24 Hours With… Carl Ratcliff, CEO, One Green Bean

24 Hours With… spotlights the working day of some of the most interesting people in Mumbrella’s world. Today we speak with Carl Ratcliff, CEO, One Green Bean.



Mumbrella has asked me to write a piece about a day in the working life of me. And, whilst happy to participate, I now see how hard these pieces are to do. Should I tell the truth? Or spin a yarn? Maybe sprinkle some self-deprecating comedy on top, to demonstrate what a good guy I am. And, who’s my target audience? Clients or staff?  CEOs in waiting perhaps?

So like any good (ex) planner I’ve procrastinated. To the point that it’s getting embarrassing. I keep thinking, ‘It shouldn’t be this hard!’. To ease into it, a couple of insights that explain the shape of what follows.

First, successful CEOs possess a psychopath’s profile. An allegation popularised by Jon Ronson in his book ‘The Psychopath Test’.  Whilst it’s tempting to wish murder, on the odd occasion, it’s the empathic CEO who truly succeeds in this day and age. Being an empath is hard work, however; because you have to resist assumption. And wear multiple hats, before reverting back to your (holistic) own when making a decision.

Second, luck is something dropped on you, fortuitously. A present from the heavens. In fact, I think luck is a derivative of an inspired team. CEOs need to inspire a ‘lucky’ environment, therefore. And make a business feel unique, notwithstanding the fact it probably isn’t.

There isn’t a typical day in my diary. No single day is ever the same as another. Sure, I have regular meetings with my wonderful team, with our brilliant range of clients and with our trusting owners. But typical is only ever atypical. So I’ll try and set out a standard rhythm by dwelling on a variety of day parts, rather than one day alone.

Monday morning – first meeting up is time spent with my CFO and MD to examine our numbers. And understand what and where we need to resource.

We are a business with a dozen priorities staring at us at the start of each week. And now is the time to prioritise. Do we need to pull back? Or invest ahead of income?

I remind myself that whilst the three of us are accountable, it’s me that’s culpable for our P&L. The thing about numbers? Don’t keep staring at them. Because they won’t do what you need. (And if you have to stare, make sure you have – and we have – the very best CFO your numbers can buy.)

Tuesday lunchtime – time spent with my broader Exec. We use this to track what we call the short wave. We uncover and reflect on the short wave’s demands. We talk new business. And existing. We try to stay focused, which is made tricky when we crack on through lunch.

The key is for us to think through the implications of any decisions – like hiring new people (we always reference the Apple-ism: ‘Better a hole than an asshole’) or committing to a large pitch (fame, fit or fortune?) – so that we align. And commit to the decision.

It’s this commitment at the start of any process that’s critical. And key to draw in the luck I referenced earlier.

The post-carb lull of Wednesday lunch – I’m with one of our esteemed associate business directors, with a new client. Sharing our earliest thinking. And recommending a direction that I can see they are uncertain of.

And as I’m speaking I realise what we need to do. We can’t assume we know his business. We need to listen harder. Reframe our assessment. Many of my meetings are spent listening. Listening is hard work, though. Just like empathy. You have to practice. And keep practicing.

Thursday mid-afternoon – we’re discussing a new retainer for 2017. And as we speak and roll with the meeting, my CSD says, ‘The other option is ad hoc, of course…’ And the client says, ‘No way. We’re not going backwards.’ And I experience one of those delicious lucky moments. A great team. And enlightened client. Converging around an excellent brief.

When the time’s right for everyone, there’s no need to persuade or sell. Robert Solomon was right, the consummate suit who wrote ‘The Art Of Client Service’. Next up, and immediately after a good meeting, I enjoy a buoyant call with our owners. I describe our progress this past month.

Now is the time I take to loop them in, or out, of the agency rhythm. It’s time that’s invaluable. Time to report, of course. But time to ask, too. And be the mentee. A friendly boss or a bossy friend – either style from an agency owner is useful to help navigate the medium wave ahead.

At the end of the call, post chatting Cannes, I think to share REI’s Anti Black Friday video case study on Slack, with the rest of the agency. (Note to self, use Slack more. That’s where everyone’s chatting and sharing their inspiration.)

It’s Friday, end of play and our all staff meeting. A time for everyone to thank everyone. For us all to share. And see the bright side of what we do. I scoff cheese – the stinkier the better, please  – and toast a glass of wine or two, to the week that was. A toast in which I’m reminded of the depth and breadth of the One Green Bean team. I am a lucky man.

And now we’re back where I started. Sunday afternoon. An atypical, weekend afternoon. I need to prepare for a meeting I’m heading in to tomorrow. I want to read through the narrative for a stealth pitch project. The idea’s a peach, from our awesome CD and her team. But strategy and idea aren’t quite clunk-clicking. And they’ll need to if we’re to shine. Rehearsal will help. But won’t quite resolve the problem….

Meanwhile, Mrs R., has promised fish pie. And that, dear readers, is one of my favourite Sunday suppers. So this is where I’ll wrap up. I hope I’ve offered a practicable sense of working time in my – in a CEO’s – life.

A life in which every day is cooked with equal parts culpability, empathy and the quest for inspiration. As I see it, my every working day is dedicated to building a business, for and with my team. Not just for love though.

For the good of the work we do. Because inspired and happy Beans will treat their colleagues, clients and customers better. To paraphrase Simon Sinek, a fulfilled team is fulfilling for business. And fulfilment? The lucky thread for any CEO’s success.


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