Tag Archive: Donna Cheney

2017: A Landmark Year for George F. White

2017 was a landmark year for George F. White. Richard Garland, Head of Tyne and Wear region for the Group, explains why this last year has been one of the best, and most progressive, years yet.

Richard Garland 2017

“When George White established the business nearly 40 years ago, the consultancy’s services were very much focused on the rural and agricultural sector. By 2017, the Group became a multi-disciplined and diverse consultancy that employs more than 120 people in eight locations from the Scottish Borders down to North Lincolnshire. Our focus is much more commercial these days, which is reflected in the rapid growth of our professional services in the last 12 months, especially in the North East.

Back in April 2017, we opened a Tyne and Wear base at Hoults Yard but just six months later we found ourselves closing that office, and moving to bigger premises, with a much more central presence, that is not only home to the professional services teams but also our letting arm, GFW Letting. We’ve done this to facilitate the growth of the lettings business in the last year, and to integrate the George F. White and GFW Letting brands more closely together. This provides opportunities for all sides of the business at the Newcastle office, by being able to offer a broad spectrum of services to our clients, within teams who can offer specialist advice.

2017… A Change of Focus

Due to the rapid growth of the Group across key service areas in the region, the office, which is based in Newcastle City Centre on Westgate Road, will be focused on our planning and development, commercial property and energy consultancy services. In particular, the office is a hub for the North East planning and development team, meaning it can draw on one of the largest specialist teams in the region and a new offering for development clients in the North East.

The planning and development team has experienced consistent growth in recent years, with 2017 being stronger than ever. While George F. White has grown, the rate of growth of the planning and development team has been even more striking and now constitutes 25% of the business’ turnover.

Because of a growing reputation, the team are flat out on many projects of up to 250 houses and several larger sites of 1,400 to 6,000 houses as well as commercial projects. They act both on behalf of land and business owners as well as in partnership with some of the UK’s biggest house builders.

Team Expansion

Such strong growth has been powered by adding more specialists to the team, we appointed a new operations director, Sally Hart, and also a new regional operations manager for GFW Letting, Donna Cheney earlier in the year. When we first expanded into Newcastle, the company took five staff. Since the second move, the team’s workforce in the city has expanded to 11.

We’re continually growing and currently have several available vacancies in the North East. Indeed, we are looking to expand our team by over 10% in the next year. 2018 and beyond is shaping up to be a busy but exciting year as we look to really establish our presence in Tyne and Wear, like we have elsewhere across the North East region and nationally.

For more information about the Group’s professional services, please contact Richard Garland on richardgarland@georgefwhite.co.uk or 01665 511994.

The key to success? Belief in doing what you love

The George F. White Group is a fully serviced property, land and business consultancy that advises and informs clients on issues ranging from agricultural, residential and architectural matters to planning, commercial, and energy development.

The Group provides residential services in the buying, selling and letting of property across the North East via its residential team that sits within the Group and also its letting agency, GFW Letting, which operates as a separate entity.

Here, we sit down with Sheryl Sowden, Head of Residential at George F. White, and Donna Cheney, GFW Letting’s Regional Operations Manager, to discuss their thoughts on the role of women in business, reflecting on their own career paths and success.

Donna and Sheryl



You both hold senior positions in the business which is a fantastic achievement. Can you tell us how you got to this stage in your career?

Donna: To be honest, establishing a career in the lettings industry was accidental. When I graduated, I joined a recruitment firm and was actually offered the job I was recruiting for (!) which was a lettings negotiator for a national lettings firm. Within two and a half years, I was promoted to branch manager and, after running that successfully, I was given a further two branches to manage that were under performing. In total, I spent 13 years at the company, before joining GFW Letting as Regional Operations Manager.

Sheryl: My experience is quite similar actually, I never thought I would end up in the role I am in today! I came into the industry a decade ago, as a sales negotiator for George F. White, and was starting from scratch as I had no previous experience in the sector. Five years later, I was running my own branch, partly down to my tenacious attitude, but also down to the people I work with and the training opportunities I’ve been given.


As women in business, do you feel you’ve been given an equal opportunity to succeed and progress your career?

Sheryl: I have never felt like my gender has affected my career development and our industry is pretty female dominated, so I think that speaks volumes. Not once have I thought I would have progressed quicker, or succeeded, if I was male.  What has been key to my success is working in a business that provides genuine opportunity for development. George F. White has given me access to such opportunities because of the people focused ethos and nature of the business, where leaders want its people to grow and continue to evolve to reach their potential.

Donna: I totally agree, achievement throughout my career and getting to the position I hold today is completely down to me, and my work ethic and determination as an individual, not a woman. Gender doesn’t define your success, a strong skill set and ambition does.


What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career and what has this taught you?

Sheryl: For me, it’s been a lack of belief in myself. I have, at times, doubted my ability and the best medicine for this has been to overcome hurdles and prove my self-doubt wrong! You need to remember that you have to make choices and decisions, some good and some bad, and you learn from these. Self-belief is vital, you can do anything if you really want to. I have also learnt that everyone is different and has their own story. You need to get to know this story and build a relationship with individuals based on this.

Donna: Becoming a branch manager was a huge challenge. I went from being a colleague to managing colleagues overnight and my relationship with them had to change, which was tough. I had to believe in myself and believe that the people around me trusted that I was right for the job. It made me realise that a team is everything. Leading by example and treating everyone as equals, male or female, with mutual support and respect is so important. Without that, you simply can’t move forward and be effective.


What is the best advice you’ve been given and would like to pass on?

Donna: A manager once said something to me that has always stuck: “You have 24 hours in a day. For eight hours, you sleep (so have a good mattress), for another eight (balancing out weekends) you spend with your friends and family so love them unconditionally, and the rest, you work, so do something you love!”

Sheryl: I agree, doing something you love is vital. I often tell my daughter that you work for at least two thirds of your life, so you must do something you’re passionate about. Don’t be afraid to change career paths and start over if it’s something you genuinely would love to do!

For more information about George F. White’s residential services, please contact Sheryl Sowden at sherylsowden@georgefwhite.co.uk or 01833 690390. If you’d like to find out more about our letting service, get in touch with Donna Cheney at donnacheney@gfwletting.co.uk or 0191 284 7171.