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Interviews / Founders

Balancing the Grind with Peter Hickey, Director & Co-Founder of Combine Air

Peter Hickey is the director and co-founder of Combine Air, high altitude training phenomenon that unlocks the science that elite athletes have been using for over 50 years.

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

I have been in the health and fitness industry for over 20 years. I completed a degree in Exercise & Sport Science at the University of Sydney before working as an Exercise Physiologist, Health and Fitness Manager and Group Manager both here in Australia and in the UK.

With a desire to further develop my business management and entrepreneurial skills I then completed my Masters of Business at UTS. I have always had a passion for sport and in particular rugby where I played with the West Harbour Pirates here in Sydney.

Myself and my business partner, Scott Reynolds have been working in the simulated altitude training space since 2014 with Peak Altitude Training, which was previously more targeted at athletes and adventure travellers.

The brainchild for Combine Air was to unlock the science that elite athletes have been using for over 50 years to gain a competitive advantage, delivering it to the mainstream market as the ultimate fun, engaging and diverse health and fitness service.

My role as Managing Director at CA is extremely diverse and rewarding. On one hand it is overseeing our operating clubs and ensuring that they are delivering a world leading training phenomenon that transmits into a rewarding experience to our “ALL STARS” every single time they step into one of our clubs and onto our training fields 3500m above sea level. 

On the other hand, it is continuing to develop and evolve our franchise model to ensure those franchisee’s that we partner with, [and it is a partnership at CA] are supported every step of the way with our passionate and dedicated HQ team and extensive operating systems.

We are always looking to innovate and be a step ahead of our competitors and leading change in the industry and it is my role on a daily basis to enable this.

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

I don’t recall having the same day twice and in all honesty, it is probably why I love doing what I do. I am usually up early going for a run or walk with my daughters and the new COVID puppy.

From there it is into our Combine Air HQ where I work closely with our senior team to deliver what we believe to be the best health and fitness training product in the industry. Our work environment is very interactive, and we bounce off one another with new ideas or better ways to do things.

At the moment I am meeting regularly with potential franchisees who usually share a passion for health and fitness and want to make a change in their lives and own their own business.

I have noticed that on the back of COVID-19 and the associated lockdowns and uncertainty more people are wanting to be in control of their destinies and also are motivated to pursue their dreams. It is very rewarding being able to present a CA franchise option to them and ultimately look to assist them to work towards a better future.

I try to make time for a CA Squad session which is usually lunch time or late afternoon. I really enjoy  training and I find it really clears the mind and helps me refocus.

There is no doubt  that I function and perform better when I exercise regularly. I have a general rule where I aim to have dinner with the family at least 3 nights of the working week and I love to cook dinner with my daughters while talking through their day.

Like most business owners I will then log on again later in the evening to review emails, and prepare for the next day. I love what I do and the flexibility allows me to enjoy the balance between working hard and enjoying important family time. 

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

In the fitness industry, it’s rare that one can work remotely if you are heavily involved in the day to day running of the club. Although my role sits at head office and could allow me to work remotely, I prefer to be on the ground and available if needed. 

During Covid we quickly learnt that our team is a dynamic one and we feed off each other’s ideas really well and in person always tends to foster better brainstorming and team work. 

The flexibility in my role is great,it allows me to pursue my ambition to position Combine Air as a world class alternate fitness offering and franchise both nationally and internationally while remaining a very engaged dad and husband.

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

Work life balance is important and it means different things to different people. I love what I do and it is a big part of who I am as a person and leader. Like any business owner you have to ride the waves and there are always going to be hard times and long working days & weeks, however if you build a strong platform and surround yourself with good people, the good times will make it all worthwhile.

For me work life balance means being able to get to my daughter’s school events, their weekend sport and be there for them when they need me. My wife has a very successful career and flexibility in my role enables me to share the responsibilities of family life and allow her to thrive in her role. 

Of course work life balance also means being able to enjoy those things that are important to you and for me that is spending time with family and friends along with the occasional beach holiday.

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

Yes, in the last 12 months and as a result of the COVID 19 related lockdowns it has given me the opportunity to step back from the day to day operations of the clubs and create a clear vision of where I want to take Combine Air and a strategy to realise this vision.

This has required me to break the habit of wanting to be involved in the detail at every level of the business, and rather to surround myself with like minded, passionate people who share the same vision for Combine Air. This has had a significant impact on my ability to find a work life balance and achieve better business outcomes.

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

I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey for the first time when I moved to London in 2004. It really helped me shape the person and the leader that I am continuously striving to be, I have revisited it many times along the journey since then. Habit 2 Begin With the End in Mind and Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw have been instrumental to my approach in life and business.

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

That would certainly be my phone, I misplaced it for a day last month and the harsh reality was it was very hard to live without (and altitude training technology of course).

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

Richard Branson, he has always been prepared to challenge the status quo and has achieved so much in a diverse range of industries while always appearing fit, healthy and in control.

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

Work-life balance will be different for everyone, I think the key is to identify what it looks like for yourself and understand that work life balance will also be fluid. The perfect work life balance will vary depending on a person’s life, career or business stage, it will vary as your priorities change.

I believe that working in a role or industry that you are passionate about and that is rewarding will go a long way to providing you with work life balance. The simple fact is in most cases to be successful you have to work hard, like most things in life what you put in you get out.

Have a clear vision of what is important to you, where you want to end up and who do you want on that journey to assist you, then ignore all the external noise and make it happen.

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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.