CEOs / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Michael Fishwick, CEO of Venetian Media Group

Michael Fishwick is the CEO of Venetian Media Group, an independent, Australian-owned and operated media agency with offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast and Singapore.

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

After studying a Bachelor of Business, whilst working in advertising sales part time, I decided to join our family business in media. My father had done an incredible job in building something to be proud of and I felt I had a great opportunity to help us grow.

Working in family businesses might sound easy but I can assure you, it can be very hard at times yet also very rewarding. I’m constantly working to earn those stripes. 

I became the sales manager of Revolution360 which at the time was an events and out-of-home business. Working across the company in both Sydney and Melbourne I got to see the advertising and media industry from all angles, from sales right through to operations, people and culture.  

I progressed to the role of COO for Revolution360 overseeing acquisition and operational transformation that allowed us to launch VMG in 2020.

Just under twelve months ago, I took over the reigns as CEO of VMG and am proud to say we’re on the trajectory we had envisaged – one of growth and diversity. Today, we are seven brands strong across a range of media and marketing services.

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

There is a lot going on at the moment. Handling multiple businesses in various stages of growth in a sustainable manner can be challenging. That has meant a lot of change in a short space of time, so I have to be quite structured with my day.

I’m an early riser, but thanks to my beautiful five-month-old daughter, it’s earlier than ever. Four thirty start to get some time in with my wife and Antonela before I get to the gym at five-thirty.

I do an hour’s workout every day. This is an important part of my day, helping me prepare for the day ahead.

I try to be in the office around seven-thirty am. If I’m not travelling, my day will usually start with priority meetings: leadership, sales, client calls or anything that requires me at my best. 

And so, I’ll eat around noon. From about one o’clock onwards I try to block out as much time as possible to tend to email and return any phone calls, however, part of being CEO is that no two days are the same and there’s always something that pops up out of the blue.

Each day around four I allocate time to learning. Achieved via reading or trying a new podcast, anything that will aid in acquiring new skills that assist me in my role. I feel learning is a big part of being a CEO and that you should never assume you know it all. 

I usually make it home by about six-thirty in time to see my daughter for bath time. Balancing family with work presents a whole new set of challenges and I am learning a lot coming into fatherhood.

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

Being a new father, I’m very grateful that I’m able to run my own schedule. It’s important to me to be present for my wife and daughter as much as possible. I’ve learnt over time that I alone can make time for the people and things that are important.

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

It didn’t take me becoming a father to understand the need for flexible working, but until I was one, I threw myself heavily into my work without focus for much else.

Now, I have had to re-prioritise certain aspects of work and I think that’s the key, being able to prioritise all aspects of your life and making them work together without sacrifice. Is it easy? Absolutely not. But empathy and communication with my wife help a great deal.

She’s a huge support and understands what I am trying to build with VMG and for our future and we juggle the balance as a family.

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

My early morning workouts I have learnt are key to my day’s success. Some days you just don’t feel like it, and that’s ok, but I do notice a big difference in my ability to mentally cope with the days pressures if I skip it. 

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

Podcasts are a terrific way to acquire new skills. Listening is passive and therefore an incredibly productive way of learning.

I try not make everything so “business” focused and that’s why I certainly would recommend podcasts such as Lewis Howe’s School of Greatness, Tom Bilyeu’s Impact Theory or Jocko Willink’s Jocko Podcast as they always have a range of interesting people on or interesting stories they share.

I’ll also try and listen to more media and marketing industry focused podcasts such as The CMO Podcast or The CMO Show.

As a rule, I try and read a book a week. But with a baby at home that has become pretty difficult this year.

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

Like everyone, my iPhone. Although I think my wife wishes it would disappear sometimes. I think in general, we could all do with a little less screen-time.

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

Your team already wrote it: Elon Musk, that guy is seriously on a different level.

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

Flexible working is a phrase that gets thrown around and I believe has lost some of its meaning. If possible, it’s become rigid in its flexibility! I know that I am a better worker and a better leader when I can take care of what I need to at home.

Reducing the stress for families or individuals whatever their lives might look like really is crucial for a successful, enjoyable work environment and ultimately happy, less-stressed people are the best performers. 

So, instead of flexible working, I strive for empathetic working. For me, it’s about understanding the differences a diverse group of people have in their lives and trusting them to balance those with their work without too much sacrifice of either.

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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.