A Week in My Life: Charlie Nettle, Commercial & Marketing Director, AV Dawson
Charlie Nettle leads the commercial and marketing division at Middlesbrough-based logistics specialist, AV Dawson - and is North East Chair at the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM).
Nettle was appointed to the board in February from his role as Head of Commercial and Marketing, and was tasked with driving the growth strategy of AV Dawson, which specialises in port and logistics operations.
Since joining AV Dawson five years ago, Charlie has succeeded in refining, communicating and integrating its cores values all across the business. With a deep understanding of commercial and marketing matters, he previously worked for more than a decade at the North East Chamber of Commerce and before that as Marketing Manager at Tektra.
We heard from Charlie about what a standard week in his working life looks like.
As much as I’ve fought to adjust my circadian rhythms and adapt my body clock I’m not an early riser so the day starts with an alarm at 6:45am to get me out of bed. I’ll always have a quick check on my phone for urgent emails and messages first thing to ensure there are no pressing issues or problems before I do anything else.
Since lockdown started, I’ve taken the opportunity to do some exercise first thing in the morning. This is usually a 30-minute run or cycle ride, alternated with quieter days when I’ll just do a few press-ups and sit-ups. Whichever I do, I find it really sets me up for the day and saves me worrying about fitting it in at the end of the day when I’ve usually made the excuse that I’m far too tired.
I’m currently working about 50% in the office and 50% from home, but I’m still managing to keep up the habit and fit the exercise routine in.
It’s a relatively easy 20-minute drive to work, so I usually get in by about 8:15am. Most of our operational teams do an earlier day and are in by 6am, so there are often a few emails and messages to catch up on straight away. I’ve not mastered inbox zero yet but I’m on a constant quest to improve my efficiency with email management and to do lists.
I apply the POW (plan of the week) and POD (plan of the day) principles to help with this, and will usually have planned this out first thing at home while I’m eating breakfast.
My first meeting on Monday is a quick half-hour with my team to run through what we’ve all got on in the week ahead, and also to each share a big win from the previous week. Part of my role is leading the commercial and marketing functions which are delivered by two separate teams who report into me.
While this is unusual, it does mean that we can avoid the usual scraps that happen between sales and marketing teams. It also keeps me on my toes as I’m overseeing the entire customer journey from brand awareness through to sales and retention. Having not come from the logistics and shipping industry there is a lot to learn and if I’m honest, I’d totally underestimated the complexity of logistics as a sector.
Saying that, I do love to learn and identify new more efficient ways of doing things so I can’t see myself getting bored anytime soon. The government also has a real focus on logistics and shipping at the minute so its really interesting times.
Mondays always seem to be a quieter day for meetings in general so I try to schedule in my strategic thinking and planning time on these days. We’re in the process of transitioning to become a group company to mitigate risk and plan for future growth and succession. This is a company-wide project that I’m leading and so I’ve set aside a couple of hours to get on top of this project and make sure all the tasks that I’ve set people away on are making good progress. I’m running this project using Microsoft Teams as a pilot to see if we can find new more efficient ways of working.
While I’m having a bite to eat for lunch, I try and catch up on social media and the billion newsletters that we all seem to be subscribed to so I can keep up to speed on what’s happening in our local area and our wider industry.
In the afternoon I’ll set some time aside to review recent papers. Typically this will be department performance reports or minutes and actions from recent meetings (to make sure I’ve not forgotten to do something, I’ve been actioned to progress). Our shipping reports show we’ve had a strong quarter for our port operations despite the challenges of the pandemic. Part of this involves some analysis of the market sectors of our customers, which is really important for me to keep a close eye on as part of our strategy to diversify into new markets such as renewables and recyclables.
I tend to get back on the email towards the end of the day again to try and clear things - always with my ambition to reach inbox zero! I tend to try and leave the office between 6pm and 7pm but today it's slightly earlier as I’m attending the monthly board meeting in my role as a trustee for Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind.
Tuesday kicks off with a meeting that our procurement team has organised as part of a tender for some interior design support on a new office we’re building. It's really important that whoever wins the contract understands our company values and builds them into the design, so I join the briefing meeting to discuss this.
On Tuesday lunchtime I have a quick telephone meeting with my vice-chairs for the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s North East regional board, for which I am currently the chair. We catch up on how activities are progressing and how we can better support members through the pandemic.
Later, I have a review meeting with one of our key customers. Usually this would take most of the day by the time we’ve travelled to their offices, but it's much quicker now that most things are happening via Teams and Zoom.
When I get home from work, I usually catch up with my two children to hear how their day has been before sitting down for some dinner with my wife. I then tend to spend half an hour or so playing the piano, which is both my passion and relaxation. I typically go to bed around 10:15pm and, depending on how much my mind is whirring, I’ll sometimes put on a Headspace meditation to get me off to sleep quickly.
I'm working from home today which saves time on a commute, and enables me to get started a bit earlier. The day begins with a telephone catch-up with our Head of HR on various ongoing projects. Our marketing and HR teams work very closely on internal communications, so it’s a good opportunity to review how our strategy and plans are progressing.
My marketing and comms manager has been developing a campaign to help us better promote staff benefits, so it was good to get an update on how the HR team felt this was going.
The rest of the day is pretty full-on with meetings every hour or so. These are a mix of internal and external meetings; the first is a monthly meeting with all of the river users as part of my role as an officer of the Tees & Hartlepool Port Users Association, then an internal meeting to review health and safety, followed by a catch-up Microsoft Teams meeting to reconnect with a former colleague and explore opportunities to work together, and then finally a call with a prospective customer that I’ve been building a relationship with for some time to see if we can support their shipping requirements.
I try to do something with my wife mid-week - we don’t usually get out of the house but even if it's just chilling out together on the sofa for the evening and chatting or listening to music on Spotify then at least it breaks up the mad rush of the week and feels like we’ve seen each other for a bit.
I’m meeting ITV Tyne Tees on site today as they’re keen to do an interview on a new waste processing plant that's being constructed on our port facility. I wouldn’t say I enjoy the pressure of interviews, but it all helps us raise the profile of the business so needs must.
Next job is to join our health and safety manager for the audit in our plant and trailer workshops department. We usually have at least one director attending these, so that we can ensure safety is given due focus, and also the directors get time on the ‘shop floor’ speaking with colleagues and hearing about health and safety concerns first-hand. I’m pleased to say that our health and safety manager is now starting to get picky - his words not mine - to be able to identify any areas for improvement, so colleagues are clearly doing a great job.
I had a separate informal chat with our head of engineering after the audit to see how he felt it went and to check how he felt things were going more widely. I try and touch base with our operational teams as often as I can to get a sense of how they feel, team morale, what challenges they might be having, and whether there’s anything I can help with.
Off home promptly at 5:30pm to catch the evening news and hope that I didn’t make too much of a fool of myself on the telly!
Working from home again today and fully motivated to have a good productive day, and get lots of things wrapped up before the weekend. This will involve a quick review of how the week’s gone and broadly what’s coming up in the week ahead. I’ll tend to touch base with each of my team individually and also the other directors, depending on how much I’ve spoken with each of them in the week.
Mid-morning includes a meeting to review progress on a new CRM system we're in the process of implementing. In the afternoon, I have a couple of hours brainstorming with my marketing and comms manager to develop the plans around the launch of our new Port of Middlesbrough brand. I really enjoy this part of the job and it's great to work together and thrash out some creative ideas.
I don’t usually get home much earlier on a Friday but then I do try and keep the weekends for family time, which often involves popping out for a meal somewhere and getting out on the beach with the dog for a walk.