Balancing the Grind with Johann Oberholzer, Founder of Sole App

Johann Oberholzer is the founder of Sole App, new money management app he has founded and launched in 2021 using his life savings.

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

After completing my Bachelor of Commerce where I majored in Accounting and Finance at the University of Queensland, I started my professional career at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in public accounting and became an active member with the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia. 

After four years, I transitioned into a principal analyst role at Queensland Health as part of the COVID surety division. I played a key role in commissioning the data strategy and implementation for the supply chain services during the height of COVID to ensure all frontline workers had access to critical PPE. 

Accounting is my passion. I know many people who can’t stand ‘doing the books’ but I get a real kick out of seeing accounting work for people in business. That’s why I have been working hard on the side to launch Sole App, an easy, beautiful accounting app that has no confusing lingo or jargon. Sole is my way of giving back using my skill set. 

It is my dream to help those small Australian business owners who find it difficult to organise their finances and manage their books. 

The idea came about two years ago when I was having a coffee with a good friend who was complaining about his disappointing tax return because he had lost his shoebox filled with claimable receipts. He is a tradie who owns his own business, but needed a crash course in managing his finances – and so Sole was born!

Sole App’s potential to empower small businesses in Australia energises me to work hard to continue funding my business. 

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

I wake up every morning at 5am like clockwork. I love this time of day because I’m able to focus and prepare for the day. The first thing I do is take ten minutes to organise myself and take stock of the day.

Once I’m ready, I head off to the gym for an hour – I am currently doing a really interesting whole body workout plan by Jeff Nippard. After a workout, I find it really relaxing and time-efficient to cycle/walk to work as a cool-down and get ready for the day there.

I usually arrive at the office around 7:30am, which gives me about an hour to listen to the ‘Chilled Hits’ playlist on my Spotify and bump emails to get the ball rolling.

At 8:30am as a team we walk down to the local coffee shop for our daily fix. This is a great time to connect with my team members, foster some good relationships, build morale and understand how everyone is going.

At 9am we have our daily stand-up where we plan and coordinate the plan of attack for the day. From here it is all about workshops, powerpoints and excel spreadsheets. At some point I always try to work in a 20-minute recharge block for a quick bite to eat and to turn my mind to the news/sport of the day – over the past few months, cricket has been really distracting!. 

A couple of times a week we do a team run after work. After this, I head home and prepare dinner (and some leftovers for lunch the next day) with my housemate. You wouldn’t believe it, but two blokes can get quite creative in the kitchen too! 

After dinner I dedicate two hours a night to work on Sole App, at which time I respond to emails, and work through planning and finances. This dedicated ‘Sole-time’ that I have put aside to grow my business is very rewarding. I love this time of day and seeing Sole progress and help more people as it does.

Four of the most important things I have learned about working full-time and building a start-up business on the side are: 

  • Time management and prioritisation are crucial for success.
  • A strong and sustainable network is most valuable.
  • The world can change overnight, don’t be fixated on a single concept.
  • Passion is the key to success.

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

Flexible working really went viral in 2020! Although my full-time remote working lasted only one day during the height of the COVID period, I can say with confidence that I have mastered the Teams virtual backgrounds. 

My team in Queensland Health was classified as ‘front line’ staff in order to ensure the surety of supply of PPE and other critical stock to hospitals and medical facilities around the state. As such, we were asked to be in the office as much as possible. The in-person collaboration was definitely very effective. 

Now with the risk of COVID reducing in Queensland (thankfully!), we are provided the opportunity to work remotely one day a week. I find this is a good time to focus and be super effective as there are no interruptions or distractions. 

Sole App is currently in the start-up stage and therefore requires a lot of hands-on support and love. This means I am working long hours from home and everywhere else with dedicated time being spent on following up leads, building relationships and enhancing the application.  

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

Personally I’m still trying to find the ideal balance between work and life, but it does make it easier when you truly enjoy what you do.

From a young age, I have always wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and now that I have found my passion and my purpose in Sole, I get so fired up thinking about how a simple mobile application could revolutionise accounting, business management and taxes for sole traders.

Never again should a sole trader miss a deductible expense! 

I always make a concerted effort to prioritise my activities and keep the big picture in mind by:

  • Following a healthy lifestyle
  • Setting aside dedicated time for family and friends 
  • Pushing myself out of my comfort zone – this year I am planning on doing my first Triathlon to support my friend
  • Set unrealistic goals both professionally and personally with the intent of realistically achieving them – taking a risk and starting a self-funded business at 25 years of age is an example of one that I’m proud to have ticked off! 

Everyone’s balance will look different but I think for me it’s important to schedule in your priorities – the things that make you want to get up in the morning – and to be present in the moment. 

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

Savouring every minute – I used to commute an hour each way and made the conscious decision to reposition myself in an apartment that is closer to work so that I can support an active lifestyle (e.g. cycling, walking to work). Exercising at the start and end of every work day refreshes and energises me. 

Intermittent fasting – I have always tried to prepare lunch for work, to avoid all the nasties of fast foods, but over the last twelve months I have adopted intermittent fasting which has helped my mood, increased my energy levels and has been a great solution to manage my weight. 

Mechanical skills – I’ve made an effort to learn new skills and have restored an old motorbike through many hours of YouTube tutorials!

Reduced screen time – Disconnecting from the mindless scrolling on social media is one of the best gifts I’ve ever given myself. I’ve found the trick is to put yourself in charge of your screens, rather than allowing your screens to be in charge of you.

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

I’m a big believer in learning through reading (and listening, thanks to podcasts). For the most part I am a big consumer of the news and industry-related publications, but I have really enjoyed The Barefoot Investor which helped me structure my personal finances.

You can also regularly find me listening to ASX related podcasts to help me find the next Bitcoin to hopefully be able to indulge in my love of Lamborghinis. 

I am a massive Manchester United (GGMU!) supporter and love to hear all the EPL news. The Football Weekly podcast is normally a cracker! 

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

My trusty Garmin – I use it to track my sleep, steps, calories and every workout! I would recommend a Garmin (or any fitness tracker) to anyone that is training for an event.

Alarmy – Have you ever slept through your alarm? Alarmy is the world’s most annoying alarm clock and with a reason…I mean who likes math questions that early in the morning?

Bluetooth headphones – I haven’t forked out the extra coin for AirPods, but my bluetooth headphones are a game changer when I need to be in the zone at work or sweating up a storm in the gym.

Google Calendar – If it isn’t planned, it isn’t going to happen!

Trello – Kanban is your best friend for software development. My developer for Sole works from Sydney, so I haven’t had the opportunity to meet him, but through our regular Skype meetings, chats and tasks on Trello we are very efficient.

Mac, iPad and Mobile – Who knew this is all you needed to start a successful business?!

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

“Be humble. Be hungry. And always be the hardest worker in the room.” – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Dwayne has starred in numerous mega box office movies, owns a tequila brand (Teremana), operates a large partnership with fitness apparel brand Under Armour, is producing, creating and starring in a variety of TV projects.

On top of all of this, he finds time to exercise (his ‘non-negotiable’), work in some mega cheat meals and dedicates time for his family. I would love to ask him how he does it!

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

It is important to find the right balance of health (both physical and mental), family, friends, work, goals, ambition and purpose. Find your passion, set a goal and go after it but don’t forget to laugh and have fun along the way. 

My 4-word motto for life is: Work hard, play harder!

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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.