Former England Rugby Sevens Captain, business leader and motivational speaker

In the latest instalment of Business Leader Insight, we spoke to Ollie Phillips; former England Rugby Sevens Captain and World Player of the Year-turned world-record-holding adventurer, business leader and motivational speaker.

Across a distinguished 14-year professional career, Ollie reached a European Final, captained England at Twickenham and defeated the All Blacks in New Zealand, amongst many other honours. He has also worked as a pundit for Eurosport and Sky Sports, providing commentary and analysis of Rugby World Cups, European Cups and the HSBC World Sevens Series. He is now the Head Coach for the WRU Women’s Seven’s programme.

Not one to rest on his laurels, since retiring from professional rugby Ollie has made a name for himself as an intrepid adventurer. His most recent endeavours include world record-breaking feats that have raised money for rugby charity Wooden Spoon; playing in the most northern game of rugby (at the Magnetic North Pole) and the highest ever game of rugby (at Advanced Base Camp on Mount Everest). Ollie has raised over £2.5 million for numerous charities and remains a dedicated ambassador for Wooden Spoon and the Alzheimer’s Society as well as being a strong supporter of Cancer Research UK.

Ollie brings this same energy and work ethic to the business world. He completed an MBA at Cambridge University (where he won a Blue for playing in the Varsity Match) and is a Director at PwC. Here he leads part of the company’s real estate group across UK & EMEA and is the lead partner for PwC’s relationship with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Responsible for driving and facilitating change for his clients, he helps them take a fresh approach to any challenges they face.

Meanwhile, his own brand, Optimist Performance, has been set up to inspire world-class values in team-building, leadership skills and personal development. Working with SMEs and bigger corporations including Cisco, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyd’s, TfL and Williams F1, Optimist Performance helps these businesses build a culture of success. For more information, visit

Watch the interview with Ollie Phillips here

Here’s a breakdown of what we discussed in the interview:

  • Ollie Phillips background (1:22)
  • What have your difficult challenges, such as climbing Mt. Everest, teach you about yourself? (3:24)
  • What insight would you give for leaders who are managing diverse characters in their team? (5:34)
  • What is your advice for leading times in a period of crisis? (7:31)
  • Do you think leaders need to be more open about their mental health? (9:20)
  • What is your advice for dealing with negative team members? (11:07)
  • Who are the leaders that you’ve come across in life that you admire? (13:03)
  • What are the main challenges you are seeing at the moment in leadership? (15:22)
  • Do you still see a physical office space being a part of business in the future? (17:36)

Questions from the public

  • How do you keep yourself motivated in business? And did your experience in sport help with this today? (19:59)
  • Do you think there’s enough of a focus on getting young sports stars to think about their post-sport careers? (22:15)
  • How do you stay resilient and what advice would give to someone who is making the step into the business and entrepreneurial world? (23:47)
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received? (25:45)
  • What is one fact about you that people can’t find online? (27:33)

Be sure to follow Ollie on Twitter and Instagram.

Be sure to subscribe to the Business Leader YouTube channel for more interviews with some of the UK’s leading business figures.