7 February 2019 Courier Feb/Mar 2019

How the founder of Care/Of manages his time

Craig Elbert is CEO and co-founder of vitamins brand Care/Of. Between investor meetings and emails, here's how he gets things done.

In the office of Care Of, a vitamins-by-post brand based in New York’s SoHo neighbourhood, things are pretty busy. The company’s founders Craig Elbert and Akash Shah have recently closed on £22m in funding. The first task (on the endless list of things to do) is to get hiring; finding the people who can help them build their company. Elbert shares with Courier how he divides his time throughout the week.

1. Always be hiring

It’s this task that’s been taking up the most of Elbert’s time in recent weeks. He reckons he’s clocked at least 10 hours poring over CVs and meeting potential new recruits. ‘Even if we’re not growing, I spend time recruiting and meeting candidates,’ he says.

‘One of the most important things an entrepreneur can do is spend the right amount of time recruiting. There are too many things to be done, there’s a tendency to want to do everything yourself,’ he explains. ‘But you get leverage by getting great people.’ It’s a mindset that’s been drilled into him from previous jobs. ‘When I was at [men’s fashion e-commerce brand] Bonobos, the founder [Andy Dunn] told us the most important way we could use our time is to be very thoughtful in [who] we bring into the organisation.’

2. People first

All things team building – beyond finding new hires – is Elbert’s main focus in his role as CEO of the two-year-old company. Jobs vary from the time consuming (one-to-one meetings with his direct reports) to the more difficult to quantify (generally managing staff and teaching them how to manage others). 

3. Sand and boulders

Elbert spends an awful lot of time in meetings, with breakfast meetings on four out of five mornings, meeting with specific teams to see how projects are moving along and catch-ups with suppliers and advisors.

To help make sure all his other tasks get completed, he mentally separates them into ‘sand and boulders’. Meetings – the boulders – can’t be moved, so the sand needs to fit in around those. Most evenings, he admits, he will spend about an hour answering emails at home.

4. Schedule audit

Shah and Elbert audit each other’s schedules regularly, giving each other honest feedback about what they are spending their time on and whether they need to be in all the meetings in their respective schedules. For anything else that the company has planned, they need to learn to trust the team to get on with making decisions without them.

5. Personal reflection

Elbert says that in recent months, he’s been trying to find more time for self improvement and personal reflection.
He regularly meets with the company’s head of people for feedback on his professional performance, and strategic investors. He also seeks out time for himself to get some headspace. ‘Block off time to do thinking so it’s actually in your calendar and can’t get booked over,’ he advises. ‘I’ll work outside of the office, go to a coffee shop and set up there. Just to think for two to three hours. At the office people grab me for questions and I’ll get pulled in lots of directions.’