Brendan James is the Chief Operating Officer at Boutique Fitness Studios, where he is focusing on the operations and growth of the existing brands.
Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?
I started out in a very different industry, after completing a Bachelor of Economics focusing on Quantitative Finance I went on to become an Options Trader for a Prop firm. I did this for almost 15 years, living and working in different markets around the world. This was an all-consuming occupation that left little room for much else.
When my kids were 6 and 7 I realised I was missing out on being a Dad and really did not spend much time with my family. My wife and I made the decision to stop chasing the money and start chasing lifestyle, so I resigned and we moved from Sydney to the Sunshine Coast where I spent the next year being a full time Dad, loving every moment of it.
About 9 months into this sabbatical, I began getting itchy to do something. My wife Jess had done Pilates for 15+ years, it was the only form of exercise that kept the pain from an early life car accident away and there was nothing on the Coast that satisfied the experience she had seen in our time in the US. So we decided to start a Pilates Business.
At a similar time Matt (Boutique Fitness Studios CEO and my brother in law) was relocating back to Australia from LA and bringing some Xponential brands with him. Discussions at this point led me to acquiring the Club Pilates Master for Australia and begin growing the franchise. Fast forward a few years Matt was growing Boutique Fitness Studios with CycleBar, Stretch Lab and Rumble Boxing while I was growing Club Pilates.
We were always in constant communication sharing stories and advice until one day we decided to combine our respective talents and share the load of all 4 brands. I’m now the COO of BFS focusing on the operations and growth of the existing brands while Matt as CEO is focusing on adding to the pie and growing Boutique Fitness Studios.
We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?
A typical workday for me almost always starts with waking at 5am for some coffee and breakfast before heading out for a ride. As an avid Cyclist this is my escape time and where some of my best ideas are generated. I have a close group of friends I ride with and it’s a great way to start the day. Returning home to see my kids before they take off for school then it’s then straight to work in my home office.
I try to go out for a short walk with my wife during the day but I pretty much sit in my office on the phone, email or chat, conversing with Staff, Suppliers, Franchisees and of course Matt. I focus on executing long term strategy plans as well as assisting in the firefighting issues of the day to support our network.
I made a deal with my family when we moved to the Sunshine Coast to eat dinner at the table together every night and this is what happens. I normally sign off for the day when dinner is ready and enjoy a meal with my family.
Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?
To me work life balance is to manage the happiness of yourself and those you care about. Work is life to me, I love it but it’s stressful and can very easily drag you away from the other things in life that make you happy.
Exercise is also very important to me and keeps me happy so I ride 300ish kms a week and with a set schedule for cycling with my friends it keeps me getting up every morning. I also have a very understanding wife that will tell me straight if I’m drifting away from the family. Missing a meal or 2 is ok but if it starts to happen too much she calls me out and I readjust my schedule.
I still have periods of time where I need to revert to all work and no play for the sake of the Business. I make a clear decision to do this and try to put a timeline on it. It’s also important to share with my family that this is a decision I’m making for the short term and can they help support it.
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?
Merging Club Pilates into BFS was a big change for me. Having someone to share the risk and workload really helped to lighten the mental load. In doing this I also moved to working from home and this helped to increase the flexibility to take time when needed but it also must be managed with the ease of over working when you can just slip into the office.
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?
Diary of a CEO is a great podcast curiously diving into the lives of many of the world’s most successful and influential people.
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?
Work life balance is a big buzzword right now and many people focus on it. The challenge is that the balance is not a ‘right’ it’s a ‘choice’. Sometimes for success you must forgo a period of the ‘Life’ side of the scale so that you can balance it up later. If you always force the balance then your business might suffer as a consequence. People should choose what makes them and the people they care about the happiest in the long run.