Balancing the Grind with Fiona Mendonca, General Manager of Group48

Fiona Mendonca is the general manager of Group48, a leading design, product development, contract manufacturing and distribution company based in Sydney.

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

I am the General Manager for Group48, Australia’s largest fashion accessories, gifting and beauty supplier. I started my career in sales and have also owned my own businesses in fashion and hospitality, and have a passion for bringing brands and products to life.

I have worked across many different categories within the fashion, pharmacy and hospitality industries, which gave me a stable foundation to take on the role within Group48. Our goal is to continue to grow and diversify our business into new and innovative products and retailers.

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

I am a morning person so I normally wake up around 5.30am. I have recently started going to reformer Pilates and try to make it to a class three times a week.

I like to get into the office early so I can spend some time in the warehouse before I go into my office, and check on the orders going out and the containers coming in for the day. It is important for me to ensure our orders are going out on time and that the quality and packaging of our products meets all the needs of our retail partners.

I then go into the office where I will touch base with the leadership team and run through the priorities for the day and the week. We are a family-run business and keeping that culture is very important to me, so I take time to talk to the team each day as they are important in driving the success of our business.

Most of my day is usually taken up in meetings working with the team, developing and managing the multiple categories and retailers we are servicing and working on new projects for our own brands to drive our international business.

I like to finish the day with a family meal with my husband and we try to have our girls over at least twice a week to keep up to date on what is happening in their lives.

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 lockdowns we had to adapt our business to working remotely. As we deal with products every day, not being in the office for a few months and not being able to touch and see the product come to life was a challenge.

Over time, we realised that being in the office together was the most efficient way of managing the business, but having a work life balance was also important to our team. When we came back to the office we decided to introduce the option to work one day a week from home.

Having the flexibility to work remotely and using teams or zoom meetings over the last two years has helped us form a new way of looking at managing our work day.

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

I do tend to be a workaholic at times, as I enjoy my role and working with my team, but family is very important to me. I have recently become a grandmother, so having the flexibility to work remotely and balance my work day has been great.

We all spend a large proportion of our day at work so I want my team to feel comfortable in making time to be with their families and balancing that with work priorities. I try to be as flexible as possible so they don’t miss out on any important time with their loved ones.

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

During the COVID lockdowns I was exercising every day and walking the dog before I started my day. I was eating healthier and planning my meals. This was a catalyst to continue my healthy living and prioritise this when I went back into the office full time.

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

I often listen to ‘people in leadership’ podcasts. I think it’s important to continually grow and learn from people in similar roles. If you are not constantly adapting your style and leadership, you will fall behind and lose that ‘edge’ you need to continue to be successful in managing a high performing team and business.

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

I couldn’t live without my iPhone. It gives me the flexibility to access my work emails and calls if I am out of the office. It also enables me to keep in touch with my granddaughter on facetime wherever I am, so I can see her face every day. I also use it to catch up on social media at the end of the day

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

Michelle Obama has always been such an inspiration in successfully finding a balance between her work and professional duties, and being a wife and a mother. She always manages to be in the moment, whether it is on the world stage or at home with her family.

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

Achieving your goals and targets are important, but finding the time out to read a book to your children, attend their school concerts and sporting activities or just spending time with friends is the key to finding that work life balance. They will remember that time you spent with them and not the deal you managed to negotiate.

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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.