CEOs / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Paul Psaltis, Global CEO at Settify

Paul Psaltis is the Global CEO at Settify, a global Legal Tech company with headquarters based in Melbourne, Australia.

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

I consider myself fortunate to combine my passion for technology with my legal background.  I have worked in legal tech for almost 20 years.

Being of Greek heritage and my parents both growing up poor, they sacrificed a lot so my sister and I could get a quality education.  Like many from their generation coming from similar circumstances, a tertiary education would ensure we would not struggle the same way they did.  This, coupled with a 90s education system that told us “do what you’re good at” rather than “do what you enjoy and follow your passion” is how I ended up studying and briefly practising law.  

However, I was (and still am) a computer geek and always had a passion for technology.  Growing up during the “PC in every household” and the “dot-com” eras as well as the meteoric rise of Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon etc fuelled my love and curiosity for all things tech.

In the late 90s through to the mid-2000s, there was a massive shift in how technology was used by individuals and businesses.  Legal practices pushed for smarter ways of doing things.  Computers, software etc became more accessible and affordable to smaller businesses, allowing them to successfully compete with larger ones.  Technology made it easier for people to start their own practice.

So I decided to leave legal practice and work for a legal software company.  I never looked back!

I started in customer support and training but quickly moved into sales, where my career flourished.  I worked my way up in various leadership roles, living in Brisbane, Sydney and London (with stints in Melbourne and Chicago).   

I am currently the CEO of Settify, a 100% work from home (or anywhere) legal tech company.  Settify provides law firms with technology that enables clients to commence their legal matters online at any time. 

Many people want to engage a service outside of traditional business hours and Settify allows them to engage with a lawyer via their website 24/7 in a conversational way.  Our systems gather all of the client’s key background information, which is summarised into a brief for their lawyers.  This makes the initial meeting far more productive and cost-effective for all parties and less stressful for the client. Over 500 legal practices globally use Settify.

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

Our company has four core values, one of which is – ”You work for the business and the business works for you” – promoting a culture of total flexibility and goals-oriented results.  For me right now, this means I can set up my days and weeks to focus on my family, as well as work.

A typical day starts with my daughter’s morning routine.  I get up when she wakes between 5-6am.  Depending on whether she’s in day care, we have breakfast together and I’ll drop her off, or we then play together followed by walking the dog.

My workday starts between 8-9am, where I always allocate time before my first meetings to check my phone, action any notifications and prepare for the day.

I conduct 2 or 3 one-on-ones with my direct reports.  This is dedicated time where my sole focus is whoever I am meeting with.  There is a weekly agenda circulated and notes are always taken.  A typical agenda will include how they are tracking towards their goals, action items and a general wellbeing check-in.  

Early in the week, we run important meetings such as the weekly executive team meeting, sales meeting etc.  I prefer to conduct recurring meetings earlier in the week as this sets the tone for the entire week.  I’m then freed up later in the week to focus on other things (such as future planning and strategy).

Each day, we run a daily huddle in each region.  This is a quick (10-15 min) check-in over Teams or Zoom where everyone present discusses their most important task for the day.  Potential roadblocks can be raised if applicable.  As we’re an online business, we often wrap up the huddle with some light-hearted team bonding, such as a quiz or trivia.

Afternoons are typically dedicated to getting outside for some fresh air and exercise.  It’s important to get away from all screens!  I also tend to conduct my less regular meetings in the afternoon.  These may consist of meetings to discuss business opportunities, potential integrations, product strategy, meeting with other industry CEOs, board meetings or a catch-up with a colleague.

Unless I’m meeting with someone in Europe, evenings are dedicated to family time and unwinding.  Notifications are muted.

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

If you ask this question to 100 people, you probably get 100 different answers!  Your definition will probably change as your life and circumstances change around you.

For me, work is simply a part of life.  It’s up to each person to decide what balance best works for them.  What it means to me and how I find balance comes down to good time management, discipline and planning.  Working for an organisation with a culture that promotes flexibility and prioritising a positive work-life balance is incredibly important.  I’m also very lucky to have a supportive wife.

Depending on your priorities and focus, the balance can change.  Right now, I’m prioritising my family and personal life, then work.  This does not mean I’m neglecting my work (far from it!), it means I’m giving what’s most important to me priority. It’s easy to fall into the trap of doing the opposite, so it’s something I am conscious of every day. 

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

There have been two major changes in my life over the last 12-18 months – becoming a dad and becoming a CEO in a company without any offices.  

I’ve made three major changes in the past 12 months.

Firstly, I make a conscious effort to disconnect. Being accessible 24/7 is not realistic.  Setting expectations and boundaries are important.  To reduce the number of emails, Slack messages etc, each team member has a weekly one-on-one with their manager to discuss items of importance.  Regions conduct a daily huddle where pressing issues can be raised by discussion.

Secondly, when you’re working from home, it’s important to set up a productive workspace.  This allows me to focus and avoid distractions.  Things I’ve invested in include some great noise-cancelling headphones, an electric desk and a monitor that reduces eye strain.

Finally, I make sure to exercise daily and move around as much as possible.  When I worked in an office, I used to cycle to and from work and I’d often find myself walking around the office throughout the day.  To replicate this, I’ve made a conscious effort to allocate a minimum of one hour per day to some form of exercise.

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

Absolutely!  There is a lot of content out there and I’m sure many who read this article have probably checked out all the classics.  Like everything else, I block out time to focus on personal growth, learning more about my role and the industry I work in.

I’m currently reading or have recently completed:

  • Scaling up 2.0 by Verne Harnish
  • The CEO’s Mindset by Vinnie Fisher
  • Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink
  • Start with Why by Simon Sinek
  • Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins & Jerry I Porras

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

I draw inspiration from those who are incredibly successful in both their personal and professional lives.  Those who have really mastered the art of balancing the grind!

Richard Branson is someone who I’ve always admired.  He seems to have mastered the art of time management while always emphasising the importance of disconnecting when required.  The best ideas come when your mind is clearest. Richard also loves what he does. His energy, positivity and passion are infectious.

Sheryl Sandberg is another inspirational person.  She’s always been vocal about ensuring you make time for family and how you can ‘get ahead’ without working ridiculous hours. In both the legal and tech industries, working long hours was traditionally seen as a badge of honour and rite of passage. Educating our future leaders that true success and happiness comes from balance is important and I’d love to hear Sheryl’s thoughts.

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

Work-life balance is a deeply personal choice and ultimately, it comes down to what you want.  At different stages of your life and your career, the way you balance your work and life will vary.

Be true to yourself. Finding happiness and fulfilment are easier if you are doing something you’re passionate about and thoroughly enjoy.

Finally, find people and an organisation that align with your values.  Life is far more enjoyable when you are surrounded by like-minded people who want to achieve the same goals.

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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.