Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Hugh Batley, Co-Founder at TruTrip

Hugh Batley is the co-founder of TruTrip, which combines travel technology with South East Asia’s travel ecosystem into a simple and affordable travel management solution for businesses of all sizes.

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

I started my professional career focused on Project Management and Continuous Improvement at BAE Systems working on fast jets such as Eurofighter Typhoon and Tornado. Then, I moved to McKinsey & Company as a consultant for 4 years helping businesses around the world.

My first foray into entrepreneurship happened via an incubator when I took over an early stage digital agency, Lion & Lion, and grew it from 20 people in Kuala Lumpur to over 200 people in 8 markets between Taipei and Jakarta.

We won numerous awards, worked with huge brands and exciting startups. We sold the business to Japanese media conglomerate Septeni Holdings in 2016; delivering a significant ROI to our investors as well as a sustainable long-term home for the team.

After the exit, I took some time out. I did some low level consultancy but really focused on myself and our young family – I completed an Ironman 70.3 during this time too. 

I established TruTrip in 2019 to address the gap in the Southeast Asia market for effective digital Travel Management solutions – something that is required more now than ever with the growing complexity of travel in a post-pandemic world. 

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

We have two kids, which gives you quite the routine. Although the topics change, the format of most work days is the same. I get up before the rest of the family and get a headstart on anything that’s preventing progress across the team. Once the family is up, we take time to get ready and have breakfast together.

I work in focussed bursts throughout the day. In my first work session of the day, I focus on the team, client calls and respond to some user queries. I’ll stop for lunch with my son, who is below school age before work session two – on my own work, small 1-to-1 discussions or focused tasks.

Ideally, I try to get some exercise in between, though this is the thing that gets pushed off the most frequently. 

In the evening, I pick up my eldest from school, play with both kids, have dinner together and get them into bed. Here’s where I get some work again typically focused on planning and personal tasks before winding down and heading to bed.

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

We are a largely remote team. Locally, i.e. those in the same city, will meet every 2-3 weeks but the wider team will get together quarterly (once pandemic restrictions pass). 

Remote working allows me to spend much more time with my kids which makes me happy. As well as time, I’m also much more accessible and visible to them – they can find and speak to me when needed.

But that said, I find it harder to build strong relationships with the team; that’s why we are keen on the quarterly residential get-togethers.

Working from home also blurs non-work time much more – I feel I’m “always on” and use my phone much more now than I used to. It also means there are many more distractions at home that I have less control over.

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

Personally, I don’t think too much about the work-life split and think of it just about balance in general. In an ideal world, there are probably +300 hours of things we want to do in a week including work and personal life.

I think that list is different for everyone and it changes with time. Different aspects of your work can appear on both lists. Work-life balance, for me, is really about optimising those lists. Minimising the things we don’t want to do but still delivering what is needed, and making sure you’re able to do the things you want to do. 

For example, I work early mornings and in the evenings to make sure I can spend time with my kids when they are awake, but in the evenings I also want to make time to spend with my wife. 

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

I tend to see-saw between the amount of structure I plan into my life/day.  I think I am naturally happier without a detailed plan, but find myself more efficient with a plan.  So I have started, stopped and started again many planning routines. 

I stopped, or massively reduced, exercising. This is something I want to change. 

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

Tough –  I love books on history, especially the same topic from different cultures or perspectives, but there are probably a few general books that also have a big impact:

  • Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think – I think the broad points about how to think about things is a useful tool set, whether you agree with the writer(s) on their themes or not is less important
  • Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World – I think this is so important in a growingly noisy world.  I believe this is an important skill set for my children so I feel I need to be better to help them. 
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – Always good grounding and thought provoking. 

On the podcast front, I really don’t have as much time as I’d like, so I tend to focus on just one source for 3-6 months before trying to switch to another.

Right now, I listen to People I Mostly Admire hosted by Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame. Mostly hits with a few misses, some of those hits though can give a mindblowing amount of inspiration. 

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

I’d like to say no – but my phone is heavily used.  As well as the benefits of being able to work on the go, we do not live near our broader family so being able to stay much more connected with video calls or video messages help build and maintain a stronger relationship with those we cannot see everyday. 

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

Myself in 20 years time.  I do think work-life is really personal and time dependent – it depends a lot on what you want and what makes you happy. It’s great to read about others to challenge your own perspectives, find motivation and guidance but ultimately, it’s about you finding the path that’s right for you. A future view on whether my decisions today lead to the results I’m looking for would be the most powerful input to changing what I do today. 

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

Other than the things covered above, it might be useful to share things I tend to think about – though in isolation they sound a bit like poster wisdom.

  • Seek to learn from others but avoid imitation
  • Notice when you are happy 
  • Recognise your, and others’ mental health as important as physical health – they’re not entirely independent. Consider and build into your day what you need to keep yourself in a good mental health condition 
  • The journey is important. Life is really what we do every day, not something we might do in 5-10 years time. Enjoy today. There is no point dying early with a fortune if you missed all the best parts along the way. 
  • There are very few real constraints in the world – try to avoid making fake constraints
  • Don’t be afraid to try something. The cost of undoing the decision or impact of the wrong decision is often way smaller than you think. 
  • Changes are often much easier than they might feel before making the change

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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.