CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Pamela Jabbour, Founder & CEO of Total Image Group

Pamela Jabbour is the founder and CEO of Total Image Group, a uniform designer and manufacturer to some of Australia’s leading brands.

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

I started Total Image Group at the age of 21 straight out of university. My father was in fashion manufacturing at the time producing business shirts and suits for some of Australia’s leading fashion retailers.

I have always been extremely passionate about fashion and the power of dressing but also was hesitant to enter the fashion space directly as it seemed very competitive and volatile.

Uniforms at the time, 16 years ago, were extremely outdated and purely about an embroidered shirt or polo. No focus on style, fashion or brand storytelling and women had very few options. I saw this as an opportunity to enter this space and leverage off my father’s manufacturing experience.

When I first started, I had no experience, history, or clients and the first 12 months were spent learning the uniform space and prospecting or cold calling for new business. It took 12 months to win our first client and it has since been a journey of learning, persistence and patience.

Today as CEO of Total Image I am focused on leading my team of 30, driving the sales and marketing team to ensure our clients across retail, healthcare, hospitality and construction know who we are and what we do, and I am also heavily involved with any new client design projects. 

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

A day in the life, well I have a toddler, so days usually start when he wakes up at 6am, yelling “mum I’m hungry” from his room. So up we get, I boil the kettle and like to have a glass of warm water with lemon.

It’s a great way to kick off your digestive system for the day and clear any toxins. I then spend from 6am-7am making us breakfast, have a coffee and prepping that evening’s dinner.

I then head upstairs to get ready for work, which includes me doing a ten-minute mediation, shower get dressed and I’m usually on email from 7.45-8.15am checking emails that came through overnight and my calendar, so I am prepared for the day and out the door by 8.20. 

Office days usually consist of meetings which kick off with our daily team huddle at 9.35am and by this point I am onto coffee number 2. The team gives a quick update on goals, flags or focus for the day and this is usually followed by a bunch of internal meetings with my managers checking in on current projects and WIP.

Lunch is usually on the go between meetings anywhere between 12-1.30pm and I often just take ten minutes to eat and get back to it. I like to leave the office by 5pm, when I can, to spend some time with my son Lucas before he sleeps at 7pm.

I am then usually back online for an hour from 7pm-8pm before signing off and unwinding with hubby on the couch usually with whatever series we are into. Bed is 9.30pm and back to it again for the next day. 

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

I made the shift to have set work from home days well before becoming a mum, as I found that I needed at least one set day a week out of the office, uninterrupted to actually get some planning, writing, designing and reporting done.

I found that if I didn’t have a set work from home day, I would be in back-to-back meetings all week and constantly playing catch up during evening or weekends. Mondays for the last 8 years have been that day for me where my PA knows not to book me into any meetings, and I am at home doing all the deep thinking work.

Flexibility for me is being able to leave the office at 5pm so I am home for bath, dinner and story time with my son. My hours were very different prior to welcoming him into the world and I do feel super grateful to be able to on most occasions leave the office by 5pm. 

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

To be honest, I had a few health scares early in my career (two stress related seizures) due to overworking and not taking any time out.

I realised on reflection that I was in this business for the long haul, that my goal was not to sell in a few years but to continue to build something that would give me lifestyle choices. I realised that if I didn’t change the pace this wouldn’t be sustainable, and I would also lose my drive and passion.

Motherhood took this need for some form of balance to the next level, and I am reminded often thanks to my beautiful boy, the joy of childhood. Coming home from a huge/stressful day to those big smiling eyes and having silly moments, dancing to The Wiggles, playing hide and seek and pulling funny faces is the easiest way to leave my stress behind.

It’s been a wonderful lesson that I am hoping to carry on even once he has grown, find ways to shake off the day which is something I used to really struggle to do during tough weeks and months (which, when you have your own business, happens often). 

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

Prior to COVID-19 I was very much a yes person to events, meetings, social gatherings and anything that I thought was my obligation as the face and CEO of the company to attend or do.

The slower pace of COVID-19 really made me question the need to fly interstate for meetings, say yes to every event as I valued the calm, creativity and clarity that came to me through the quieter times. It has really taught me to think before I say yes and to truly appreciate the slower pace of life. 

I also lost track of my daily meditation for a little while and this is something that I have brought back with a vengeance. In fact, I do believe my daily ten-minute meditation played a big part in guiding me through some of the most stressful, unprecedented times we all experienced in March/April last year. 

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

I love Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive, which was a lovely reinforcement for me when I was looking to change my work/life balance and routine and Oprah’s bookWhat I Know For Sure! So calming and inspirational. My two favourite business books are Simon Sinek’s Start with Why and Good to Great by Jim Collins. 

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

I can’t live without my Calm app. This is where I do my ten-minute meditation, they also have some great podcasts and masterclasses which I often listen to when driving.

It’s an annual membership that I find very reasonable as I get so much value and nourishment from committing to use this app daily. My work from home Mondays is also usually with the Calm app music playing in the background. 

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

Victoria Beckham! Absolute style icon, do I need to say much more? 

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

I think being passionate about what you do is something that can be really undervalued. Owning your own business or being in a senior leadership position can be really stressful and I find that it is often my passion that gives me that extra bit of energy to push through when times are tough.

I understand not all passion projects can result in financial gain. But if you can find something you are passionate about and find a way to generate an income from it you are one of the rare few so cherish it! 

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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.