Balancing the Grind with Paul Coles, General Manager at BMF Australia

Paul Coles has been in the advertising industry for close to 20 years. He arrived at BMF in 2017 to lead its biggest account, ALDI, before moving to an agency-wide General Manager role.

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

In the last year of my business degree I took an advertising paper, and our final assignment was to pitch an idea as an agency. My lecturer subsequently gave me some unsolicited career advice, “Paul, you have a budding career ahead as either a car salesman or an ad man”.

To this day, I haven’t worked out if that was testament to the high or low quality of my pitch. Fortunately, I fell into a job with Ogilvy NZ shortly after, or I may have ended up in those truly horrific ads for Grand Prix Mazda in Aspley.

I loved advertising from the day I stepped into the free Ogilvy bar. That, and the brilliant creative brains I got (and get) to work with every day. I am continually inspired by the power of creativity.

After spending 5 years working in London, I came to Sydney for a 12-month stopover, met my beautiful wife and the rest is history. I’m currently GM of BMF Australia, a creative agency full of big hearts and bigger ideas.

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

We are now back in the office three days a week. So, a ‘day in the life’ really depends if I am home or in the office. Home goes a little something like this: woken up by my boys, Jack and River, at 6am, then begins the epic battle of getting both fed and ready for school.

Then it’s coffee, Zoom call, Zoom call, Zoom call, school pick-up, more Zoom calls, family dinner, Netflix and done. Office days are a nice change, as there is less zoom and more conversation / collaboration. I realised in lockdown how much I thrive off the energy of an agency environment.

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

I think one of the best things to come out of COVID has been the move to flexible working. I have spent so much more time with my kids in the last 6 months. It’s the small things, like being able to do the occasional school pick-up now, that’s really made a difference.

I think any business that reverts back to the ‘old ways’ of working will be foolish. We have proven flexible working can work, while having the added bonus of allowing some semblance of balance. It will be a key motivator for anyone choosing a company to work with, so a smart HR strategy.

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

Figuring out how to balance career and a commitment to family is a difficult balancing act for everyone, I am incredibly lucky to work for an Agency who supports any efforts to prioritise family.

Because for me, work life balance is simply being able to maximise family time, without having to make any significant compromises at work. Oh, and squeezing in some exercise.

The only way I manage to achieve it, is to hold myself accountable – it’s easy to make excuses for why you need to prioritise work, but it has to be an exception to the rule. Small caveat, unless there is a new business pitch on, then the rules no longer apply.

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

In lockdown we taught our youngest, River, to ride a bike. As a result, we started doing loads of family bike rides. It is hands down one of life’s greatest simple pleasures.

On the flip side, now I am working from home more, I have definitely started doing more trips to the fridge and wine rack. Note to self, must stop.

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

I highly recommend you subscribe to the ALDI weekly newsletter, so you don’t miss out on any of the epic Special Buys – of course you need a new chainsaw!? Disclaimer, ALDI is a client of ours and this is a shameless plug.

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

Sonos and Spotify. Dream team. The Jordan and Pippen of technology. Yes, I finally got around to watching The Last Dance. Actually, perhaps Netflix belongs on this list.

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

Obama, for sure. Apparently when in office, Obama made sure he was home for dinner almost every night. He was also an assistant coach for his daughter’s basketball team and never missed a parent-teacher conference.

Oh, and he also did a pretty decent job as President at the same time. Mind you, I heard he used to wake at 4am every day to do it all, and I am allergic to waking at 4am.

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

After surviving a brain tumour last year, I have a new-found appreciation for taking time to stop and smell the roses, which is my unsolicited life advice for anyone reading this.

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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.