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Balancing the Grind with Richard Francis, Co-Founder & CEO of Spotlight Reporting

Richard Francis is the co-founder & CEO of Spotlight Reporting, an integrated cloud reporting and forecasting tool.

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

I’m the co-founder and CEO of Spotlight Reporting. We’re creators of reporting and forecasting software used by the Big 4 accounting firms, accountants, CFOs and business owners around the world to put a spotlight on business analytics and insights. 

Our software positions data at the front and centre of business conversations, helps our customers solve problems, jump on opportunities, and make confident business decisions to set them up for the future. 

My wife (and co-founder and CFO of Spotlight Reporting) Julie and I are ex-accountants and we’re both passionate about shaking up the accounting industry – that’s what sparked us to start Spotlight Reporting.

Something I’m proud of is that we’ve just celebrated 10 years of heritage in the accounting tech sector, assisting in financial reporting, forecasting, and business advisory in 100 countries around the world. 

We’re passionate about our business and our mission to empower and transform the accounting industry around the world. Our software helps accounting firms and businesses to use their data better to make discoveries and decisions, all while building a tight-knit team with solid company culture along the way. 

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

I love starting my day early and usually kick things off by checking emails and Slack messages, getting back to everyone and ensuring there aren’t any roadblocks.

I drop my daughter at her school (where I am Chair of the Board), and either catch some news or make phone calls on the drive to work. I stop by at a local cafe for coffee and often enjoy a good chat with the locals.

This is a good time to quickly work out my to-do list and on a really nice day, it’s hard not to take in the ocean view or spend five minutes longer sitting out in the morning sun.

I slip into the office by about 9 am, say hi to the team, and get straight into meetings, Zoom calls, or some early work – it’s good to know what’s happening across our different global teams, progress we’re making with our software, how we’re looking after our customers, and making sure we’re making progress with all the priorities on the go. ‘How can I help?’ is what I tend to ask – I think CEOs should be enablers.

At midday, I have lunch with Julie – the number of cafes around us are excellent so we’re spoilt for choice and have a few favourites that we frequent.

Most days we’ll also fit in a walk along the Petone Esplanade and take in the ocean view. We’ve become very good at supporting each other and bouncing ideas and priorities around, although sometimes not talking about work during our lunch hour is fine too! 

After that, it’s back to the office for a few more meetings with managers or team members in different parts of the world, partners, or customers.

In the later part of the afternoon, I find it’s good to step away from my desk just to chat to the rest of the team – there’s often good banter flowing in the office and we all really enjoy a good laugh.

I round the day out with family time – I’m very much a family man so if I’m not popping in to see my mother, or doing something sports-related like watching my kids at their training sessions or I’ll go on a long walk with the whole tribe if the weather is good.

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

We support and encourage flexible work for our team here. Our team can work remotely from home and we have a number of parents who work for us part-time to fit their work around their busy family life (some of which include pets!).

I’m in the office 4-5 days a week as extroverts like myself often get far more energy from social interactions and demonstrating support.

Nothing beats face to face conversations and being surrounded by my team – the collaboration is fantastic. I don’t take being able to work physically in the office for granted. My team is great at what they do and it’s nice to have IRL contact given it’s not possible in many other parts of the world right now.

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

For me it means not having sleepless nights and being able to switch off so I can enjoy all the things around me, like family time, supporting my kids playing sports, enjoying time with my parents, and contributing to the communities I’m part of. 

Outside of Spotlight Reporting, I have several other interests that keep me busy such as my involvement with Cricket Wellington, the Hutt Valley Heart Trust, Chilton Saint James School, and SilverStripe software company (to name but a few). I spend a lot of time supporting cricket and badminton, which my whole family play.

Switching off is also just as important as switching back on – you need to be able to switch between work and home life. I’m now much better at leaving work where it belongs and I’ve had to be very strict with my calendar and make sure that I use it as a tool to help me balance work and play.

I’ve learned to say yes to the things that matter and saying no to things that will just overload me. I also delegate a lot to my leadership team to get the balance right. Delegation is so important for me and my leaders to feel empowered as well.

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

Started: ignoring negative people or time sinks. I say yes to the things that matter and say no to things that don’t. I’ve also started focusing on making 1% improvements wherever I can – in business and in my personal life. Small changes really add up.

Stopped: Being unrealistic about what I can achieve. It’s ok to not do everything or be everywhere. I’ve enjoyed not travelling for business purposes, even though I had little choice in the matter with this crazy world we now live in.

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

I actually avoid business podcasts and books like the plague. I read for pleasure and I’ve always got several books about history, autobiographies or sport – perhaps a good thriller – on the go when I get time to do that.

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

My iPhone 12 (sadly) and all the usual business apps – Gmail, Zoom and Slack, etc. I’m trying to spend less time online!

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

Kane Williamson or Sophie Devine. As a cricket tragic I love to see them at the top of their game – mentally and physically – but also being mindful of what they need to do to keep some equilibrium in their lives.

I love how we can talk about mental health openly now and it’s not seen as a weakness to take a break or reshuffle priorities.

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

I believe work-life-balance is critical.  You don’t want to have too many regrets when you’re on your deathbed, especially about missing out on time with those that you love. 

Make sure you carve out family time and make space for special moments; good employers should respect this. This does mean switching off and disconnecting, which can be hard in today’s world of mobile phones, emails and Slack; however, these special family moments matter far more than work milestones.

I also think it’s important to hire well, empower your people and help them grow. A happy, dedicated team that has balance in their own lives are worth more than an extra growth point or two. Having a team that you trust is also an important part of being able to switch off from work and dedicate time to the other things you love. 

I want to have a disproportionate impact but you need work-life balance to do that successfully. I’m a strong believer that every individual can and should leave a positive legacy in their local community, whether it’s in business, education, charity, or whatever it happens to be. If we all did that, what a wonderful society we’d live in.

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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.