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Balancing the Grind with Sharon Crombie, CEO & Founder at MicroChilli

Sharon Crombie is the CEO and founder of MicroChilli, a remote bookkeeping and advisory service established in 2020.

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

I’ve worked as a chartered management accountant in the corporate world for over 20 years, but to be honest, never really pictured myself in this industry. I certainly didn’t leave school with a burning desire to be an accountant, mostly because it was music and anything creative that fuelled my fire rather than anything academic! 

Fast forward a few years though (and one attempt at a hairdressing apprenticeship down) and you might say I ‘fell into’ accounting. My mum and dad had a haulage company and a job had opened up at the business back home in Wales. 

While I was working full-time as a single mum to two toddlers, I ended up getting my advanced diploma with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, and worked with both large organisations and smaller clients. I always found it was the little guys that really fuelled my fire, and this has never really changed.

So after making the move to Australia in 2013 this passion is what ultimately led me to launch my remote bookkeeping and advisory business, MicroChilli last year. I wanted to make a meaningful difference to peoples’ lives and change perceptions about accounting, by providing a low cost, fuss free model for new and established micro business owners, all while proving that your finances can, in many ways, be fun! 

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

I start my day at 5am with 30 minutes of meditation. I find it so valuable as it helps me focus and maintain a positive mindset for the rest of the day. Then it’s coffee time! As I get my caffeine fix and drink my greens I’ll check my MicroChilli emails and forward any client correspondence or follow ups on, and add any tasks that need to be completed to the project management system, ClickUp. 

From 6am through to around 8am I’ll work on my own business and clients, then get prepared for my ‘9 to 5’ in corporate. I use my lunchtime hour to speak with prospects and clients on the MicroChilli side, then it’s back to the corporate role. 

By 5:30pm I’ll have my mum hat on, preparing dinner and spending time with the family, then from around 8pm till 11pm I’ll get back into MicroChilli mode and update Click-Up for the next day so I’m prepped and ready to go once it all starts again. 

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

Yes thank goodness! Luckily as an accountant we were geared up for remote working before COVID-19 even hit. All of our software is cloud based, meaning I’m able to fit everything in around my schedule.

The MicroChilli philosophy is that we’ve ditched the traditional 9 to 5 so we can be there for our clients pretty much whenever they need us. This was really important to me when launching MicroChilli, as I was conscious many small business owners are also doing the corporate juggle, meaning the evenings and weekends often work better for them.

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

It’s my ‘why.’ All of the hard work I’m putting in now is to achieve the work life balance I’ve always dreamed of, so that I can enjoy the freedoms of spending time with family and friends, and help my clients achieve this too. 

I make sure that 6pm to 8pm is family time, where we sit down and eat dinner together, and on the weekends I make sure that at least two hours per day is spent with family. 

Growing a business around a demanding 9 to 5 job is tricky, as sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day. However, I know this is only short term and my girls are so excited that their mum is the “CEO.”

They are actively involved in championing MicroChilli, whether it’s telling people in the supermarket that their mum has her own business or creating marketing campaigns for me in Canva. They are even doing an entrepreneur academy at school. MicroChilli is a family affair!

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

It wasn’t within the past 12 months, but I did give up alcohol 2.5 years ago, and this is for two reasons.

Firstly I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I knew my long term goal was to build a business around my current 9 to 5 and alcohol didn’t serve me in this new lifestyle in any way. I needed to be focused, committed and motivated to achieve my goals and alcohol was slowing me down. This is aside from the health benefits that come with giving up alcohol!

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

Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins, as I love his style, his no BS attitude and how he called out that when the brain thinks you’re done, you’re only at about 40% capacity. That man is a machine.

The 5am Club by Robin Sharma is what inspired me to start my 5am journey. Change is hard in the beginning, messy in the middle and glorious at the end. I’d say I’m in the messy bit right now!

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

Obviously apart from cloud accounting software, it would have to be ClickUp, which stops my life from falling apart. I have everything listed there, from meal planning to bank reconciliations! 

Instagram, because genuinely I have made the most awesome connections on the platform.  Even while migrating to the other side of the world and then from the west to the east coast of Australia, the app has connected me to the most amazing women I could have hoped to have in my life, and they’ve become lifelong friends.  

Google Calendar has also saved my ass on more than one occasion when I’ve nearly forgotten about a client or discovery call! 

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

As part of my Instagram strategy for MicroChilli I have an Empowered Business Chronicles series where I celebrate the successes of female entrepreneurs, such as Janine Allis and Diana Williams, the CEO and Founder of Fernwood Women’s Health Clubs. I’d love to read about what their work life balance looks like, and what it means to them.

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

The meaning of work life balance can mean completely different things to different people, and is therefore unique to us all. 

My work life balance, for example, could look very different to yours! As a bit of a workaholic (which I get from my Dad, and really, I think is a bit of an entrepreneurial mindset), if I only work a 40-hour week these days and have a complete recharge over the weekend, I think I’ve achieved a work life balance. This is probably not what work life balance looks like to other people. 

I think if you’re feeling aligned and joyous and doing the things you love you have nailed the work life balance. My ultimate goal is to only work a four-day week so that I can have three solid days with my family doing the things that we love. Whether that’s a walk in nature with the Huskies or a trip to the beach, it doesn’t really matter as long as we’re together as a family.

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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.