#MarTechFest Global 2021: Grace Beverley's 'Working Hard, Hardly Working'

digital transformation course with tom goodwin

Now, when your very annoying Colin-Robinson workmate comes up to you at the coffee machine and says "Working hard, or hardly working", you'll actually be able to give him an answer.

Or you could do that awkward laugh that's sufficed in the past. Either or.

CMO Book Club - Grace Beverley

We were lucky enough to have a chat with Grace Beverley herself at this year's #MarTechFest Global. Covering topics like time blocking, productivity, and mental health, our audience got an insight into what a day-in-the-life of a CEO looks like. 

Sustainability - both environmental, mental, and personal - is a priority for Grace Beverley. Revoking the idea that the "entrepreneur never sleeps", Grace wants us to rethink the way we work, encouraging the value of realism, self-care, and achievable productivity.

So, our CEO Carlos Doughty had a few questions for her on her brand new book "Working Hard, Hardly Working".

Let's jump in...

What does an ordinary day look like for you as you run both Tala and Shreddy?

Everyday is different. Every single day.

I know that's such a cop out answer, but I have consistent things every day based on the way I work. And everything else fits around that. So for example, every single day I try as best as possible to have extensive time blocks, and that's how I keep control of my time, no matter what meetings, events or disasters come in.

That's usually what I try and do and to be able to police and keep that in check. When I start working, I like to have an uninterrupted block of work first thing in the morning. Following that it will be whatever is in the day, but honestly I might as well be sponsored by time blocking. I absolutely love it and I think that it is the only way that you can properly get locked down.

Especially with everything that's so distracting nowadays and running a business. You have about 50 problems coming at you every day. And so for me, it's always about how much of my time i can be free of distractions. For the rest of it you can't control the uncontrollable so you have to work around that.

What is your superpower for doing this?

God, I definitely don't think I have a superpower - that's very kind!

For me. It's all been about defining exactly what success looks like for me at different points. So that doesn't just mean what accolades I want in five years time. It actually means by the end of today, what  a successful day would look like for me.

I usually define that by looking at three things. So every day I usually try and put down three things that absolutely need to be done. And then I try to link them into the bigger picture.

So if I've looked at the quarter and I said, "these are the goals, I need to have this quarter", then one of those three goals need to be inextricably linked to those bigger goals. 

I think it's really easy with the amount of things that come at you every day to constantly change what you need to do, to see something fly in and instantly need to deal with it.

So every day I usually try and put down about three things that absolutely need to be done. And then I try and link them into the bigger picture.

And actually, for me, if those three things are defined at the beginning of the day, every single day, then as long as I get those done, I'm closer to my goals and I'm able to get back to the team on the things I need to.

Of course there'll be days where a crisis comes in and I have to deal with that but ultimately, for me, it's about being able to break it down. If you look at the year and you think "I want to get this done in the year", but you're not able to break that down to what every day looks like in order to make that happen, then it's just terrifying.

I know we're always encouraged to look at the big picture and dream big and everything and of course that's part of it. But actually for me it's about what does that look like today? Because that's the only thing I can really deal with at the moment.

I can plan for the future, I can look at the future, I can worry about the future. But actually, what does that mean for today? If I can tackle that, then I can tackle the rest of it.

How do you maintain your mental wellbeing while doing everything you do?

In the book the reason why I really wanted to kind of explore that was because I've always been a big believer in productivity and working hard and working smart.

At the same time you want to be seen to balance self care and to be able to look after yourself. I think the reason we kind of yo-yo between one and the other is because we don't see productivity and self care as one and the same. We don't see them as two sides of the same coin, we see them as competing camps.

So for me, it was realising that every time I read a book on productivity and think, "Oh, I'm going to implement all of these things", it's  like a diet, it will last for two weeks and then you'll suddenly be like, "Oh, I can't I can't keep this up. Or if I keep this up, I can't see my friends or I can't go to the gym or I can't do the other things that I want to have in my life to make it sustainable". And so you're kind of constantly yo yo-ing between one and the other.

And I think for productivity to actually work as a concept in itself is inextricable from self care. You have to have that element of rest and you have to have that element of stepping back, otherwise it's just completely unrealistic.

It is negating the fact that we need rest as humans so this whole idea that the entrepreneur never sleeps and they're always working is completely untrue, and it's also completely unproductive.

And I think for productivity to actually work with the concept in itself is inextricable from self care."

And for me the reason I really wanted to explore that is that working 14 hour days and never stopping, and compromising my whole social life can't be a realistic view of productivity.

That will be the case sometimes, but it'll be for a 'needs must' amount of time. It can't be any further than that. Otherwise, it's just not realistic and it will rebound as it is completely unsustainable.

You’ve built not one but two powerful brands. Can you talk a little about the secret sauce of your direct-to-consumer strategy?

I started Shreddy four and a half years ago now and started Tala two and a half years ago.

I'd actually say that whether you have one business, two businesses, five businesses or six businesses, it doesn't really matter as your time is going to be divided anyway. 

There are certain challenges that come with having two businesses and there are ways you need to build up teams in order to make that happen. It's not that suddenly, there's like a superhuman amount of time that's involved in it.

So I'd say that a lot of the time I'm given a great amount of credit for having two businesses ,which is amazing, but actually, for me, it's been more about understanding how to make that work.

For me, both of the businesses were started as solutions to problems I thought were quite clear in the industry.

I started Shreddy because I saw the fitness industry just constantly telling women that they need to, like oh, you need to run to lose weight, or you need to do this and that and completely, misunderstanding the fact that if you don't actually enjoy what you do, you're not going to be able to stick to it.

For me, both of the businesses were started as solutions to problems I thought were quite clear in the industry.

So the whole concept behind it is that we don't believe you should have to hate workouts to get results you love. And it essentially algorithmically works out your perfect workout plan based on; what you enjoy, how long you want to work out, where you want to work out, what type of workout you want to do, to make it into a plan that works to your goals.

And so that was based on being in the fitness industry and kind of seeing that people could fall off the whole time. 

Fitness doesn't need to be for everyone but presenting fitness in a way that only ever works if it's something you hate is not only not going to be enjoyable but it's also not sustainable. So the idea behind it was actually making a one stop shop for everything you need to reach your fitness goal. So that's grown out into supplements, equipment, and the app.  

I'd been working within the fitness industry for two years at the time when I started conceptualising it and I was going through my own personal move away from fast fashion and understanding that I probably didn't want to support the fast fashion industry for a large number of reasons.

I've moved away from that pretty successfully in the rest of my life when it came to fashion and realised, as a member of the fitness industry, that actually the one huge element that I completely missed off was activewear.

I tried to do the same thing that I've done for the fashion industry in going to pre worn stuff or pre owned rental, but don't those don't exist as much within activewear - you don't really want to wear someone's sweaty clothes.

So I started looking at the sustainable activewear industry. It was insane to me that it either existed at 2.5 times the price point of your Gymsharks and your Nikes, or it wasn't sustainable at all. It was kind of glorified, stretchy, fast fashion.

And so for me at that point, it seemed a complete no brainer to start Tala based on the fact that actually we believe that you should be able to buy sustainable activewear at an accessible price point and we believe that the only way you can encourage people to be sustainable is if they don't need to compromise their wallet, the quality or the look in order to be able to get that.

So for me, at the time when I started Tala, it wasn't that I was looking for a new business to start. It just became so obvious that you had this sweet spot between people who want to be value aligned, and people who are wearing activewear. 

Both of those are very much that kind of Gen Z / Millennial crossover audience so the idea was to put that online in a space where those people really are, and create something amazing. 

The content creator economy is booming, but very few creators really seem to translate access and influence to a scalable business model. What’s your advice to those who have built an audience looking to monetise it?

I'd say that the first point that I should put across is that there's not just one type of influencer.

It's this buzzword and everyone wants to look at it and talk about it  but if you actually look at two influencers with the exact same following, they'll have completely different ways of talking to their audience, completely different conversion power, completely different everything.

I think that that's really important when you're looking at something like the Creator economy because as you say, it can't be a blanket application of "I'm an influencer therefore I can do this, therefore I can do this".

I had quite a unique journey where the businesses grew with me. So I started trading, as I said, nearly five years ago now. So that's been a huge part of the journey and people have been invested in the  growth of the businesses themselves but also in the growth of my career. 

I'd say that one thing I almost obsessed over probably about two years ago was this whole idea of the influencer. I was just out of university and I was still very young.

I think for me, I had quite a unique journey where the businesses grew with me.

And for me it this was the beginning of my career. Yes, I started this a few years ago, but this is what I want to do. This has always been part of what I've wanted to do. I'm very proud to say what my career has kind of consisted of but also that that doesn't need to move away from being an influencer.

We see it all the time now - people buy into storytelling, they buy into journeys, they buy into authenticity.

So any brand that's doing well, and that people love and love their authenticity, they'll have an insight into the CEO, they'll have an insight into the founder, and it doesn't need to be this CEO versus influencer thing. 

We've seen it all the time now people buy in storytelling they buy into journeys, they buy into authenticity.

Those things that can be very effective are one and the same and people are either starting businesses at that point or they're becoming influences when they're such successful CEOs or founders.

One thing I would say is it's not necessarily about the the kind of stamp of "I am this or I am this" . There is a huge amount of power, excitement and potential that comes from both the influencer world and the founder side of the world and I don't think it needs to be separated.

For me, it's just been about understanding what I do, what I enjoy doing,  the facets of my career and my work that I really enjoy doing. How can I ensure that I can do more of those?

And at the same time, how can I make sure that I'm also doing my day job at the businesses. I'd say 99.9% of my time is in an office at a desk, and the rest of it is what everyone sees online.

And so for me, it's just been about actually removing it from what people see as my job and my label and actually bringing it back and putting it as a "how do I want to build my career?"

What are those different points that I want to make up my every day, and taking it away from the external towards the internal for myself.

Can you talk us through a little of the journey you’ve been through around how you use social media today vs two or three years ago? 

I talk about it very candidly at the end of the book in terms of my experience with social media -  where it's gone wrong, where it's gone right and I think all it comes down to is the fact that we are not programmed to be able to take in that many people's opinions at once.

If you asked anyone what their superpower would be, I really think if you thought about the fact that like "oh I would like to hear what everyone's thinking" you'd probably actually be like, "Oh, no, I really don't."

I think all it comes down to is the fact that we are not programmed to be able to take in that many people's opinions at once.

Social media kind of encourages that type of discourse and constantly giving and receiving opinions and I think actually at the end of the day, that's not something that we can really fight.

It's the way people use social media. We see teenagers growing up now giving their opinions constantly online, and it's just going to be that way.

You need to be able to set up your own boundaries. And actually the attraction on social media comes from engagement but you can't expect other people to put those boundaries in place for you on social media,

if you're going to use it for all the power it gives, and all the opportunity it gives, you also need to be able to take the bad side. And that's why I think there's a lot that can be done in terms of policy and in terms of actually making that better, given that it's going to be something that we're going to live with, and our children are going to live with.

You also need to be able to set up your own boundaries

I think that ultimately at the moment, it has to come down to the individual. You can say every single day that this is toxic, that is toxic, but it's also about your boundaries and your approach to something.

And for me, it's been about actually understanding okay, what are the boundaries that mean that I can do my job, love my job, build my businesses, and also operate within the environment that just exists. That's really been my solution.