CEOs / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Michael Alexis, CEO of Team Building

Michael Alexis is the CEO of Team Building, providing virtual team building activities for remote teams, as well as local corporate events.

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

I studied law and started my career as a lawyer, but I was never a particularly engaged one. I wanted the flexibility of being able to travel and work, so I returned to freelance marketing, which is how I had put myself through school.

Eventually I made a full time commitment to a company called Museum Hack, and after a few years became the Director of Marketing. I am obsessed with a DIY approach to projects, so during this time I learned to code, got better at content marketing, PR and other growth areas.

In 2019 I bought Museum Hack from the founder, Nick Gray, together with the CEO, Tasia Duske. We also acquired the domain, which led to my current role as CEO of TeamBuilding.

TeamBuilding provides team building activities as a service to companies like Apple, Amazon and Google. In 2020, we are focused on virtual team building activities like Online Office Games and tiny campfire.

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

I’ve had no work life balance since March. With COVID, our business crashed from $250,000 per month in revenue to nearly zero in three days. We’ve been rebuilding since, and have actually exceeded previous revenue, but it’s taken an immense amount of work.

Here are some examples of things I do on a daily basis:

  • Code new page templates
  • Do the final review on blog content
  • SEO adjustments
  • Link building
  • Hiring for marketing roles
  • Strategy development
  • Leadership team meetings

These are more the tasks of a growth marketer than a CEO. I’ve found that this work is the best match for my skills and interests, and I love doing it, which is a type of work-life balance.

I’m also fortunate that our COO manages so much of the operations and team leadership, which she loves — it’s a very effective collaboration.

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

We’ve always been a remote company, even before COVID, so we are well built for remote work.

Most of our team have a home-base, but I travel full-time and live out of a small backpack. I like the flexibility, but have started to crave a little more stability. Frequent travel takes up a lot of time, and means sometimes ending up with weak WiFi and other challenges.

Now, I prefer to stay in a location for three months at a time and usually rent a spot for the duration. This lifestyle provides a nice combination of variety and stability. For example, last year I had extended stays in Australia, Bali and China.

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

When I first heard about work-life balance, I imagined it as a 50:50 ratio; half your time at work, half doing personal projects and hobbies and yet another half for sleep.

Now, my thinking is a little different. I believe that “work” isn’t so clearly defined, and instead exists on a spectrum.

For example, if we do a fun social event with our teammates is it work or life? To me, it is kind of both. Similarly, if you are on vacation and answering emails in the morning while sipping tea and looking at the ocean.

If you are pursuing work-life balance, money helps. You don’t need a stockpile of billions, but you do need your income to exceed your expenses and an extra financial cushion for safety. If you can get to a point where investments generate income that exceeds your expenses, then you will be in a very good position for balance.

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

I’m a huge fan of pushups; it’s an exercise you can do nearly anywhere and contributes a lot to upper body strength.

I did a challenge with friends to see who could be first to 100 pushups in three minutes, and now have an ongoing challenge with Nick where each day we do 30 pushups total and then send a DONE message to each other via text.

That DONE message is a great motivator. Even if I forget or put off doing the exercise on my own, when the message comes in I drop and do the push-ups right away.

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

My favorite book of all time is Asimov’s Chronology of the World, which is essentially an encyclopedia of world and human history.

What I love about this book is that it connects the dots between time periods, geographic areas and developments in such a way that you can see how it all connects. By the end, you not only understand history better, but how people work.

One of my favorite insights from the book is something I phrase as “people have wanted to quit stability to become nomads ever since they quit being nomads to pursue stability.” Basically, the idea that we started as wandering tribes, and eventually settled farms to improve our quality of life. This conflict of interests and ideals continues to today.

For podcasts, I’m a fan of Mixergy, and recently appeared on the show talking about how to snap-back during a crisis.

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

I really don’t own much. My backpack has 2 shirts, 1 pants, 1 shorts, 2 pairs of socks, 2 underwear, 1 coat, my computer, phone, some ancillary tech items and documents like a passport.

One item that I’m particularly fond of are these titanium travel chopsticks, which unscrew and pack into themselves.

When I’m stationed somewhere for at least a couple of months I like to buy a separate monitor to help boost my work productivity and prevent hunching over a laptop.

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

As a fan of Asimov, I wish I could learn more about how he approached work. Asimov is known for prolific writing, publishing 600+ books in his lifetime. And his life was cut short. That body of work is an enviable legacy to leave behind.

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

I’m a big advocate for team building, obviously. I love that we get to work with teams all over the world, and I also believe in DIY team building. We published a list of virtual team building activities so that work groups can plan their own internal exercises while working remotely.

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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.