Adapt and evolve

As Zeal specialises in all aspects of an organisations’ digital footprint, Jane and her team have access to a wide range of markets and saw first-hand how certain sectors were severely impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.

“One of the sectors hardest hit by Covid has been travel, this is one of the reasons why lockdown has been difficult for us. We have a lot of clients within this industry, so we lost a significant amount of revenue overnight, and we still don’t know when this will be recovered.”

Despite the rapid loss of business, which resulted in furloughing several employees, Jane realised that Zeal had an agile model and could proactively respond to the crisis.

“Because we are a digital agency, we were presented with some opportunities. For instance, working from home was relatively easy and the entire team was up and running within a 12 hour period. This transition was also helped by our incredibly strong team, everybody pulled together and showed a great team spirit to get through this challenging period.”

Capitalising on opportunities

As well as minimising the impact of this widespread disruption, Jane and her team also identified new opportunities and began to “put a lot of work in” to help support their clients throughout this difficult period.

“During this time, e-commerce really came into its own. We had a lot of clients that did incredibly well when people began to move away from retail and buy online. So, we had certain clients that saw their revenue triple or increase by even more.

“So, we worked hard to support this growth and made sure that we actually made the most of these opportunities. As a result, there was a lot of positive outcomes for our clients and Zeal to.”

Building the business

As Zeal continued to deliver strong results for clients throughout lockdown, Jane refused to let the notion of a global pandemic delay her business growth strategy any further. With bold aspirations in mind, and as lockdown restrictions began to ease, Jane orchestrated and completed an acquisition of a software and app development company.

“This was something I wanted to do to expand Zeal’s development capabilities and give us the ability to grow our senior management team with a new board member. Although this may be unusual as we are in a recession, this acquisition has been really good for Zeal. In fact, we have never been busier!

“If the acquisition happened normally, we would have already taken on the developer’s staff and brought them into the Zeal office, but with everyone still working from home we are currently managing that integration remotely.

“But this move gives us more resource, wider development capability and the new senior member of staff will also help us grow all areas of the business too.”

Lockdown trends

As a senior leader within the region’s digital space, Jane’s analysis of what’s to come certainly brings some much-needed optimism into the marketplace, especially for those who are looking to tap into their entrepreneurial spirit.

“What I think is really interesting is that we are seeing the emergence of a lot of start-ups. As people are forced out of jobs through redundancy or just re-evaluating what they want to do, people are starting to think more creatively about how they can go on their own.

“This basically falls into Zeal’s specialism as we work with high growth companies and start-ups. So, we help these types of enterprises grow in various ways, whether we build platforms for them, take on marketing briefs or complete product development. These are exactly the sort of clients we work well with and want to attract.”

No wasted moment

In Jane’s case, the lockdown period didn’t just mean an adjustment to daily life, she also wanted to take this opportunity to learn new skills, look after her well-being and most importantly get “everything she possibly could out of it.”

This started by approaching this period with the same “positivity and good energy” that she does with everything else in her life.

“I didn’t want to look back at lockdown and think I wasted that time. So, I learned how to play the piano! I also focused a lot on working out and I obviously spent a lot of time planning Zeal’s future. This is what led to the acquisition. So, I definitely feel like I can look back at this time and know I got everything I possibly could out of it.”

With that said, as a CEO of a business with 30 employees, Jane was acutely aware that not everyone would experience lockdown the same way.

“I think that it is important to remember that we don’t realise the full effect the lockdown period has had on our psychological state just yet. I think we have and continue to be on our own journey with this situation. There is no right or wrong answer. But for me, it was to keep busy, be productive and remain positive.”

We can certainly resonate with Jane’s sentiment here at Yorkshire Mafia. As an organisation that has dealt with our own lockdown trials and tribulations, seeing companies such as Zeal Media not only adapt but also grow under this new climate, certainly boosts our morale and that of the region’s wider business community.

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