CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Dave Rouse, Co-Founder & CEO at CarbonClick

Dave Rouse is the co-founder & CEO at CarbonClick, a company on a mission to help businesses and their conscious customers to be able to offset at the point of sale.

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

I’m a Kiwi-born entrepreneur, who grew up between the bush in the Waitakeres, and working on an organic farm in my teenage years. My connection to the land, and my indigenous Maori heritage has seen me carry my unique set of sustainability values into a variety of businesses.

NZ is an isolated island nation, so we have to  be innovative to solve problems, often leading to new solutions we share with the world. My degree in engineering enhanced that spirit of ingenuity in me, which I then applied to solving business challenges. But climate change is the biggest challenge we face this decade, hence my passion for it. 

I’ve owned over a dozen businesses and a charity called SeaCleaners, as well as holding several board positions. Many times along the way I’ve had to re-learn work life balance, and apply this to different teams from different walks of life in the businesses and charity I dedicated my time to building. 

Now the co-founder and CEO at CarbonClick and with the new challenge of COVID I found myself in the position that I couldn’t regain the work life balance without dropping commitments that were really important to me – including the SeaCleaners charity.

COVID brought new challenges as our airline market had gone into panic, and we very quickly had to adapt the business to completely new markets.

I knew in this situation, that by driving a “battle planning” type approach to see us through this storm, would require more hands-on action from me than I’d signed up for, and I was well aware my work life balance would in the short term, be non existent, and that dropping all other commitments was a sad necessity.

My passion for helping the world to take climate action in the time of a climate crisis kept me motivated to do these tough hours and give it 100% the whole time – with a smile. We’re through the worst of that storm, and my health & work-life balance is almost back on track, so in my mind, these occasional sacrifices can be very rewarding. 

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

A recent workday in lockdown: 

  • Get up, go for a farm walk or if she’s awake, take my baby daughter for a walk to say hi to the animals.  I’ll make a pleasurable breakfast – smashed avocado on sourdough with chilli and a little olive oil, and afterwards I’ll make a very good green tea. (Since doing a tea masters course in Korea, I’ve become a bit of a connoisseur and get great pleasure from making green or oolong teas). 
  • While my tea is cooling before I drink it, I meditate for 5 minutes, then I hit my work day. 
  • First I analyze priorities for the day, any emails, unread messages etc, meeting with my EA to plan who needs responding to, what to respond with, and what needs delegating. 
  • Attend meetings 
  • Lunch break and a walk – I find it essential especially sitting down in the same chair for hours of video conferences, to take a good walk and get my blood oxygenated and flowing again. 
  • Afternoons start like the mornings, with a check in with my EA, updates on anything I need to prioritize, and anything I need to delegate or follow up (or schedule follow ups and record notes scribbled) from my mornings meetings while everything is fresh. With my EA I prepare (start and save to draft) all my emails that I will need to work on, so that they’re in a list of drafts. 
  • I allow half an hour to return phone messages, skim read any emails that have come in, during the morning, and then I’m into working on completing my draft emails which usually takes an hour.
  • Next I’m into productivity – meeting with our team (and sometimes our clients), to support them in getting their goals worked through wherever I need to most. 
  • In the evening I’ll do a quick end of day 15 minutes with my EA once again, to check in on any urgent activity during the afternoon that needs my attention or sign off, and then it’s off for another walk or something physical and the evening family routine. 

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

Yes definitely. We’ve incorporated working remotely into our normal work routine. So we have the ability to work from home twice a week.

This is great as it gives me a good balance into my work week and on the days I get to work from home I can spend more time with my family and it takes away wasting time having to sit in traffic etc. 

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

Work-life balance to me means being able to enjoy the world we live in, enjoy life, enjoy the people around me (including my co-workers who I consider family too), and also be able to be proud of my accomplishments, my personal growth and stretching, and the challenges I’ve been able to overcome.

Some of these challenges do require bloody hard work, but I love it when our customers are happy. My team can celebrate success. It’s being able to take the time out to actually enjoy looking back knowing our efforts have made the world a better place in some way. An essential part of work life balance therefore is the sense of purpose in your job. 

I try my hardest to close all things related to work on Friday evening and will aim for a good weekend off work. Even if that occasionally means working late on a Friday evening to get everything on my mind completed or put to rest until Monday.

Scheduling breaks and 5 minute meditations is great, it keeps me refreshed and clears my bandwidth to be able to solve problems and see the bigger picture much quicker than grinding through. 

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

Coming back into full time work after enjoying the lifestyle of an angel investor, has certainly been a shock to the system when it comes to bringing in balance.

I found I was getting bogged down in administrative processes, so I found an amazing EA, gave her the keys to everything I do, and included her as an extension of me in order to be able to operate my email accounts, calendar, and workload as a team.

That requires a lot of trust, so I took a good amount of time to establish this first before handing everything over. My EA acts as me, from my account. I highly recommend this so you can free yourself up to work on the more difficult challenges and stresses you and your team face. 

I’ve had to axe my 30 minute meditations and instead run two 5 minute meditations a day, but I find this is just enough to keep me on track thanks to the meditative practice I’d already spent years working on. 

Before COVID lockdown this year, I moved to a farm. Nature makes me happy, so while the drive to the office is a little longer, I’ve been able to schedule my phone calls during these times so that it’s productive time.

Being on a farm gives me that nature fix I personally need to ground myself. And when it comes to walks and exercise, it’s great to be surrounded by beauty from the moment I step out of my home office. 

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

  • The international news, the CNBC financial news, Al Jazeera 
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
  • Getting Things Done
  • Atomic Habits 

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

  • My phone
  • Green Tea
  • Google Calendar for work, keeps me in check 

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

Sir David Attenborough 

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

The biggest challenge these days is social media sending information our way instead of us going out ourselves. Social media is a time warp that we get wrapped up into. This is neither relaxing nor productive.

Whilst, it’s nice that we can connect more easily than ever before. It’s also very very difficult to manage. We’re more contactable than ever before, everything is so fast, digital and superficial, and marketers have identified this as a way to grab and hold our attention. 

Meaningful conversations and focus for more than a few minutes seems to have almost disappeared. Those hours are now absorbed by sending random messages without any meaningful conversations. Take up meditation, set an alarm, and force it to happen, even if you have to lock yourself in the toilet and put your phone in flight mode. 

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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.