Every month, we highlight a member of the Ironclad Community and this November, we’re excited to introduce you to Deanna Sheridan, General Counsel, Vice President and Corporate Secretary at Spartan Race, a global leader in obstacle course races, with the right challenge for anyone — from first-time racers to elite athletes.
How did you find yourself in your role today? You first started your career in legal in construction litigation. What interested you about corporate and transactional law?
Darren Braham, our former GC, hired me as Assistant General Counsel of Spartan in the summer of 2016. We had worked together previously many years ago at Ropes & Gray. We knew we worked well together, and the role was a great fit for me — I was looking for an opportunity to be a part of a start-up and learn from and advise the senior business team. And as an endurance runner and someone who was fascinated by the brand, I saw Spartan as a dream role for me. In early 2017 when Darren left, I stepped into managing the legal team, and the role has expanded and changed ever since. Besides me, we have three attorneys and a law clerk who support every aspect of the business.
How have you partnered with the business side in evolving Spartan Race into a lifestyle brand?
Legal supports all business initiatives across the company, including working with Marketing on branding and trademark strategies, advising our Partnerships team on the expansion of sponsorship categories and products, providing IP and customs guidance to our Merchandise and Procurement teams, and assisting all our business teams with the negotiation and management of contracts.
As a global brand doing business in 43+ countries, and one evolving from a race events business into a lifestyle brand with offerings in nutrition, fitness equipment and apparel products, corporate training and an online education platforms (to name just a few), Spartan and its legal team has to come up to speed quickly to add value to each enterprise and advise each business unit on risk management and compliance practices.
Each lawyer on the team has a unique mix of expertise, but we’re all true generalists who have become nimble at pivoting on a daily basis to address business needs — it’s what makes supporting Spartan initiatives so fun and challenging.
What brings you the most satisfaction in your role? What makes you say, “Nailed it!”
Problem-solving is my favorite part of the job, and I love figuring out a solution that not only fixes the problem at hand, but that also addresses an underlying issue or that could be a revenue-generator for the business. Spartan is coming up on 10 years in business, and as a lot of the “bubble gum and duct tape” fixes in certain parts of the business come to light, it’s satisfying to implement efficiency-building processes that make things easier for business teams and Legal.
What are some of the problems you’re trying to solve in your legal department or business process?
Like many in-house legal departments, we’re constantly challenged to do more with less. For a company that is constantly adding new products and initiatives, the pressure to avoid outside legal spend and stay under budget can sometimes be at odds with keeping the work in-house but still achieve efficient turnaround times. I’m revisiting all aspects of the contracts intake process to implement a full spectrum of initiatives.
Besides implementing Ironclad, I have plans in place to introduce standard T&Cs for certain contracts that won’t require legal review, update signature authorities for certain officers to alleviate signing bottlenecks, and create a contracts playbook for Legal. In addition, Legal will focus on employee training and guidelines on contracts management best practices and claims escalation.
The more we can empower and educate our employees to identify and address contract issues within their authority, the less Legal has to help troubleshoot, and we can focus on negotiating and finalizing more contracts for the business.
Who, or what, inspires you?
I’m constantly inspired by our customers. At its core, Spartan is in the business of transformation. Our goal is to rip 100 million people off the couch and help them realize they’re capable of what they put their mind to. It’s hard sometimes in the midst of a busy workday to remember that mission. When I’m feeling overwhelmed or exhausted, watching a video of a little girl on crutches navigate a Special Spartans race and looking triumphant as she crosses the finish line, or reading a social media story about a man who lost 100 pounds to do his first race and then got hooked, those are the stories that inspire me personally and professionally. They remind me that as long as I’m overcoming the obstacles in my path that day, and I keep putting one foot in front of the other, I’m succeeding.
What would you tell your 25-year-old self?
In a nutshell: “Relax, you’re doing fine!” I’m a recovering perfectionist, and I would definitely tell her to focus on her incremental progress, stick to her intuition, and try not to care too much about making things perfect!
What are two things people don’t know about you? Fun facts or secret talents?
- My favorite holiday is Halloween, and my husband and I go all-out with the decorations earlier and earlier every year.
- I’m fanatical about music, and live shows in particular, and have probably been to 200+ concerts. My favorite show of all time was seeing Rage Against the Machine on Halloween back in 1993!
What’s the last book you read?
I have a huge stack of books on my nightstand, and love to rotate between 4-5 books at a time. I just finished “Educated” by Tara Westover. She and her six siblings grew up in a fundamentalist household in Idaho, raised by a father who didn’t believe in public education and midwife mother, and she escaped an abusive home life and went on to graduate magna cum laude from Brigham Young University and earn an Master’s of Philosophy and Ph.D. from Cambridge University. I was blown away by her thirst for knowledge, grit and the compassion and grace she showed her family in navigating the path to her future out of Idaho.
What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?
I’m so thankful for my family. My husband and I have huge families, and visiting and seeing both sides of the family each holiday season becomes more important every year.
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Ironclad is not a law firm, and this post does not constitute or contain legal advice. To evaluate the accuracy, sufficiency, or reliability of the ideas and guidance reflected here, or the applicability of these materials to your business, you should consult with a licensed attorney. Use of and access to any of the resources contained within Ironclad’s site do not create an attorney-client relationship between the user and Ironclad.
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