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Balancing the Grind with Digby Vollrath, CEO & Co-Founder at Feast It

Digby Vollrath is the CEO and co-founder at Feast It, the UK’s leading event booking platform connecting event planners with event suppliers.

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

I’m co-founder and CEO of Feast It, the UK’s leading event booking platform, connecting people planning events with a carefully curated, handpicked selection of the UK’s top event suppliers.

As with many startup CEOs, my responsibilities are diverse and change in response to the business needs and can include anything from high-level strategic decisions and longer-term planning to fundraising, finding a new office space and growing our team. 

My business partner, Hugo Campbell and I launched Feast It in 2017 after spending years working in the festival and events industries. I started my career at Festicket, a London-based ticketing startup, running business development for the US and northern Europe.

I also organised events at The Smithsonian in Washington D.C and BritWeek Festival in Los Angeles. After organising events all over the world, I grew incredibly frustrated at the amount of time I was spending trying to hunt down the best suppliers – finding out if they were available and then trying to book them.

This led Hugo and I to build a modern and simple platform that would let people book incredible suppliers for their next event, whilst making it really simple to do so. 

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

We’re currently going through a period of fast team growth in terms of hiring, on top of moving offices, planning for the start of 2022, and launching a few big product features – all of which means my schedule is a little more frantic than usual. 

My workday typically starts at around 8am, when I make time for the 45-minute walk to the office, no matter the weather. This time is incredibly important to get me into the headspace for work; I tend to avoid podcasts and instead listen to some music, or call and catch up with my co-founder and FD.

Similarly, I make time at the end of the day to walk home and find it a really effective way to process the day and decompress before arriving home.

Unlike most people, I’m at my least productive in the morning, so I like to fill the time before lunch with all of my 1:1s and internal meetings. I try to keep a bi-weekly catch-up cadence with all heads of departments, and use these meetings to get a health check on how their team is doing beyond the surface level KPIs. 

I always create a 2-hour break for lunch, with one hour to go for a run or do some cardio  – lockdown really taught me how important getting up from your desk and sweating was to give me motivation for the afternoon. 

I try to keep afternoons reserved for important external meetings and deep work. A huge part of my role is around signing off high-level decisions and focusing on longer-term strategy, so it’s really important to create the time to actually think about each issue without interruptions. 

I tend to finish the working day around 7pm or so. I keep 3 weekday evenings free for friends and family and put 2 evenings aside to catch up with friends and colleagues in the startup ecosystem.  

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

During the COVID pandemic, we evolved into a remote-first business. This has afforded a huge amount of flexibility for the team and allowed me to spend weeks working from Barcelona, the Cotswolds, and Italy. 

Although working remotely has its benefits, personally, I much prefer the structure of being in the office 5 days a week; I probably only work from home one day per month on average. During lockdown, I found it impossible to separate work from home.

Now more than ever, I appreciate the ability to erect a physical separation between work and home. Avoiding working from home has been really powerful in letting me create a better work-life balance. 

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

Typically, if you’re building a fast-growth startup, work will be a pretty dominant aspect of any work-life balance. For a founder, it’s incredibly hard to separate out your personal life from your work life when the two are so completely intertwined. 

However, over the last few months, I’ve become increasingly militant about protecting my personal time. Where possible, I try to avoid my phone as much as possible at the weekend, and always make every effort to have minimal screen time on Sundays.

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

Over the last 12 months or so, I’ve really tried to double down on reading, especially non-business books. I try to find an hour every evening to just get lost in a great novel. I find if you oversaturate yourself in the world of business in all media you consume, you risk becoming a less creative and more one-dimensional person. 

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

So many. For business, I love Pivot, the FT News Briefing and The Economist. I tend to prefer US news outlets for my daily news, so I listen to NY Times’ The Daily and Vox’s Today Explained every day. 

I’m not a huge newsletter fan as I find my inbox is overly clogged up anyway, but Axios for politics and Finimize are great. 

In terms of books, as I mentioned earlier, I try to avoid business or self-improvement books. I just finished The Sellout by Paul Beatty which was fantastic, Why We’re Polarized By Ezra Klein was a fascinating insight into how our politics got so nasty, and Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan was probably the best thing I read this year.

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

Amazing headphones. I can’t live without noise-cancelling headphones. 

For the office, I’ve had the same Bose QuietComfort headphones for 4 years and they are hands down the best value for money I’ve ever spent on a gadget. For commuting, I have Airpods Pro, and for working out, Powerbeats Pro. 

I also love Strava, the NY Times app, and will never understand how there are people who don’t have Spotify premium (it must be the best value product in the world?).  

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

Fergus Henderson, the founder of St. John. He’s built the most exciting restaurant group in the country, is a larger-than-life character, and by all accounts is amazingly fun. Clearly, he’s getting it right.

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

Don’t believe everything you see on LinkedIn, it’s just as airbrushed as Instagram, and half the time ‘business influencers’ are just as cynical as beauty influencers peddling detox tea.

The reality is that burnout is real and a complete focus on work without having fun and enjoying all of the exciting things happening around you will only serve to make you less creative and worse at your job.

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.