Matej Varhalik is the co-founder and CEO of SpeedFit, Australia’s largest EMS (electronic muscle stimulation) personal training fitness franchise.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
Using my background in sales management from my birth country, Slovakia, I decided to study fitness in Australia and identified an opportunity to introduce the low-impact, high-intensity training technology I had experienced and grown to love in Europe.
I had previously used EMS (Electro Muscle Stimulation) to treat a severe back pain issue and following on from my great results I was inspired to launch the SpeedFit brand in 2013.
As a businessman and father, I leveraged my personal frustration of not having the time to squeeze a normal gym routine into my busy lifestyle into one of the key selling points of SpeedFit.
With the latest in machine technology from Germany, SpeedFit is designed as a smart workout, a gym alternative ideal for busy individuals looking to achieve results in weekly 20-minute visits.
I was no stranger to Australia. My wife Zuzana and I had already fallen in love with the country on an earlier trip and had plans to settle here when the dual study and business opportunity emerged.
In just seven years, and with English as my second language, I have built a growing franchise in Australia. In 2017, I appeared on Shark Tank and fielded investment offers from Boost Juice founder Janine Allis and Steve Baxter but declined both and instead backed myself.
We now have a 29-studio strong franchise spanning from WA, NSW, VIC and ACT. I am firmly focused on growth and transforming the fitness industry, making this quick and easy service accessible to as many Australians as possible, and am planning to expand the brand further across Australia.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I have work life built into the week’s schedule, usually I wake up around 6:45 am so I have time for my morning exercise before 8am when my wife Zuzana and I leave the house with our two girls and drop them to school. The morning routine would be a combination of a gym, running or swimming.
I normally arrive at the office between 9 and 9.30am, where I spend my first 30 minutes going through my emails and from 10am I am available for meetings.
Monday to Wednesday my calendar is full of meetings, usually from 10am to 5pm and Thursday & Friday I try to keep free to work on projects. I often work from my home office where I am able to focus more.
Usually I finish in the office at around 6pm. At home I set aside time to catch up with my family and then after the girls go to bed around 9pm, I am usually back on my computer getting emails and other tasks completed for the day.
Friday evening is my ‘night off’. It’s important for me to take time to just chill out and get ready for the weekend, which is almost always 100% family time for me. I commit to keeping my weekends ‘work free’ although I do find Sunday night is a good time to spend an hour or so preparing my priorities and a to-do list for the week ahead.
From outside of my work routine, I have handball training every Tuesday night and squash every Sunday afternoon. My SpeedFit weekly session is usually on Monday after work, where I go and try different studios every week to maintain a connection with staff and test the quality of the service myself.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yes, when I am working on projects that require focus and not to be disturbed, I prefer to work from home.
At SpeedFit we are fully set up for working from anywhere so if I want to, I can do all my work from home and do my meetings through Google Hangouts. During lockdown and quarantine I was working from home for several weeks and I didn’t see any immediate impact.
From a culture point of view, I believe it’s important to meet in person with the team and I usually spend at least three days in the office per week.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Balance to me is being happy in how I spend my time. I am very passionate about SpeedFit and the work I do, so when I am spending more time ‘at work’ it is because I want to and I do not feel bad about it.
I am quite consistent with my weekly routine and make sure that when I am with my family I am not working so they have my undivided attention.
I aim to be at home for almost every dinner and make time to attend my childrens’ activities. I have never missed their school assemblies or important events e.g. school concerts, sport games as this is important to me.
We all enjoy our weekends together and I am very grateful that after many years of doing very long hours I no longer need to work on the weekends. Where I don’t get to spend as much time during the week with my family, I make up for it by taking regular holidays together.
We spend 8-12 weeks annually on holiday. We break these into smaller but regular gateways that are usually between three to seven nights.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Yes, it’s constant fine tuning to find the perfect routine.
- watching TV during the week
- snacking/drinking after 8pm on weekdays
- Reading every day for at least 30 mins.
- Sleeping for at least 8 hours, I used to be on 6-7 hours for the last seven years so I’m very happy about that.
- For the last three months I went back to intermittent fasting, where I have stopped eating breakfast and snacking after 8pm so my body has more time to recover and thus more energy and it works for me very well. I did this a few years ago and just rediscovered the benefits again.
- I joined the gym and found a new track to run since we moved to a new house, and that again helped me to be on top of my physical and mental goals.
- I am always looking for ways to improve my performance, so last year I started having ice baths (we have a chest freezer in the garage with ice-cold temperatures). I also started wearing blue light glasses at night and that helps me to sleep better and feel more rested than ever before.
- I started listening to podcasts and youtube videos on various topics, usually self improvements, motivation, investing and stock markets whilst I am driving instead of listening to the radio.
All of the above is about discovering my full potential and how efficient I can be.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
So many, I love reading books and there are many that I love but my all time favourite is Think & Grow Rich from Napoleon Hill.
In terms of podcasts, it’s more about the topic I am interested in at the time rather than the presenter, so I wouldn’t be able to say which one is my favourite but I would say, it’s a great way to gain knowledge or learn something new while driving in a very efficient way for busy people.
I also listen to a lot of YouTube videos, I have them playing on my phone while driving – not watching, just listening. I really like channels such as Patrick Bet David, he has great videos on entrepreneurship and problems that almost every company/CEO faces.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Google task manager and Asana. Assigning tasks and reminding myself of tasks/projects I need to do works very well for me.
I also always carry an iPad with me so I can use the Notability app where I keep all my notes.
Also without iTunes I wouldn’t have as much fun with my kids when driving around on weekends and singing along.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
It would be someone who is a successful entrepreneur, who built a sustainable business that helps many people and employs a lot of people. Someone who is a father/mother and has a great relationship with his/her kids and amazing relationship with his/her partner and is physically and mentally fit.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Don’t overthink it! Today we tend to overthink a lot and spend too much time wondering if it’s the right balance or not. I think you should just listen to your body and heart and see if you are happy and if yes, keep it that way.
If something is not right, then change it, but don’t waste too much time just thinking about the work life balance or comparing yourself to someone else, as everyones chasing something else and balance means something different to everyone.
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