Growth / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Joel Robbie, Head of Growth at T-Shirt Ventures

Joel Robbie is the Head of Growth at T-Shirt Ventures, a company building health technology that helps people living with a disability to live the life they want.

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

So I’m a recovering founder. I spent the last 6 years building a SaaS platform called Nod which is a productivity platform for financial advisers to automate their back office. I’ve recently exited that business and am now the Head of Growth at a health technology company operating in the disability services sector called T-Shirt Ventures.

At T-Shirt Ventures we operate two brands, Provider Choice and HeyHubble, each solving a different challenge for people living with a disability and who are part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Provider Choice helps people to manage the money they get from the NDIS in a way that aligns with their goals.

HeyHubble helps people to find service providers to support them in achieving their goals. The common theme is people’s goals and aspirations. We take a goal-centred view of every product we build and the service we deliver. Everything is in service of the person’s goals and aspirations.

I’ve always been a builder of things by nature. Prior to founding Nod I spent a few years cutting my teeth in enterprise sales at Telstra and was a founding member of both their mid-market and Big Data teams. 

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

T-Shirt Ventures is growing incredibly quickly. There is just so much demand within the disability community for support that is aligned to people’s goals and aspirations. Because of this rapid growth there is always something new to work on. 

I’ve spent most of my last few weeks in hiring mode. Finding candidates, interviewing people for roles, and onboarding them to the team. I absolutely pride myself on being able to find great people, recruit them to a cause and get them working well together in a high performing team.

Like I said I’m very much a builder of things by nature and building teams is a central part of any role I take on. Great people build great products, great people achieve great sales results, so finding great people to work with is the number one predictor of success in my view!

When I’m not hiring or coaching my team, I like to go deep on the connection between growth and product, growth and customer service delivery. I want to make sure we don’t just achieve exponential growth but that we do so in a way that brings cross-functional teams with us.

We want to grow fast but we also want to make sure we deliver an outstanding customer / user experience so that we’re able to sustain that rapid growth long term.

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

My team knows how big a role my family plays in my life because either one of my 3-year-old or my 10-month-old daughters are regular visitors to our video calls. Sometimes both of them! We maintain a hybrid working model at T-shirt Ventures where we are in the office some days and working remotely on other days.

I love the balance this provides and personally really enjoy the regular change of scenery. For me, I don’t care where you work. I just want to find the best people to work on growing this business with me and family is so important to me so I actively foster that work-life balance amongst my team.

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

Personally, I’m probably more of an advocate for work-life flow rather than work-life balance. I do believe that to achieve great things sometimes you need to be unbalanced (even unreasonable) about getting that great thing done.

However, that should also mean that you can fit that important work flexibly around your family. So while I probably think about work more than most and work longer hours than many people, I also don’t feel like I sacrifice time with my family because of the flexibility to change when I get the work done.

I’m also acutely aware that this flexibility is a privilege that not everyone gets so I don’t take it for granted and don’t subscribe to the notion that everyone in my team has to have the same philosophy on work and life. If you hold our values, you’re here to do the best work of your life and you’re highly capable, you can work at T-Shirt and maintain the balance you crave with other areas of your life.

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

I actually really love learning about new things but I probably got a bit myopic about what sorts of things I decided to learn when I was running my startup.

So, as part of my founder’s recovery journey, I’ve recently decided to enrol in some online courses on a passion area of mine, the intersection between climate, agriculture and energy, and I’m really enjoying branching out and learning something that isn’t about growing businesses.

It’s one way I’ve tried to bring some more balance to my day so I can keep my mind fresh. I tend to do my coursework on the train to work as a bit of a routine to make sure I keep up with it.

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

Heaps! For company founders: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz and Zero to One by Peter Thiel. I also think OpenView’s blog is one of the better VC blogs out there for people in growth roles.

For climate tech junkies: the My Climate Journey podcast. 

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

iPhone, Apple Watch and Strava are the tech bits and pieces I spend a lot of time with.

At work it’s Slack and all the G-Suite products.

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

Barack Obama.

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

Take time everyday to remind yourself of what is most important to you, and spend your time on those things. 

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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.