When I was five years old, my parents took me to my very first IMAX movie — The Eruption of Mount St Helens. Twenty years later, it’s still one of my most memorable theatre-going experiences. The technology has changed a lot since then (digital projection and 3D, among other things), but the magic of seeing a film in giant-screen format remains.
Rich Gelfond became IMAX’s CEO in 2009. Under his guidance, the company operates 500 theatres in 50 countries and pulls in more than $US500 million in box office revenue. We caught up with the busy exec to chat about to-do lists, sleep habits, flip phones and more.
Location: New York City
Current gig: CEO of IMAX
Current mobile device: A Verizon Motorola Droid 4 — a recent upgrade from my Motorola flip phone which I’d had for years. I loved that phone!
Current computer: Dell
One word that best describes how you work: Focused
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
I organise my work across three computer screens so I can answer emails, follow the stock market, and read industry news while I work. Having three screens helps me to explore all the random thoughts and ideas I have throughout the day. I tend to be hyper-focused on the job at hand, but I’m also a pretty good juggler when I need to be.
What’s your workspace like?
My computer is on one desk and I work from another desk. My swivel chair is in the middle so I can access both easily. Because the act of writing helps me think and focus — and I prefer writing to typing on a keyboard — I keep my main desk clear except for important papers, note pads, and my trusty planner. Since my computer screens are right behind me, all I need to do to dial back into the “matrix” is turn my chair around. This set-up allows me to be more dynamic, efficient, and helps me focus.
Pictured above: Rich’s workspace.
What’s your best time-saving trick?
I sort correspondence by how long it will take to read and reply. I read and respond to short emails immediately; I print longer emails so I can carefully consider and thoughtfully answer them. That way I don’t get bogged down.
What’s your favourite to-do list manager?
I am a list-maker and use good old-fashioned pen and paper to jot down ideas and to-dos. My executive assistant keeps two appointment books — one on her desk and one on mine — and changes and updates them manually. That way, I am never committing — or having someone else commit on my behalf — to anything I don’t know about or that isn’t a great use of my time.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?
As an executive in the filmed entertainment industry, I watch a lot of movies — several a week. And while I think great movies should be seen in great theatres like ours, I don’t know what I’d do without a Blu-Ray player. I’m fortunate to be in an industry where I can enjoy a movie or two during the week — it’s just one of the perks of working at an innovative entertainment technology company.
What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
I am very good at following my intuition. I’ve had several different careers and am blessed to have had a variety of life experiences from the time I was young, so I tend to be able to recognise situations and piece information together intuitively. And I’m also pretty awesome at parallel parking!
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading a book by John Sexton [called] Baseball as a Road to God.
What do you listen to while you work?
I prefer silence. So much of our business revolves around technology, but when it comes to interacting with people, I still prefer face-to-face meetings and phone calls over emails and texts. I like to be able to actively listen and focus during my conversations. Having anything else competing for my attention would just be a distraction.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
I am definitely an extrovert, no question about it! I’m an extremely social person and enjoy good conversations. While my work and travel schedule are definitely demanding, I do get to attend a few hand-picked events where I like to engage with new people at every opportunity. I really enjoy the opportunity to listen to their ideas as well as to bounce my ideas off of them.
Pictured above: Rich with a NASA team at the premiere of “Hubble 3D”.
What’s your sleep routine like?
I’m an early riser and exercise several times a week in the morning before arriving at the office.
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see ______ answer these same questions.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
It’s definitely cliché but that doesn’t make it any less true: Don’t count the money until the check clears.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
My colleagues at IMAX know this very well: I try to live my life by the saying “It’s never as good as it looks or as bad as it seems.” That helps me focus on both the short- and long-term reality, and keeps my perspective balanced.
We’ve asked a handful of heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Every week we’ll feature a new guest and the gadgets, apps, tips and tricks that keep them going. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? Let us know.