CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Mark Puncher, Chief Energy Officer at Employer Branding Australia

Mark Puncher is the Founder & Chief Energy Officer at Employer Branding Australia, a company he started in 2018 focused on employer branding and engagement, talent attraction and recruitment.

For the past 17 years, Mark has run employer branding or marcomms operations in the UK and Australia for recruitment and media organisations including Employment Office, Guardian Jobs, Hobsons and TES Global.

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

I’ve spent most of the last 18 years with one foot in marketing and the other in recruitment and employee engagement. My best and most fulfilling results have come when leading great, connected teams. It took me a while but I finally figured out three things:

  1. I’m a passionate marketer who hates most marketing.
  2. I’m a people & culture obsessive who struggles with good old ‘HR’.
  3. If your goal is organisational success, people matter most. Always.

Combine those three things and you get employer branding, as it should be. So that’s what I spend my time doing. You can find out what employer branding is here.

2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?

I’m Chief Energy Officer of Employer Branding Australia, a company I set up in early 2018.

We’re a small team (and I plan to keep it that way) so my role is very diverse!

From employer branding research and engagement to employee value proposition crafting, to strategy development, to content creation – I’m either doing it myself or supporting others to do it themselves.

My aim is that everything I do leads to positive results for our clients and for our team. I believe you can’t have one without the other.

3) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

People always say this but there really is no typical day for me right now. That said, every day usually involves project delivery, client engagement, team connections, strategy and admin, all book-ended by the classic rise and fall of raising two young children.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

You know what? I think the struggle to achieve balance has become a bit like dieting.

Every day, someone’s promoting a new ‘secret remedy’ or a heavily recycled ‘top 5 tips’. Yet there’s no silver bullet for sustainable weight loss or effective work/life management.

As someone who struggles with both, I’m currently trying to get back to basics: focus, prioritise and empower my team to take ownership.

Mark & the Employer Branding Australia team

5) In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?

It’s a work in progress, and it’s currently not all that pretty! I run the business quite flexibly, so I actually get more time with our kids now than I did as a salaried employee. But that often means working late, once the kids are down.

It can also mean sneaky email-checking, in favour of being mentally present at home.

This stuff can really affect my relationships and my own health, so I’m trying to draw clearer lines. I think the idea of banning phones in the evening and at weekends is a great one. Again, a work in progress.

6) What does work life balance mean to you?

For me, ‘work life integration’ is a phrase I can better relate to. I’m at my best when I can mix work and home, to the benefit of my family and my career. But balance is clearly a vital part of that.

What it means to me is having the freedom and the health to bring your best you, wherever you are and whoever you’re with.

7) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

One has to be regular investment in health and fitness! I feel like a fraud saying it now as, well let’s just say, I’m at a ‘low point’ on the journey.

But I recently rejoined a gym and invested in a personal trainer to help me get back to where I want to be. (Brisbane folks – check out Kelly Batt. She’s amazing.)

There’s surely no doubt that when we feel physically well, we are in a better place mentally, and that drives better performance, richer relationships and happier lives.

Another habit is walking and moving. It’s easy to get clogged up in an office or at a computer. However, I consistently find that when I walk to work, I’m more productive and creative when I get there; and when I do walk and talk meetings with my team, we have better quality discussions.

8) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

Every book I read helps me! And I’ve found I’ve learned more from fiction than non-fiction.

The biggest mind-expanders / perspective shifters include L’Etranger (The Outsider) by Albert Camus, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Blindness by Jose Saramago and pretty much everything by J.G. Ballard.

9) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

I try to set aside 15 minutes: 5 at the start to plan what I’ll do that day, 5 in the middle to take stock of the half-time result, and 5 at the end to reflect on what I’ve done, why it mattered and what I learned. Those last 5 minutes are the most important of all.

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

I think the biggest thing – for balance, success and everything else – is to know yourself as well as you possibly can.

Know what makes you tick and what demoralises you; figure out what enables you to thrive and what paralyses you; be as honest as possible about your behaviours and your triggers.

For example, I know that if left to my own devices, I’d work day and night for three days. Then I’d collapse in a heap, questioning the meaning of life, for at least a week. Push hard, endure, sprint if you need to, but rest is as important as water.

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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.