boss it like

How To Boss It Like… Simon Belsham, CEO

By Kitty Knowles 3 December 2015

Britain’s business 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 Burbidge, Rytis Vitkauskas and Martha Lane-Fox seem to get an incredible amount done, in an impossibly short space of time.

This morning we’re talking to Simon Belsham, CEO of, who is undoubtedly a productivity guru.

In addition to juggling whole company meetings, discussions with sellers and investors, suppliers and other industry experts, Belsham is always looking to how new digital opportunities can expand the platform. recently launched the first retail App in Europe on Apple TV, for example.

This week, the busy boss has been on the road visiting Scotland and the North East to launch the upcoming Colour Saturday, a campaign to celebrate the vibrancy and value creative small businesses bring to the UK.

Many of the businesses that create gifts for are small teams based in remote locations, and Belsham hopes the campaign will shine a light on the impact digital has on people’s lives, enabling viable economics through creative entrepreneurship, and positively impacting the communities where people work and live.

A busy man, with big ideas, The Memo asked Belsham how he gets it all done.

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

I wake up most days about 5.45-6am – I do a quick email scan, look at trading performance, check-out Twitter.

I also try and go to the gym or run a couple of times a week, my ‘ambition’ was to cycle into work given our offices are in “Silicon-Upon-Thames” but admittedly it’s not happened as often as I’d like…

The days I make time for some kind of activity first thing, I’ve got a clearer mind and am more productive. It’s a quick ride on the tube and I get into the office about 7:30/8:00am, coffee and breakfast in hand.

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

Obviously our Gift Finder app… but for work:

  • Evernote‘s my go-to for all notes
  • Skitch for annotating docs
  • IFTTT definitely increases efficiencies across email and social
  • iPhone Reminders, for all my to-do lists
  • Fitstar, which is great for fitting in workouts on the road
  • Instagram – most of our partners are active here and it’s a great way to stay close to them and what’s going on in their worlds.
  • WhatsApp, because we don’t have desk lines in the office so we’re all on mobile
  • Podcast for listening to things like A16Z and This American Life for when I’m travelling as I’m always taking trains or the tube (I get pretty frustrated wasting time in traffic).

What smartphone do you use?

An iPhone 6, Space Grey, 128GB.

I’ve always used fitness trackers but am now using the slightly over-spec’d fitness tracker called the Apple Watch.

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

Most days I’ll have 7 or 8 meetings, including colleagues. I’ll have meetings with investors, our Partners (what we call our sellers), and suppliers, as well as whole company meetings every fortnight (we’re 200 at HQ).

I also try to meet other people in the industry like CEOs and other businesses working in tech or retail. That’s about 25-40 people most days.

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

I leave the office about 7pm. I try and make time to see friends or do stuff in town a couple of nights a week – catch a talk, maybe something at the Royal Geographical Society or the theatre. I also try and do yoga once a week.

At some point in the evening, I’ll spend time catching up on emails, reviewing our site and products, reading proper articles.

Before heading to bed, I’ve started using Calm – a mindfulness app which has become a bit of buzz thing – but I genuinely find it gives perspective at the end of the day.

And so it begins again. Like most people in growth businesses, there’s this state of being ‘always-on’ which has its downsides, but I’m 6 months into having the opportunity to lead a business I’m passionate about that genuinely changes people’s lives.

That’s pretty energising after a long day.

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