CEOs / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Carla Schesser, CEO of Five by Five Web Design

Carla Schesser is the CEO of Five by Five Web Design, an Australian web design agency with a team of 34 spread out across the Gold Coast, Queensland and in the Philippines.

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

I had my first part time job at 13 years of age, and my first full time job at 18. At the age of 19 my first book ‘#Success: Mastering the Basics to a Happy, Healthy, and Wealthy Life’ was published. Eight years later at 27 years old, I’m CEO of one of Australia’s award winning, highest-rated web design agencies, Five by Five.

I’m exceptionally proud of my achievements to date – from production management and customer service as part of a business of ten people, to now managing the growth of the business and a team of 34 across the Gold Coast, Queensland and in the Philippines.

I’m also proud of my position in the industry, as there are few female CEOs o- million dollar-plus businesses in Australia that are not start-ups.

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

A good day starts with preparation the day before, so I get my clothes laid out and bag packed before I hop into bed.

I’m up around 5am and in the office by 6:30 / 7am armed with a coffee.

The first 30 minutes of my day is spent getting into the “zone” – reciting my daily affirmations, setting my intention for the day ahead and planning out my priorities. I’ll then connect with our Founder & Owner Jon Hollenberg for 20 – 40 minutes, to run through the high level updates/focuses for the business.

An average work day includes huddles with all department heads – marketing, sales, delivery, project managers, finance, leadership etc solving challenges, brainstorming ideas and supporting where needed.

An hour or two is spent working on “Big Rocks” – activities that we envisage will create a big impact on the business.

I always try to break for lunch at noon with the rest of the team and catch up over the kitchen bench. It’s a good time for me to stay connected with the wider team as we grow and evolve.

I leave the office between 5:30/6:00pm and either head to the gym for a quick workout or stretch session, or go to a dance class to reset for the night. This is followed by dinner, a shower, and I’m in bed by 9pm with a book or Netflix show, how good is Maid?!

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

With a team in the Philippines (and previously Japan), a ‘blended’ work environment has always been our reality. Most of our team in Australia will work remotely a couple days a week, with Mondays being our only mandatory office day. We don’t mind where our people work, as long as they are comfortable, get the job done and are happy.

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

I do what brings me joy, and 80% of that involves ‘work’ in some shape or form.

Whether that is in the office, at a professional development event, at home, reading a business book or listening to a podcast – I’m okay with that! 

On weekends, I tune into some dedicated ‘me’ time and always make time to catch up with family and friends.

Another little trick that I have learnt is to “book a holiday, on a holiday”! That way I can schedule time in advance (so it actually happens) to rest and recharge. Usually I try to take about a week every 3-4 months. 

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

I’m currently on a social media detox and I’m here for it – I didn’t realise how much time I spent mindlessly scrolling through my phone instead of focusing on being present. 

I started dancing again after giving it up during my teenage years. I love that it’s a workout without feeling like a workout – and it’s incredible for forcing my monkey brain to focus on something other than the agenda for my next meeting. 

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I could recommend books all day long, but my top four when it comes to all things related to business and success would be:  

  • The Motive by Patrick Lencioni
  • Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
  • Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter
  • Good to Great by Jim Collins

I have also recently been introduced (by a colleague) to the Crime Junkie Podcast. Left of field, and a little dark, but so addictive. 

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

I honestly cannot live without: 

  • BeforeYouSpeak Coffee – My little cup of joy each morning. 
  • Trello – I have a board for ABSOLUTELY everything.  It’s an obsession at this point. 
  • Spotify – My go-to for audio heaven. Practically an auditory library full of wisdom. 

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be? 

I’d love to hear from a great – great relative to understand how work-life balance has changed and evolved overtime. Who knows, I may be able to grab some gold nuggets that I can weave into my own life.

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

My dad always reminds me that our “inbox” will always be full. Meaning there will always be work to do, emails to reply to, tasks to complete – we’ll never reach the end of a to do list. So it’s important to rather not prioritise what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.

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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.