How To Boss It Like… Caroline Norbury, CEO Creative England

By Oliver Smith 12 November 2015
Caroline Norbury (left) with Nicola Horlick, CEO of Money+Co and Jenny Tooth, CEO of the UK Business Angels Association. Photo by UK Business Angels Association.

Britain’s tech leaders are changing the world. In our weekly series we find out how they get the job done.

There are a handful of business leaders and industry figures in Britain who are changing the world. Eileen BurbidgeDaniel Waterhouse and Martha Lane-Fox seem to get an incredible amount done, in an impossibly short space of time.

This morning we’re talking to our third industry leader who is undoubtedly a productivity guru.

Caroline Norbury MBE leads the not-for-profit Creative England organisation, which she set up in 2012, a group that invests in and supports creative ideas, talent and businesses in digital media, games, film and TV.

The businesses Norbury has helped support through Creative England include Pixel Toys, a British video games studio that was featured during Apple’s latest iPhone event.

She is also a board member of the largest UK rewards-based crowdfunding platform Crowdfunder as well as sitting on the Creative Industries Council.

So how does Caroline Norbury get so much done? The Memo decided to find out.

What time do you get up, and what part of your morning routine sets you up for the day?

Typically I’ll get up at 6am, however this can often depend on where I’m travelling to. This week I’m in Bristol, London, Leeds, York and Manchester, and next week I’ll be in Helsinki and Brussels.

Unfortunately I do check my emails and Twitter as soon as I wake up. I don’t think this is healthy, but it’s a routine I am unable to break, and I always listen to a good slug of the Today programme on Radio 4.

I use the Financial Times app religiously, and Hannah at Creative England produces a brilliant news digest of any stories related to the creative industries, tech and the arts every day by 9.30am. It’s a great way to skim through all the papers and online digital publications.

I try to go to the gym and swim two or three times a week. I’d like to say I really enjoy it, but that would be lying.

What apps or methods do you use to be more productive?

I’m a very straightforward list sort of girl! My husband was into recycling before the world even knew it was a ‘thing’, so we have piles of recycled Christmas cards, old paperback covers and envelopes everywhere in our house. I find scribbling on these and then ‘refreshing’ my list every couple of days is actually the most efficient.

I have used lots of apps and reminders, but none of them work as well as a physical bit of tatty paper with ‘THIS IS VERY URGENT’ highlighted on it.

The other, rather old-fashioned analogue approach I have is my amazing assistant Tara, who manages my diary to within a nanosecond.

With teams all over the country we’ve started using Slack at Creative England to keep communication open and stay up to date with different teams and projects.

It’s essential that I can quickly get up to speed on everything and the messaging function of Slack creates a different internal vibe than emails, and enables us to get through a lot of stuff quickly.

I am a bit of a gamer and I always have a game on the go on my smartphone. I particularly like RushHour at the moment.

What smartphone do you use?

I have a very old and battered iPhone 5 in a rather fetching red Knomo leather case.

How many people, outside of family, do you meet in a day? And who are they?

Creative England has grown hugely as an organisation in the last couple of years, so my diary is busier than ever.

I probably have about six meetings a day, often this is 50% people we’re already working with (including fantastic organisations like the BFI and big commercial partners such as eOne) and 50% potential new partners.

These might be people who are interested in what we’re doing, businesses looking for our support in some way or another, from film producers and scriptwriters to digital and games developers.


I am invited to a lot of events and frankly could fill my week going to all of them, especially as they are usually very interesting. I think it’s really important to keep in touch with the many networks I’m a part of and ensure we are doing all we can to harness and support creative talent across every region and connect small and big businesses with each other.

I have been very fortunate to have some excellent people mentoring me during my career and it has made a huge difference to me – so I try to pay back that good karma by mentoring a couple of businesses and individuals.

When do you work until? Are you still sending emails in the night?

If I have an office day then I try to be home for 7pm-ish – apart from Fridays when I have always promised my kids that I will be there when they get in from school.


I am an early to bed person – my mum always said an hour before midnight was worth two after.

I will check my emails before bed but I try not to send anything out. I don’t think it’s a good quality as a CEO because your team then feel pressured to be responding the same way, and you end up with a bizarre macho culture.

Because I do so much travelling the only thing that keeps me awake is what I am going to be wearing the next day, whether it will crease in my case – and if I can get away with another week without going to the hairdresser!

Come back next Thursday for our next #BossItLike interview, and get in touch if you know a tech leader who’s also a productivity guru for us to talk to.