Exclusive Interview: Caspar Craven - Leading Entrepreneur & Excellent Speaker
“If you get knocked down 12 times, you get up 13 times.”
As an entrepreneur, author and pioneer who sailed with his family worldwide for two years, Caspar Craven has an entire lifetime worth of stories to share at events.
Following successful roles at Baker Tilly and KPMG Corporate Finance, Caspar made 20 important principles for a work/home balance, a key point in many of his talks.
A businessman turned motivational speaker, Caspar can tailor his talks to any audience, whether it be an after dinner event or conference.
In this exclusive interview with Caspar, he discusses his experiences as a young entrepreneur, successes later in life and how we can all become leaders in a work environment.
Q: Can you recall an experience where you adapted to times of crisis and explain how you overcame such adversity?
“I was driving my team insanely hard, and it got to the point where my business partner took me to one side and he said ‘Casper, you're being a nightmare’. He was not quite as polite as that. It was a bit more direct. There was a bit more swearing.
"And basically, he said ‘unless you do something different, every single person - including me - is going to leave the business’. And it's like ‘ouch’. You know, I think that sometimes, we're just not conscious or aware of what we're doing.
“I turned to some deep reflection, and there's a lovely quote from Ray Dalio, who built the world's largest hedge fund, which is ‘pain plus reflection equals progress’.
“So, when you hit that pain barrier, you have to stare really hard at yourself and say ‘okay, what's the thing that I'm doing here that keeps repeating itself?’. And what I saw, when I stared hard at that, was that my ego kept getting in the way - thinking I had all the answers - I was just driving people for profits rather than thinking about ‘why is each person here? Why do they care? What's interesting to them about achieving the goals for our business?’
“So, my way through it was to stare hard at the pain and figure out a better way to really start to engage the team.”
Q: You started your entrepreneurial journey aged just 14; what sparked your interest in business at such an early age?
“I grew up in a single-parent family and money was super, super tight. And so, it kind of came out of scarcity. We ended up moving from Bristol down to Devon and lived in a very small bungalow down there.
“I got to hang out with all of the local fishermen down on the beach. I was aged 14 and someone had abandoned this fishing boat. I repaired the boat with the advice of the fishermen.
“Then they taught me what to do, where to go and how to catch crabs and lobsters. And then I started catching them, I started selling them and ended up with a contract, exporting about half a ton a week to Spain, but it just sort of came out of that scarcity thing - we needed to create some money.”
Q: Having worked as a Chief Finance Officer, what top three qualities do you consider vital for successful leadership in the workplace?
“It's a great question. Working as a CFO gave me a bunch of insights into different characters. You get in the boardroom and see all the different teams that you've got to be able to work with.
“So top three characteristics: I would say number one, without a shadow of a doubt, is empathy. That's really understanding what drives each person in your team because people only do things for their reasons, not for your reasons. So, empathy is right up there for me. I studied a lot of neuroscience, and the reality is, we do things for emotional reasons, not cognitive reasons. The rational brain kicks in afterwards.
“The second thing, I think, is relentlessness – that you're, you know, you're going to get bashed around. Things are going to go wrong. So, you have got to have that relentless drive to keep going and keep going. You know if you get knocked down 12 times, you get up 13 times, right? So, you've got to have that drive.
“And then the final one. I think this is what I've had to work hard to develop because I can get quite serious at times, but it's about having playfulness and about having fun, because I think that is the gateway to creativity and being able to create solutions that didn't exist before. Let's face it, we'll enjoy work more when it's a bit more fun.”
Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the world of work? And do you believe such trends as remote working ahead to stay?
“COVID has crashed together unceremoniously our home life and our work life.
“And it's funny. I mean, I feel very fortunate for the past year because, having had two years on a boat whilst running businesses, homeschooling three kids, and seeing the world, I had a sort of a pre taster of what we've all been dealing with.
“But I think that it's forced us to face the very real nature that we all have work lives. And we all have home lives. I think in the old world, pre-COVID, it was easy to forget that people had other parts of their lives. And we're just going to focus on the work part of that person.
“Although I think there's clearly a strong drive to get back to face to face. I think this is going to be a core component, this remote working because I think people have now figured out how to do it to a good level. So, I think it's definitely here to stay.”
Q: What is your top tip for supporting employee mental health in the workplace? Especially during periods of stress?
“It comes back to that empathy thing. And for each person in your team, it's to listen to what's going on, to listen to what's not being said. I have experienced this, with one of my team; we were emailing a lot and they exploded at me out of the blue. And I didn't see it coming.
“And I'm someone who reads people – and reading people on a 2D screen rather than in real life, I find that really, really hard.
“So, I think it's more important than ever to listen to our people. And I know we're all pressured and there are only so many hours in the day, but I think to really make sure that our teams are thriving, it's to really listen and help people with whatever they are dealing with.”
Q: You successfully sailed the world with your family. Why do you believe family teamwork should be discussed more in business and what does it offer the corporate world?
“I think the thing that the family model reminds us of is that we are all human beings. We all have thoughts. We all have feelings. The family structure is much more obvious, in that we have to take care of our family members in the workplace.
“We sometimes forget that I think. Now, they say the single most important motivating factor for any person is they feel genuinely cared about by the person they report to. And I think the family model is a great reminder of that.
“Therefore, I think there's an awful lot that business can learn from family. And I also think it goes the other way a lot as well, that family can learn a good amount from business. So, we have a family story, we have a family set of values, things you normally find in the workplace, but I think that's so important. It helps us to make sure that we've got effective teams.
“It doesn't really matter where we develop those skills of listening to people, looking after people; we can develop them at home, but I think more of that in the workplace would be very healthy.”
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