Balancing the Grind with Simon Molnar, Founder at Flagship

Simon Molnar is the founder at Flagship, an emerging company led by a group of talented innovators with extensive experience in retail and technology.

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

My parents had a brick-and-mortar jewellery store for 30+ years, so I was always around retail and jewellery. It shaped my career a lot more than I originally expected it would. I started my professional career as a software engineer.

I was 17 years old, straight out of school, was incredibly naive and in hindsight, couldn’t have had a better start to my post-school journey. I very quickly realised that there were always going to be software engineers a lot better than me and I decided that I didn’t want to be solely an engineer, but rather have multiple skill sets.

The next few jobs that I took, I took with the purpose of filling a gap in my knowledge. This meant that by the time I was ready to start my own business with a whole suite of experience – engineering, data, digital marketing, ops, warehousing, retail.

This led me to run Ice Jewellery, a pure-play Australian jewellery retailer, before founding Flagship. I was fortunate enough to be able to understand a customer journey end-to-end. What happens from the moment a customer first hears about your brand all the way through to purchase and how to re-engage them and what brand loyalty looks like.

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

My focus is always to work smart, not hard and also that life always comes first. Someone can work hard, but inefficiently. I would rather use the right technologies to automate as much of my workload as possible, so that I can focus on the more important things, hopefully, while maintaining a good work-life balance.

Obviously, there will be times when work ramps up and it is ‘heads down’ to navigate through the busier times, but outside of that, it’s making sure I have time to spend with family and friends.

My grandmother used to tell me that my great-grandfather had a saying that “there’s no point in having money if there’s no one to enjoy it with”.

I have an 18-month-old daughter and since she was born, I’ve made a note of making sure I’m around. My average work day looks like this:

5:30/6am – Wake up. This is largely driven by when my daughter wakes up, but I’ve always been an early riser. I’ve always had FOMO in my own life. When I’m half awake, I get too excited by all the things I could be doing rather than being in bed.

6:00-7:30am – Spend time with my daughter. This gives me bonding time with her. I give her her bottle every morning, which also gives my wife an opportunity to have a slower start to her day, knowing that she’s going to be spending the rest of the day with her.

8:00-8:45am – Head to work and stop for alone-time breakfast/coffee alone. I love and need my own company. I need a bit of time every day where I’m by myself. This gives me an opportunity to prepare myself for the day and gives me an opportunity to unwind with nobody around. I see this as an investment in myself and means that I’m going to arrive at the office ready for the day.

8:45-5:45 pm – Work. This is the general work day: team catch-up, scattered meetings focused on getting everything done for the day.

5:45-6:30pm – Daughter bath & bedtime. I try to make sure I’m home every night for my daughter’s bath time. I’ve probably missed only 20 baths in the 18 months since she was born. I want to be a big part of her life and I don’t want to miss out on a single thing.

6:30pm-9pm – Chill time. I try to leave my work at the door when I get home (obviously that’s not always possible), but when I get home, I try my best to be at home and not at work. As long as nothing’s on fire, there’s very little that can’t be picked up the following Monday. This is my opportunity to hang with my wife, have a bit of downtime (maybe play a bit of Playstation) and unwind after the day.

This routine is very specific to me and I know this works for me. Different people work better in different ways. I work the best when I’m well-rested and I believe that my output in a limited work window with a “me” window is greater than if I worked long hours but didn’t save time for the things in my personal life that are important for me.

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

I think a lot of that is covered in the above, but I truly believe in flexible working and I believe in taking personal time when it’s needed. I believe in treating mental fatigue in the same way you do physical fatigue.

I believe in working around life and not being bound by a 9-5 work day. I believe that taking a Friday off when feeling fatigued to come in fresh on Monday is more valuable than labouring through the Friday and coming back to work on Monday still exhausted. I encourage my team to take days off when they need to.

I encourage them to work from home when I need to. I encourage them to take a couple of hours off during the day if they need to get a haircut, go to the gym or if they just want to go surfing. I trust my team to deliver on what they need to deliver and part of that trust is giving them the flexibility to define their own day.

There’s nothing worse than being at a job, it gets to 3 pm, you’ve hit a wall and you’re watching the clock until it’s “reasonable” to clock off. Again, I encourage my team to listen to their body. If it gets to 3 pm and they genuinely believe they have nothing else to give that day, take the rest of the day off and come back the following day refreshed!

Again, there’ll be times when things are time-sensitive and we all need to push through when we are exhausted but it’s in the (many) windows where things aren’t time-sensitive where we need to enjoy life as much as we enjoy work.

There isn’t a single moment in the last 10 years of my life where work has felt like work because I’ve loved every minute of what I’ve done and work doesn’t feel like work because my work fits around my life.

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

The biggest change to my routine has been my daughter. One of the biggest things I’ve learned about myself since she was born is when I don’t get a break and I don’t get the time that I need, I struggle.

I have my routines with her during the week, but my wife and I know that I will need a window at some point in my weekend where I need a bit of downtime to switch my mind off and do something completely brainless – this is normally playing Playstation or playing games on my phone.

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

To be honest, I’m not much of a reader or podcaster. I probably should be, but reading is the main thing I always want to do more that I struggle to find time for. Often I get home from work so exhausted that I don’t have it in me to pick up a book and I want to just switch off and watch tv.

That being said, the one book I recommend to everyone is Soar with Your Strengths by Donald O. Clifton and Paula Nelson. It’s meant to be read in conjunction with having done the CliftonStrengths assessment – this assessment is highly recommended and I get everyone who joins my team to do it. The book speaks to working to your strengths and focusing on what comes naturally to you, rather than forcing yourself to be someone you’re not.

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

Honestly, this might sound cliche, but I would say, my parents. My parents ran a business, but they job-shared and what this meant was that there was always someone at home with me and my brother.

A lot of people ask me about my parents and apart from everything else amazing that they did for me in my life, the biggest thing is that they were always there. I had friends who had successful parents who they’d never see and I never want success to come at the expense of living or at the expense of being with my family.

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

Success to me isn’t building a big company or making lots of money. Success to me is the positive impact you make on someone else. I don’t want to build a successful company for myself.

I want to build a successful company for the team I have and for the people who join my team in the future. I want them to turn up to work every day, excited about the team they’re a part of and about the company they’re at. I want them to feel like they are seen, they are heard and that they are valued. I want them to value their life the same way that I value mine.

I’m a big advocate that you can’t ask someone else to do something that you’re not prepared to do yourself. There’ll be times in business that are a grind and when you need to get down and dirty and every time that happens, I will be there right alongside my team.

Part of the work-life balance is leading by example. It’s not lip service – it’s genuine. Life always comes first.

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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.