As the leader of a company, you are there to set an example, to lead and inspire a team of individuals to achieve a series of business goals. But how do these business leaders go about their daily routine? Business Leader spoke to Chris Carter – CEO of SMP, about his working day.
What time do you usually wake up?
I set my alarm for 6:30am. But as any parent knows, that’s a lie-in. Sometimes, I hear the dulcet tones of my toddler asking if Peppa Pig’s awake as early as 5am… (in case you’re wondering, she’s not. Peppa gets up at 7:30am and not a minute earlier!)
What do you typically have for breakfast
I am a creature of habit and it may not be original, but I stick to fibre and caffeine: A bowl of Weetabix, a banana and a cup of coffee.
What’s the rest of your morning routine before you start work?
15 months ago, it was an hour-long commute to Holborn. Now it’s a 30 second walk from my kitchen to the study. And with the mad dash gone, I’ve been able to spend more time with my daughter in the morning.
But one challenge of the working from home model is less fresh air and exercise. We introduced a Walk & Talk initiative at SMP that encourages the team to join calls whilst taking exercise if they can. You’ll often find me in the park for our leadership team call at 8am.
First thing you do at the start of a workday?
SMP’s clients are based all around the world, so I check my emails first thing to see what’s come in overnight from the US. My inbox coupled with my two pre-9am calls help me set my priorities for the day. But of course, as a CEO you have to expect the unexpected, so the best laid plans…
How do you prioritise your work?
I’m a great believer in the eat the frog strategy, which means ticking off the task you want to do least first. However, I do also think there’s merit in aligning tasks to mood, time and environment. I’m at my most productive in the mornings and – much to the shock of my team – early afternoons. I try to use these times to get through the day’s biggest jobs.
Do you plan meetings or are they a waste of time?
Meetings without a clear agenda, objective and follow-up actions are a total timesink, and the only attendees dialling in should be those who contribute to a meeting’s (clearly defined) objective. That said, I do think there’s value in including junior members of the team in some meetings. Learning how to run a meeting effectively is a valuable skill in itself. It’s a tough time to be starting a career at the moment; while there are lots of benefits in working from home, it’s much harder for junior staff to learn from their colleagues when they aren’t physically in the office. Sometimes it’s the informal conversations that can be most valuable.
Do you have a working lunch or is it good to take a break?
It depends on the day. Lockdown has given me the opportunity to eat lunch with my family – and watch my daughter redecorate the kitchen with bolognese.
I will eat at my desk if I really need to, but I’m trying not to make a habit of it.
When does your working day finish?
I clock off around 6:15, which means I can do bathtime and read a bedtime story to my daughter. Before the pandemic, I was lucky if my commute allowed me through the front door before 7:30pm!
That being said, we do work with clients outside of Europe and you have to make it work for them. If someone is only available to catch-up in the evening, then I will make time for them. I’ve been able to spend more time with my family now so it’s no great sacrifice.
How do you prepare for your next day’s work?
I am a big fan of the to-do list (my Remarkable tablet always comes in handy here), there should always be chunks of time blocked out to focus on the biggest tasks and challenges for the day.
What’s your favourite piece of technology?
My Fitbit Sense and Fitbit Premium subscription. Like so many others, I became much more attuned with my health during the pandemic. I wanted a product that would encourage me to make the right health and fitness decisions daily. I love being able to track my personal progress and see how varying degrees of exercise impact my sleep and stress. I would never admit my daily steps targets had any influence on the Walk and Talk initiative though…
How do you switch off?
I spend time with my daughter. She’s at that most curious age, every exchange comes back to either ‘how’ or ‘why’. It gets me thinking about things I often take for granted. She’s yet to grasp the core concepts of digital commerce just yet, but I’m sure we’ll get there!
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received was “why build your own train set when you can take over someone else’s?” This was actually the impetus for me taking over SMP. I was confident in the direction of travel towards digital commerce and having a greater control over the business’ destiny allowed me to alter course. (Thankfully) this strategy has been entirely vindicated during the pandemic. A couple of years ago we launched our Amazon-focused sister agency melody, just in time to help those brands and businesses that now find themselves navigating a retail landscape that looks very different to the one at the start of 2020.