Robyn Wilson is the Founder & Head of Strategy of SUPERORA, a boutique management consulting firm working with consumer brands in the innovation and culture sectors.
Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?
I started my career in advertising before deciding to go to fashion school to establish a foundation of design learning. Fashion is an intense environment within which to learn about design – it’s a fast and unrelenting industry – it teaches you precision and bravery.
After I graduated, I started my first company focused on creative direction for live experiences and events for the likes of Ministry of Sound, Piper Heidseck and City of Sydney. This was a really experimental and free time in my life.
Outside of my professional design work I was able to explore performance art and live music, once getting my first tattoo whilst playing a sound art gig in Sydney and playing a few live shows in New York with a video artist. I feel grateful to have had that time to play with pushing the boundaries and getting to know what I wanted to stand for.
A few years later I decided to get more focused with my design practice and build something that could scale. I studied psychology and developed a therapeutic art practice called Pressography. The final artworks, called Life Pressings, resembled Hermann Rorschach ink blots but a lot more intricate and filled with colour.
It became a recognised storytelling and art practice, with a major project in Australian hospitals palliative care wards, capturing the life stories of patients before they passed away. We trained a team of practitioners, wrote a book and won a NSW Health award as well as receiving government funding to run hospital programs and design a small range of consumer products. This was an incredible journey that taught me a lot about scaling a business and the power of creativity and connection.
As you can imagine, the nature of this work was intensive and after 10 years I felt I had done all I could in that space – and I knew I wanted to primarily focus on the commercial side of creativity in the next phase of my career. So in 2018 I studied for my MBA and started full time with Sydney’s heritage-listed QVB to work on the modernisation of the retail precinct. I was lucky enough to co-lead their brand repositioning, experience strategy and digital transformation, positioning their cultural and consumer offering more effectively for the future.
After I left the QVB I founded SUPERORA, a boutique management consulting firm working with consumer brands in the innovation and culture sectors. We stumbled upon a gap in the market for a management firm that focused on cool, contemporary businesses, helping them grow their revenue and impact.
Everything I’ve learnt across my 22 year career comes together in this business, with a big focus on building businesses that operate well, delivering products that the world wants, surrounded by a brand that people love. The meeting point where popular culture meets commerce, that’s where things get really exciting.
We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?
These days I wake naturally at around 6:30 – 7am – I scrapped the alarm clock mid last year. I also stopped drinking coffee last year (so hard to do but gosh it’s made a big difference to my health), so I start the day with tea and eggs, avocado and sauerkraut on toast.
I walk to the office, from Potts Point to Darlinghurst, in Sydney, at around 8:15am.
I dedicate my time before midday to deeper work – working on a strategy or a commercial model, article writing or developing a project’s design direction.
After midday I usually run meetings with clients and project teams to host strategy workshops, collaborate on solving problems or deliver presentations.
Late afternoon, at around 4pm, I’ll head to the gym or for a run.
Then usually end the day having dinner locally with friends.
Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?
I hate to admit it but I used to be a bit of a workaholic, for sure. I have been so stimulated and rewarded by the work I do that I have lived a rather unbalanced life at times. No regrets – sometimes we need to dig deep to do meaningful things, but it wasn’t sustainable in the long term.
It wasn’t until 2021, when I was building the foundations of SUPERORA, that I was forced to find more balance if I was going to be the leader I wanted to be. I started to recognise my personal patterns and needs – for example, I tend to work pretty hard and deep, so allowing for enough rest between working periods is crucial and also that space away from the work allows for a clearer perspective and more concerted decision making.
Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?
Getting my well being sorted has almost been a side project of its own. I have had to do a lot! I did therapy, established more sustainable diet and fitness habits, saw a naturopath, stopped working on the weekends, started getting enough sleep, got rid of coffee to ease my nervous system, spent more time in nature and started making sure I go to live shows and events regularly, to maintain creative inspiration and social connection. Life feels much more balanced now. Cultivating habits and a mindset that supports our individual performance truly is an artform.
We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?
Absolutely, there are so many good resources out there. The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwarz looks at managing one’s energy vs one’s time. This concept was a revelation for me and shifted my approach to my schedule and working rhythms. Atomic Habits by James Clear is great, the Daily Stoic helps ground my thinking and I even did a stint with (a bit of a dorky) daily affirmations playlist that got my attitude straight – remaining positive and buoyant in our spirit is a daily practice.
Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I think my biggest learning has been that our wellness is so individual. It is up to us to experiment with and test new habits, mindsets and health practices to see what is right for our own mix. Just like a business strategy, it’s never one thing that makes the magic happen. It’s a combination of the right choices that ultimately deliver success. Our needs can also change – something that has worked for us in the past may longer fit and that’s really natural – so it’s important to regularly check-in with your needs and try something new or update your approach as needed.
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