CEOs / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Elliot Cousins, CEO at Vonto

Elliot Cousins is the CEO at Vonto, a mobile app that helps you stay on top of your business by delivering daily insights from Xero, Google Analytics, Shopify and more.

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

My first role out of university was in investment banking at Deutsche Bank in Sydney. After a couple of years and rotations I really wanted to get into sales so I joined an early stage FX payments company that was UK-based and expanding in APAC.

This is where I cut my teeth in biz dev and understanding about disruptive business models. I co-founded a startup with a friend, which we bootstrapped, and after exiting that I got back into the digital FX side of things at a major bank, which was interesting given my previous experience growing a fintech challenger.

I always had a passion for disruptive business models, particularly seeing it happen so rapidly in the payments space, and after various roles in strategy, partnerships and corporate venturing, I found myself running a venture-backed startup (Vonto – backed by x15 ventures), which has been the most rewarding and challenging role of my career.

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

Extremely varied. In any week the big things I’m working across are our partnerships – both with our integration partners like Xero and our bank partners like Commonwealth Bank; speaking with customers as much as possible for feedback on our product; biz dev as we look to expand into new markets with major strategic partners; analysing our own metrics to track how we’re growing and performing (and hence were to improve); and lots of face time with my team.

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

Yes it certainly does. We launched Vonto in Feb 2020 just as COVID hit us and lockdowns started in AUS, so we have been working remotely for the most part since then.

The majority of our team (now around 20 people) have joined in a remote-first work environment and for most of them there’s a lot of appeal to being able to work remotely (and flexibly).

Now that we’re returning to the office after lockdown we will continue a remote-first approach but also letting the team come to the office to connect face-to-face when they want. Personally, I both love it and struggle with remote working.

Being able to spend more time with my family and avoid the commute is a massive benefit, but I really miss face-to-face with our team, especially going through the startup growth stage. It has been challenging keeping the team tightly connected and aligned. We have done well despite it but I’m really looking forward to the face time.

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

I have two kids under 3 so the idea of work-life balance sometimes means ‘work and family’ (don’t get me wrong it’s awesome) and squeezing in some exercise first thing in the morning.

I’ve been trying to do more walking meetings when working remotely just to get incidental exercise. I’ve always been quite routine driven which helps me keep the smaller (but important) things prioritised such as exercise, surfing and down-time with my wife, family and friends. 

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

I’ve only recently started trying to meditate every day, just for 10-15 minutes using a technique called 6 second breathing which my uncle introduced me to (in for 6 seconds, out for 6 seconds, 6 times). It’s a small start but I’m fascinated by the outcomes people achieve with meditation and mindfulness, so I’m setting small goals to build on.

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

I listen to a lot of podcasts and quite a broad variety. My favourites right now are Making Sense (Sam Harris), Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders (Stanford) and The SaaS Podcast (Omer Khan).

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

Yes – Spotify.

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

It’s hard to know who really nails work-life balance but I’d be interested to hear perspectives from Mike Cannon-Brookes.

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

Nothing profound, only that in my experience building the muscle around a strong (healthy) routine works for me.

I also think it’s helpful to have self check-ins or dedicated time for reflection as a forcing mechanism to check in on how well you’re achieving your goals and where to improve (be it professional or personal). Worth reading The Third Space by Adam Fraser to get some insight around making room for self-reflection in the daily routine.

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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.