Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with David James, Founder & Chief Juggler at Juggle Street

David James is the founder & Chief Juggler at Juggle Street, a real-time, on-demand job platform designed to address multiple “family jobs” required during the years of daycare, primary school & high school.

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

I did a Geography Degree at University, which has always amused my kids, considering my career as an entrepreneur. I grew up in Birmingham and my family owned a small business manufacturing frying pans and saucepans.

Deep down I always wanted to start my own business like my mom & dad. Working in the factory from a young age, doing manual work and being paid on piecework, I learnt first-hand that technology and innovation was the way of the future.

I love startups, I love the daily challenges, the ups and downs, the highs and lows, and I happily embrace the risks. Over the past 25 years I have started five businesses, including a five-year stint in Silicon Valley where I survived the boom, and bust, 9/11 and many other unexpected challenges.

To date I have had 2 successful exits and two where I just about broke even. Juggle Street has now been going for 7 years, it is not a financial success story yet, but we have achieved our mission. Everyday thousands of working families rely on Juggle Street to improve their daily juggle, thousands of people have found local employment, and we have created thousands of meaningful neighbourhood relationships.

Experience has taught me Startups always take longer and take more capital than you think, and that you need a genuine passion in your mission to survive and succeed.

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

Since the pandemic it doesn’t feel like work has reached a “normal” state yet. Like most working families, our daily/weekly schedule is a constant juggle, balancing the children’s school & sport routines with work priorities.

Two days a week I go to Juggle Street’s co-working space in the city for face-to-face time with the team. On the other three days I work from home, beginning my day around 8am after the children have left.

My wife also works from home, and we share the office, which is challenging at times, especially when you have an entrepreneur sitting next to a lawyer! We are fortunate to have a lovely home office, and we have come to a happy equilibrium working together.

I start my working day with a coffee, purchased from the bakery around the corner, and I have my second and last coffee around 11.30am from the café at the top of the street. I’ve considered purchasing a coffee machine on many occasions but decided the benefits of getting out into our neighbourhood for 10 minutes outweighs the savings of making my own coffee.

The afternoon can be interrupted each time one of the children arrives home, but if I have my headphones on, they know I’m in a Zoom meeting and don’t come into the office. After dinner there is always time to return to the office and address any outstanding issues of the day. 

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

My work-life balance is centred around the ocean. Maybe the fact that I grew up in Birmingham, the furthest city from the coast, explains the great affinity I have for the ocean. I get up just after 5am every morning, and on Monday, Wednesday and Friday I meet a group of friends at Gordons Bay for a 2km ocean swim.

We do this all year round, some of us without wetsuits, which means entering the water in darkness during the winter months. The ocean swimming and cold water are central to maintaining my fitness and energy levels, it is also very restorative mentally.

The ocean’s “Zen-ness” is enhanced by the amazing sea life and sunrises we are treated to, and the ever-changing ocean conditions add some extra spice on big surf days. This routine has created a huge sense of camaraderie and friendship within our swimming group.

The professional backgrounds of everyone in the group could not be more diverse, and we rarely discuss our work. Everyone is open, positive, supportive and keen to have a laugh. This incredible “bubble” helps me keep life in perspective and keeps my work-life balance in check, and all this before 7am in the morning!

I believe Australia really is the lucky country, for so many reasons, and we are very fortunate to live where we do. This gives me energy and a positive attitude to take into every day.

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

On Tuesday and Thursday mornings I walk for an hour along the coastal track, another part of my love affair with the ocean. Last year one of our neighbours did a renovation on their house and built a garage and then turned it into a gym, open to everyone in the neighbourhood.

My friend now joins me on my walk and we finish it with a half hour circuit class in his garage. During our walks we discuss many things, including work, and our common goal of achieving the best work-life balance possible. I think these walks are therapeutic for us both!

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

My favourite business book is Startup: a Silicon Valley Adventure by Jerry Kaplan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company). Jerry Kaplan had a dream to redefine the known universe (and get very rich) by creating a new kind of computer, a pen computer.

All he needed was sixty million dollars, a few hundred employees, and a maniacal belief in his ability to win the Silicon Valley Startup game. In 1987 Jerry founded the visionary GO Corporation and kept notes throughout his years as CEO.

The book is an honest, warts and all, story of Jerry’s pen-based computer Startup. His company’s ultimate failure says more about a cutthroat industry than the quality of the product.

This is a real David and Goliath tale which I was lucky enough to read while I was raising capital in Silicon Valley in 1999 for my own visionary idea: creating sandwiches online and having them delivered to your desk within an hour! 

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

I admire people who are high achievers in their chosen sport, and excel in their work, and give back to the community, and still have time to raise a happy balanced family. I don’t think this list is very long, as there are only 24 hours in a day, and behind closed doors we never really know if people are happy. But if such a person exists, I’d love to hear their secrets of success!

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

I’m a firm believer in the adage “Nobody ever said on their deathbed, I wish I had spent more time at the office”. And in the post-pandemic workplace, we should not kid ourselves that just because we are not commuting into the office as much, we are not working as much.

We owe it to our families, and more importantly to ourselves, to keep life in perspective. The biggest driving force in our lives likely to make us lose perspective is work. Whatever it takes, even if it’s swimming in the ocean in the dark, find some time each day for a quick “mental health check” to ensure you have your life in balance. And always, always take time to smell the roses. 

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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.