Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Daniel Lohrmann, Founder & Managing Director at ikaros

Daniel Lohrmann is the Founder & Managing Director at ikaros, a specialist growth consultancy that acts as a dedicated growth squad for its clients.

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Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

Sure, I’d be happy to share my journey. I started out in the world of investment banking with Barclays in London. That was a great experience, but after about two years, I realised that the finance world might not be my life’s calling. I wanted to work more directly with innovation and value creation, so I transitioned into the startup ecosystem and joined a large German venture builder, Rocket Internet.

That opportunity really opened my eyes to the potential of technology and entrepreneurship, and that’s when I fell in love with the pace and excitement of the startup world.

Fast forward to today, I’m currently the founder and managing director of ikaros, a specialist consultancy focused on product led growth. We really hone in on the foundations that enable this growth – specifically data, processes, and culture. Before that, I served as Head of Growth at a prop tech startup here in Sydney, which was a great experience that gave me the grounding I needed to take on my current role.

So, that’s me in a nutshell – a finance guy turned tech enthusiast, trying to help businesses grow by focusing on the right products and building a robust organisational framework around them.

 We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

A typical day for me is really about striking a balance between work, family, and self-care. The challenging part is time zones since I have a colleague in North America and clients in Europe. So, it’s really all about being flexible and working smart.

My day usually kicks off bright and early with my son who wakes up anytime between 4:30 and 5:30. My wife and I alternate feeding him and then it’s time for a bit of exercise to get my day started on a high note. My son’s lucky – he gets to go back to sleep until 7 or 8, but me, not so much! So I’ve decided to make the most of that time and be productive.

During my commute to the office, I do my daily standup call with my colleague who’s based in Vancouver. I generally reach the office between 7 and 8, depending on whether it’s my day to drop Alexander at daycare. The key here is to go with the flow. I have certain tasks that I aim to accomplish by a particular time, but I try to be flexible on how and when I get them done, given the unpredictable nature of a little one’s schedule!

My mornings are reserved for deep focus work – that’s until about 11:30 or 12:30. I strive not to schedule any meetings during this time, although it doesn’t always go as planned.

I have specific time blocks reserved for recurring tasks too. For instance, Monday mornings are dedicated to organising my week and following up on business development opportunities.

My afternoons are typically filled with client and internal meetings or working on less mentally demanding tasks like answering emails. In the evening, from 5 to 8, I’ve blocked out time to help get my son ready for bed and enjoy dinner with my wife. It’s a hard stop from work, a time to reconnect with my family. I prefer doing later meetings with our European clients if that lets me keep this time free.

So, that’s a day in my life – a blend of productivity, family time, and a little bit of flexibility thrown in for good measure!

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

Defining work-life balance can be a bit tricky as it looks different for everyone, but for me, it comes down to understanding and protecting what I consider non-negotiables. My non-negotiable is the time I dedicate to my son and family in the evenings. No matter what, I make sure that block of time is set aside for them.

What I love about being in a startup environment and especially being a founder, is the flexibility it offers. I used to work in banking, and I really disliked the inefficiencies and the emphasis on ‘face-time’. It often felt like being present was more valued than the output of the work itself.

At ikaros, we have a different perspective – as long as the work gets done, we don’t sweat the small stuff. If you need to go to a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day or want to take an extended lunch break to exercise or run errands, that’s perfectly okay.

Some of my colleagues have even adopted a concept we call “Weekend Wednesday”. They take off on Wednesdays and work either Saturday or Sunday instead. This approach can be great for managing life admin tasks or just simply for feeling more refreshed, as it ensures you’re never working more than three days in a row.

That’s not to say I’m against hard work. When there’s a crunch time, I’m all in. But it’s important to balance these intense periods with time for rest and decompression. It’s about pacing yourself. No one can sustain running at 200% all the time. It’s crucial to understand this and ensure that over the long-term, you’re taking care of your physical and mental well-being too.

So in essence, my approach to maintaining work-life balance revolves around setting clear boundaries, encouraging flexibility, and remembering that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You need to recharge your batteries regularly to keep running effectively.

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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?

Absolutely, change has been a constant companion over the past year. I’m a firm believer in constant evolution and growth, be it in productivity, personal relationships, or the quality of my interactions with friends and family.

One thing I’ve been experimenting with quite a bit is refining how I work. I’ve found that while there are some excellent productivity frameworks out there, not all of them fit my needs or lifestyle. So, I’ve taken an approach of picking and choosing, sort of creating a custom blend that works for me.

I’ve been fortunate to have some fantastic mentors and friends who inspire me, like my good friend Markus Albert. Markus introduced me to the concept of reserved focus time and the idea of bucketing my time. You guys should definitely consider having him on the show!

One of the key ideas I’ve embraced over the past year is being fully present, particularly when I’m spending time with my friends and family. You know how sometimes even when you’re physically there, your mind could still be at work? That tends to dilute the quality of the time we spend with our loved ones. So, I’ve been consciously working on being in the moment, with notifications off and my mind fully focused on the here and now, not drifting towards work or life admin.

The other significant change I’ve made is implementing non-negotiable time blocks in the evening, especially after my son was born. I felt like work was starting to dominate my life, and I knew I had to take control. I didn’t want to miss out on time with him, but I also love the thrill of high-intensity, challenging work and wouldn’t want to give up my current role.

So, the changes I’ve made have really been about establishing and reinforcing boundaries between my work and personal life, optimising my work methods to fit me better, and focusing on being fully present during my non-work times.

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?

Absolutely, I’m happy to share some of the resources that have had a profound impact on me.

First, I’d highly recommend Atomic Habits by James Clear. This book is a game-changer in terms of understanding how habits work and how tiny changes can have a massive impact on our lives. Clear’s philosophy is that if we can make small, consistent improvements, over time they compound into significant results. It’s a brilliant resource for anyone wanting to change or form new habits to better balance their lives.

Another book I’d suggest is The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. This one provides great insights into managing your energy rather than your time, which is a powerful approach in achieving work-life balance. It shows you how to tap into your core energy sources and invest it wisely throughout the day.

In terms of podcasts, one I find insightful is The Daily Stoic Podcast by Ryan Holiday. This podcast offers daily meditations rooted in ancient philosophy, and it’s a great tool for anyone seeking to bring a sense of calm and perspective into their lives. The Stoics believed in focusing on what’s in our control and accepting what isn’t, which I think is an essential mindset in finding balance.

Each of these resources offers unique insights and perspectives, and they’ve helped me greatly in my own journey towards balance.

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?

Absolutely, and I’d like to frame it around a simple yet powerful concept: the idea of balance is an ongoing journey, not a final destination.

We often fall into the trap of thinking we’ll achieve a perfect state of work-life balance and then everything will be smooth sailing. But in reality, our needs, goals, and circumstances are constantly changing, and our approach to balance should evolve with them.

It’s essential to regularly check in with yourself, to reassess your priorities, and to adjust your boundaries accordingly. Remember, it’s okay to say no to things that don’t serve your personal or professional goals, and it’s just as important to say yes to things that nourish your spirit and wellbeing.

Also, remember to give yourself grace and patience. Striving for balance can sometimes become another source of stress, which is counterproductive. Don’t strive for perfection; aim for progress.

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of small changes. Just as in the book “Atomic Habits” I mentioned earlier, minor adjustments to your daily routine can have a profound impact over time. Prioritise these small, achievable improvements and watch them compound into significant growth.

The quest for balance is a personal and ever-evolving journey. Embrace the journey, embrace the changes, and most importantly, embrace the unique needs and rhythms that make you who you are.

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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.