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A View From Ben Heald, CEO Sift

CEO and Founder of Sift launches our new 'View From...' series

Published on Friday, 22nd May 2015

Ben Heald is the founder and CEO of Sift, one of Bristol’s largest and longest standing digital media agencies.  Ben and five team mates made up the Bristol Media cycling team who have just returned from a 430 km journey from Bristol to Paris in aid of Bristol’s Above & Beyond, raising a staggering £10,000 for the charity.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I grew up in South Manchester, which was supported by a fleet of Healds milk floats.  At a very early age, I probably wanted to be a milk man, then realised that running a business was more interesting.  Eventually, that’s why I got involved in setting up Sift in 1996.

If you weren’t doing this job now, what would you be doing?

Spreading my wings – getting involved in a few more things including something with more of a campaigning element.  For example, I think the UK should be looking at decriminalising and legalising drugs.

Who do you most admire in business and why?

Anyone who over time builds a sustainable business with a real purpose and vision; and does it with openness and humility.  In the media world, Felix Dennis is a great example – such a strong character that after his death, Dennis Publishing’s main purpose is to further one of his passions: the planting of trees!

What do you do when you’re not at work?

I’m a trustee of St George’s in Bristol, which is mid-way through a capital appeal to transform the building.  For relaxation, I play the piano, cycle and have just taken up real tennis.

What’s your favourite ad campaign/TV programme of the year so far and why?

The ads from Apple for the new Apple Watch.  Exciting to see the world’s largest company at the top of its game.

What music are you listening to?

Pretty much completely switched to Spotify now, so depends on the mood; but I spend very little time with headphones on.

What’s your favourite tipple?

Hot water in the daytime, and ale & red wine when I’m out.

Tell us one highlight of your career so far.

Has to be the success of Sift over 19 years from a startup to 140 strong company helping such an amazing array of clients engage with their audiences; as well as creating a culture that has attracted so many brilliant people to work for us.

And one highlight of your life so far?

The 10 months I spent as a 24 year old driving a Land Rover with two friends down through Africa, which broadened our horizons so much; and I also met my wife Mary in Malawi!

Who would be your ideal dinner guest and why?

Gerald Durrell – larger than life childhood wildlife hero, who would also remind me of my Dad.

What programme on TV do you try not to miss?

Like many blokes with an interest in sport, to my wife’s frustration, I have a knack of being able to turn on the TV just when the golf/tennis/cricket/F1 is getting interesting.

What’s the gadget you can’t live without?

Unless you count my iPhone, I don’t have any.  Perhaps binoculars – birdwatching is a great way of reframing dog walks!