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A Week in My Life: Stuart Mitchell, Chief Executive, Live & Breathe

Stuart Mitchell

Stuart Mitchell is Chief Executive at Live & Breathe, an independent agency.

Established in 1989, the agency has its headquarters in Leeds.

Here, Mitchell shares how a recent week in his life went.


The first day of the week is an office day for me, and I make it a rule that every Monday I meet individually with any new starters in the agency. At the moment, that’s pretty much every week. We’re not far off recruiting our 23rd person this year.

One of the biggest challenges for me as CEO has been moving away from the idea of working in the business, to instead work on the business. Ten years ago I was still interviewing everybody personally, but now that we’re scaling so rapidly, that’s just not feasible. But I do insist on meeting every new employee when they start. I’ve got four to meet today, and I’ll spend around an hour with each.

As recruitment is such a huge priority for our business at the moment, I also have a weekly two-hour meeting with our head of HR. We brought our HR department in-house about three years ago and the impact has been incredible. Not only are we saving on recruitment fees, but we have somebody who is genuinely interested in looking after our people on a daily basis. It was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.


Assuming I’ve not been pulled away for one reason or another, Tuesdays kick off with our senior leadership team meeting at 9.15am. There the 11 of us spend time checking in on any issues or problems across the business.

Given the fast-paced and ever-changing nature of agency life, the rest of my day tends to vary week by week. Last week my Tuesday was spent at a visual merchandising display show with a couple of clients. It’s good PR for us, so I always get involved in those sorts of things.

But today I’m jumping in on some pitch work. Even as CEO, I still like to roll up my sleeves and get involved in those pitches where I’ve got certain experience or expertise, so at 4.30pm I’ll join a kick-off meeting. Regular check-ins will fill my diary for the next couple of weeks in preparation for that big pitch day.


Usually Wednesday would be an office day – I’d have one-to-ones with my commercial director, finance director, studio manager and the rest of my senior team, catching up with everyone individually to see how they’re getting on and address any challenges they might be facing.

But today I’m down in London for a senior meeting with one of our clients in the food industry. They’ve got a new product launch coming, so they’re hosting an all-agency briefing. I’m joining my senior account manager to pick up the brief before I leave it with them to execute – though I’ll maybe get involved again at the glory end of it.

These one-off events with senior clients are a fairly typical occurrence. Next week I’ll spend the day at a photoshoot with our client Epson, which involves Usain Bolt. As excited as my team are to meet the world’s fastest man, in reality it’s all about building that strong and enduring relationship with our clients.


Back in the office today. I make sure to spend a minimum of three days in the office every single week. I think it’s important as the owner and leader of the agency to be visible, not invisible, and that can be hard to achieve over Teams. While I’m an advocate for flexible working and it’s a policy for us as a business, I do think that if you’re in the office, people are far more likely to talk to you and ask questions. And as the only person who has sight across the whole business, I’m often the best person to go to for a quick decision.

So I like to be available, and when I’m in the office I make a point of trying to talk to everybody who’s in, even if just for five minutes. Only by doing that can I get a holistic sense of the mood and what’s happening in the agency. I might end up spending two hours in the day speaking with 30 people, and that’s fine. That’s what my role is. Thankfully at the moment everything is going really well, we’re very busy and everybody is feeling very positive.

Today I also have my weekly two-hour meeting with our managing director Nick Gray, who has worked at Live & Breathe for 23 years and is the most senior person in the agency next to myself.

We’ll discuss our list of the five or six strategic priorities we want to progress, often with our non-executive chairman John Wringe as well. A year ago, one of our strategic priorities was opening a business in Amsterdam, for example, which we’ve now done. Now we’re thinking about whether we might want to expand further afield.


Today I’m spending half the day at a face-to-face pitch meeting in Leeds.

With the rest of my day, I need to take a look at some of the less exciting parts of running a business. We’re in the process of restructuring the ownership of the agency, and unfortunately that’s taking rather a lot of time. I just discovered from our lawyers that we’ve got 44 documents which need to be produced, drafted, checked and signed. It’s horrendous.

But at the same time, I quite like getting into the detail of the business to understand the bigger picture. I love numbers, which probably drives my commercial and finance directors mad.

Then it’s about winding down for the weekend, making sure everything is in place to get next week off to a strong start, and checking how many new starters I get to meet with on Monday.

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