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Balancing the Grind with Elise Balsillie, Head of Thryv Australia

Elise Balsillie is the Head of Thryv Australia, a software platform that helps small business owners with the daily demands of running a business.

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

I commenced my career in the higher education sector, working across RMIT and Kangan TAFE. I was lucky enough to work in a range of diverse roles during those years.

I commenced at Sensis in 2005 and little did I know at that time I would still be in the organisation 17 years later. From the first week working there I was inspired, I felt like we were making a difference in the lives of small businesses.

We were a very male-dominated organisation, however, there were a number of strong, powerful women in senior leadership roles that inspired me to pursue my dreams. I had big bold dreams and was very ambitious and always had a plan on what I wanted next and would work through what was required to get there.

Still to this day one of the best parts about my role is working with our clients and supporting our people. I’ve worked across all our sales channels from the contact centre to field sales and managed across those channels.

I realised as a young woman in my 30s that to take that next step in my career I needed to broaden my skill base. While I passionately loved working with our customers, I realised I needed to work on more strategic initiatives.

From here, I worked in project management, led key organisational transformational initiatives, managed our PMO, and designed our customer team, focused on building and designing a customer-led organisation. I then felt like I had the skills required to take that next step and was promoted to the General Manager of Sales.

After several incredibly successful years, I was promoted to Chief Revenue Officer and a member of the executive leadership team, where I had the opportunity to manage the sales and marketing functions for the entire organisation.

In 2021 we were acquired by Thryv, it has been the most incredible year, we have launched our new small business SaaS offering here in Australia and the feedback from our clients has been incredible, it reignited that same spark I had when I first started in the business, we are truly changing the lives of small business.

In early 2022 I was given the opportunity to lead the Thryv organisation for Australia, it has been such an incredible journey but mostly because I have the most amazing team here in Australia.

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

My day typically kicks off with meetings with my peers over in the US because we only overlap for a few hours a day so it’s a great opportunity to connect.

I always try to connect with the teams across the country, so one day I could join the marketing team meeting or on another be in a sales meeting learning about new offerings. I have an amazing sales operations team and they deliver me so many insightful updates.

I take time to review customer outcomes, performance and always look for opportunities to do things differently. I really do think the real heroes of our business are the front-line employees – they have their fingers on the pulse and so deeply understand our clients and I am always picking up on great suggestions that come from the team

As a team we all celebrated together – this week we had a new starter group complete their onboarding – we had a graduation ceremony and celebrated harmony day, which was an amazing way to learn about the diverse backgrounds of all our new team members.

My day will always finish with a review of my inbox and voicemails, mostly making sure that I haven’t missed a commitment to one of our customers or employees. The following day I could fly out to spend the day at a conference or expo – so the great thing about my days is that they are all very different, I love the diversity

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

As a company we have a remote work from anywhere model. This has given me the flexibility to be able to work from home, and to get out on the road and meet up with clients and employees – so the best of both worlds.

When I previously headed into the city every day, I would get up at 5 am and go to the gym prior to getting ready for work, this is something I have kept up while working remotely because for me having a routine is important and helps keep me balanced. 

Every morning before I start work, I head out and grab a coffee. There is something about this routine that makes me feel like I am turning up to work when I get home. It is very easy to blend your work life into your home life when working from home, so having boundaries is really important.

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

While working full time and having 2 teenage boys, I often find myself putting myself last. I have always found that mornings are the best for “me time” where I get to head to the gym and come home and enjoy my morning coffee while most of the house is still sleeping.

This routine allows me to set myself up for the day and hit the ground running when focusing on the work day ahead.

I believe to reach your goals you need to continuously be investing in your own development. We are always busy, however, making time for yourself is important to ensure you are working towards being a better personal and professional version of yourself. Also, being present is something I encourage people to prioritise.

Work is always going to be busy but sometimes you need to be a mum, you need to ensure you are available to attend that school football game or to take your son for a driving lesson. In saying this, I don’t think I am perfect by any means, however, having balance is something that I do really try hard to achieve.

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

Over the past 6 months, I have been trying to make an effort to eat cleaner, reducing carbs and increasing fruit and veggies.

I have definitely not changed my life – although I am making nice incremental improvements and feeling much better. I am really trying to improve my fitness and can tell I am getting fitter and stronger (although a much slower process than it was when I was in my 20s).

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

Personally, I love true-crime podcasts. I really enjoy listening to them while I head out for a walk with the dog. My dad is a member of Victoria Police and has been in the job since he was 16 – I think this is definitely where I got it from. 

I always have a couple of books on my bedside table – I somehow end up reading multiple at one time, if I love it I don’t put it down and if I’m not 100% loving it I drift on to another book.

On my desk I have The Sales Acceleration Formula by Mark Roberge – this was recommended to me by one of my colleagues in the US and I have really enjoyed reading it and I continue to go back to it for different tips and bits of information.

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

Like most, my number one is definitely my phone – from emails, WhatsApp, and Teams – being connected when I am out of the office is really important. I would have both slack and tableau opened all day when I am at home – having real-time access to info definitely supports my decision-making process.

Having lived through many lockdowns with homeschooling kids, I couldn’t have made it through without our Google Nest, I didn’t realise what a difference a Wi-Fi router could make. My last one is a little silly but Listronic – a shopping list app, when the kids drink all the milk it can get added to the list and I won’t forget to grab it when I’m at the shops.

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

Well, I am always inspired by amazingly talented and successful women. Personally, I think it would be great to have the opportunity to read an interview with Shemara Wikramanayake, the CEO of Macquarie Bank.

I have been really inspired by her story and journey to becoming the CEO and she also manages to spend time focusing on global issues she is passionate about. I would love the opportunity to understand what work-life balance means to Shemara and how she manages it all.

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

Make time for yourself and prioritise your self-care. When things are a little hectic – start small and just try and find 5 or 10 mins to head for a walk, it will make a world of difference. Lastly, focus on the work life balance of those around you too – sometimes you may need to reach out and support a peer or colleague who needs your help too.

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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.