My Working Day – Jonathan Smith – CEO of The Alternative Parcels Company
As the leader of a company, you are there to set an example and 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? We spoke to Jonathan Smith, CEO of The Alternative Parcels Company, about his working day.
What time do you wake up?
It largely depends on the season, what time I went to bed and what’s on my mind. But usually around 6 am.
What do you typically have for breakfast?
Truthfully, I have four Weetabix and a cup of tea. I then have my first and only cup of coffee at 11 am.
What is the rest of your morning routine?
I always check the news, generally on my phone or iPad. I then enter the dilemma of what to wear for the day! Back when I started in business, I only ever had to pick out a suit. Today things have changed a lot, it’s a lot more fluid.
What is the first thing you do at the start of your working day?
Our leadership team starts every day with a meeting across all functions to review how we performed the previous day and look at the detail of what’s happening in the business. We look at how we served our customers, analyse what the numbers are showing, and discuss what needs to be done.
We’ve not missed these meetings once since I joined the business seven years ago, and culturally it’s such a key part of our business and how we operate. We’re a 24-hour business and having the ability to collaborate as a team and then make a decision straight away is critical to ensuring we can remain agile and responsive as a business.
How do you prioritise your day’s work?
I always talk to my wonderful and long-standing assistant Maxine and we chat through the day and the priorities. Outside of any fixed commitments, such as customer meetings, I try to give myself the ability to be as flexible as possible.
We are, by nature, a very dynamic business. There is a general view that if the economy changes, the logistics industry is the first indicator of this. So as a business, we get affected very quickly by the world and its constant changing. In response, we have to move quickly and that’s why I have to leave a degree of flexibility in my day.
This need for flexibility extends across our business. We’ve learned so much through the pandemic and the constant change we’ve all seen in recent years. In my view, in modern business, flexibility and resilience are more important than experience.
Do you plan meetings or are they a waste of time?
Yes, we do plan most meetings, but of course, some meetings are a waste of time. When they are not effective, it is because of how they were set up, what was on the agenda, and how they were conducted.
You have to be really careful with meetings. I think sometimes you see meetings that have been set up by people who just want to use it to politically harness support, or persuade you of something, and don’t have a proper agenda.
I find meetings that are thinly veiled lobbying sessions incredibly frustrating. They don’t meet the criteria of a good meeting for me – they should always be properly set up, have a structured agenda and be well conducted.
Do you have a working lunch or do you take a break?
I often take a break at lunch. Sometimes I’ll take a stroll somewhere, other days I read the news, some days I like to just sit and eat and think. I really understand the power of mindfulness. Having suffered a period of poor mental health a number of years ago (and witnessed it in family and friends), I know the importance of taking a break and taking time to just sit and have a think.
When does your working day finish?
As a 24-hour business, this is quite a tricky one to answer. Thankfully, I genuinely find my job so rewarding that clock-watching is alien to me.
How do you prepare for the next day’s work?
I never go to sleep without compiling a list of everything I need to do on a yellow pad. It’s the only way to put structure around the end of the day and help me switch off. I’ve been doing this for 35 years.
What’s your favourite piece of technology?
Any type of sat-nav – I have zero sense of direction. The more sophisticated they make them, the happier I’ll be. Hopefully, they’ll even design them to drive the car one day!
How do you switch off?
I have lots of interests and hobbies – often I’ll read or listen to music. I’m a season ticket holder at Crystal Palace (but this isn’t always relaxing!) and when I really want to wind down, I go on my drum kit for an hour – playing the drums really helps take my mind to a better place and allows me to switch off.
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
“When presenting business performance, never let the story get lost in the numbers.”
I’ve really learnt the importance of this through my career. So many people will go straight in and let the numbers do the talking. But not only is this a dry way of presenting, but it also doesn’t give people the important context around those numbers, what they’re telling you about how the business is performing and why it’s performing that way.
In my experience, numbers are just evidence to support the narrative you need to tell!