Balancing the Grind with Jenny Lennon, Co-Founder & Creative Director at Born

Jenny Lennon is the Creative Director & Co-Founder of Born, the storytelling creative agency that believes brands are the greatest storytellers of our time. 

Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

I always knew I wanted to do something creative (much to the dismay of both my accountant parents), and this led me to study Graphic Design at Salford University in Manchester, UK where I threw myself into its thriving music and arts scene.

Here it was at university where I met my first creative partner and we formed an advertising duo as Art Director / Copywriter. We interviewed together (something I have always thought was a little odd about advertising agencies), and landed our first job in the industry at McCann. 

After four years at McCann, I moved to Havas Lynx, an agency focused on campaigns for good, and I worked primarily on pharma and wellness clients. I loved my time at Havas Lynx, and was privileged to work with an agency with such progressive views on wellness and mental health, but ultimately missed working on consumer clients too much.

From there I had a mid-late 20s crisis and left the UK and landed in Australia in search of sunshine (that happens when you spend 6 years in the rainiest city in the UK). I spent a year backpacking around Australia, and spent some time in Asia.

While I did take on a little bit of freelance work during this time, I had made the conscious decision to not work in the industry for a year. And even though many people advised me against this kind of career break, I don’t regret it for a second – and this life experience has only ever helped me in my creative life since. 

I eventually settled in Adelaide, where I was sponsored for Permanent Residency with a Creative Director role. I spent three years at Anomaly, tasked with transitioning the agency from a video production company to a full service creative agency, before a year at Martin’s Brand House.

I then made the decision to move to Sydney two years ago, where I took up the role as Associate Creative Director at Chello, where I met David, Born’s eventual co-founder. Whilst working together at Chello, we started creating and developing our own strategic and creative style, and our own philosophy around brand storytelling.

And it got to the point where we realised that what we believed was becoming quite difficult to ignore, and that our way of thinking was something we thought had real merit, and was really quite different, and something we wanted to pursue, develop and scale in our own agency. And now Born.

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

My work days usually start around 8.30am with a coffee. I get in to find my co-founder David already in the office (he is a morning person) with music blaring. We usually have a quick chat about our evenings and catch up on any gossip, before planning out the day in front of us.

As a small agency, we have to wear a few hats, and so it is important that we are clear on everything that we need to do before we start work. We normally work through any high IQ, high detail or important administrative or client tasks first thing, to free up the more creative work from mid-morning / early afternoon.

New business is also essential to our agency at the moment, and we normally make time (an hour or so) each afternoon for this! I normally leave the office at around 5.30/6, and walk home. I walk both to and from the office, and this is something that is really important to me. It gives me time to think, and a time to break from the formality of the work day.

The evenings are normally pretty chilled. I might play minecraft online with my nephew overseas, or watch a film, or just catch up with my partner. I tend to feel creative around 10pm, so I might jump online again for an hour, before bed at 11. 

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

For me work-life balance is quite simple: try to leave work at work as much as possible. As founders, we are all too aware that running a business can take over your life, and we do everything we can to avoid falling into this trap – because ultimately, it is detrimental to the work to be ‘always on’, you need a break from it.

So David and I try to remain in an ‘employee’ mindset, and leave as close to 5.30 as possible. We’re better when we are refreshed and renewed. On a more functional level we are pretty militant on planning our time, using tools such as Float to understand where bottlenecks might occur, and giving us as much advanced warning of this as possible. 

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?

I meditate – a brilliant habit to get into it. And it really gives me a chance to be calm, slow my heart rate down, and just be still for a while. I also walk, as much as I can and walking to work is the bedrock of my work-life balance. I find the morning and evening walks a chance to unwind, listen to music and be with my thoughts.

Moving into an office rather than working from home, has also made a big difference. It allows me to physically leave work at work, at the very least. And I’ve found that when I do get home, I’m much more present for my partner. I know a lot of people love working from home, but for me, I wouldn’t stop at the finish time.

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?

I’ve been listening to the Mindset Mentor, which I highly recommend. A brilliant resource for aspiring agency owners. And I recently followed the trend to read Wim Hof’s book, The Wim Hof Method. I am slowly trying to incorporate cold showers into my morning routine, but most days I’m too much of a wimp – especially in winter! 

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?

Regardless of whether it’s going well, or going badly, come in every day and focus on the fundamentals. 

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.