Ben Lipschitz is the co-founder & managing director of FoodByUs, an online marketplace that connects restaurants, cafes and caterers with hundreds of wholesale food suppliers.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I am the co-founder and Managing Director of FoodByUs, an online marketplace that connects restaurants, cafes and caterers with hundreds of wholesale food & alcohol suppliers.
I was born in South Africa and am the youngest of three boys. We immigrated to Sydney when I was three.
I studied law however after I graduated I decided I really wanted to get into business and start something of my own.
I was 24 when I started my first business, Flipsters. After seeing my girlfriend at the time struggling to carry flat shoes to wear after a night out in heels I created a brand of foldable women’s shoes designed to fit in a standard clutch. After growing the business to 16 countries internationally and selling to more than 300 Australian retailers, I sold the business in 2014.
In 2016 I teamed up with Gary Munitz and Tim Chandler, both formerly of Menulog, and combined our expertise in hospitality and technology to launch FoodByUs, a ‘one stop procurement shop’ for small-medium sized venues looking to search and compare the market to access the buying power and choice normally reserved for much larger businesses.
In my role I am focused on building the company which includes building the team, strategy, working with partners (including investors), sales, marketing, product and everything in between. The business has grown by over 50% in the past twelve months.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I’m usually up by 6am for some exercise and then into work – I like to get to the office a little early to get priority tasks done before the team comes in. I’ll also take a look at the numbers, we’re incredibly data-driven and we have a few key metrics that I like to watch daily.
From there I will usually meet with one or more members of my leadership team to check in on how things are going with sales, marketing, operations and/or product development.
The style of meeting changes depending on the time of the quarter – we may be ‘heads down’ or planning for the next quarter’s goals. For example, if we’re planning for the next round of product features there will be designs, technical estimates, customer feedback and more to go through.
Often throughout the day I’ll have a number of meetings with partners and suppliers to help grow our business – this may be other complementary companies we’re working with or new industries we’re looking to go into. I like to get involved in the early stages so I can learn and help. As ideas mature they are then taken over by various parts of the business.
Some days of the month are blocked out for creative and strategic thinking, something which I think is so important as a founder and can be difficult to secure unless you book it in for yourself.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
100% – myself or any of the team can work remotely. We were set up for this from day one so when we went into lockdown there were absolutely no system changes required.
Having said that, FoodByUs has an incredibly strong culture and is highly reviewed on job sites – so the team really do enjoy coming in and seeing each other on a regular basis. It’s really about balance and whatever the team needs to work effectively, but most days we are all around.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Step one is really enjoying what you do and making a solid contribution every day – in my opinion that’s the absolute baseline for how to look at work.
Balance then means making sure you have the energy and off time to get up and do it all again tomorrow without ever feeling like it is compromising on your core values or relationships.
In previous businesses I have nailed the former – loving what I do – but worked so hard at it that after a while I started to get frustrated at how much I was giving up to make the business run effectively.
Making yourself very efficient while at work, and then forcing yourself to stop at some point to enjoy down time, is really important as a founder and ultimately makes you a better leader for your team.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Exercise is always a regular part of my routine, I find it helps clear the mind and gives a lot of energy to get through the day (aside from being the healthy thing to do!).
Lockdowns and restrictions have meant I have not been able to take part in triathlon competitions so I am really looking forward to being able to pick this up again in 2022.
I’ve always cooked but I have recently made it a habit to make a dish that I’ve never attempted before at least every fortnight. While this has at times had varying results, it’s a great way to try something new.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Podcasts – I love How I Built This, Making Sense (Sam Harris), Tim Ferris, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, Scaling Up, Gamechangers (The Economist) and lately I’ve started listening to the Coin Bureau as I’m trying to learn a bit more about crypto.
Airtree and Blackbird put out interesting newsletters on VC’s and the startup world. A recent book I would highly recommend is The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race – a brilliant book going into the Nobel prize winning team behind CRISPR gene editing technology, and its implications for the future.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Definitely Spotify and a good set of noise-cancelling headphones.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Mike Cannon Brookes (Atlassian Co-Founder) – he is absolutely involved in everything from business to investment to policy to the arts and more. I think it’d be fascinating to understand how he balances it all.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I think that the idea of work-life balance is more than just making time to relax. We spend so much of our waking day and week at work. Even when we’re not at work, it can occupy our thinking, our discussions and our life planning.
For me, before considering the concept of balance it is more important to take a step back and really figure out what we enjoy, why and the best way to make those things an integral part of our everyday work.
That way, the concept of ‘balance’ becomes more fluid – it may be about how much you love work and figuring out how you manage that against other passions and commitments – rather than necessarily carving out one from the other.
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