Health and safety are “top of mind” issues for most Americans these days, and there’s a new consulting firm that has been launched by family friends and former colleagues to help enterprises of all types address those important topics.
Surfsong Consulting was founded by Jeff Ferguson and Erin Lombardo to work with businesses, schools, athletic teams, and communities to build healthier, safer and more productive teams. The firm’s name comes from the street on Kiawah Island, SC where they conceived the idea, and the emphasis on teams comes from their previous work together in professional athletics.
Ferguson’s experience transcends the sports sector, starting as an Assistant Athletic Trainer at Kansas State University and later Assistant Athletic Director of Sports Medicine for the Wildcats. He worked for 13 years with the San Francisco 49ers, initially as Head Trainer and then Vice President of Medical Services, and later served for a year as Vice President of Player Health and Safety with the XFL Football League. Ferguson earned his B.S. at Clemson University and M.S. at the University of Texas at Arlington.
In Lombardo’s case, she worked for 12 years with the National Football League as a Program Director for Performance-Enhancing Substances Policy. She’s also a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who earned her Master’s in Public Health in Epidemiology and a PhD in Interdisciplinary Nutrition at The Ohio State University.
“Erin and I met as colleagues in the NFL,” Ferguson told us recently, noting that her father was a former team physician for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Today, Lombardo’s parents live on Kiawah Island, and Ferguson also owns a house there.
“We started having conversations about what’s going on with COVID as we both quarantined there in May,” Lombardo explained. “There’s a lot more talk today in the workplace about health and safety versus items like 401Ks.”
The idea for Surfsong Consulting was hatched one evening on the back porch of Ferguson’s house, and they decided to include the name of the street in the title. That said, they did not jump right in and launch. Instead, they took their time to build the foundation and tools. The website went live in mid-July, and they are now ready to engage with clients.
While COVID-19 was a driver or catalyst, the Co-Founders see their firm as living beyond the pandemic and focusing on these key areas: (1) compliance with regulations and evaluation of a client’s emergency action plan; (2) comprehensive risk assessment and identification of risk mitigation solutions; (3) development of operational and communication strategies; (4) implementation of health and safety policies and practices to keep the client’s team at the top of its game; and (5) ongoing optimization of health, safety and wellness building a more productive lower cost workforce.
“You need to keep your team in top condition . . . mentally, physically and emotionally,” Ferguson says, with Lombardo adding, “You don’t have to be perfect. Rather, it’s the small things you do.”
They emphasize the importance of organizations keeping their eye on health and safety with the outcome being the opportunity to maximize performance in all aspects of life.
“Health is simply achieving and maintaining optimal health,” Ferguson says. “We perceive everyone as an athlete and on a team.” The goal is the highest performance possible.
In the case of safety, he uses the metaphor of a safe playing field to underscore the importance of this pillar. The final one – wellness – is built on the foundation of health and safety. Wellness is re-imagining the state of physical, mental and social well-being while striving to achieve balance in all aspects of life.
“We strategically assess health and safety, laying the foundation to unite people where you work, learn, live and play,” the firm declares on its webpage.
Helping businesses, many of them having closed for weeks or months, prepare to reopen and welcome employees back is an obvious area where Surfsong Consulting will focus, but there are other key sectors.
With K-12 schools and colleges developing plans now to reopen as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates across the country, Lombardo notes the concern from teachers about returning to classrooms and parents about their children. That’s one area where Surfsong Consulting believes it can help.
Another obviously is athletics. “It’s about prioritizing health and safety both on and off the field,” Ferguson says, adding that the firm “brings a humanistic approach” to the solution. And, as communities struggle with responding to the coronavirus, Lombardo cites a real irony: “For centuries, public health has tried to bring walls down,” she says. “Now, they’ve gone back up. How do we recreate communities?”