Oliver Shaw – My Working Day

By Anthony Wolny | 2nd February 2019 | 9 min read

Have you ever wondered exactly what components make up the average day of a business CEO? In such a senior role, the emphasis is usually on leadership, setting an example, and inspiring and managing teams and divisions.

Our CEO Oliver Shaw recently spoke to Business Leader about his typical working day…

What time do you usually wake up?
I’ve always been a morning person. The exact time depends what I’ve got on that day and where I need to be, but normally around 05:30.

What do you typically have for breakfast?
I’m not really a routine person as every day is so different, so it’s mostly simple toast or cereal, although I do have a soft spot for a bacon sandwich when I have time!

What is the rest of your morning routine before you start work?
Heading into the spring, I’ll be out on my horses, whereas during the colder months I’ll try and read. I like to do something before I get going with work. I’ll check my emails to see what’s come in overnight, and if I’m driving into the Manchester office I’ll plan my day so I can be making calls as soon as I’m in the car.

What is the first thing you do at the start of your working day?
I’m usually at my desk between 08:00-08:30 unless I’m heading to one of our other offices. Whereas many people like to get to the office early to clear things down, I’ll have already done that before I land. That way, when I’m in, I’m free to go straight into the business of the day.

How do you prioritise your day’s work?
I prepare first, before I’ve even travelled, so my time ‘at work’ is maximised. I haven’t always been like this, but the world – and my role – has changed. However, I think it’s crucial that we all remain clear on what our jobs are. In my role as CEO, I need to dedicate at least a third of my time to the company’s strategic priorities. If I was to allow myself to get constantly distracted with what’s simply happening on any given day, we’d lose all sense of direction. Agility is crucial, but so too is a sense of focus. Without that we’d all simply be firefighting.

Do you plan meetings or are they a waste of time?
The answer is in the question – meetings aren’t a waste of time, providing they have a plan (a purpose, agenda, structure and actions). The format of the meeting is important too – I encourage people to be disciplined in their use of tech. We still try to prioritise meeting face-to-face where possible, especially for more creative and/or strategic exercises. Then it’s a VC, followed by conference call. I’d suggest texts for things that require an urgent response with email as a communication method at the bottom of the list.

Do you have a working lunch or is it good to take a break?
A working lunch always. I rarely stop.

When does your working day finish?
My day is as long as it is depending on the demands on my time and what we have to deliver as a team. I also like to get home if I can, so it’s longer if I’m commuting from our London or Peterborough office for instance – but planning when it begins gets me off to the best possible start.

How do you prepare for the next day’s work?
Back to where we started – in the morning of the day itself. I also prioritise the deliverables and activities for the following week before I shut down on Friday and I regularly look at our commitments to customers and internal stakeholders to make sure we do what we said we would.

Favourite piece of technology?
My phone is never far from my hand – I couldn’t be without it! It’s not so much what it is as a piece of tech, but what it enables both in work and home life is extraordinary and expanding all the time.

How do you switch off?
I enjoy family time or the brief solitude that comes with riding my horses.

Best piece of advice you’ve received?
You can never do too much too early. I read this many years ago, in an article about BP’s scenario planning technique. It stood me in good stead when I worked in financial services, as a risk-based approach to management meant I was always prepared with a contingency. Some people would consider this a waste of time – developing strategies for things that might never happen. But in the event that they do, I always know what I’m going to do.