Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Mike Halligan, Co-Founder of Scratch Dog Food

Mike Halligan is the Co-Founder of Scratch Dog Food, a direct to consumer pet company making dog food you can feel good about.

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

Sure. I grew up with lots of dogs, but never thought I’d end up making dog food. After uni, I was doing a lot of marketing consulting and creating online stores for eCommerce companies. Then about five years ago my two cocker spaniels both got really sick and passed within a year of each other.

I found out that the pet food industry was unregulated and started thinking about whether diet had a role in my dogs’ all-too-short lives. I quit my job as general manager of an ecommerce brand and set about building a dog food company, Scratch, that sold healthier (and fresher) food directly to the consumer, with the labelling and ethical transparency that was missing from so many of the major dog foods on the market.

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

I’ve got a five month old puppy, Mello, so these days I sort of work around his needs! The little guy twisted my finger pretty quickly there. 

He’s up at 7:00 for a bathroom break, a little brekkie for all of us and then my day starts with a trip to the dog park before logging on for a day at Scratch.

We’re a remote-first company so you never know who’s going to be in the office, but most days I head in and bring Mello with me. I spend most of my time talking with my team and managing our marketing and creative work.

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

Work-life balance to me is refusing to let work hurt your relationships or wellbeing. Before I had a dog, I would do a fast-paced 9-5 and not work outside of that so I worked at the same time as my partner and friends. With a dog, it’s a little more fluid and we just go with whatever we need now that we’re caring for another creature. 

I think we can all be guilty of thinking about work when you’re not working, especially in the context of a society that is working from home more than ever before, and finding it harder than ever to switch off. Therapy has been a really useful tool for teaching me skills to better separate work and home life, so that work doesn’t seep into the other aspects of my life.

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

That biggest change was turning our dog walks into being a little meditative. Instead of walking fast so I’m back for whatever meeting or thing that I thought was urgent, I just let him sniff around and run the show.

I don’t get so flustered then if he’s not doing what I want and to fit my schedule. Sometimes we’ll do a 30 minute walk but barely get anywhere. That’s great because it’s his time and usually that sniffing well and truly enriches him – probably better than chasing after me!

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

My favourite work-related book is It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.

I love Mark Ritson’s articles and podcast interviews too. He’s one of the world’s leading marketers, but everything he writes makes you laugh while you learn a thing or two. Business and work shouldn’t always be so serious, even if I get caught in that trap myself sometimes.

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

Steve Jobs. He seemed to get more self-aware towards the end and I’d love to hear his musings on the cost of the amazing work he did. Hell, we could all benefit from tech icons being a little more human and the work-at-all-costs attitude having some accepted costs rather than pure idolisation.

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

I think that the better you know yourself, the easier it becomes to achieve great things without hurting yourself (or others) in the process. I personally have found therapy to be the best way to truly know yourself, but maybe you’ve got your own thing that works.

The way I think of it is that you can love and agree with the lessons from the stoics, but if your issues and triggers aren’t addressed, emotion rules very quickly and we all become pretty un-stoic.

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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.