'Always remember that you're not always right - there are two sides to everything'

Tim Casey of Innocent Drinks talks sustainability, communication and juice.

By Zuzia Whelan Reporter, Fora

EVERY WEEK, FORA gets inside the heads of some of Ireland’s top entrepreneurs to gain insights into what got them to the top of their trade. This week we meet Tim Casey, general manager of Innocent Drinks in Ireland. 

Tim Casey likes to know that his staff feel comfortable in challenging him. 

The country manager for juice company Innocent in Ireland welcomes disagreement from his team – but finds that honesty is the best policy when nipping conflict in the bud. 

UK-based Innocent has been around since 1999 and opened its first overseas office in Dublin the following year. It employs 14 people here and about 500 globally and last year became a B corporation, as previously explained by Fora.

In our weekly Tools of the Trade series, we spoke to Casey about clear communication, golf and why he doesn’t fly that much for work anymore. 

Here what he had to say: 

Are you a specialist or a generalist?

I look at things more generally. As an area chief you have to be bold and try new things. We hire specialists who are specific at what they do. My job is to lead a team. You have to be a generalist in terms of your thinking and try and fill in the big picture. 

What makes you feel under pressure and how do you deal with it?

Like most people I’ve got loads of stuff going on at the same time. I’m trying to manage deadlines. Experience helps.

We also have a philosophy at Innocent of keeping the main thing the main thing. Sometimes you can get stuck in the details and lose track of what’s really important and what you’re trying to achieve. 

What is the most important skill you have learned?

Trust in terms of backing your own people. What I’ve learned is get out of their way – if they want help they know it’s there. Just trust them to know what they’re doing and let them get on with it. Strong communication both ways also helps.

Where would you like to improve?

To be more sustainable both personally and in business. There’s such a need for everyone to think about the circular economy and how we consume everything in a more sustainable way.

But thinking about it isn’t enough, you actually have to do something as well. Our sustainability strategy is really important to us, from how we source the ingredients, to packaging them, right through to how we run the business with a focus on reducing our carbon footprint.

How do you deal with conflict?

Honesty is the best policy. Also, try to understand the ‘why’. Why does somebody have a different view? Why is somebody not performing? Why is something happening against your expectations?

Don’t shy away from the tough conversations. It’s always easier to deal with issues sooner rather than letting them lie. Call things out when you get the chance – if something’s wrong or you’re not happy with something put it out there. And always remember that you’re not always right – there are two sides to everything. Compromise and move forward on a positive footing. 

team 5 Innocent Drinks Dublin staff.
Source: Johanne Lorge

What tool could you not do without?

Computers. I would include mobile phones in that. I don’t know where I’d be without the ability to communicate across time and space – or just do basic things for work. 

What helps you switch off?

Being active outside work. Sometimes I think there’s lots of people running around in my head flipping switches, throwing levers and making me operate. Anything that freezes those guys up is good.

I like to run most days, I’ve done a few marathons. Getting outside to nature. I’m a scout leader so I go hiking or camping. Or playing really bad golf.

How do you manage your time?

By being clear on what the big stuff is. If you’re moving forward on the bigger things then the smaller stuff either just happens or falls away. If you feel like you’re adding value every day, that’s a good measure for me.

Flexible working by turning travel time into work time, or working from home, helps as well. I turn off email notifications – I find that helps too. 

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How do you keep your staff onside?

It’s not something I think about too much beyond clarity of purpose and communication.

If anything they keep me on side and manage me. One member of my team often says to me, “I profoundly disagree with your opinion,” and I like that. It shows that the team are empowered, they have a voice and we’re in it together. 

When was the last time you changed your mind about something?

Earlier this summer. I have quite a busy schedule with a lot of flights for work. I decided it was a bit nuts for lots of different reasons. So I changed my plans and set up regular Skype meetings and I’ve approximately halved the amount of flights I needed to take.

It’s easier to go and have the meeting but it’s not a great use of time. I’ve got more quality tome to do other stuff – and it’s more sustainable too. 

What differentiates your company from the competition?

Apart from our unique drinks and what we offer people, we live by our values and we combine that with a really clear sense of purpose. It’s to help people live well and die old.

We like to be different and to push the boundaries and have an edge. The focus is on having great ingredients, very natural, but ultimately they have to taste great.

What book would you recommended the most?

The Art of Deliberate Success by David Keane. It’s about being accountable for achieving something in a smarter way and not assuming that hard work and luck is always enough.

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