CEOs / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Sean Nicholls, Chief Executive Officer at Link Marketing and Management International

Sean Nicholls is the Chief Executive Officer of Link Marketing and Management International, an international sports & entertainment marketing agency.

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

I have spent more than 30 years in Sports, Entertainment and Major Event Marketing in Australia, Asia, the U.S. New Zealand, Europe and the UK.

Throughout that time I have worked across and managed teams delivering everything from sponsorship consulting, major events management and marketing, elite athlete management, television rights sales and distribution to Content creation .

I have also been responsible for the creation and management of international Golf, Cycling, Football, Action Sports and Motor Sport events in various locations around the world.

I have also consulted to national and international federations including FIBA, Triathlon Australia, Rally Australia, The Philippines Basketball Federation, Chinese Volleyball Federation and the Pacific Games. And been involved in the negotiation of some of Asia`s largest TV rights agreements.

Throughout various points in my career I have also managed the careers of some of the world’s leading athletes including golf major winners, F1 champions and Rugby and Cricket legends.

From 2002 until December 2015, I oversaw the growth of Octagon, one of Asia Pacific`s largest and most successful sports and entertainment marketing agencies – doubling its size in my last five years with the company.

I was elevated to the position of President, Asia Pacific in January 2013 and was responsible for the company’s businesses in Australia, N.Z, Japan, India, China, Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

In January 2016, I left Octagon to create my own international sports and entertainment marketing consultancy. Our clients now include FIBA, Warner Brothers, the Chinese Volleyball League, Philippines Basketball Federation (SBP) and Tencent China and iRena China.  

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

My work day ordinarily begins with catching up on overnight correspondence. With mostly international clients a lot happens overnight and there are inevitably developments overnight that need to be addressed.

After working through the key issues, I then start to work through the calls that need to be made as Asia starts to kick into gear. I also check in with teams that are based in Asia and work through their plans for the day and key deliverables.

I generally try to carve out a few hours early to mid-afternoon afternoon “thinking and writing”. Moving the various projects forward and working on required documentation and reports.

By late afternoon Europe is generally open for business and I try to make my European calls early in their day to give myself time to address any issues before the end of my day. The day ends with me finalising my plan for the following day and updating my plan for the week.          

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

My current role allows me to effectively work remotely and to do this from anywhere in the world. This suits my lifestyle as I have a real focus on balancing my business responsibilities with family time and exercise.

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

With a background in physical and health education I have always been active and try to do something physical at least 4-5 days a week, even when I am travelling, and I have done this throughout my career.

Work life balance to me means allocating equal weighting to the importance of my business, family, and personal health commitments. There are always times in your career when this is particularly difficult, if not impossible but being aware of this balance is half the battle won.

I try to allocate the “must-dos” each day whether that is a family, project or personal health and exercise commitment and then build the rest of my day around these obligations.          

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

Like everyone, I have found the last 12 months particularly challenging both in a personal and business context. With major projects cancelled or suspended, travel shutdowns and staying connected with family made difficult with shutdowns and restrictions, COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our lives.

The most significant change that I have made to adapt to these challenging circumstances is to make sure that I am getting outside each day – running, riding, or paddling my kayak – anything to shut out the negativity and the noise and re-focus and prepare yourself mentally for whatever the world throws at you.

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

In terms of reading for pleasure, I don’t seem to find much time to do that other than when I am on holidays and then it tends to be a Grisham, Dan Brown or Ludlum book for a bit of escapism.

My down time is generally spent either listening to music, watching live sports or ESPN 30 for 30 style sports docos – I love the storytelling in these programs.   

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

I’m not really a gadget person but I am a music person – I have music playing when I work, when I exercise and when we eat so I could not live without my iPhone, Spotify and various sized Bose speakers.

I also cannot play golf anymore without my Garmin Golf watch – I’ve lost the ability to ready yardages without it!

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

Anyone that I trust to live it – not just talk about it. It’s too easy to find reasons why it cannot work, so I have the utmost respect for people that are able to arrange their lives to make work-life balance work every day. 

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

The only thing that I would say is that I am always more effective in my business life if my life is in balance. I think more clearly, am more creative, less stressed, and definitely a more effective communicator when I have that balance happening.

It is never easy, and there are always competing priorities and difficult decisions to be made, but the closer I get to that balance, there is no doubt the healthier my business, my family and my life is.   

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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.