Anthony Perl is the founder, director and Chief Ideas Person at communications and marketing agency CommTogether, which works with medium sized businesses and not-for-profit organisations.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
When I look back on my career, I have always been connected with delivering messages to people. What I enjoy most is engaging audiences through providing relatable examples and meaningful possibilities.
Originally I studied Communications, specialising in Broadcast Journalism and was driven by a fascination with talkback radio and sport.
I worked in the media for a number of years which gave me a great grounding in how to build audiences. It was a natural flow into working in communications and marketing for a large publicly listed business and then moving into the not-for-profit sector.
In 2011 I established CommTogether to channel my unique background into delivering a range of marketing services to small to medium businesses and the not-for-profit sector.
From the outset I sought to create an agency who could harness the best expertise for clients. When I started out, most agencies had all their services in-house, where I quickly realised the opportunity to form partnerships and outsource was a powerful model.
It’s a more common model these days, but the relationships I have with my partners precede CommTogether, so we are quite harmonious and efficient in our delivery as a consequence.
Personally, my focus is on both growing the business and delivering the strategy including fresh ideas to clients. Of course there is some implementation involved on my part as well, but as business expands, I am looking to bring more people in, so my role is more in overseeing capacity. That said, I still enjoy getting my hands dirty on projects.
I also give back to my local community in various ways including doing some mentoring and sitting on a Board.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
One of the reasons I started CommTogether was because having multiple clients not only keeps you on your toes, but it means no two days are the same. This probably also speaks to the fact that I have a creative energy, so structures tend to be more free-flowing.
On any given day I will have at least a couple of meetings with existing and potential partners. These relationships are a critical element to the success of the business.
Similarly I will often have a couple of longer conversations with existing clients. I make a point of not being totally focussed on work, because understanding where people are at in their lives, including listening to their frustrations enables me to offer more value.
At the moment I have both branding and website projects going on, so there is quite a bit of time spent with my team, particularly with my head developer. Translating what the clients want into something which is even better and more practical for them and their clients is a process. Expectations, including our own, are changing regularly.
Each day I devote some time to learning about new ways to improve the business. Most days I have an hour dedicated to being on a webinar where I am actively working on fresh approaches which I can deliver to my clients.
There is also a daily podcast I try not to miss. If you are not working on yourself and the business, things will stagnate. At the end of the day it is about delivering exceptional value to my clients.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Since the business began I have worked from home. I have a dedicated office which is separated from the main living room and bedrooms. It’s like being in an office, with the advantage of being around for the family when they need me, like yesterday when I was able to take my daughter for a quick dash to pick up a few essentials.
I love the fact that I can work from anywhere and have done over the years. A couple of years ago I spent some time in the UK and Israel, but was still able to maintain a seamless contact with clients where required.
My children have now finished school, but over the years I was able to be there for them and drive them when necessary. Having the flexibility to be working but still there for the family is a wonderful advantage.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
People often ask me if it is difficult to always be working from home. They wonder about the distractions. Even in my days in radio, I worked from home to prepare for the show, so being disciplined to get the work done has never been an issue.
Deadlines in radio are far worse than in business, because you can’t be a few seconds late delivering the news or there is dead air. The truth is I sometimes have to remember to stop. As a general rule, dinner time is when the lights in the office go out. I do my best to always accommodate the needs of my family.
In addition, I am quite a religiously spiritual person, so parts of my week are dedicated to growing internally as well as giving back by offering support in my community. I make sure my calendar creates the space for these things because I need them to sustain myself and to continue to be at my best for everyone.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
It’s an interesting question, because routines are hard to change. It is a gradual process and something I definitely try to improve upon regularly. My calendar is a perfect example where I am trying to bring a little more order into the creative flow of my daily life.
Recently I have also started trying to get out of bed just a little earlier, to find some additional space to expand my daily spiritual routine.
It’s easier said than done in the cold and dark of winter, not to mention the fact that I am a late night person (a side effect of spending 7 years working midnight to dawn in radio in the early part of my career).
A mentor of mine has been getting me to focus also on the thing I need to stop doing. As much as the positive changes in a routine are powerful, even more so is ending those things which can negatively impact your day.
For me, it is about being more aware of when I become distracted by tasks I could and should be leaving to others. Curiosity and creativity can be great things, but they can also take you off course.
While I have been doing things online for years, clients in the past were generally intent on physical face to face meetings. Now with people forced to work in isolation for periods, online meetings have become acceptable. It has created much greater efficiencies. It’s the best cross-the-board habit change.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
By far the best book and accompanying podcast series I have heard is ‘Unlocking Greatness’ by Charlie Harary. Charlie delivers bite size elements to work on each day. What I particularly like about his approach is it is very down to earth, using very relatable experiences to show you where and how to make a shift in your thinking.
A couple of great speakers who have newsletters, talks or podcasts you can follow that I recommend are Paul Dunn and Keith Abraham.
I am fortunate to be part of a loved group where Paul participates regularly – his insights are amazing when it comes to making the most of your communication and winning people over.
Keith is an internationally awarded speaker and his regular pieces are gold for motivating yourself, particularly his methodology for creating a list of 100 lifetime dreams and his success rate in getting them achieved.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Six days a week my iPhone is essential. I do switch it off for a day so I can recover and spend undistracted family time. I do love my iMac – which is lucky because I am glued to it most of my work days. Between them there are lots of little tools I use and can’t live without until something better comes along of course!
I do love the Station app, which sits on my desktop. It’s a free service which allows me to channel my emails, social media and a bunch of other tools into the framework. The power of it is also the ability to switch off notifications (which I need to remember to do more often to avoid distractions).
Freedcamp is the other great tool I have been using for a few years – it gives you everything you need to manage projects and keep on top of tasks. I use it with myself, my team and clients.
I think my family would agree, my Philips sleep apnea machine has been a life-saver. Quite literally it has reduced various health risks and improved the quality of my sleep and as a consequence my wife.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Achieving a work-life balance is in many respects such a personal thing. It depends on your influences, needs and circumstances along with those people around you. There is always something to learn from others, but finding a practical way to implement what is relevant to you is always the challenge.
In saying that, I am fascinated by people and what drives them.
While I have never been a big lover of celebrity, how people like Simon Cowell, Jerry Seinfeld and Prime Ministers (not just in Australia) maintain a balance in their life not just now, but as they were climbing to the top would be interesting.
Is it possible to have a high flying career and still be a family person? Musicians also intrigue me, often on the road or locked in a studio. How does family life work for them? I am showing my age, because many of the artists I admire have much older children now (Neil Finn) or they never had a family (Stevie Nicks).
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Family is everything to me. There have been periods where my immediate family needed a level of attention that would have cost me my job, had I been employed. Even though the business stalled during those times, it was worth it to be able to be there for them.
I have always strived to build a lifestyle business, which means I have the flexibility to be a part of my family’s life each day. Yes, there is a time for work which they also respect, but nothing gives me greater pleasure than going to the kitchen to make a cup of tea while having a conversation with one of my daughters about something which is important to her.
More than just family, work-life balance is about you as a person. I need to escape and focus on myself as well. Finding what is important to you, to connect you to yourself, your family, your community and the world not only gives you meaning, it gives you purpose.
Authenticity is one of the big buzzwords in marketing. It is something brands try so hard to achieve because connecting with people is critical for success. The great brands of the world are relatable and often challenge or help you to be better.
It’s a lesson we can learn for ourselves. Unless you are being authentic to yourself, as well as in your everyday life and the way you do business, the chances are you will not be happy nor will those around you.
For me to have a positive impact on all those around me, I continue to learn, religiously, professionally and personally. It is a journey adapting to what is going on around me. The balance is critical to my inner happiness, which means I can ultimately be the person I want to be, in work and in my personal life.
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