My Working Day – Graham Alderman – MD Ulterior Events
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 Graham Alderman – MD Ulterior Events, about his working day.
What time do you usually wake up?
Anytime from 7am.
What do you typically have for breakfast?
As MD of a travel company, breakfast, when I’m travelling, can be anything but if I get to choose its eggs, toast and a double espresso. At home, I tend to sit with my daughter and have what she has so that we eat together. It can vary from cereal, to avocado on toast, to dippy eggs and soldiers. It’s her call, so she orders for me basically.
What is the rest of your morning routine?
Shower, shave, empty the dishwasher, chores, battle with a five-year-old to get ready for school and then the school run. I always clear my emails on the day, so I never really look at my phone or do any work until 9am as I am generally up to date when I wake up. I quite like the morning chaos!
What is the first thing you do at the start of your working day?
I tend to set my “goal” list for the day. There’s always a range of items in the “things to do” list and I make a plan on what’s got to be done, or what I will get done. Personally, it is important for me to have a daily structure that is achievable. Once I have my plan, I check in with the team, make sure that they are okay and what they are up to, and then I get on with what needs doing.
How do you prioritise your day’s work?
For me, it is about making sure whatever I prioritise, I can actually achieve. If I am doing a pitch or a presentation on potential destinations and itineraries to a client, that may be three days work, then I split it up into three days. There is no point saying “I am going to do that tomorrow” – it just adds a layer of time pressure which always affects the quality. I tend to allocate around four to five hours a day to concentrate on something that needs doing and the rest of the time will be spent on an ad-hoc basis, dealing with other bits and pieces that need sorting. If I have a “free” day, so to speak, I have learnt over 30 years to use this time to get personal things sorted, do a bit of research and to relax!
Do you plan meetings or are they a waste of time?
If my team want to discuss anything with me, we diarise a meeting. For me and them, it means my whole attention is given to the matter in hand. Sometimes, I can be 100 miles an hour and jump from this to that, and “chats” get pushed back, but this isn’t fair on them so laptops get shut, phones on silent and we “meet” properly.
Do you have a working lunch or is it good to take a break?
I very rarely have a sandwich at the desk. Whether I am at home, off-site or travelling, I like to eat a proper meal at lunchtime and on many occasions will watch something on Netflix or the like for 45 minutes while I am doing it – my day is long so I think that it is important to stop for a moment. When I am working with colleagues, we generally have lunch out, whether it’s local or in London. We will still talk shop but without laptops and emails. Sometimes it’s fancy but sometimes it isn’t. We all get on very well so a nice “social” hour is always very productive in many ways.
When does your working day finish?
If I’m abroad with the team, hosting a trip, then we can be up until the early hours with an early start the next day, but that’s what we love doing and adrenalin replaces sleep! If I am in the UK, then it can be 6pm, it can be 11pm. I like to be clear at the end of the day, emails all answered and anything outstanding has an associated plan. I am a bit of a phone addict so 2022 is all about putting it away in the evening and zoning out for a few hours in the evening if possible.
How do you prepare for the next day’s work?
I don’t really. I know that I am up to date so unless I have meetings the next day, I tend to plan my day in the morning. I like to start the day by setting the goals, not waking up the next day with it all in place. My output really depends on my “mood” so I like to have the freedom to plan the day ahead and meet it head-on.
What’s your favourite piece of technology?
I love my laptop. I like photography and I am a frustrated designer so my laptop allows me to get lost in photo editing and PowerPoint presentations. I have just got a new one and it is so fabulous! I also have great affection for my iPhone but spend too much time on it so we are not going to be so pally moving forward.
How do you switch off?
At home, I enjoy cooking and it’s something that I get lost in – I do a mighty fine rib-eye and triple cooked chips! As a business owner, it is very difficult to switch off completely, so for me, it’s a balance. It’s finding things that relax me, things that have my attention. Photo editing is another thing. I take a lot of pictures on all of our events so editing them can be engrossing and rewarding. And golf – but this stresses me out more than work. And watching Spurs although this stresses me out more than golf!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I received my best piece of advice when I was in Dublin in 1978 when I was 10 years old. I read the “Prayer of Serenity” for the first time – “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference”. This has held me in good stead for 40+ years and I do my best to adhere to these wise words. I also received a great piece of advice from my father when I started work. He said, “you can take a tie off son, but you cannot put one on”. If I am never sure what to wear, I’ve always gone down the smart route and he’s right. I’d much rather walk into a business meeting overdressed rather than underdressed.