Sean Cunial is the co-founder & director of Rogue Beverages, a boutique marketing and distribution company, which recently launched SHOJO, a line of Australian-made wellness shots inspired by Asian remedies.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
Formerly the Chief Operating Officer of Coca-Cola, I worked for the organisation for more than 20 years, leading significant businesses in Asia including Japan, the Philippines and Indonesia.
During a six-year stint in Japan, I became inspired by functional shots and the importance Asian traditional medicine puts on balance and wellbeing. The belief in the Japanese philosophy ‘you are what you eat’ supports people’s health and wellbeing by providing them with ‘better for you’ beverage solutions.
On being diagnosed with, and fighting cancer while on assignment, I decided to leave the corporate world and return to Australia with my young family. Now the Co-Founder and Director of Rogue Beverages, we focus on developing innovative health and wellness solutions for global consumers.
We recently launched SHOJO, a line of Australian-made wellness shots inspired by Asian remedies and made from natural, functional ingredients, such as Turmeric and Red Ginseng.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I get up at 6:30am to be at the gym by 7am for spin or a swim with a friend. On my way home, I’ll grab coffees for my wife and spend breakfast reading the newspaper, before hitting the desk at 9am to run through my emails, take any Zoom meetings or attend face-to-face meetings.
From 3:30 to 5pm, I’m typically picking up and dropping my kids to/from after school activities and going back to my desk for a couple of hours before dinner with my family. I finish my day relaxing by watching TV, reading or catching up on emails so I’m ready for the next day ahead.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Rogue Beverages was set up as a remote operation from the very beginning – we don’t own or have any offices, factories or warehouses as everything is outsourced. There are three of us working on the business and we all work from our respective homes.
Meetings are done either via Zoom or in a cafe somewhere central which allows us to manage our time as we best see fit while reducing travel time and costs. This flexibility means we’re able to allocate time as we need between business and personal activities based on priorities, workload and family needs.
It also means I’m able to spend more time with my family and friends than I did when I was in the corporate world.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
The most important thing I have learnt over the years is that the definition of work-life balance is very, very different for different people and that it changes as people go through their life stages.
As a result, I don’t believe that there is a specific definition of work-life balance for one person beyond the short-medium term, let alone for the whole population. This is important for people to recognise as I believe it’s where the greatest source of personal conflict and work stress comes from.
I know it’s a cliche, but for me, work is an important part of life, not only as a source of income, but also for mental health and personal wellbeing. Beyond school and any tertiary education, work is the place where people grow and develop most through their lives, both professionally and personally.
It is also where key lifelong relationships are made. As a result, I think it’s difficult to fully separate work and life as work is intrinsically a large part of life.
The key for me is understanding the phases in life you are going through and the priorities you personally have in that phase.
I sacrificed a lot of personal things early on in my career, which included working 10-16 hour days, travelling extensively away from my partner and young family for work and living overseas from family and friends for 15 years, ultimately missing out on sharing their life journeys.
Having said that, I also gained a lot, such as learning new skills, experiencing new cultures, making new friends and giving my family experiences that will hopefully enhance their lives.
However, I came to understand that this was not the type of life I wanted in the long term. There was a lot of internal conflict through this period of realisation.
Getting cancer also forced me to face the fact that we have limited time on this planet, leading me to reconsider what the future might look like. During this time, I identified a few things that led me to where I am today. I decided the key things I wanted in the next stage of my life were:
- To spend more genuine, present time with my family
- To have the flexibility to determine when, where and how I worked
- To be able to decide when I took time out for myself and my family
- To do something that I could look back on and see that I had built
- To be able to decide who I work with
Fortunately, I had the resources to be able to leave corporate life and work on projects that gave me more personal fulfilment. This means work is more aligned to my personal passions and therefore doesn’t feel like work.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
There are three key routines or habits that I’ve changed. Firstly, I’ve changed my workout routine (as I tend to get bored easily!). I’ve also changed my diet and alcohol consumption to get in better shape. Finally, I’ve implemented more robust corporate routines into our business – I think process can be a good thing.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I know it’s not a particularly highbrow answer but I enjoy watching TV and movies to relax. My favourite programs are ones I can watch with my kids – our current favourites are The Big Bang Theory and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I’m currently reading A Promised Land by Barack Obama and It’s Who You Know by Janine Garner.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I can’t live without my iPhone, laptop and Uber as these enable me to work remotely and flexibly. The Australian Financial Review is great for keeping up to date with business news around the world and ABC iview is fantastic for news and entertainment.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Alison Watkins, the Group CEO of Coca-Cola Amatil. Alison has had an outstanding career but at the same time is one of the most supportive and genuine leaders I have ever met. While I don’t know her personally, it appears that she has also raised a strong and independent family, with her children brave enough to plot their own career course.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Work-life balance is ultimately a very individual and personal construct. This can be a source of both internal and external conflict when the current situation doesn’t match the desired situation.
While I believe that companies and corporations can, and will, evolve to do their best to accommodate people’s needs, they are ultimately a business, with specific things that need to be done within specific time and cost pressures.
I don’t think these last points will ever change. As a result, people need to be honest with themselves about what they want at their particular stage of life and work towards creating a life that fits within these needs. This will ultimately involve some compromises along the way.
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