What do CEOs do all day?
The role of the CEO is to have an impact on company performance by setting vision, communicating that vision effectively, and co-ordinating key functions of the business to develop and refine strategic initiatives.
Because the Chief Executive’s focus and schedule changes daily, the answer to the question What do CEOs do all day, can often prove elusive!
Wherever I am, my day usually starts at 5.30am. Leading an international organisation means that there’s always a fresh supply of emails and social media to respond to first thing in the morning from our staff and customers who are located across four continents.
I make sure that I am always in the gym by 6.30am for a workout, which fires-up my energy levels for the day ahead.
Usually I’m at my desk or on a train with a piping hot coffee by 8.30am.
My day will mostly involve meetings which are planned in advance, but some are organised quickly to attack the operational challenges and opportunities of a rapidly unfolding global market. A business and a market consist of multiple moving parts, none of which stay constant for very long. Leading a business requires a constant recalibration of effort and resources, whilst keeping the main objective and vision intact. This means that my weekly agenda can change day to day.
Over a typical day, I’ll meet with colleagues in marketing, sales, compliance, product management, operations and finance. I’ll usually have talks with external stakeholders, and these talks will be focused on growth initiatives and strengthening our value proposition for students and centres, and I’ll typically spend 25% of my day on the phone or sending emails.
However, a typical day is a rare occurrence. To be effective in a CEO role, you must be able to easily switch from getting involved in the details of day-to-day management challenges to higher-level leadership tasks.
Leading a business with a global footprint also means that I spend much of my time visiting customers and stakeholders all over the world. I get to talk to ABE teachers and students across multiple countries and cultures, hearing first-hand their aspirations, their inspirations, what they like about ABE’s educational programmes, and what they think we could do better.
A week in the life of a CEO
This week I’m visiting Myanmar, one of ABE’s most important markets. We’ve been operating in Myanmar for 20 years. The country is on the brink of economic acceleration, and there’s a rapidly growing, progressive middle-class which values education and recognises the need for business and management skills as an enabler for social and economic reform.
There’s still lots to do before jumping on a night flight to Yangon via Dubai. I spend the morning calling my senior team, checking that they have everything they need from me. It’s a busy time at ABE with ambitious plans to deliver, but I have a brilliant and focused management team who are forging ahead. I then spend the morning making external calls and getting through my emails before packing!
A full day of travel, I leave London at 8pm on Monday night and arrive at my hotel in Yangon at 6pm on Tuesday, 6.5 hours ahead of GMT. The night flight allowed me to catch up on some reading and finally watch Darkest Hour – an inspirational movie about Winston Churchill’s first few months as Prime Minister. It’s interesting to see how one of the great leaders of our time wrestled with self-doubt and aggressive opposition to his plans.
I meet-up with our ABE Area Manager, Suren, to go through the week’s itinerary, followed by meetings with Yangon University to discuss an articulation agreement for ABE students and employability skills modules for university undergraduates.
Then a meeting with Myanmar Chamber of Commerce to talk about sustainable entrepreneurship and the pressures on Myanmar’s human capital as foreign investment escalates. As a new member of the Chamber, ABE qualifications can help Myanmar strengthen its local talent pool, providing an attractive, low-risk, cost-effective environment for inward investment.
Another flight, this time a hop up-country to NayPyiTaw, the new capital of Myanmar for a meeting with the Ministry of Education, and the Director General of the department responsible for technical and vocational education. We discuss how the Economic Skills Plan for Myanmar is seeking to create more synergy between the national curriculum and the technical skills priorities for the country and the role that ABE qualifications will play, with our expertise, brand strength and heritage in Myanmar. Like the UK, and many countries across the world, Myanmar’s labour market is a tale of two extremes; an over-supply of over-qualified graduates at one end and unskilled labour at the other. Focusing on technical and managerial skills at levels 3 to 5 will help to improve Myanmar’s productivity.
The main focus for Friday is a 30-minute interview on Myanmar’s only commercial television network, covering the rapid digitisation of learning, the importance of choosing accredited qualifications, and ABE’s exciting Business Stay-Up campaign (see page 12).
Later, a meeting with the Chairman of one of Myanmar’s leading group of companies in the energy industry about how to deliver much needed management skills and soft-skills into the sector.
A meeting with the dynamic CEO of the British Chamber of Commerce in Myanmar, Chloe Taylor, about finding job placements for ABE graduates, followed by a launch event for ABE Endorsed.
By endorsing high-quality, in-house training programmes, our internationally-recognised quality mark can help reduce staff attrition, increase motivation and improve customer and stakeholder confidence.
The main event: The ABE graduation ceremony. Over 400 young graduates from 10 colleges across Myanmar and 1,000 guests, some travelling 600km to support their loved ones on their special day. Emotional scenes of triumph and celebration, and I’m deeply honoured to address the audience and present certificates to graduates and Top Paper Award winners. The event is perfectly planned and executed by our team in Myanmar, and everything goes smoothly.
The evening follows with a drinks reception for ABE’s centres in Myanmar and some emotional farewells.
Back to the airport, but not homeward-bound just yet!
Next week I’ll spend a few days in Sri Lanka, a fast-growing market for education which will be an exciting new addition to the ABE world. A ‘typical day’ still looks a long way off!