Finance / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Kurt McFarland, Chief Financial Officer at Kinela

Kurt McFarland is the Chief Financial Officer at Kinela, a healthcare company that empowers people living with disability and older Australians to take control of their health and wellbeing.

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

I began my career in investment banking with Macquarie before spending several years working and studying overseas. After returning to Australia I had the desire to work within fast growing companies, rather than as an advisor or investor.

Since then I have been fortunate to use the finance and strategy skills I developed earlier in my career to work with a variety of PE and VC owned companies. It has been a steep learning curve and very challenging at times but I find working in these types of companies alongside highly talented people to be incredibly rewarding.

My current role is CFO of Kinela, which is a venture-backed B Corporation that provides food delivery and Allied Health services to people living with disability.

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

In recent times a typical day begins with me waking up around 7:30am, making coffee and taking my dog for a walk before returning home and preparing a light breakfast (I sometimes meditate in the morning but not always).

Logging onto Zoom for an 8:30am check-in call with our Exec team, the first of many for the day. Another Zoom call with a regular 1:1 session with one of my direct reports. A 1 hour window opens up which I use to review our fortnightly accounts payable run, while attending to slack or email messages.

I get ready to log into another Zoom call for an update on a major data project underway across the business. I have scheduled a lunch break into my calendar so I go outside for another walk and listen to a podcast.

My afternoon is a combination of a call with one of our major food suppliers, a strategy forum with the Exec team and a discussion with our CEO ahead of an important meeting with a board member the following day.

Around 5:30pm I go outside for a run to clear my head before coming home to shower and prepare dinner. In the evening I spend a couple of hours doing some financial modelling for the company budget while listening to music, when it is much easier for me to focus.

I read for half an hour in bed before going to sleep around 11:30pm.

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

Covid has changed this equation completely. Pre-Covid I did not work from home very often as I always felt more productive in the office, however out of necessity I have now become very focused and productive at home.

I am fortunate that I can perform my role remotely and that my company helped me to establish an effective work from home setup. I do need to be more disciplined to work effectively remotely, however in my experience this also enables more freedom and flexibility in how I am able to perform the required tasks.

The boundaries between work and personal life have definitely become more blurred but at the same time I feel I have more freedom than when I went into the office every day.

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

Work-life balance to me means having the flexibility to fit my personal life and goals alongside my work obligations. For me this means having sufficient time for rest, exercise, socialising, music and personal development as well as achieving my career objectives.

I am lucky that I currently feel there is significant overlap between both ‘work’ and ‘life’ which makes this equation easier.

There is a base line of activities that I make sure I fit into my schedule pretty much without exception (particularly exercise, sleep and eating well). Having good routines in these areas is a great place to start and helps me maintain consistency even during stressful periods.

I generally try to not work on weekends to give myself time to rest and reenergise. While there will sometimes be intense periods of work that require the ‘balance’ to be put aside for a short period, I try to always make sure I listen to my body and take breaks or rest whenever needed. This enables me to maintain a consistent level of performance and avoid ‘burning out’.

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

This year I mostly stopped drinking alcohol as an experiment to see if there were any noticeable benefits. I have found it to be incredibly helpful for my focus, productivity and general well-being.

I have started incorporating podcast listening into my daily routine and have found this a great way to learn and get interesting perspectives from highly intelligent people. I attended F45 sessions almost daily for more than 3 years, but during Covid I began a new routine of running (interspersed with strength exercises).

I have enjoyed the challenge of tracking my progress and staying motivated by using Strava, although I do miss the morning routine of F45.

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

A book that I found incredibly thought provoking was The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert, which examines the current sixth mass extinction event currently happening on our planet.

I also enjoy the ideas and views of Ray Dalio, particularly the ‘Idea Meritocracy’ described in his book Principles: Life and Work.

My favourite podcasts include The Daily (New York Times), The Economist, How I Built This, The Rich Roll Podcast and The Tim Ferriss Show.

I am pretty selective about subscribing to newsletters, but I have found FS (Farnam Street) Blog, Medium and Future Crunch to all have consistently interesting and engaging content.

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

I would find it difficult to live without my Bose noise cancelling headphones. Purchasing a Soda Stream has convinced me that sparkling water is always superior to regular water (except when it goes flat). If you removed SoundCloud, Spotify, WhatsApp and Google Keep from my phone I don’t think I would see a need to carry it around all the time.

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

I would love to read about how Steffen Berkhahn (aka Dixon) approaches work life balance. I have long admired him as an exceptional DJ and founder of the incredibly successful music label Innervisions. It would be super interesting to understand how he balances his label commitments, touring schedule, family and personal time.

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

Some of the best advice I was ever given was to think deeply about your own personal values and to then live your life according to those values.

Over time you will be attracted towards work that is meaningful to you and brings you intrinsic satisfaction, which enables you to invest lots of energy in achieving excellent performance in whatever that field may be.

I believe that pursuing meaningful work enables you to create a balanced life that is aligned with your values.

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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.