Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with James Lawrence, Co-Founder & Director at Rocket Agency

James Lawrence is the co-founder & Director at Rocket Agency, a Surry Hills-based digital marketing agency that he started in 2017.

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

I own a digital marketing agency called Rocket. We’re based in Surry Hills, Sydney. We’ve got about 50 staff and we specialise in Google marketing (SEO + Google Ads) as well as managing our client’s social media ads in platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

I’ve been working in the space since I was at university in the early 2000s. I launched a company in 2006 which I ran for around 10 years, and then launched Rocket in 2017. 

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

To be honest, my days jump around quite a bit. The main part of my role at Rocket is maintaining strong relationships with our most important clients and partners.

I also manage our Growth Team, which is all about attracting the right types of clients for Rocket, and ensuring that once they become a client, we maintain a strong relationship with them, and that they’re happy with how their digital marketing is performing. It’s important to me that we do great work. 

Despite having a face for radio, you can say I’m the face of Rocket. I speak at webinars, attend key marketing and leadership conferences, and I’m also the host of Smarter Marketer, a podcast specifically for Australian marketers. Aside from that, I sit on our five person leadership team, which drives the overall strategic direction of the business. 

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

To me, work-life balance is about creating a day-to-day life that you don’t need to go on a holiday to escape from. Maybe this runs contrary to advice around compartmentalising work and the personal but I try really hard to blend all parts of my life together; work, hobbies, friends, family, health and personal growth.

I try hard not to restrict my work to 40-55hrs Monday to Friday. I’m totally happy working on the business super early in the morning and on weekends. I’m equally content (and guilt free) to go to the gym, spend time with my kids and friends during business hours. I am fortunate that I have control over the things that are in my JD.

This means I have taken most of the things out that I don’t enjoy doing (which I found were also the things I am not very good at) and moved them to people in the agency that love doing these things (and are better than me at them). 

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

I’ve done a good job of reducing my alcohol consumption following a few years of lockdowns. I try really hard to stick to a set number of alcohol free days each week. The knock on effect is so positive.

In line with this I have 3 personal training sessions a week which I refuse to miss. Recently I have started going for at least one walk per week with no music or podcasts to distract my thoughts. I find this a great way to get perspective. 

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

In terms of newsletters and EDMs; Marketing Week and anything by Mark Ritson I always love. I read everything from Rand Fishkin and Seth Godin as well. 

Work related podcasts would be 2 Bobs and Build a Better Agency which are all about running agencies. Then HBR IdeaCast for broader business content. 

Then in terms of personal podcasts it jumps around a little bit. Unstoppable by Kerwin Rae is good for personal growth. One called Intelligence Matters is for political junkies. I enjoy a few super nerdy golf podcasts like ‘State of the game’ and ‘No Laying Up’. Then a range of NFL podcasts, Bill Simmons, Peter King, Michael Lombardi. 

In terms of books I’ve recently finished. They Ask You Answer by Marcus Sheridan. Fully Human by Steve Biddulph. Driven by Douglas Brackmann and Never Lose A Customer Again by Joey Coleman. 

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

Not that I think he would necessarily have the right answer to work life balance, but I would be curious as to how Jeff Bezos structures his days and manages the diverse range of interests that he holds. 

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

I’ve realised that there’s no finishing line when it comes to work life balance. Just when I think I have it worked out I find myself overextending in one area of my life. It’s always a constant battle when balancing work, friends, family and self. So for me it’s understanding there is no perfect. Rather a constant challenge of trying to make sure all the separate buckets are as balanced as possible. 

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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.