Neat Nutrition CEO, Lee, discusses balancing a growing global business, a hectic travel schedule, training; and a young daughter.
“One of the best mottos that I have ever heard about ‘work’ is one that I like to live by: if you love what you do, then you’ll never work a day in your life.
I love all that I achieved and learnt whilst working as a strategy consultant before Neat was born, but at the time, a good work-life balance was not as important to me. I spent 150+ nights per year on the road and lived in various hotels across the US and Europe. I never had the flexibility to do it in a way that I could sustainably enjoy over time. I’d gotten into the habit of living for the weekends and not enjoying the journey.
The industry and work ethic required taught me so much that I implement today, with one of the most valuable lessons being to create a work environment that better enriches the life you want to lead. So, since launching Neat, I have always strived to create a company and environment that would be conducive to having a family, and I feel like I have successfully achieved that.
To me, work-life balance is working in a sustainable way that allows me the flexibility to fully enjoy every activity I have the pleasure of doing.
When we launched Neat in the US recently, I was lucky enough to be able to take my family with me whilst travelling across California to setup the business. It’s opportunities like this that made me want to start my own business. There’s no better way to achieve the work-life balance I want in my 30’s, than being able to combine the excitement of launching our business in a new global market while being able to spend time with my amazing wife and beautiful daughter.
It’s not that [my daughter] Harper has changed my outlook on what work-life balance is, but more how I prioritise where my time gets spent. I always ensure that I structure my day to get home in time to have the last two hours of the day with her; dinner, playtime, bath, reading and bed. Anything work-related can always wait until after that is done - I don’t mind if my day gets stretched at the end, but that time with Harper is not compromised. It’s non-negotiable.
I don’t have many other hard boundaries as I truly love what I do and the people who I do it with, at Neat. The reality of being an owner and CEO is that you need to be there to support people when they need it and there is never a defined time for that. The beauty of the work-life balance and flexibility that I mention above is that I can be fluid in between.
In terms of fitness, it’s not a thing I add-in or take-out when it suits. Ingraining something fundamentally into your schedule means that you always find time. Sometimes a workout might be 20 minutes, sometimes an hour - it’s a lifelong journey. Personally, I’m up and out of the house before 6am every day, finding the time to workout and get into the office early - it sets me up nicely for the day ahead.
Ultimately, I work on the rule that when I am working, I work, and nothing else creeps in to distract that. I don’t try and do bits of everything at once; I keep them separate and get something done before moving on to the next.
The best plan I have (and always have) is that nothing will ever go “to plan”.
As soon as you start rigidly trying to say that X will happen at Y point in time, with Z result you are almost certainly setting yourself up to fail. I love the fluidity of how we work at Neat, and it means we get things done much quicker and stay reactive to a constantly challenging and changing environment.
This year I tried to switch off completely for a week from work, take holiday and just relax. On the first day, something back in London happened that needed my attention and that plan instantly got changed, but I actually quite like that. It’s important not to over-think things and be able to go with the flow.
Running a business is hard and unpredictable, so is having children, and so is doing it all in another country! Embrace change and the challenge that comes with it and find a solution that works for you.
For me, this was having the infrastructure set up to allow me to move my family across the other side of the world and have an adventure with our 4-month-old daughter. Nothing is that difficult - if you’re positive about the enjoyment of it rather than focusing on what ‘might be hard’ then you can achieve anything.
When it comes to switching off, I’ve always been happier the more plates that are spinning. I often struggle the most when I try and do less. But I’m pretty good at finding time for 15-20 minutes a day for reflection. Meditation is a word that I feel can put people off sometimes and adds too much pressure to something. I meditate but with no clear structure and it helps me clear my mind. I take downtime from all media and let my mind wander, focusing on something, but nothing at the same time.”