Pablo Ettinger is the co-founder of Caffè Nero, chairman of Streetlife.com and much more. He opens the diary of his portfolio life.
I plan weeks ahead because I travel a lot. I work two days a week for Caffè Nero, mainly on its international expansion. In 1997, I helped a friend acquire five coffee bars in London. Now Caffè Nero opens one new store a week and has over 600 stores globally. We just opened in the US. I aim to spend a couple of days in every country where we operate at least once every six months. I don’t like flying out for a four-hour meeting and then back again, because that’s a waste of time.
I’m a jazz musician and I spend a lot of time on our music programme, which is very active, sponsoring young musicians and festivals. In three weeks time we have a music festival, so for four days I’m full-time running it. We have 19 bands appearing on our own stage. Music happens at any time of the day or night, so I have to get out and find new talent, which we then bring into Caffè Nero and promote.
Before Caffè Nero I spent 13 years in the chemical industry with Courtaulds. Running any business has lots of similarities and in my final five years at Courtaulds I was in the head office on the M&As and business development side. It was very interesting, buying and selling businesses and setting up joint ventures around the world.
Then I spent two years helping to run a chemical business in Germany. This was highly detailed. Some of the skills are transferable to what I now do, but not all. I do quite a lot of angel investing now and work with a number of smaller businesses and that is a different set of skills.
My wife would say I’m a butterfly and flit from business to business. I would describe myself as an entrepreneur. I’d love to be a serial entrepreneur, but the reality is I’ve been involved in one very successful startup. Now, I spend a lot of my time on Streetlife, a social networking startup that is growing fast but has a long way to go!
Streetlife probably takes up about a day a week. The role of chairman is very different to a day-to-day executive role and does not come naturally to me. I’ve been doing a lot of fund-raising, door-opening and PR for Streetlife.
I also help to run my wife’s medical business, which might take up two days of my normal six-day working week. Then I have a portfolio of investments and sit on some boards, including that of our family business, Ettinger of London, a designer and maker of luxury leather goods. My day started with a phone call with my brother, who runs the firm.
Given all this, I run my own very old-fashioned paper diary, which I fill with all my appointments, though I also have an electronic diary at Caffè Nero. I haven’t yet quite got round to making all the diaries talk to each other.
Today, I talk to a Russian business with over 50 retail outlets that I am involved in. I’m then at my wife’s business for a couple of hours before going into Caffè Nero for a few hours.
This evening I have a reception celebrating a retail chain’s tenth anniversary. I’m very productive in very short bursts because I have to be. It is frustrating that I don’t have more time to focus on one thing. I’m always planning to exit from a couple of things or hand over and have more time. In my ideal world I would spend two to three days a week on Streetlife, a couple of days on Caffè Nero and a day on my other interests, but that hasn’t happened yet. I have to be realistic. Stuff happens and I have to be flexible.
I have one office at the top of the house and two in Covent Garden – one with Caffè Nero and one with Streetlife. I don’t enjoy meetings and tend not to work in that way. I have to go to board meetings, but otherwise I just talk to people as I need to. My mobile phone is really my office. That’s an unavoidable part of the life. Anyone can call me at any time and they know I’ll talk to them. It may not be a good thing, but I love doing what I do. I try to play piano every night. In reality I probably play three or four times a week for about 45 minutes.
Watch Pablo Ettinger’s TELL video at www.tellseries.com/events/pablo-ettinger/