Ben Dexter is the Chief Innovation Officer at Newpath, which acquired his digital agency, Indietech, back in 2008.
Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?
My journey is a little different from many of my peers. I had a keen interest in IT in my pre-professional life, starting with exposure to DOS in my early years to building LANs in my teens. I joined the workforce as a builder’s labourer when I was 18 to get some quick cash and then quickly found the opportunity I needed to kick start my career in IT at an accounting software firm where I built computers and provided software support.
In my early 20’s I jumped ship to a CRM VAR as a Business Analyst and Systems Specialist. I learned a lot under Microsell’s Managing Director, David Rowswell, while consulting to the Business Council of Australia, HSBC, Kodak, and Yamaha. In 2003, I joined a band and toured Australia for the next 6 years.
While I saw a lot of Australia, this period of my life taught me a lot about listening to people, working in a team and the importance of relationships. The music is also gritty and full of sharks – so trust and loyalty became essential components in my set of values.
Transitioning back to the workforce was exceptionally difficult, so I did the hardest thing possible and started my own agency – Indietech in late 2008. Running my own digital agency presented a huge learning curve.
By 2017, we were 13 staff and 6 contractors, but I was tired and I recognised that I required mentorship to personally progress to the next stage of my life. I sold the business to Newpath and I’ve been with our wonderful agency ever since as Chief Innovation Officer and shareholder.
We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?
Inbox cleansing starts at about 6am. If it’s a busy day with many meetings, I’ll typically work on slow-thinking tasks like strategy documents, presentations and tender responses.
After the school drop off, I call our CEO from the car and we exchange the day’s briefing: the deals, the escalations, broader company matters and what we had for dinner the night before. I’m normally involved in 4 – 5 meetings per day with staff and clients. So, my days are fast-paced and full of action. It’s very enjoyable.
Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?
I have improved my work-life balance a lot since the pandemic and as a result of the lockdowns. As soon as we were released back into the wild I went on a personal and professional mission to optimise my life balance with a consistent schedule of exercise, meditation, reading, music, family, and friends.
My wonderful partner, Hanna, and I are constantly keeping each other in check to ensure we are maintaining the balance. At heart, we’re both workaholics and incredibly ambitious, passionate people. So, regularly reflecting on our work-life balance ‘performance’ has been a considerable factor in our personal success.
I no longer subscribe to the hard work = success entrepreneurial mantra as I believe this mindset to be selfishly individualistic and the cause of many relationship and societal failures. Instead, fill your life-work buckets evenly and success will follow.
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?
I am listening to less audiobooks and reading more printed books as my retention of information is a little better. I’m developing a love of science fiction novels and I’m keen to explore more historical fiction, which I find fascinating (see Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel).
I am also studying music theory with a private tutor and corporate governance with the Australian Institute of Company Directors. With these three activities alone, I am actively exploring new perspectives and skills to ensure my work-life buckets are filled at all times.
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?
If you’re early in your career, Atomic Habits by James Clear is essential reading. I’m constantly coming back to Clear’s concepts for time and task management.
CEO Excellence: The Six Mindsets That Distinguish the Best Leaders from the Rest by Carolyn Dewar, Scott Keller, Vikram Malhotra offers wonderful insights into the strategies and mindsets of the world’s most successful CEO’s.
I also love receiving Rick Morton’s Nervous Laughter Substack each week to remind myself what interesting, creative, insightful and humorous writing looks like. As it’s all too easy to get stuck in the drudgery of corporate jargon.
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?
If I could talk to my younger self, I would say: “Create a consistent daily and weekly schedule that is filled with impactful and worthwhile activities to fill each of the relationship, spiritual, professional, creative, health, and leisure buckets. If these activities are underpinned by your values, this discipline will take you where you want to go.”