CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Alastair Barlow, CEO & Co-Founder of flinder

Alastair Barlow is the CEO & Co-Founder of flinder, a business that replaces your accountant, in-house finance team and data consultants to build and run your finance function and improve reporting.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’m the CEO and co-founder of a young and very exciting business called flinder. We build and run smart finance functions and data analytics for fast-growth businesses. In essence, we’re an accounting, consulting and data analytics business in one.

We’re primarily based in London with a team of about 45 across a few locations. Before founding flinder, I worked at PwC for 16 years – in Manchester, Amsterdam, Reading and London. Just writing that comes across as stressful!

I’ve always worked as an accountant or consultant and so that means delivering a service to businesses. By nature, we try to over deliver and add value, which most of the time means going above and beyond a traditional working day or week. I’m very passionate about what we do so that often permeates way beyond a traditional working day.

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Typically, I’m in the gym around 7:30/8:00 for just over an hour. I then walk to the station and take a 45 mins train to London and walk to the office. My Mac is straight away so I can work on the journey.

My walk on both sides of the train stations is about 10 mins each but gives me a great opportunity to get some steps in and listen to a podcast or audio book, or have a catch up with my co-founder by call. Once I’m in the office, it’s typically straight into meetings – face to face or Zoom.

I’m in London about 60% of my time so when I’m there I try to maximise face to face meetings. Meetings will range between internal ones, prospect calls and partnership or networking ones. I will rarely stop for lunch but eating at the right time is extremely important for me so I eat during meetings – it’s not put anyone off yet!

Depending on the week, I will either continue in the office, often followed by dinner, or race back home to pick up my daughter from the bus. I will spend some time catching up with her on her day and then continue at home with some calls or emails/Slack.

I will stop for dinner and I’ve been better recently about not doing work in the evening, but it’s not untypical to then work in the evening too. Sometimes I will still need to hit my step count and so head out for a 30 mins walk and listen to a podcast or audio book which also works to try to clear my mind.

3) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

First of all, it’s quite a personal thing. And that balance can change over the course of someone’s career or even year, depending on the other priorities or ambitions they have. For me, the three main things to achieve a balance are: picking up my daughter from school every other week, enough time in the gym and sufficient holidays.

While I’m quite bad at switching off, I would rather sacrifice some time on holidays working in order to have more time away. For me that’s a nice balance to have. For others, they may want to switch off completely but for fewer weeks.

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4) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

I’ve always been an avid gym goer but one of the more impactful things I’ve changed in the past 12 months is to increase my personal trainer time and lock it in each week. Personally I find training in the morning much more effective – the gym isn’t as busy and also I’m much more likely to turn up.

Equally, having a personal trainer three times a week and other solo training sessions already set in my diary means my work schedule has to work around it. This is now non-negotiable unless I’m travelling. And even if I am, I have prescribed sessions at those times to instil that practice and discipline. I’m fortunate that I control my working day and diary but having them in helps get the balance I need.

5) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Most books I read are business books but one I recently read that wasn’t is Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. I also listened to Shoe Dog recently which is the incredible story of Nike. In terms of podcasts, I listen to a lot of accounting and finance specific ones but more general ones are Marketing Against the Grain, Built to Sell and The Diary of the CEO. Pretty much all business books!

6) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

I tend not to look at other people as role models as I think you need to find or define your own vision.

7) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I think work-life balance is very personal. What works for one person doesn’t work for another, and how the two balance is also very particular to someone’s lifestyle, passions, ambitions and other commitments. For me, it’s not about working 9-5 and stopping work, but it’s about fitting the ambitions I have into my life and vice versa.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.