CEOs / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Kent Vorland, CEO at SimplyPayMe

Kent Vorland is the CEO of SimplyPayMe, an award-winning global provider of payments technology and infrastructure.

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

I have a rather varied professional background.  I started out in the Air Force and became an instructor in the Royal Norwegian Air Force Officers’ Academy at only 19. I left to pursue civilian life and my education, so I left everything I knew in Norway and ventured to America where I attended Clark University in Worcester, MA, to study economics.

After completing my studies I went to Manhattan with little money and landed a job working in the infamous high paced environment on Wall Street. In fact I had taken up a loan of about 5,000 GBP to pay for rent and other expenses and gave myself three months to get a job, or else I would have gone back to Norway.I learned a lot throughout my time in New York and achieved a lot professionally. 

Personal reasons brought me to London after four years of living in the US, and I set up my own start-up consultancy company, called Becama Holdings, in February 2016. This company, which worked with clients all over Europe to consult them on their business development and partnership strategies, is what led me to SimplyPayMe.

I was looking to use SimplyPayMe’s (formerly SmartTrade App) solutions for one of my other clients, and following lots of meetings and working closely with the team at SimplyPayMe, I took over the role of CEO in December 2017. 

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

They are all so different, but first things first, I get out of bed, which may be the most challenging part of the day! I’m someone who prefers late nights ahead of early mornings, but I try.

I enjoy getting a coffee and sifting through emails quickly on my phone before going on my laptop. For some reason, it feels less overwhelming to just swipe through irrelevant emails on the phone than it does to see an inbox full of unread messages on a full screen! 

During the workday, I really don’t take many breaks, which is something I’m trying to get better at, but I always have my ritual during a 20-minute lunch break. Eating my lunch, while watching Good Mythical Morning on YouTube, love those guys! Have been doing this for about 8 years. 

One of the most difficult things about work-life balance these days is that we’re connected no matter what we do. We’re available on our phones, tablets, watches, you name it, someone can always reach us.

What’s even worse is that because of the level of connectivity, people also expect immediate gratification when reaching out to someone. So trying to do the “life” part of work-life balance, becomes very difficult. 

I often do a lot of calls and meetings during the day, then anywhere between 18-22:00 I’ll try and step away from the computer, but whether I am on the couch watching TV, in the gym or out with friends, I will still be answering worktexts, Teams messages, emails, even calls. So the actual balance becomes a mirage as you may not be in front of a laptop, but you’re also never switched off, which is something a lot of people don’t realise. This is rocket fuel for burnout… quickly! 

In the evenings, as mentioned above, I enjoy going to the gym if I’ve got the energy to do so. However, I also draw a lot of energy from going out and seeing friends as social interaction may be one of the only activities that allow me to momentarily forget that I’m running a multinational company.

Mostly because my friends don’t care, which I absolutely love! I actually started telling people I didn’t know, that I met on nights out, that I work in customer support because I got so tired of the string of questioning that came with saying I was a CEO. Worked like a charm, no one asked further questions!

Lastly, I tend to end my days watching a couple of episodes of entirely braindead TV. It’s a time where I don’t think, I don’t talk, I don’t do anything other than existing and being entertained and it’s an absolute necessity. 

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

Not only does my current role allow for remote work, but so do my team’s roles! We have no offices, which works perfectly for me as I have relocated to Greece and my team works all over the world.

This allows me to work wherever and whenever I can or need to. As I mentioned, I’m rarely not doing something work-related, so remote work means I’m accessible to my team and I can schedule my day around work and not worry about a commute.

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

Work-life balance to me has had different meanings throughout the last decade. When I was younger I worked on Wall Street and remember telling myself “work is primary, leisure is a bonus”. I was entirely consumed with work.

Work during the day and evening and when we went out, it was for work with colleagues and clients. This kept going for a long time and was exhausting until I hit a wall in 2018. This was the start of my entirely new outlook on what it means to have balance.

I started sharing in-depth about my journey and experience with mental health, advocating in any way I could, using Instagram and LinkedIn as channels to share with others what I had learned and see if I was able to help others avoid making the same mistake. 

Today it’s quite simple for me. Work-life balance means working hard and efficiently when you work, but having a life when you’re not. It is to be said, I’m much better at preaching to others than I am at actually following my own advice, but at least I feel I’m good at allowing everyone working at SimplyPayMe to enjoy a balanced life.

At the moment, I try to ensure I have some time to myself in the evenings and always have at least 1 day a week where I don’t touch work aside from emergencies. So on Saturdays, unless there is something entirely necessary, I do not look at work, emails or anything related. I enjoy myself. 

My move to Greece has also made this so much better. It’s a country that really knows how to enjoy life and if anything it was difficult finding a balance in the opposite direction when I first arrived, but have now got a good mix of both. 

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

I have recently tried reintroducing habits. One of the most important things in my life to keep sane is going to the gym. Yet, I have not found the energy to go consistently for about 9 months. The moment I stop going I lose energy, become irritable and lose focus. It’s a vicious cycle! 

Getting back to this routine, as well as small, simple steps like having time to go to bed and get up, what you do when you get up etc and just a few baby steps to bring structure into your life can be revolutionary and this is where I am getting back to now. 

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

I’m probably a bit unusual here. When I read or listen to podcasts, I tend to listen to things to take me away from work, rather than things that are meant to “teach”. I learn on the job, from people and mentors around me all the time, from there I want to figure things out myself, rather than trying to restrict myself to the way someone else did something.

This allows me to grow in a different (perhaps more difficult) way, but with a very steep learning curve. So as for podcasts, for entertainment, I really enjoy No Such Thing as a Fish and for inspirational people, I very much enjoy One Vision. As far as books go, I recommend reading Elon Musk and Zlatan Ibrahimovich’s biographies! 

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

One of the gadgets I can’t live without are chef grade knives. I love to cook and this is something that relaxes me after a busy week. Of course, my phone is another thing that maybe I could live without, but it makes my working life much easier. With our company being fully remote, my team needs to contact me wherever and whenever they need to, so mobile devices make our company more efficient. 

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

 Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, no doubt! He just seems to have it all, working, working out and at the same time enjoying life all at the same time with multiple projects. I don’t understand how it’s possible! 

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

On the topic of work-life balance, I’d like to say, we are not machines. However much we want to think we are. Just like when I was younger, burning out or hitting the wall “won’t happen to me” until it does.

If you burn the candle on both ends, it will burn out very quickly. In order to keep your sanity, make sure you give yourself time to heal and rejuvenate. This also means taking time for yourself to disconnect from work and reset. This is essential to function better in every aspect of life, both personally and professionally. 

For more views you can also look at an article I wrote for Future Farm called “How much to kill yourself” which goes deep into this exact topic and for more on disconnecting, I wrote an article on why it’s necessary to switch off

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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.