A window into the working worlds of people from across the sports industry now that nothing is as it was.
Jeff Slack is Managing Director of the new Aston Martin Cognizant Formula 1 team. He lives alone in London. Slack will be discussing Aston Martin’s return to Formula 1 this year, its new commercial programme and why the team is well-placed to take advantage of Formula 1’s sweep of new regulations at LeadersWeek.direct/ Abu Dhabi, on 16th and 17th March.
How are you feeling on a scale of 1-10?
Ten. We’re in the midst of nine new partner announcements in nine days. It’s public recognition of an unbelievable year of hard work and things have worked out very successfully. It’s not quite at ten yet because our launch isn’t until Wednesday and that’s got to go well. So actually maybe it’s an eight!
Who was the last person you spoke to before me?
[Aston Martin Cognizant team owner] Lawrence Stroll.
Are you working from home or the office? What’s the split like?
I work from three places. I’m home right now. We have an office in Mayfair. And then Silverstone, where our factory is.
How has your organisation adapted its working set-up since Covid?
Formula 1 in general has been incredibly focused on it. And the team, which was Racing Point last year, did an incredible job putting in a testing procedure. An unbelievable effort to allow us to stay open to continue to work on our car. For the commercial team, less personal interaction because we didn’t want to take risks.
I have an office; sometimes I’m upstairs where you can look outside a bit; and now I’m sitting in the living room. I move around with the laptop. It’s fun to mix it up a bit. I haven’t figured out how to do those interesting backdrops on Zoom and Teams yet.
How have you changed as a manager and as a person?
Obviously it’s harder to connect with people on Zoom. It’s easier to facilitate interactions, but it’s harder to connect. There are a couple of people I’ve hired who I’ve never gone to have a beer with or spent any time with in the office or had a chance to ask them about their lives or those things that we do that aren’t just work focused on a Zoom call. I’m looking forward to bringing that back because we’ve hired a lot of people and we’re doing a good job on internal communication but like all humans, we’re missing that personal element.
How do you run a meeting?
We try to be efficient. I always want to have an agenda, and I want to have minutes. We try to get down to business pretty quickly – unless it’s the first meeting of the week, where we might ask people what they did over the weekend – and the second thing is to have a limited time. I’ve found that 30 minutes is a good time frame for Zoom calls. I try not to have any meetings that go over that other than our once-a-week sales call where we go down through literally every prospect and sometimes that takes a little longer.
How would you describe your work / life balance?
Well, I love my work. And I have no problem looking at emails in the evening or when I wake up in the morning. I think the technology of today allows you to do that. But at the same time, I do find there are times when you just have to switch off. You’ve got to put the phone down at a weekend or an evening and just say ‘I’m going to watch a movie or read a book’. But I’m generally on 24/7 and it doesn’t bother me because I enjoy that. But you still have to find your own balance. Formula 1 is 24/7, 365 days a year and there’s not a lot of downtime. But I find you’ve got to have that for your mental sanity once in a while.
How do you focus?
I’m probably a little bit OCB by nature so I need to focus. I might go to the office and put on classical music, and I’ll turn my phone off and sit down and do my to-do list. I have a weekly to-do list and I still like to physically write it down so you can then check it off. Mark McCormack at IMG was famous for that. That helps me focus because I wouldn’t by nature be that organised: I’m not a great detail person. Writing things down – and focusing on the pad of paper, not email or your phone or anything else – really helps because we all get bombarded with information all the time.
How do you cope with stress?
Exercise. If you’re tired, you can still do a little cycling or running. It’s the best way to deal with stress. Or a once in a while a nice glass of red wine.
Early mornings or late nights?
Both. But probably more mornings than nights.
Who do you consider your mentor to be?
Long-time IMG exec Ian Todd. He’s got a unique combination of intellect and ethics and loyalty. A dear friend and someone I’ve learned a lot from.
What one thing will you take with you when we come out of the pandemic?
Maybe appreciation. We all have day-to-day challenges and problems that we have, but you can see the suffering that’s going on today. So I feel very fortunate I work in Formula 1 for a fantastic guy. My job hasn’t been affected by this pandemic, but I know how much the rest of the world has generally suffered. It’s good to keep that perspective when we have a problem or an issue in Formula 1 because none of that is anywhere near what so many people have had to deal with this year.
Who are you speaking to next?
I’m speaking to our agency, Cake, regarding our final launch run through.