Daniel Lehmann is COO of Sprout, a financial technology platform providing underserved investors access to top-performing Venture Capital funds.
Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?
I’ve spent my whole career in finance, having qualified as a Chartered Accountant with PwC before moving into mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Both gave me a solid technical grounding, and significant exposure to private businesses – a path on which I’ve continued since leaving the corporate world.
In 2019, I joined a private equity firm focused on special situations – a wide-ranging mandate, but primarily entailed providing flexible financing to drive operational and financial change, and unlocking transformational growth opportunities. Having sat on one side of the table as an investor (and often board advisor) in over 20 private businesses in recent years, I decided to become a founder in my own right.
Today, I’m COO of Sprout. Interacting with private businesses is something I’m really passionate about – Sprout connects underserved investors to the best venture capital (VC) funds globally, enabling access to one of the highest performing asset classes. Via Sprout, we provide a responsible and professional way to potentially invest in category-defining businesses before they become household names.
We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?
There is no typical day. However, I try to honour my non-negotiables – I wake up early and spend an hour or so in the gym before going to the office. I’ve been intermittent fasting for the best part of three years, and find this really helps focus the mind during my most productive hours whilst the endorphins are flowing!
I am a big believer in people – I’ve spent my career backing entrepreneurs and building teams. Whilst appreciating that hybrid and remote working is in vogue, I love the office environment and collaborative nature of being around others, it gives me a real lift. My time is largely spent between face-to-face meetings and the office.
Typically, I’m interacting with prospective customers, B2B partners and service providers, as well as owning the core operational responsibilities of the team that includes everything from legal to accounting.
As we continue to build Sprout, naturally I spend many evenings in person with potential customers, partners and funds. However, I try to be home for dinner every night to make sure I spend time with my girlfriend, even if I have to work afterwards.
Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?
The concept of work-life balance when building a business is one of the biggest challenges to navigate. It doesn’t help that my co-founder is my best friend – we try to spend at least a few hours together once a week when we won’t discuss work – usually revolving around sport.
Working hard is something I’m not afraid to shy away from. Someone once said to me that running a business actually allows you better work-life balance than being in a busy job, but worse work-life separation.
To me, work-life balance is about priorities. I’m an accountant – it therefore isn’t a surprise that I find my balance, and comfort, in structure. Making sure I carve out enough time for exercise, friends and family is a priority for me, though I’m fluid as to when I find that time.
It’s also important that, as a team, we are clear with each other about what matters to us. For some people, it’s being home for dinner. For others, it’s being able to go to the gym during the day.
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?
Stretching daily before bed has definitely helped alleviate tension and stress, but having struggled with sleep, the Oura ring has been a game changer. Tracking my sleep, heart rate and readiness has helped me to build an awareness of my body that has made a significant difference. Knowing when, and how hard, to push myself has had a significant impact on my emotional and physical wellbeing.
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?
Given the amount of time I spend in front of a screen, I try to listen to podcasts to decompress. I am a huge fan of Jake Humphrey’s High Performance Podcast – listening to other people’s success inspires me to be the best version of myself. Beyond that, I find that TED Talks Daily broadens my mindset and gives me an appreciation of topics I’d never seek out.
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?
Balance is personal and means something different to everyone. I work hard, but I love what I do, and I’d be bored if I didn’t! However, making time for friends, family and wellbeing is something nobody should sacrifice, whatever you’re working on. Ultimately, the reason we do what we do is to enjoy it with those we love.
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