CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with James Bell-Booth, Co-Founder & CEO of earSHOTS

James Bell-Booth, Co-Founder & CEO of earSHOTS, the pioneer of world-first magnetic headphones, making best wearables & headphones for riders.

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

I spent over six years in consumer electronics software sales between 2007 to 2013. Following this, I went on to found a startup accelerator called Sprout, an agri and food tech startup accelerator, from 2015 to early 2020. 

Whilst at Sprout, I began working on the idea for earSHOTS as a side hustle in 2017, and now run the business full time with co-founder, John Grayson.

The idea for earSHOTS came about in the heart of New Zealand’s Tongariro National Park where, whilst training for the T42 adventure race, I became frustrated by the constant distractions of my headphones dislodging and falling out. 

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

No two days are ever really the same for me, juggling a young family and also growing a startup. I’m up any time from 2:00AM to 5:00AM most mornings, I’m usually up taking care of my young children to make sure they’re ready by the time I get to work at 8:30AM. 

My days consist of regular meetings with all of my team leads across areas of the business from sales and marketing, customer support, product development, and recruitment. I also try to find at least 30 minutes to an hour each day for exercise.

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

Balance is crucial, and something that I make sure all earSHOTS team members practice. We don’t work in the one office, so the earSHOTS team is very autonomous in going about their work to remain accountable.

We’re in a big growth phase at the moment, and this does require some team members to sometimes work odd hours.

However, the happiness of my team will always be the most important part of our work, and to ensure the balance between work and personal life is maintained, my employees know they can work shorter days throughout the week when appropriate to prioritise themselves as much as the work we do. 

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

Leading a growing startup, I have accepted that we’re in a busy period that requires a push to grow the business and work odd hours sometimes.

However, part of this outlook for me is anchored around the fact that this is only one phase of earSHOTS’ journey as the business continues to grow, and there will also be  quieter periods following this. 

For me, it’s about playing my cards right to get through the burst of growth and then enjoy the next phase of the business where I can focus more on myself again. 

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

I’ve found shifting how myself and the earSHOTS team approach our goals and KPIs has been crucial to keeping the ball rolling on company growth, and nurturing our fun and collaborative culture.

I find this crucial when working with a team of a lot of young adults. Burnout is a problem many face during their careers, and I’ve found that ensuring daily work is engaging and enjoyable is key to minimising this as much as possible. 

With this in mind, we’ve set this year’s theme around earSHOTS’ growth to reaching Everest base camp. This encompasses everything from how we utilise internal document layouts to key business milestones.

We’ve renamed the Board as ‘Tour Guides’, and changed elements of our internal communication like describing meeting sales goals as the equivalent of ‘reaching higher altitude’ and revenue as ‘air pressure’ so our team feels immersed in the experience and each milestone we hit as we climb to base camp together. 

We also bring in an adventure guide once a quarter to deep dive into the parallels between what is needed to reach the Everest base camp and how these translate to meeting business goals and the individual KPIs that contribute to this. 

The end result of this is mapping out  what is needed for us to succeed throughout the year, and reframing it in a way that is immersive and engaging. The success of a business starts with its team members, and ensuring they are engaged and invested in the journey is such a crucial building block to this. 

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

I regularly read the Harvard Business Review to glean insights I can apply into my own leadership of earSHOTS and our team.

Outside of this, I enjoy reading biographical books that explore other people’s endeavours and achievements. I recently read Mark of the Lion: The Story of Capt. Charles Upham, V.C. and Bar, written by Kenneth Leslie Sandford. Finding books like this really help me keep an open mind and learn new things that I can apply to both my professional and personal life. 

I also enjoy the philosophical discussions on the Robcast. 

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

I value time when I am not glued to my computer or phone. For me, time spent outdoors and switched off from devices is incredibly valuable to keeping a clear mind.

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

This is very tough to narrow it down. While I can’t name any one individual, I would love to read interviews from people who manage to strike a balance with maintaining relationships, professional development and family life. 

I’m always keen to learn the approaches different people take to achieving work-life balance.

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

I feel many people look at striking a good work life balance in terms of hours spent each day, when looking at it from a holistic seasonal perspective is more effective.

There are going to be busier periods, whether this is one month or several, that are needed for you to throw yourself into your work in order to do what is needed to ensure your business grows much like there are different seasons in a year. 

There will also be periods where this slows down and you can let your hair down a bit to focus on yourself. Keeping the end of the season in sight is crucial to keeping a proper work life balance, and something business leaders should keep in mind as they map out the goals and KPIs that need to be met to get there.

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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.