CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Yanir Yakutiel, Founder & CEO at Lumi

Yanir Yakutiel is the Founder & CEO at Lumi, a fintech start-up launched in 2018 and Australia’s fastest growing small business lender.

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

I started my working career originally as a lawyer, having studied economics and law at university – but I quickly decided the legal life wasn’t for me.

I then tried my hand as a financial analyst, worked through a few roles specialising in business development, corporate finance and investment – and fast forward to today, I’m now the CEO and founder of Lumi, a dynamic Australian startup specialising in small business loans.

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

I’m quite an early riser – my day starts at around 4:30am/5am, which is when I start catching up on emails. At 6am, when my wife wakes up I make her a coffee and some breakfast before she heads off to work.

Roughly when she leaves, I wake my son up so I can get him ready for school – it’s the best part of my day. I’ll make sure he’s fed then I do the school drop-off. Dropping my son off and picking him up from school is so important to me.

Whenever I’ve looked at office spaces and where to base the company, I’d always take into consideration the logistics of the school drop-off to ensure it’s close by and I can still do it.

When I arrive at the office at 8am, the sales team usually will have already started working, then it gets crazy and I’m in back to back meetings until about lunchtime.

At around 6:00pm, I’ll pop over to my son’s school, pick him up, and depending on whether I need to be in the office or not he will either come back with me (he has his own designated desk area for him to do his homework), or we will head home. I’ll then continue working until around dinner time.

In the evenings after dinner, I spend more quality time with my son before I put him to bed. Since my wife is an anaesthetist, we’re on conflicting schedules most of the time so if there’s an evening she’s not rostered on for work, we make sure we make the most of our time together.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

My wife’s work demands mean she never gets to work from home, or utilise flexible working – so I wanted to make sure I was doing something flexible so we could spend more time with our son.

Building my own business meant I could call the shots on my own life and make my work as flexible as I wanted. I’ll often work from home in the late afternoons so I can be around my son after school if I’m not required in the office.

Flexible working also means I get to work around my wife’s schedule when I’m needed to, which definitely helps to find pockets in time to spend together as a family.

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

My first tip would be to make sure you have a supportive team around you to help share the load.

Secondly, try and manage your entrepreneurial schedule with your life schedule. I admit that I got that really wrong over the last couple of years. To give you an idea, we booked a family holiday in April this year which ended up coinciding with a capital raise, meaning I had to stay back and lead the business. This is something I should have and will manage better going forward.

Thirdly, always remember there are peaks and troughs in time. During a quiet period, make sure you get out of the office early and set aside time for whatever you want to do, and don’t just leave early to then go home and get back on your emails – completely switch off.

We’re currently living in this limitless culture where we’re always on and always expected to give 200%, but regardless of the endless opportunities for your business, it’s just as important to recharge to avoid burnout.

Finally, find whatever you need to do to recharge, and do it. Some people like yoga classes, playing tennis, swimming, or just reading a good book. Whatever it is, do it and do it properly – stay in the moment and switch off your emails and phone notifications.

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

Being in the very demanding startup industry means I will often find myself working constantly, but I make sure there’s at least one day on a weekend when I will completely disconnect.

On this day I make sure my phone is on silent, my emails are off and I’m off socials as well. My family and I usually spend this time to go on bike rides, hikes or beach walks together, so we can really switch off, recharge and ensure we’re all refreshed for the week ahead.

Work-life balance can be whatever you want it to be and it’s important to utilise this so you don’t ever feel like you’re succumbing to ‘burn out’. Ensuring I have at least one day on a weekend to not be involved in anything to do with work means I get to be completely in the moment with my family, which is what matters the most to me.

6) 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 of the best and most efficient ways of working for me is to delegate and avoid micromanaging. I have found that stepping away and sharing the load is so important for my work-life balance, my business’s success and just for my overall sanity.

Another thing I’ve always told myself is ‘perfect is the enemy of done’. When you’re tackling an abstract and somewhat unachievable goal head-on, sometimes you just have to roll your sleeves up, get it done, and move on.

Being a perfectionist might sound like a great quality to some, but not when it means your entire team is stressing over one piece of work that is less significant in the grander scheme of things.

The tactic of deep work is also extremely important to me. If I’m about to delve into a big project, I’ll get rid of all my distractions, tell my team not to speak to me during this time and I’ll get stuck in for about two hours. Utilising this skill is more valuable than you may think, as it can help with focus, productivity and even the quality of your work.

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

I’ve always been an avid reader, especially through my teens and early twenties. There’s one Hebrew book that I read when I was about 20 years old at the most reflective time in my life called Life as a Parable. I had just lost one of my parents and I was travelling through South East Asia, and this book which discusses a lot about the meaning of life really grounded me.

It helped me understand that over everything else in your life, the most important things are your family and your health.

Once I had this perspective and pushed trivial issues to the side – it’s helped me calm my nerves and it’s made working under a high pressure startup environment much easier. Being able to separate myself from what really matters, I’ve been able to work well under pressure, without losing my cool and staying calm and focused during challenging times.

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

The school drop-off, pick up and quality time is what gets me through. Those are the best moments and the pockets of time I will always prioritise no matter what I have on. Spending time with my son and family before work makes me feel refreshed and ready to take on the day, and unwinding with them definitely does the same.

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

I want to stress the importance of finding whatever it is you need to recharge, and making sure you commit to it. Recharging is also very different to ‘blowing off steam’, by the way. Going out on the town for a night doesn’t count!

Find something that makes you feel refreshed afterwards, and try and commit to doing it every week at least once. If it’s not an activity like tennis or yoga, and something more like reading, try doing it every day. Apparently it takes 66 days to form a new habit so give yourself time to adjust and apply it to your life schedule.

If you found the above conversation about work-life balance helpful, be sure to check out Balance the Grind’s 42 tips for achieving & maintaining a healthy work-life balance

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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.