Boss It Like...

How To Boss It Like… Ollie Phillips, ex-England 7’s captain and PwC Director

By Alex Wood 18 August 2016

These leaders are changing our world for the better. 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. From Anil Stocker to Tracy De Groose and Jeff Lynn, these smart people seem to get an incredible amount done, in an impossibly short space of time.

This morning we’re talking to Ollie Phillips, the former captain of the England sevens rugby team and now PwC’s Innovation and Transformation Director, who is undoubtedly a productivity guru.

As a professional rugby player his career spanned 14 years during which time he led the England team through three Seven’s World Cup tournaments and was named Best Seven’s Player in the World.

Since stepping down in 2013 following an injury Phillips has continued pushing his limits. He’s sailed around the world in the Clipper Round the World Race, he’s been to the North Pole as part of the Arctic Rugby Challenge, and today he works for PwC and its clients, championing digital change in business.

A busy man, with big ideas, The Memo asked Phillips 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?

When I was playing rugby I’d have a fairly leisurely morning routine, usually rolling out of bed around 8am and heading to training. Now that I’ve joined the business world I have to fit time in to train before work, so I get up at 6am.

Training is a must for me. If I don’t go then the guilt eats me up for the rest of the day. It’s essential to getting my morning off to a good start. I usually spend an hour or so at a gym near the office, then grab breakfast on the fly from Eat and I’m raring to go for a busy day.

What apps do you use to be more productive?

Music is a big part of my working day.

My favourite app of all time has to be Shazam. I never cease to be amazed at how you can simply hold your phone to a speaker for a matter of seconds and instantly find the song you’re listening to.

Spotify is another favourite of mine and whenever I’m doing admin or writing then I’ll stick on some tunes; I just get more done by blocking out the many distractions all around, it’s good to have a method for getting away.

Other apps that are part of my staple diet every day include Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram to keep up with the latest, and BBC Sport is a must! Evernote is great, so I can keep track of work notes and to do lists on the go.

Admin can often be a big part of my day, so I’m always looking to streamline where I can.

At night, I have to confess I’m a big fan of Deliveroo, and Laundrapp is another good one for busy people.

For social gatherings, Clipcrowd is great and was set up by a friend of mine. It lets you aggregate all the content from an event in one place, like all the pictures from a friend’s wedding, or everyone who attended a gig. It means you can recap on all the fun – like WhatsApp on steroids!

What smartphone do you have?

I have a Silver iPhone 6S 128gb. There are so many memories on there, so the extra storage space is a must.

How many people, outside of family, do you meet in a day?

I’d say around 25 people, but it changes from day to day. My role is very varied as I’m involved in so many different projects across the firm.


Predominantly, it’s meetings with colleagues at PwC, but I’m often out meeting clients too, so CEOs, financial directors and CMOs, as well as entrepreneurs and our small business clients, helping them to keep innovation top of mind.

What book have you read, either recently or in the past, that has inspired you?

I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki a couple of years ago which was really interesting. It’s all about the idea of making money work for you and looks at the importance of investment and income-producing assets – who wouldn’t want to make money while they sleep?”

What advice would you give for people who are eager to get into sport or business?

Neither business nor professional sport are easy, both require a certain level of dedication and sacrifice.

I grew up surrounded by sport for so long so I guess I was more appreciative of the commitment that needs to be made there. When I joined the business world, I knew it would be hard work but I probably underestimated the time it takes to learn the ropes and get up to speed.


We always had a saying in the England squad: “Be comfortable at being uncomfortable.” When it gets to those big games or even moments in business life, if you’re able to put yourself at ease and not panic in a complicated, changing environment, then you’ll be much more likely to succeed.

When do you work until? Are you still sending emails in the night? Or do you have a wind down routine?

I’d love to say I’m great at switching off, but in reality people who’ve been involved in professional sports are usually quite obsessive.

To win the game, you obsess around doing that one extra kick, one more pass, and ten more minutes to cover all bases. I think I’ve brought this over to business life too. When playing rugby, I was confident in my abilities, but now I’m having to learn so much in my new role that I must admit I often work into the early hours.

I also run my own motivational speaking company as well, so once I’m done with my PwC work I’ll invariably sit down and look at my own business affairs too.

It is important to strive to strike that work/life balance though. I often played my best rugby when I actually trained the least. Having a rested body and focussed mind are both vital to being effective and keep from burning out.

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