Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Jodie de Vries, Co-Founder & Managing Director at Tiny Hunter

Jodie de Vries is the co-founder & managing director at Tiny Hunter, a strategy branding agency that she launched 8 years ago.

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

I studied graphic design way back in 1997. But being a born entrepreneur I didn’t stick with the ‘real job’ for very long. I launched my own agency which I grew from my kitchen table to midsize before merging with another agency to create the current business Tiny Hunter, where I am the Managing Director.

Tiny Hunter is a strategic branding agency that is now 8 years old. We work with established businesses who want to grow and take things to the next level. We help define their brand strategy and bring it to life in terms of brand identity, and marketing. 

Apart from Tiny Hunter I have started another venture The Brand Brigade which is an education platform that takes everything we have learnt over the years and makes it accessible to small businesses. It’s quite new, but I am very excited about being able to give back and support others in their business journey.

It adds nice variety to my days too, being able to switch from leading a team and the complexities of running an agency to working basically as a startup, getting my hands dirty on the tools.

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

I used to try and compartmentalise things a little more but these days I’ve surrendered to it being a lot more fluid given we are in lockdown right now (which may well be a nice word for chaotic).

On any given day I might move from some schooling 3 kids, to internal team meetings, making sure everyone is on track and has what they need, back to some home schooling before running a client workshop, and finish up with some review time to make sure all external comms for both Tiny Hunter and our magazine Brands of Kin are looking and sounding as they should.

Then it’s back to mum mode. It’s a real balance between keeping the big picture in view, making sure there is excellence in the detail and also keeping happy little humans along the way. 

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

Yes our agency is remote-first and very supportive of flexible work – at least half the team work part time. It’s really essential for me to be able to time shift and manage my schedule fairly creatively.

But as a business it does create its own challenges, when we do need to get certain people in a meeting at the same time it becomes like a crazy game of Tetris managing availability across common work days and time zones.

But the pros outweigh the cons, so it’s just about maintaining open lines of communication and making it work.

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

In a perfect world I’d love to work 3 days a week – that is the goal! But for now there is too much I want to achieve to make that work.

For me work life balance is keeping all the balls mostly in the air, working hard but at the same time being able to take the time to attend the things that matter, like my kids’ end of year school concerts.

Also, work needs to be fun, I know the balance is out when it’s not fun anymore and then it’s time to take stock and see what can be shifted. 

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

I’ve started walking every morning down to, and along, the beach. Starting the day with fresh air and sunshine has been amazing. Pre-lockdown I had started extreme scheduling – making sure lunch is in the diary, admin time, designated meeting slots, etc.

It gave me much more control of my time to map it out like that rather than letting people just book meetings anywhere and helps make sure I have some free space in the day. Food is important!

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

Books that I have found quite impactful to how I think and work are The Slight Edge by Jeff Olsen and Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.

If you want to have balance you need to become a real ninja at how you choose to spend your time, and these books really help.

In terms of podcasts I have listened to The Tim Ferriss Show a lot over the years, Tim is a super smart guy, but also it’s a great curation of many other interesting points of view as well – so it can be a great way to uncover new books and philosophies.

On the more messy, human side of things I love the podcasts We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle and Unlocking Us with Bréné Brown.

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

Slack for internal comms (I hate email), Evernote for being the dumping ground of my brain and everything that I find interesting, Google Workspace and my coffee machine! 

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

Jacinda Ardern – she is one smart lady, and was running a country with a newborn, she must have some nuggets of gold!

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

If you have flexibility, start with your non-negotiables and map those into your diary first – time with loved ones, catch-ups with friends you see every now and then, holidays, wellbeing routines, etc.

If you map these all out across the year even if they need to move when the time comes it’s the perfect reminder to do that, and then they are more likely to happen. Then you plot the work into what is left. We always do it the other way around but this can be really powerful. 

Also I like to always remember ‘less, but better’.

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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.