ShortList is supported by you, our amazing readers. When you click through the links on our site and make a purchase we may earn a commission. Learn more

Office desk essentials that successful business leaders swear by

Experts reveal the trinkets that brighten their days (and impress their clients).

Office desk essentials that successful business leaders swear by
25 October 2021

We asked some of the best minds in the business world what they have on their desk and how it affects their day to day business lives.

These are the desk accessories you need to make sure you are getting the most out of your office.

1. Get a grasp of global culture

Nigel Travis, former CEO of Dunkin’ Donuts and owner of Leyton Orient Football Club

“I have a globe that rotates as it sits there – I’ve had it for eight years and I must say, I haven’t a clue how it does it. It’s important to think of the world as a whole. I’ve been in business for 50 years and the world has become smaller: people travel more and have a greater awareness of global issues. The implications of social media are critical, too. The globe reminds me how small the world is and gives me perspective. It also helps me think more broadly.”

Buy an office globe now

2. Curate a gallery of greatness

Matt Barr, director of sports agency All Conditions Media

“I’ve got my favourite snowboarding photo, by Nick Hamilton, on the wall. It’s a sick powder shot, but it’s not terrifying. It’s a talking point. It’s always, ‘Wow, where was that taken?!’ People expect me to say somewhere like Alaska. When I tell them it’s by a lift in Val d’Isère, they get that it symbolises what the sport’s about and our role in communicating it.”

Check out Matt’s action sports podcast Looking Sideways (

3. Never work late again

Dan Kieran, CEO and founder of crowdfunding publisher Unbound

“My desk is a total f*cking mess. Among the pictures of my kids, books I’ve written and tons of post, I have a plasticine sloth lying on a log. Sloths are my favourite animal. People see them as lazy, but they’re incredibly efficient. It’s a good symbol for how I like to work: they don’t waste time doing sh*t they don’t need to do. I try to act the way I expect other people to: I never work late, I’m not on a power-trip. Old-school power plays don’t work, and smart people don’t put up with that sh*t.”

4. Let a hawk bring you luck

Patrick Grant, creative director at fashion labels E Tautz and Norton & Sons

“My desk is littered with oddities, from a pair of 19th-century mill-worker’s clogs to Staffordshire porcelain dogs. But my 37cm-high Sasano-Bori hand-carved and hand-painted Taka [hawk] – a gift from the buyer at Beams in Tokyo – is the most commanding. It’s a beautiful and rare object that’s taken a skilled craftsman a lot of time and care to create. Everything we do aims to be all of those things, so it’s a reminder of that. The world needs to make fewer but better things.”

5. Deploy full sensory overload

Rupert Rixon, founder of digital agency Perspective Pictures

“One wall of our office is covered in newspaper clippings, art we’ve commissioned, letters from clients, polaroid photos and other stuff we’ve accumulated. When a client comes into the office, I’ll greet them there, offer them a tea and leave them to take in the wall as I head to the kitchen. Not only is it the ultimate ice-breaker – people always have questions when I get back – but it’s a way for them to discover what we’re about without me having to open my mouth to pitch or explain it.”

6. Make the most of mementos

Andrew Reeve, CEO and founder of online beer shop HonestBrew

“It sounds obvious, but if you walk into our office, you’re going to notice the beer fridge. It’s stacked with some of the best from around the globe. I’ve got some of the world’s rarest beers, too. For example, I have a bottle that I bought when I started the company: a Shnoodlepip by The Wild Beer Co. The last one I cracked open for a meeting was a Cuvée by Tommie Sjef, from a tiny brewery in The Netherlands. My beer is like an updated version of the whisky in Mad Men: beer instead of bourbon.”

7. Immortalise yourself in art

Jamie Waller, CEO of Wisehill debt-collection company

“I have a couple of bronze sculptures. One, on my handmade Neal Jones desk, is of the Wall Street bull, and reflects my attitude towards business. The other, by royal sculptor Frances Segelman, is a bust of me. It’s a real talking point. People think someone who has a bronze sculpture of themselves must have bundles of self-confidence. The truth is, it was a gift from me to my two daughters.”

Jamie’s book Unsexy Business is out now (Harriman House)

8. Puzzle out who the bozos be

Alistair Barr, founder of award-winning architects Barr Gazetas

“I have a model of the ARoS museum in Denmark on my desk. The building is a cube with a circular walkway on top, and the model is an oak cube with a brass ring. It represents my feelings about architecture and creativity, but half my visitors use it as a coaster! It has ended up being my test to sort those who are confused from the creatives.”

Alistair contributed to the book Creative Superpowers, out now (Unbound)