Balancing the Grind with Max Cotton, Founder & CEO at Another Round

Max Cotton is the Founder & CEO at Another Round, a company that makes personal training scalable through technology that assists trainers in quickly creating personalised workout plans for clients, for use in online or in-person PT.

Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

After going to uni in Nottingham I went into IT sales (B2B and B2C) for a company there while also trying to follow my dream of becoming a full time professional fighter. I did compete professionally but it never became my full time job. It was a great period in my life and taught me a lot, and I’ve still trained MMA on/off for the 10 years since.

After moving to London in 2014 I worked a few other jobs in IT sales and I enjoyed my time doing it, I wanted to do something that was more aligned with my passions and in 2015 I left my job to start my first business (100% MMA). It was a great idea but a bad business model and I didn’t really understand the dynamics of running a business but I learned a lot in 18 months of running it.

The following year I actually set up two businesses that I ran concurrently alongside working as a PT: Another Round and P.E. for Grown-ups. P.E. for Grown-ups was a workplace wellness business that was doing quite well until the pandemic came and killed it off quite quickly as well as my PT career, but the flipside was that I had my bases covered with Another Round providing online services, so that became my full time job quite quickly, and here we are today with a team of seven people and proprietary tech that we’re going to positively impact millions of lives with. Wild. I never would have predicted this journey back in 2015.

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

My office is about 0.5 miles from my house so I walk in and try to get in for 8am most days. I might respond to slack/email before then on my phone but the laptop doesn’t usually come out til I hit the office.

I work there until 1/2pm then I come home, walk my dog, then spend the afternoon working from home. I’m at my most productive in the mornings so I try to get the big thinking work and calls done then, and mostly admin and grind work in the afternoon into early evening. Then when the laptop goes away I’ll usually just keep an eye on emails and messages on my phone.

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

To be honest I don’t really feel like I want to ever switch off completely at this stage in the business. The closest I’ll get is being on standby (like a TV when the red light is on but it’s not fully turned off). Wherever I am in the world or whatever day it is I want to know what’s going on in the business as it happens.

I don’t think this means I don’t have work/life balance though and I won’t usually do more than 3-4 hours of actual focussed work on the laptop most weekends or on holiday these days, unless it’s really necessary. I do need outlets for dealing with stress and anxiety- intense physical exercise is usually the best way.

I recognise that this approach is not sustainable long-term but right now I feel the business needs me to be on top of things as much as possible while we navigate this new phase of the business in our B2B enterprise offering. I’ll ease off a bit when things slow down but right now the balance feels manageable and appropriate.

Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

I think the most impactful change has been working out when it suits me, rather than feeling like I have to do it first thing in the morning or after working hours. I work enough over the course of the week that I feel it’s ok to go to the gym at 11am occasionally if that’s what suits me that day. The better I train the better I focus as well, so it’s a net gain for the business even if I’m away from the desk for a bit in the day.

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

I’d say that if you’re like me and find your work consumes your thoughts 90% of the time, a good way to get your brain ready for sleep is to read fiction before bed. It doesn’t have to be high brow (I read all 20+ Jack Reacher books at a rate of one per week last year) but reading fiction before bed has seriously improved my sleep, even when things are busy or stressful. Good sleep is so important and if you don’t have that then you’re probably not very well balanced as a human or in work/life.

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Don’t be too hard on yourself. I think most people inherently know if they’re working hard and bringing value in their role. If you are, make sure you’re looking after yourself too and don’t feel guilty about doing it. In the remote working world especially you’re being measured on results rather than time spent at the office, so bring the results and you can probably flex your time a little to stay happy and healthy.

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.