The 6 a.m. CFO: How Three Oceans Fish Company’s Carl Derving Starts His Day

Derving shares his grueling morning workout routine, his favorite KPI, and why he brings his true personality to his CFO role.  
The 6 a.m. CFO: How Three Oceans Fish Company’s Carl Derving Starts His Day
Photo: Carl Derving, Three Oceans Fish Company

Welcome to The 6 a.m. CFO, where finance chiefs share how they jump-start their days and engage with the tasks that are in front of them. 

Today, Three Oceans Fish Company’s Carl Derving shares his grueling morning workout routine, one KPI he is very proud of, and why (and how) he brings his true personality to his CFO role. 

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carl.jpgThree Oceans Fish Company

  • Supplies some of the UK’s biggest food service, retail, and cash & carry brands, with a diverse range of fresh and frozen seafood products.

  • Founded: 1991 

  • Size: about 200 employees

  • Revenue:  £60m

Morning Routine

Weekday wake-up time and the first thing I like to do: My day starts at 4 a.m. The first thing I do when I wake up is weigh myself, as I like to monitor my diet. I then hit the gym for around 2-3 hours, focusing on weights with 30 minutes of cardio, and I do this seven days a week.

Getting my fix of dopamine and serotonin each day allows me to function in the environments I surround myself with.

Coffee, tea, or other morning beverage choice: My first drink of the day is a protein shake, after the the gym (around 7 a.m.).

I also drink a lot of caffeinated diet soda, which I should probably cut back on. Occasionally, I will have a cup of tea.

Workday start time: Should be 8 a.m., but I tend to slope in any time up to 8:30 a.m. Time is very fluid to me as I am more focused on getting tasks done and ticking off to-do lists each day.

I tend to stay later in the evening and I am usually the last out of the building. It also works well for me, as I need to work around three young children at home.

How I usually spend the first hour of my day: I like to work my way through my new emails and get them dealt with ASAP. I don’t like leaving things to build up.

I also check the bank, as cash is super important in our business, due to our lengthy working capital cycle, which is inherent to our business model.

Time I send out my first email: This could be before 7 a.m., as I have my emails on my phone and If I deem an email to be a high priority, I will deal with it after I have finished at the gym.

I try not to look at my emails before my workout, as I don’t want to lose focus on what I am about to do.

Best advice for writing an effective email: Keep it short and to the point. Only include the relevant stakeholders.

There is no tone to written communication, so wording needs to be carefully considered, so as to not offend the recipients.

First dashboard I review: Debtors. As mentioned, cash is very important in our business, so we need to make sure that we are in control of our receivables. Finance is very expensive right now, so we try to limit our external borrowings with investment banks by having tight controls in our credit control function. Our debtor book is the tightest I have seen in any company I have previously worked in. We are very proud of this KPI.

How I structure my morning meetings: I try to avoid them if necessary. If it can be communicated via email, this is better and saves time. If I am in a meeting, I try to keep it as short as possible, making sure that the main points have been communicated.

Mid-morning snack of choice: I have a protein shake around 10 a.m., which is one of my four a day. I may also have a protein bar if I have packed one.

Leadership and Inspiration

Favorite quote or mantra: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

I’m not religious, but I believe this is the secret to happiness.

Misery is derived when people waste their time focusing on the things that they will never be able to change. Ignore them and move on.

Favorite leadership lesson: Leaders lead from the front and not from behind while cracking the whip.

I never ask my team to do things that I am not willing or have not already done myself. I like to roll my sleeves up and get my hands dirty.

I like to lead by example.

Something important to know about me that you wouldn’t know from my business bio: Personality and image are symbiotic in my opinion.

I have quite a wild and eccentric personality and I like to reflect that in my appearance, as it allows me to perform at my highest level — when I am comfortable with myself and my immediate environment. I am an individual, who doesn’t try to conform, and I am unapologetic for it.


Derving’s favorite tattoo

Finance is one of those professions where the expectation is that you should present yourself in a certain way, in line with stereotypes. I have long hair, thirteen tattoos and ten piercings. Not the expectation people have of a CFO, but time has moved on. That may not work for a lot of companies, but that is probably the reason why they are stuck in the past and are not progressing forwards.

What was the last job you did at your company that fell outside your traditional scope of work: Most of my day is ad-hoc. I never really know what I am going to be walking into each day and I like that because it eliminates boredom.

I’ve done all sorts [of tasks], from fixing IT issues to mending a boiler to vacuuming the office carpets.

Can you share one way in which you have learned to manage work-induced stress: I am constantly under stress and I’ve tailored my lifestyle to be that way in both my personal and professional life.

I believe that if a person is constantly under pressure, that becomes the standard. Any variation — up or down — is immaterial and can be dealt with easily.

Exercise is also a super important component in that equation, too. I probably do overdose on dopamine and serotonin each day, but I am incredibly calm under pressure as a result.

Most noteworthy items in my workspace: My calculator — people assume accountants can count.

My notebook is also important too. I have to write most things down to remember them, as there are lots going on in the day and I can easily forget to do a number of ad-hoc tasks.

Favorite app on my phone that is not related to business: Instagram. I am really into fitness and music. I like to use them to track my progress and make new connections.

I recently did a challenge to lose 40 lbs in 30 days and recorded the progress each day on one of my Instagram pages.


Derving’s signature Steve Vai Ibanez JEM

I also sing and play the guitar and have made some new connections with other musicians on the app, which has led to us forming a Bryan Adams tribute band. It will be good to get back onstage and perform around Yorkshire later this year.

When do you take time for learning/reading: I tend to watch YouTube a lot and learn quite a bit from that. During my cardio each morning, I might put on a video to learn something new on psychology or extend my Japanese language skills.

On some evenings, I may teach myself something new on the guitar, when the children have gone to bed.