Balancing the Grind with Kerin Jarvis, Tradie Support Specialist at Behind The Boots

Kerin Jarvis is the founder of Behind The Boots, a one stop shop providing administration support for tradesmen.

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

My background is in administration, HR, and WHS, with a bit of dabbling in Marketing too. For most of my career, I worked in the Construction industry in one way or another in roles like Office Manager, Payroll Officer, and WHS Professional. 

Eventually, I owned and operated my own successful Airconditioning and Electrical Company. A couple of years ago, with the end of my marriage, I was faced with a world of possibilities to choose from. I had so much experience, love, and understanding of the construction industry, so I decided to roll it all together and start my own small business. Behind the Boots was born! 

My business provides administration support to tradies, we do all the work behind the scenes so they can pull their boots on and get back to work.

I provide a broad range of services including diary management, chasing payments, recruitment and HR, social media marketing, bookkeeping and so much more. My customers love the service because I do all the tasks that drive them crazy! And I love it because I’m doing all the tasks that I really enjoy.

I started my business just as COVID hit Australia, and I remember saying to myself “I want my story to be: that I started and grew a business during a global pandemic”. So, that’s what I did, I just took daily action and did whatever it took to grow my business.

I really believe in what I do, so it didn’t take long to have enough customers to keep me in full time work. And before I knew it, I had won the Professional Services Business of the Year Award at the Snowy Monaro Business Awards!

I’ve managed to find a niche that I feel really passionate about, and a niche that supports the amazing tradesmen that keep our world turning. 

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

Juggling the various clients and tasks that I need to complete is a challenge, but I have found a few good ways to keep a handle on it.

As a business owner, it’s important for me to also set aside time to work on business growth and forward planning, so I make sure I set time aside for this too. I’m a member of 2 coaching programs: Business Australia’s Strengthening Business Program, and BeaBossLady. Both of these programs have weekly meetings and homework to complete. 

A typical day starts with a workout in my lounge room or a power walk along the lakefront, a healthy breakfast, and a strong plunger coffee, then I head upstairs to my office. Having my office upstairs really helps me psychologically separate my work life and home life.

When I’m upstairs – I’m at work, when I’m downstairs – it’s home time. I have 30-60 minute blocks of time set aside throughout my day to work on certain tasks. Most of these are recurring but I do have to shuffle things as more urgent tasks come up.

I start Mondays and Fridays with coaching zoom calls, followed by bookkeeping tasks for each of my clients. After lunch, I spend an hour each on the Asana Tasks for 3 different clients.

A typical example of how I would spend an hour on these clients is: write social media content, draft email responses for client enquiries, respond to Google Reviews, chase invoice payments, and send out a new employee package to a tradie I’ve recruited for them.

Obviously, each day is very different, and some days I spend 4 hours in one session just working on the setup of a new ServiceM8 file. Late in the afternoon or evening is when I have a weekly phone meeting with one of my clients, we go through the progress of the tasks I’ve completed for them, ask questions, and take note of new tasks.

I love the variety, and the challenge of juggling so many balls. Finally, on Fridays when I’m done for the day, I head downstairs, pour a glass of wine, and sit on my verandah looking out at Lake Jindabyne pondering how great this lifestyle is.

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

I live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet, the Snowy Mountains in NSW! I built my lifestyle around being close to multiple types of outdoor activities, and having the flexibility to be able to enjoy those things when the weather is right.

During the winter months, I sometimes start my day with a morning of skiing, and then I begin working around 1pm. Throughout Summer, I start early, then take my paddleboard out on the lake in the afternoon once I’m finished with my work. I am so grateful for the flexibility working from home provides me.

Having a balanced lifestyle is very important to me. From my office, I can see Lake Jindabyne and the stunning snow capped mountains – it’s an inspiring backdrop. All my work is remote, and I communicate with my clients and my team by phone, Zoom, Asana tasks, email, and the ServiceM8 job management system.

Taking short breaks throughout the day to make the 5 minute walk to the lake for some fresh air, allows me to keep my body moving and the ideas flowing. My clients are all tradies, and they love having an administrator who keeps varied hours. Because of the flexibility of my lifestyle, I can always find times for our phone meetings that suit their schedule. 

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

Previously, I worked till I dropped and I was always striving for more, more, more. I always said “Work hard, Play Hard” but this attitude led me to an almost complete breakdown. My adrenals were so fatigued that I could barely complete the most basic of daily tasks.

Work-life balance for me now, means keeping life simple enough to sustain the pace long term. I’ve simplified now, which means I live in a basic home with very little maintenance, and I only have the things I really need: a spare room for guests, a home office with a view, and of course skis, hiking shoes, and enough seats around the table for a few friends.

Low maintenance living means I don’t spend all my spare hours doing housework, so I can get outside and enjoy nature instead. Providing remote admin support to tradies means I can do my work any time of the day.

I schedule my work around when my tradie customers are available, and sometimes that means I do my phone meetings and related work in the evening but I have the day available for adventure sports or rest.

I’ve achieved this balance by literally designing my life. I sat with a coach and decided how I wanted to live my life, and then I set about making that a reality. Once I let go of wanting more stuff, I have become very comfortable with setting my boundaries on how much work I will do. This allows me to keep a balance of work, rest and play that keeps me healthy and vibrant.

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

Making something a habit is quite tricky, you have to do something that goes against what you naturally feel like doing. The habit I’ve changed most dramatically in the last 12 months is mindset.

I’m working hard to adjust my mindset on some very specific subjects. I believe in neuroplasticity and the ability to heal or rewire our brains. So, to support my decision to improve my thinking patterns, I’ve chosen some new habits or activities.

One thing I do is write mantras on post notes and place them around my home, then I say them regularly to embed them into my thinking. It’s always something simple like – I already have everything I need, I have what it takes to handle everything that comes my way, or my choices today guide my future.

I’m teaching my brain to feel that I’m already living in abundance and personal power. Doing this, along with having a Vision board has given me the power to take my life in the direction I want it to go.

We tend to just let life happen to us, but I believe we can direct our own paths to some degree. With this mindset, as challenges appear, we handle them with the attitudes we have taught ourselves

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

The Secrets of Confident Women podcast is my absolute favourite, it’s run by Jodie Bruce-Clarke from Rise Women, and she interviews women from all walks of life about how they apply confidence in various situations. It’s very practical, helpful and inspiring.

I really enjoy hearing other women’s stories, struggles, triumphs, and the techniques they use to power through their challenges. I was lucky enough to be interviewed on this podcast last year. I spoke about how learning the confidence techniques in Jodie’s course had given me the tools to completely transform my life. 

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

Toggle and Asana are my best friends! I switch between multiple clients throughout my day, so keeping track of the time I spend on each client is crucial. I bill my time on an hourly rate for a lot of things, so this helps with invoicing.

Additionally, keeping track of the time I spend on various tasks allows me to see the indirect costs associated with simply running my business. If I spend 10 hours of my week working “on” my business, I need to factor that in when I decide on the hourly rate I charge my customers.

Asana is a task manager, there are various products that provide the same function but this one works the way that I work. I’m able to set up standard task lists as templates so that I can assign a full list of tasks to a client’s file without having to rewrite the lists over and over for each client.

It also allows me to see exactly what I still need to do for each client, and the timeframes associated. My team finds it really helpful too. I can assign tasks to my team, and we can write notes back and forth to each other within the task, attach documents, etc. Working remotely makes it crucial to have a quality task management system.

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

I’d be very interested to see how highly successful people like Oprah, or Michelle Bridges manage their life. There must be so much going around in their head, so many balls in the air, and so many people relying on them.

My theory is that there is a lot of outsourcing, supportive partners, and a highly skilled team of people behind them. But how on earth do they find time for a social life, and sleep amongst everything they manage to achieve.

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

My firm belief is that you can have the life you desire, but it’s all about choices. You either have to make tough choices to sacrifice recreation time and a social life to smash out long hours and build your empire, or sacrifice higher business/career growth to make time for more fun and rest.

Some people have the nous to outsource strategically so that they can achieve business growth and a balanced lifestyle at the same time. The best way to achieve the lifestyle you desire, is to get very clear on what you want your life to look like, what you value, and how much work you’re willing to put into achieving it.

Then spend time with a coach or mentor developing a roadmap to that lifestyle. The only thing between you and achieving what you want, is taking daily action on that roadmap. It doesn’t happen accidentally, and it doesn’t have to be hard, but it’s the things you work on daily/consistently that gain the most momentum. 

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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.