28 Jun 2024

Ann Summerhayes of Inside Job Productions: Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO

As seen in Authority Magazine.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Iwent to Leeds University and studied broadcasting, before working in film and TV for ten years. Whilst travelling in India I realised I wanted to use my skills for good in some way, and took on various contracts over the few months I was away. On my return to the UK I left Cardiff for London, and saw that Inside Job Productions were looking for a production manager for their social enterprise. It seemed the perfect opportunity to work in film production and have a positive social impact on the world. Four years later I was running the company.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

We run so many social impact projects but I think the ones I’m super proud of are in the criminal justice system. It became clear to us that people in prisons had enormous potential but the training and education on offer wasn’t helping them maximise that. Through our production projects we worked with people in prison and those on release on temporary license and both provided training and jobs at Inside Job Productions. One particular success story is a woman who joined us on release on temporary license. We gave her a role at IJP and she went on to have a thriving career in the industry.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It didn’t seem funny at the time but I’m a big paper and pen person, and never realised quite how much paperwork was needed to track everything. We’re a much more slick operation now but I could have weeped when had to transfer everything to online systems. Keep up to date with your admin is my advice!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have a special fondness of Mr Frost my tutor at sixth form college in Wales. I really didn’t believe I could go to university, completely lacking in confidence, but he pushed and pushed me to go to Leeds Uni — and that’s really where my career started.

Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader?

When money is tight we often have a dilemma as to whether to focus on profits or people and our social impact. We were once offered an opportunity to apply for a lucrative tender, but the company’s morals didn’t align to our values. So we declined. I knew then and I know now it was the right thing. When you’re running a social enterprise it really is the social impact above everything.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?

Inside Job Productions is a very small operation, utilising freelancers to scale up or scale down as needed. That means I’m involved in everything, from managing our office space to strategic direction. CEOs of small enterprises don’t just sit in a fancy office and schmooze people, but are responsible at the end of the day for everything, so need to be across it.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?

Being a CEO isn’t easy. It doesn’t mean you’ve made it and can take a break. I’m clued in to what’s happening and aware of everything all of the time which can be exhausting in as much as it is exhilarating.

What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

It’s really not all glamorous wining and dining with clients. In fact I miss the shoots and interaction sometimes. In fact there’s a lot more planning and strategising, getting stuck into the detail and paperwork, at the same time as being a visible leader and guiding staff.

Before I joined IJP as a social enterprise I never realised how business can be done for good. I saw CEOs as leaders of big corporate businesses. But SMEs need direction and guidance too, and the CEO is central to making a difference in social enterprises.

Do you think everyone is cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive, and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?

You can’t just be in it for the glory. I mean, I’m sure there are those who love hearing their voices loudly and being known as the boss, but it really is about the team. If you’re CEO of a social enterprise, B-Corp or charity you need to be committed to values and outcomes and do everything you can to make a difference to people and planet.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?

Think outside the box when it comes to recruitment. One of the things I love about IJP is that we work with people from all walks of life — prison leavers to those with mental health struggles to top tier producers — and many people are a mix of them all. When we’re hiring we like to chat to people rather than rely on a CV, and really get to know their passions and potential. Diversity and inclusion shouldn’t be something that is just used as a policy, but is embedded into an organisation.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

As a social enterprise, our mission is to have a positive impact on the world around us. At Inside Job Productions our focus is on supporting people with lived experience of mental health, providing training and employment opportunities for those underrepresented in the film industry, supporting those in the criminal justice system, and engaging marginalised communities.

During 2023, we started a six-month pilot programme with the national mental health charity, Rethink Mental Illness. Inside Job Productions hired a Production Trainee at the London Living Wage, offering them comprehensive training and support in film production, editing and delivery. Their role was to produce content for the charity’s newly launched TikTok channel.

The social impact was twofold: provide training and employment for a young person with lived experience of mental illness; create high quality content for people experiencing difficulties with their mental health to view on social media

It was so successful we’re rolling out round two and have also started a similar scheme with ThriveLDN.

What are your “Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO” and why?

1 . Make time for yourself. Fridays for me are gardening day, as I’m studying horticulture. Spending time in nature and greenery is so powerful for my mental health and wellbeing. I love watching things grow, nurturing them from seed to bloom.

2 . Be authentic and honest. I have a Welsh accent and never thought I would have to put on a posh voice as CEO. I am who I am, I’m honest and open, and I think that helps us win commissions as I speak person to person.

3 . No matter how far you get you will have days of imposter syndrome. I just try to remind myself of what we’re doing and why, the impact we’re having — and if I’m having doubts give one of our team a call to have a natter.

4 . Not every call needs to be a sale. people get in touch about starting a social enterprise, or career advice, and I’m always happy to have a chat and see how I can help them. Spread the love.

5 . It’s ok to go to a meeting in a gym kit. I love to exercise for my mental and physical health, and think it’s so important for us as leaders to be on good form. It’s what you do and what you say, not what’s on your feet. And if someone judges you on that, you don’t want to work with them.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Get outside, get some soil and a seed, and plant something. Water it and watch it grow. I promise you the rewards you get from something so simple will be immense. Nowhere outside? A herb garden. Just grow something from start and enjoy a little greenery. I love green social prescribing and would like to see that more common in healthcare.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It’s a cliche but David Bowie — Heroes.

I, I will be king

And you, you will be queen

Though nothing will drive them away

We can be Heroes, just for one day

We can be us, just for one day

I love the idea that even if we’re just a hero for one day we’re making a difference and doing something great. On days when I’m focusing on admin or lost in paperwork, it reminds me of our purpose as a social enterprise.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them

Bill Drayton, founder and CEO of Ashoka, came up with the term “social entrepreneur” when he founded the nonprofit back in 1980 so I’d love to ask him if the movement is everything he expected. It seems to be having a resurgence — Social Enterprise UK found that those in the UK are re-investing £1 billion in profit into their vital missions, which is incredible.