Interviews / Operations

Balancing the Grind with Chris Madden, Director of Operations at Smart Send

Chris Madden is the founder and director of operations at Smart Send, an online courier service aimed at low to medium volume shippers.

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

Growing up, all I ever wanted to be was a hairdresser. I used to play with my dolls doing their hair all the time. I remember getting a Chrissy doll one year for Christmas, you could make her hair grow. Does that give my age away?

At 16, I landed myself an apprenticeship and away I went. I was a hairdresser for 10 years, the last three running my own salon. I found I was suffering back issues and decided the time had come to move on.

Apart from hairdressing I really didn’t have any other skills except I knew how to talk to people and thought I’d give sales a go. After a couple of not-so-great roles, I landed a sales position with Yellow Pages in their hay day. This started with a 6 week sales training course that set me up and I ran with it.

After moving to Brisbane, marrying and having two beautiful boys, when my marriage dissolved, I returned to the workforce, leading a position as a sales person in the road express transport industry. I took to the role like a duck to water and was promoted to state sales manager.

In the early 2000’s, as eBay was emerging in Australia, we had more and more people coming to us to ship their goods. At the time, transport companies were not interested in doing residential deliveries, let alone pickups.

I recognised a niche in the market that would connect online sellers to transport companies via a digital platform that would give the seller a fair go and make it easier for the transport companies. In 2005, Smart Send was launched with my business partner Steve Visic.

I’m the operations director and run our customer service team, with staff here in Australia and in the Philippines.

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

I’m usually at my desk by 7am each morning with a pot of tea. The first thing I do daily is check our bookings for the day to ensure everything is as it should be and booked with our carriers correctly.

I spend an hour or so going over our customer service enquiries to assist my team where possible. This might simply be leaving notes to guide them, contact number to assist or getting rid of the query completely. I just like to keep my hand in. I go through my emails to see if there is anything urgent I need to attend to and answer.

I am passionate about helping e-commerce businesses get their delivery partners right, we create a lot of content in this space which we post to Facebook, LinkedIn and our support site. We offer advice on packaging correctly, shipping addresses, 3PL pro’s and con’s. We also have an auditing service for online sellers to optimise their shipping needs.

I’m always looking for marketing partnerships where both businesses add value and help build each other’s businesses.

Steve and I have recently written a book, due for release in March 2021 as a guide for online sellers to ensure they are partnering with the right transport delivery providers. It’s exciting times.

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

As Smart Send has always been a digital business, we’ve never felt the need to rent office space. I’ve worked from my home office for the last 15 years. I simply cannot imagine having to travel to an office daily for work.

Our team, including our OS support team all work from home. This also allows me to find talent in the wider community not just locally based. We’ve always used Skype to communicate and I have all the same issues as any office would.

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

In the beginning, this was very hard to achieve but 15 years in I think I’m one of the lucky ones. These days I can condense my week down to a 4-day week which I love.

I live in a coastal town in Northern NSW, so love walking my dog on the beach, cooking and eating out. Travel is also one of my passions so I cannot wait for COVID to come under control so I can explore more of the world. I am happily planning a couple of trips in Australia currently.

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

I love to walk, it clears my head, I often get great ideas when I’m walking. In August 2020, I had a total knee replacement that sat me on my backside. Five months post op and I finally feel like I’m starting to get back on track.

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

I just love The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, it’s just a great way to lead life. Another is The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. It’s an easy read and makes you realise that we need to look after yourself and the people that matter in your life that really matter.

I listen to the eCommerceFuel podcast, though you don’t need to be in e-commerce for Andrew to make sense.

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

I’m really not much of an app or gadget girl but I do love my AirPods when I’m out and about, and the satnav in the car. Goodness knows where I’d end up without it.

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

Heidi Richards from WE Magazine for Women.

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

As working women, especially those with families, it is important we take some time for ourselves daily and weekly. Be kind to yourself, the rest of the world is quick to criticise and pull us down. This makes it more important to be kind to yourself.

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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.