Balancing the Grind with Rhys Henderson, Co-Founder of cogsflow

Rhys Henderson is the Co-Founder of COGSflow, which provides growth funding, insights and a supplier payments platform to eCommerce businesses.

Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

My career path has been quite unconventional, but that’s not uncommon among founders. I grew up on the outskirts of Melbourne, and after finishing school, I started working for my Dad, washing cars for local car dealerships and managing a petrol station.

Yes, I pumped petrol! However, my interest in technology always remained strong. At 21, I pursued an Advanced Diploma in IT & Business Systems Engineering, eventually leading to an internship with GE. From there, my journey in the fintech industry took off, and the rest is history.

Over the next 15 years, I gained experience in various roles such as IT, Project Management, Growth, Strategic Planning, Marketing, Operations, and General Management. As an intrapreneur, I actively sought opportunities to take on new initiatives, including entering new markets and introducing new businesses and products to APAC for wholly owned subsidiary companies associated with Toyota and Volkswagen Group.

This journey culminated in holding Managing Director positions across multiple markets. I feel fortunate to have been given numerous opportunities to learn and develop as a business leader, gaining expertise in new market entry, market development, operational excellence, product expansion, brand-building strategies, business partnerships, and securing funding from global parent organisations.

I also participated in programs like Volkswagen Group’s international talent management program and assessment centre. I received corporate sponsorship for my Executive MBA to become a Graduate of the AICD (GAICD).

Three years ago, I realised that my true passion lies in building, not just maintaining the status quo, so I decided to leave my comfortable corporate career and start my own business. That’s when cogsflow was born! With my co-founder, we created a company that empowers eCommerce retailers and wholesalers with data-driven funding and insights.

Our mission? To provide them with a flexible and transparent way to purchase inventory and handle those unpredictable variable costs. We’re all about fuelling sustainable growth through performance-based funding and customised insights, ensuring our clients can keep up with modern businesses’ ever-changing cash flow cycles.

In addition to my work with cogsflow, I run a small Private Investment & Advisory Firm. We specialise in supporting early-stage companies with the potential to become significant industry players. Our firm offers angel investments, advisory services, and board expertise, guiding these companies through all stages of their journey, from inception to growth.

I believe in giving back, which my parents instilled in me early on. I’m actively involved in volunteering as a mentor. I work with the Raise Foundation as a Youth Mentor and contribute to the University of Technology Sydney Advisory Board, specifically the Executive & Advanced MBA programs. 

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

My daily routine involves managing various responsibilities, adapting to changing circumstances, and prioritising my professional and personal well-being. It varies greatly depending on the circumstances. Whether I’m on “kids logistics” while working from home, travelling, or in the office.

Typically, I aim to wake up around 6:30 am, help get the kids ready, and make myself available online or at the office by 8:30 am. I allocate specific time blocks for operational, tactical, and strategic tasks to structure my day effectively before our daily virtual team stand up at 9:30 am.

Maintaining balance throughout the day can be mentally challenging, given the constant need to switch roles and responsibilities within an early-stage business. Therefore, regular exercise is crucial in helping me stay centred and focused. I strive to engage in physical activities of varying intensity each day.

Equally important to me is being present for my family. I prioritise being home in time to see the kids and some family time. After that, I relax and decompress, tailoring my choices based on my feelings.

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

Achieving a sense of life balance can be challenging, especially when you have a young family and parents juggling full-time jobs. It’s all about finding that sweet spot to spend quality time with your family and friends, take a breather to recharge your batteries and pursue your professional goals.

If you neglect these areas, that pesky inner critic starts wreaking havoc on your well-being. I need outdoor activities, travelling with family and friends, and the ocean, which I find incredibly therapeutic. Therefore, I make it a point to allocate time for these activities when needed.

It’s important to understand that being “on” all the time without breaks is a fast track to burnout. To be the best version of myself at home and work, I had to recognise the importance of self-care and stress management. Identifying and knowing how to address my triggers is an ongoing learning process. Fortunately, I have an incredible support network that helps me navigate these challenges. But I did have to teach myself to ask for help, guidance or even just simple conversation.

Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

Yeah, I must admit that I felt pretty burned out towards the end of last year. I didn’t give myself enough time to recharge, which caught up with me as we entered 2023. I realised that I had been so focused on reaching my goals that I forgot to enjoy the journey along the way. It was a valuable lesson for me.

I became unwell, and to address this needed a solid two-week break from all electronics and the demands of the real world. It was like a breath of fresh air. Yes, I have an amazing partner. During that time, I had a chance to reflect and understand that I can’t operate in my 40s as I did in my 20s. I needed to make some changes.

Since then, I’ve become much better at prioritising ruthlessly and being disciplined with my time. I’ve learned to set clear boundaries and allocate specific time blocks for tasks and responsibilities, and I believe in “inbox zero”. I challenge myself daily on these three critical areas to help me find a better balance. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always easy to stay focused and avoid distractions, but implementing these practices has made a significant difference over the past six months.

Of course, achieving balance is an ongoing challenge. It requires constant effort and adjustments. But I’m determined to keep working on it. I’ve realised that taking care of myself and finding that balance is essential for my overall well-being and success in my personal and professional life to be the best version of myself for the people that matter to me and stay focused on what matters most.

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

I’m a massive fan of James Clear and Atomic Habits and always take the time to read his 3-2-1 Thursday when it hits my inbox. I’ve just finished reading Deep Work (Cal Newport). My go-to podcasts for balance and inspiration are The Imperfects (The Resilience Project), The Diary of a CEO (Steven Bartlett) and The School of Greatness (Lewis Howes). I don’t consume every episode. Just look for content that I can relate to.

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

In the past few years, I’ve had a significant realisation: it’s about enjoying the challenges and embracing the journey rather than solely focusing on where I want to end up. I reached a goal and immediately sought a bigger and bolder one without taking the time to appreciate the accomplishment. It’s funny how your greatest assets can also be your biggest potential weaknesses or blind spots.

To keep me grounded and remind myself of what truly matters, I have a quote on the wall in my home office: “Does this align with who I want to be?” It is a reminder to step back and evaluate where I am at any moment. Those who know me well know that I have a saying for almost every situation, and one of my all-time favourites is: “Stop waiting for the storm to pass and learn to dance in the rain.”

A nudge not to take myself too seriously and have a laugh. Life is for living, and we can’t control everything that comes our way. However, we can control how we respond and relate to each situation. That’s where the true power lies—in our ability to choose our perspective and approach.

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.