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Balancing the Grind with Milan Cooper, Co-Founder & CEO of First AML

Milan Cooper is the co-founder & CEO of First AML, a specialised outsourced Customer Due Diligence (CDD) software solution based in Auckland.

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

My background was in Management Consulting with Bain & Company in Europe, which was an extremely rewarding job, but not great in terms of work-life balance.

I left Bain & Company to return to New Zealand and start a company. Once I met my co-founders and realised First AML was the opportunity I was looking for, my co-founders and I quit our jobs.

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

I dip into all aspects of our business and help the teams overcome obstacles. I also spend a lot of time strategising the direction we’re going to take and dealing with key stakeholders in our business such as our investors, suppliers, etc.

A lot of my time is spent thinking about the team – how to create a great culture, how to reward employees and how to make this a great place to work.

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

Yes, the pandemic has forced us to adopt new remote working approaches, and it has worked really well in our business. We can be a 100% remote business. This fits well with my life and routine, and frees up time that would be wasted on commuting, etc. I do miss the face-to-face interaction with team members, though.

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

It means finding time to do the things which fill my cup outside of work. It takes a lot of discipline to achieve work-life balance goals as I’m someone who finds it hard to put things down that are on my mind. I think this is heightened as CEO where you have so many things on your plate all the time.

I try to allocate time to play sports a couple of times per week and generally I try not to work on the weekend.

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

Trying to remove time-wasting distractions like some social media apps from my phone!

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

The Great CEO Within is a great book by Matt Mochary that has some great suggestions for tools and techniques to run a fast-growing company.

‘Masters of Scale’ podcast is very well produced and quite varied in its content, but with great lessons behind it.

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

Google Calendar runs my whole life!

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

I’m always interested in how high performing people manage to find balance in their lives. Elon Musk intrigues me – he seemingly would have no time for balance in his life, so I’d be interested in an interview with him on this topic.

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

You’ve got to figure out what brings you joy outside of work – and make sure you allocate time every week to that. You’ve also got to find out things that you do that waste time and don’t bring you joy and try to eliminate them! For me both things are challenging to do, and I’m constantly working to do better in both areas.

10) What are the strategies and rituals that bring clarity to your day? What keeps you focused, and most importantly fills your day with joy? 

Starting the day with a run and meditation works really well for me. 

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.