Boss It Like

How To Boss It Like… Justine Roberts, CEO at Mumsnet

By Kitty Knowles 4 May 2017
Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts. Pic: Geoff Pugh

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 Sally Gunnell to Cindy Gallup, these smart people seem to get an incredible amount done in an impossibly short space of time.

Each week we get one great leader to share their secrets.

Today we’re talking to Justine Roberts CBE, CEO of Mumsnet, the number one destination for mums everywhere.

Founded after a disastrous holiday with her young twins, not even Justine Roberts could have imagined Mumsnet would grow to become an internet juggernaut in just 16 years.

With 10m users and an annual turnover of £7.2m, the site is more than just a place to share parenting advice. It’s become a formidable publishing platform and a key influencer of elections. 2010 was called the “Mumsnet election” when politicians awoke to the loud voice of its members.

Roberts founded the site after careers in the city and as a journalist, and now oversees a staff of nearly 100 people.

Alongside her husband, BBC Newsnight editor Ian Katz, she’s been described as part of “one of London’s leading power couples.”

A busy woman, with big ideas, The Memo asked Roberts how she 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 to the Today programme 7am news bulletin, then usually trawl round all the children to make sure they’re surfacing.

Then I head straight for the Nutribullet, which means I don’t have to worry too much about fruit and veg for the rest of the day.

What apps do you use to be more productive?

I use Trello for organisation and prioritisation purposes, both for work and home life.

My Fitbit encourages me to stay active and hearing the congratulatory buzz of 10,000 steps of a day is always a bonus.

And I’m in love with Audible and audio books – without which I’d struggle to get through reading material as I always fall asleep as soon as I start reading a book in bed. With Audible you can ‘read’ anytime, anyplace, anywhere so it’s incredibly productive.

Read more:Who’s winning the ‘Netflix for books’ race?

What smartphone do you have?

I have an iPhone 6 Plus in silver, although I fear it’s on its last legs. How much storage? Not enough (16GB).

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

I usually have around eight meetings a day with various people – politicians, campaigners, potential partners, press people and internal reports, although I do try to block a half day every week to actually get some stuff done and allow time for thinking.

So around 10 to 15 people daily in meetings, plus the Mumsnet staff (we’re up to around 100 now, although I can’t claim to talk to each of them every day).

If I’ve got an evening event too, you’re probably talking upwards of 40 or 50 face-to-face conversations in a day. How many of them are coherent is another question entirely.

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

Real Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek – it gives a real insight into why businesses and business leaders could benefit from thinking a little more about what makes their people tick.

Watch: Simon Sinek talks to The Memo’s Editor-in-chief about millennials, leadership and Trump.

What advice would you give for people who are eager to get into your industry?

Work hard, make sure you have a USP and believe in yourself and your vision.

When I was (unsuccessfully) looking for venture funding for Mumsnet many years ago, one investor told me that he’d give us plenty of funding so long as someone else (an experienced CEO) took charge. It took me about 30 seconds (if that) to decide against.

If it’s your idea and you know what your USP is, have the confidence to believe that you’re the best person to be in the driver’s seat.

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

I keep half an eye on emails until Newsnight starts, when I try to give the TV what’s left of my concentration – partly out of loyalty (my husband is the editor) and partly because it’s helpful to know what goes on in the world.

It’s also quite a useful sleep aid I find, if I’m really tired and need to catch up on sleep hours!

What was your favourite childhood toy?

I loved my 6 Million Dollar Man – Lee Majors with his bionic arm. Why did I like it? That’s probably one for the psychiatrist’s chair.

If you could ask your idol one question, who would it be, and what would you ask?

Bill Shankly – should Liverpool sign a new left-back?

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.