CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Michael Ungerboeck, Founder & Group CEO of ADMATIC Australia

Michael Ungerboeck is the founder & group CEO of ADMATIC Australia, an independent media agency with offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland.

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

As the Founder and CEO of ADMATIC, I’ve had quite the unorthodox journey leading me to where I am today.

Early on I started out life as an Aeronautical Engineer, but I quickly learned after a short period of time that the romantic notion of designing aircraft simply wasn’t an option in Australia.

From a very young age I had a deep passion for flight and design, but I also grew up influenced by my father in a very entrepreneurial household. By the time I was 15, I had built a gardening business employing 6 of my mates at one point, who ran around cleaning gardens for my clients on Saturday mornings. Aside from designing aircraft, I loved to build businesses.

Having a passion for business I changed tack early in my career. I found opportunities in finance, I studied Economics, became a qualified CPA, and then in the late 90s I discovered the Internet. For me discovering the Internet in its very early days was an absolute revelation.

By the early noughties I was developing and marketing products for Hutchison Telecoms and Optus, rolling out new mobile internet services, payment gateways, content portals, and SMS technology solutions.

It took me 15 years on my career journey, but by 2005 I had finally figured out what I wanted to do, and that was to build innovative products or services that delivered a step change value for customers.

I guess the other key revelation was to do it for myself, rather than deliver all this innovative success for a large corporate. Over the past decade I’ve built and managed successful marketing businesses, largely adopting innovative digital solutions.

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

I am quite actively involved in working on ADMATIC Australia and ADMATIC New Zealand. I do not work in the business.

For anyone passionate about their business it is quite difficult not to get involved in the day to day, but I did learn very early on that there are always people out there who are better at managing roles and functions than yourself.

My role at ADMATIC is really about leading, guiding and navigating our way through change, growth and the evolution of our business. We have incredible people throughout our agencies in Sydney, Auckland and Melbourne. I do make a conscious effort to get out of the way of our team so they have a clear run at doing great things.

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

Well hasn’t COVID-19 forever changed views on working from home!

Historically we’ve followed most other marketing agencies in their approach to flexible hours or remote working, but client requirements and our business infrastructure have never really allowed for a completely flexible working environment. Some clients still require face to face meetings and visits to our office, but COVID-19 has changed all of that.

The onset of this pandemic has forced us to rebuild infrastructure and to refocus on our business processes. By mid-April all team members were working from home.

We rebuilt our IT infrastructure, re-established team meetings and ways of working together, and we worked through best ways to coordinate client activity. Without careful thought, this new way of working stood a fair chance of significantly impacting our personal lives and routines.

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

I’ll have to admit I am someone who sleeps 6 hours, then for the remaining 18 hours of the day my Go button is on!

An always On button is certainly not for everyone, so a work-life balance for me can look quite different to most? I find that when people answer this question it tends to involve a tug of war battle between work time and down time, with down time generally meaning time to relax.

For me my down time is just as regimented as my work time. My down time includes being in the gym every morning before work, and spending time with family in the afternoons and evenings.

My balance tends to be, and needs to be, very clear cut. When engaging in ‘life’, all electronics are off. These days it’s far too easy to check that alert, that ping, that notification that comes through when you should be spending precious time focusing on you.

Driving toward a preferred work-life balance needs to be a very conscious goal and very deliberate steps need to be taken to achieve those objectives.

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

I have restarted certain routines and reassessed others. I do feel that we all need to be constantly reassessing where we are at in life, and that if we’re not happy with any aspects in life, change it. I’ve seen too many friends, family and/or work colleagues not make that change.

Change does need to be deliberate and thought through, but I feel change is inevitable none-the-less. It is always best to decide on and drive that change in the direction you choose, rather than have that inevitable change happen to you.

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

I do tend to lean toward marketing, digital, innovation and business books and podcasts. I’ve recently read Brick by Brick, a book that chronicles how Lego rewrote the rules of innovation in business.

I would highly recommend this to anyone thinking about change and how to tackle it head on, and not to become the next Kodak or Blockbuster.

From a marketing and business perspective I’m a cult addict of the Professors’ regular musings and insights, be it via newsletter, youtube or podcasts. The guy is an absolute genius in Marketing at NYU and honestly makes the world of marketing and business very clear.

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

Live without? In personal life? No. In the workplace? We cannot go without our CRM Salesforce, Trello to organise our tasks, and Slack to chat. These apps have certainly evolved over the years but without some basic organisations tools we’d be lost.

Our business governance and data needs organisation and management, and for that I’ve leaned on Salesforce for some 20 years (I think I might’ve been user #28 in Australia!). When managing teams of people and working toward client tasks and deliverables, again we need to get organised.

I’ve used Trello quite effectively for a few years to manage our team tasks like the old post-it notes. With regard to chat and communications, I’m not sure how we ended up here, but the organisational capabilities of Slack have certainly helped us communicate far more effectively in those brief moments of need.

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

From what I’ve seen I reckon we could learn a lot from Chris Hemsworth. Living where he wants and how he wants, and have work come to him? That would be the dream, but then again not all of us can live and look like Chris!

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

Take action! Whatever level of work life balance you’d like to achieve is achievable. Do not settle for the status quo or the norm because ‘you have to’. Keep re-assessing, and if you need to change, make it happen today.

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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.