CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Matt Hollis, Co-Founder & CEO at ProductEngine

Matt Hollis is the co-founder & CEO at ProductEngine, a company that makes makes managing products and pricing faster, easier and more accurate.

Learn about the daily routines of some of the most successful people in the world. Sign up to our newsletter today & receive a free gift that will help you achieve your goals!

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

I started in hospitality as a waiter and bartender, which I loved until a sales team that came to the restaurant I worked at (The Stokehouse in Melbourne) convinced me to try sales. I started out selling commercial furniture. It was great until I lost a large deal because “the chair was not comfortable”. I then moved into IT sales – it either works or it doesn’t, no subjectivity! Or at least a lot less.

Working in my first IT sales job I struggled to manage the volume of quotes I did every day. To solve this I built an Access DB to manage quoting which made me more efficient and successful than the other salespeople I worked with. This was my first taste of the importance of good systems.

From there I was lucky enough to work at two fast-growing tech companies, first Pipe Networks (sold to TPG Telecom) and then Vocus Communications. At Vocus, I ended up managing 550 staff which was a great experience. It taught me that keeping staff aligned and motivated is the most important thing – and good systems that are easy to use.

My current role is CEO of ProductEngine. We are building a SaaS product and pricing management tool. It’s designed to make life easier, faster and more accurate for anyone who has to deal with product and pricing data. It frees you from admin to work on the really important stuff.

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

I like to start my workday with some sunlight and exercise, usually a walk first thing listening to a podcast to get me moving. Following that 10 mins of meditation then the first coffee of the day while reading the news.

Then into the office (either the home office or the office, office). Being CEO of a small startup means my days are pretty varied. A recent workday started with an early call with a VC in the US. Then a call with a SaaS company that needed a product and pricing database for their app and wanted to look at using ProductEngine.

After that, I had a couple of hours to work on product planning. Then a couple of meetings with prospective customers after lunch followed by an afternoon of admin (finance, HR, billing etc).

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

As a co-founder, I get to set my routine and work where and how I choose. This suits me because often inspiration will strike and I can head down to the home office to work while in the zone.

I choose to be in the office or working from home depending on what I need to get done that day. If it’s deep work, then I prefer to work from home. If collaboration is needed you can’t beat being face to face in the office or clustered around a whiteboard. 

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

Work-life balance means fitting in everything including work, family and health. I plan my week out every Sunday and make sure I put in time for exercise and any family things in my calendar or it doesn’t happen. I love what I do though so working long hours and weekends is all part of the fun. It’s not everyone’s idea of balance but it works for me!

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

I have started blocking time in my calendar for my tasks which has helped me be more practical about how long things will take. I find that if it’s important I need to block time out to make sure it gets done. I also have a weekly set of priorities so if anything comes up I know what to drop.

The other new routine has been to think about impact. Am I doing at least one thing everyday that has a high impact on ProductEngine? It’s so easy in a small business to be busy as there is always so much to do. Focusing on the best things to do has made me more effective and happier.

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

One of my favourite podcasts is Andrew Huberman’s because science! It’s always interesting and a great listen while at the gym or doing jobs around the house.

A favourite book is Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It highlights the role randomness plays in our lives and the natural human tendency to explain it as non-random.

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

My AirPods for hands free calls, tunes or podcasts wherever I am! Holding a phone to my ear feels wrong.

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

Mike Cannon Brookes. It would be fascinating to hear how creating and growing Atlassian affected his family life (any regrets etc). I would love to know how he manages his time today so he can both co-CEO Atlassian and be a successful activist investor! 

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

Find what you are passionate about and work at being good at it. Surround yourself with people that inspire you and make you want to be better. And lastly, don’t be afraid to change jobs to look for a better one, life is too short to work with dickheads.

Before you go…

If you’d like to sponsor or advertise with Balance the Grind, let’s talk here

Join our community and never miss a conversation about work, life & balance – subscribe to our newsletter

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.