James Course is the Director at Gawk Outdoor, regional Victoria’s home for outdoor advertising, which has the fastest-growing site list of any billboard company in Australia.
Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?
My career path is a little un-usual. It has taken me from Building Design (Drafting), to working in a boutique architectural practise, before ending up in Outdoor Advertising. The one constant factor through that journey, has been predominantly working in regional Victoria. An affinity with county driving, down to earth people, and country pies has developed strongly over my eight-year professional career.
These loves are the key reason I said yes to the opportunity of working with my brother, in what was slated to be a side hustle developing billboards in regional Victoria. We got nervous and sweaty relatively quickly after spending a lot of money building a few billboards that were sitting empty.
It became apparent we would have to dive in and make a few sales on these sites ourselves and were lucky to strike a few small deals. This process unveiled the potential that we never realised existed, the flourishing businesses in regional areas who could benefit from the space. We love being held accountable to ROI and growing these businesses, with tactile results/feedback that can be sorted in the direct to advertiser market.
We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?
I have a very diverse working week, which includes fortnightly overnight trips, fighting tooth and nail to get a billboard approved at council (Town Planning), Cold calling local businesses, and servicing my existing clients by reviewing campaigns/results.
A typical workday for me kicks off at 5:45, to drive to work, where I walk my dog (greyhound named Ben) along the side streets around the office, and typically squeeze in a half an hour gym session to kick start my day.
When the workday kicks off (at my desk), I typically split my time around 50/50 between sales and development, so half my day will be communicating with council around town planning applications, responding to information requests, updating drawings, and generally fighting the good fight to further develop our billboard network.
The other half will be spent cold calling, following up previous conversations, in new business and existing business meetings, and completing the various administrative tasks around billboard campaigns (artwork, contracts, proposals, etc.).
Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?
I find work-life balance an interesting topic, and it’s something I don’t feel well equipped to talk about. I find my balance is struck by those urgent/important tasks. Sometimes I’m going to feel better by doing that late night at work to trim off the to do list, other times, I need to be stringent in forcing myself to get out at a reasonable time to go for that run, have some quality time with my partner or have some time being an idiot with mates.
I struggle to define the perfect work-life balance over a week, because for me, it’s an ever changing beast. I definitely try to ensure the average week includes daily exercise, meditation and downtime with my partner, but the reality is, the balance comes unstuck for a day or two most weeks as I hustle to get pieces of work done.
My balance comes from feeling fulfilled and on top of my workload, with a fluid set of goals around health/wellbeing that I’m not afraid to shift every day.
Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?
Developing my own agenda and flexibility around exercise, eating habits, and those couple of practises that help me relax/focus (Yoga and Meditation). A big piece of the puzzle is not being afraid to hire and delegate out my workload.
We are trying to make more and more decisions as a business around valuing our own time, and all our team members time, as they prioritise their tasks and workload. I’m constantly searching for the right balance of optimising the time at my desk (being productive/fulfilled), but not overreaching to tackle too much.
We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?
Spending a lot of time out on the road in regional areas leaves me with plenty of time for podcasts. The couple that I have been most interested in recently are:
- Funny Business – The couple of guys out of Torquay, who’s space was just down from our office down there. I hate the sterile business world, so love a bit of personality, and humour added into business style chats.
- Dyl & Friends – Being a mediocre local footballer, I don’t have as much to associate with the AFL player chats, but I have taken a liking to his interview style with the business-related guests he has on that podcast.
Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Always find a reason to smile or laugh – most recently I have started listening to “I wish I was a punk rocker” by Sandi Thom on the way to work. It’s hard to have a bad day after belting that out on the drive into the office.
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