Our Managing Director, Jack, shares with us his typical working day in his beautiful home office in Scotland. With the five-hour time difference between Scotland and Toronto, here’s a glimpse of how he manages his time working remotely but efficiently with his staff and (most) clients based in North America.
Q. What does a typical day look like?
My days vary quite wildly. Sometimes I’m on a plane, on another continent, speaking at an event or at my home office (in Scotland). I like to spend chunks of time each day speaking with my team, working on tasks, meeting clients, and working on content (books, webinars, keynotes, etc…). I find I really don’t feel satisfied with my day if I haven’t spent time on that last chunk – creating content. It’s my creative release and makes me feel like I am working on something more than what’s going on in the moment.
Some days are quite frankly easy and quiet – contrary to what you might imagine of an MD of a rapidly growing and always-busy marketing agency. Other days feel like the world is determined to rob me of any spare time, head-space or productivity – it’s just the way it goes.
Q. What’s your routine?
I get up at 7am every day. I see some entrepreneurs starting their days much earlier, but it’s just not for me! I’ll spend an hour or so ‘waking up’ – taking my medication, having a shower, playing with the dog, joking with my wife, etc… I then like to go for an early dog walk and get a coffee from the village cafe on the way home. If my old knees allow it I may go for an hour or so mountain bike ride instead of or in addition to my dog walk. Don’t worry – my wife will walk the dog if I don’t! I think spending an hour outdoors in the morning before starting ‘work’ is really important.
Having done all of that I typically get to my desk by 10am. Being in Scotland when I’m not travelling, I’m always 5 hours ahead of the team in Toronto so I consider 10am-2pm my quiet time. I use this time to respond to any fresh emails from overnight, clear any outstanding tasks and work on content. 2pm to 6pm is almost always full of 15-60 minute meetings. Between 6-7pm I like to wrap up and sign off for the day. It’s really important to me that I have a few hours in the evening to have dinner, watch a movie or play a game with my wife and unwind. Don’t get me wrong – sometimes I have to pull a late one or even choose to write my book(s) late at night, but it’s rare now. I remember in our first year I’d regularly work through the night, quite literally. One time I worked all day and all night, caught an 8am flight to Paris, presented all day at a workshop, flew home and kept working that night. I don’t miss those days!
I like to go to bed by 10pm and read for an hour or so before I fall asleep. I’ve often had issues getting to sleep with a racing mind, but I find reading is the best solution!
Q. What do you actually do?
It’s a running joke within the company that I don’t actually do any ‘work’, which is harsh but fair. I am involved in a very small handful of clients, and my involvement there is limited to account direction and attendance of monthly meetings. I really enjoy keeping this element of my job – it’s hugely satisfying to see clients overcome challenges and succeed, and it also keeps my skills sharp. A huge percentage of my ‘work’ is business growth related – performing consultations, audits and preparing proposals. Beyond that, I solve any problems that bubble up to me and my primary focus is keeping the company on-track to our vision, goals and objectives. I am the face of the company – so I’m often travelling and speaking at events, hosting company social events, etc…
Q. What’s your travel schedule, and what’s it like?
Pre-pandemic I’d find myself on a trans-Atlantic trip once in every six weeks or so. We do quarterly client-education events all around North America, so in one 4-5 day trip I might do events in New York, Texas and Michigan, and then fly back to Scotland. I also like to get to our head office in Toronto quarterly to meet my team, clients and board.
It’s probably not like most people imagine in terms of the ‘glamour’ or ‘demands’. I find it totally manageable and enjoyable. I’ve occasionally made the mistake of doing too much on a trip and have learned my capacity to avoid ‘breaking’ myself. For example, Trans-Atlantic flights from North America to Europe are always overnight – so I’ve learned to have my trip ‘end’ on a Friday and fly into Saturday so that I have the weekend to recover before ‘work’ starts again. Equally, going the other way I fly out on a Sunday so that I have the day to rest before commencing the business element of my trip.
I’m extremely lucky to visit all kinds of amazing locations in extreme comfort. But what people forget is that no matter the class of the flight or quality of the accommodations – I’m on a mission. I’m spending the vast majority of my time accomplishing that mission in meetings, on-stage and hosting social events with very long days while I’m away. So yes – it’s nice to have a morning run on Venice beach and to have cocktails on rooftop bars once the day is done, but for the most part, I’m working or sleeping. A lot of people ask me what class I fly in. I always fly business or first class, depending on the airline. When I say this people’s minds go straight to champagne and five-course meals, both of which I decline. The reality is I’m paying for one thing – a flatbed. When I’m coming home I ask the flight attendants to leave a few bottles of water by my bed and to otherwise not disturb my sleep until we’re landing. Without fail, I am so exhausted that I sleep the entire 7-14 hour flight. On a recent return trip from Toronto, I thanked the flight attendant on my way off the plane, to which she retorted: “We didn’t do anything for you – you slept the whole time!”. Another time on the way back from Las Vegas, the cabin and crew around me literally clapped with applause when I finally woke up and went to the bathroom just before landing, after sleeping for 12 hours! When I’m outbound on a day-flight, I’m using the additional comfort, space and WIFI to work.
I find that having 4-6 weeks at home between long-haul trips is perfect and allows me more time at home with my family than most.
Q. Do you have any secrets for productivity? How do you manage all of the demands on your time?
I use Calendly for all meeting bookings, and I have a 24-hour block on it so that I never get surprise last-minute meetings. I tell my team to respect my (and each other’s) inbox. In general, I understood a few years ago that if I didn’t respect my time, no-one else would. So I am just very clear with all parties (internal and external) about how I expect them to treat my time. This keeps my daily schedule manageable and interruptions minimal. I had a PA for a brief period but I really didn’t like it and think it’s a band-aid solution to bigger problems if you need one.
Q. What’s your favourite part of the day or week?
We have Friday roasts on our company messenger which I really enjoy – that’s probably my favourite part of the week! My favourite part of the working day is my quiet time before North America wakes up – I feel like I accomplish a lot in that space.
Q. What drives you now, seven years after founding the company?
I find that experience brings clarity of vision, and having clarity of vision is all you need to be driven. I am more excited about what we’re doing and going to do now than ever before. It’s very rewarding to recognize our accomplishments year over year and see that we’re making progress in achieving our ultimate purpose of helping people.
Q. What do you think the key to a successful agency is?
Being ready to sell, though I don’t want to sell the agency. My business partner, Dan Monaghan, taught me a while ago that a business that is ready to sell is good business. This means the business has to be growing, profitable, healthy and independent. This is something I always keep in my mind.