Balancing the Grind with Steve Fanale, Founder & CEO of Drive Yello

Steve Fanale is the founder and CEO of Drive Yello, a company providing last mile courier and logistics delivery services across Australia.

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

I started off my career as a pro league player who could code and developed my first app when I was 19 – a payroll application I built for the bar I worked for.

I’ve had a few roles over time including voice over ads while in the UK but digital has been my focus. I’ve spent the last 20 + years, starting businesses and building tech products to solve problems.

 Today, I am Founding CEO of Drive Yello last mile delivery. Really here, I am CEO, product owner and comms director doing anything and everything from raising funds to selling major enterprise and designing products.

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

I kick off the day at 4.00am, either reading or streaming an episode of the latest series I’m watching – at the moment it’s the brilliant Ted Lasso on Apple. Then, I start planning my day, usually checking emails and doing some bits of work before exercising, juicing and starting the day.

 For me, mornings are my “flow time” so after a check in with the team, I keep my mornings free to work on business tasks which can be anything from developing processes, preparing for meetings, setting up platforms, developing and designing product ideas and features, or writing answers to interview questions like these.

The rest of my day is generally filled with meetings or phone calls. Again, these could be business development, marketing, product development, operations, or funding. My role is so varied I wear a lot of hats throughout the day.  

 Family time is really important so I get home around 7.00pm to have dinner with my family and watch whatever our favourite TV show is at the time. My daughter Amelie is loving The Block at the moment.

Then, I either read or stream another episode. I’ll finish off any work stuff I didn’t have time to complete in the day or tinker on my latest creativity project before bed at around 10.00pm.

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

Yes it does although until COVID we ventured into the office each day, for me and the team we enjoy the social interaction. These days, like most businesses, we are more flexible with staff choosing to work from home 2-3 days a week.

I like the mix of the two, it’s good to get into the office to interact face to face and connect as a group and have some social interaction but days at home do give me some serenity.

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

It can be hard as not only is work busy but I also am pretty active outside of work so I find it difficult to fit it all in. What is important to me pretty much falls into four categories or my life engines:

Family & friends – I have an amazing wife and 2 daughters who I love spending time with and I’m also lucky to have a wide circle of friends and family which bring lots of social events with it!  

Health – I like to exercise pretty much every day so I get up early with my wife Linda and we’ll either do a HIIT workout or go for a run or walk along the coast. As an ex-league player, I still like to play sports but my main activity is not much more than a hit of golf these days.

Creativity – I love to create. Music, filmmaking, writing (attempting), photography, graphic design are all my passions. I am probably more active in my music recently.

Nothing serious. I play bass and drums and have some musical friends & family including my daughter Loren who is an amazing singer and guitarist. We like to jam for fun every now and then – I’ve combined some of that creativity to develop a few vids just for the enjoyment of playing, editing and recording.

Work – when I sold my last business and took a couple of years off, I realised how important it was to have a work purpose in my life as well. As I said, I love solving problems with technology and building a business like Drive Yello is definitely solving a massive problem.

My strategy is to keep weekends free and early morning late evening for the 3 buckets and try to be as productive as possible during the day. 

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

Prior to 2020 my creativity bucket was pretty empty so I made a pact with myself that I would try and get that life engine revved up a little.

That said, I’ve started playing music more and spent some time with my good friend Kate Toon who is helping me find out if I have a book in me somewhere. Watch this space! Making fun videos for Jammin4fun and a couple of other projects in the works feed that part of my soul.

 For some time now I have exercised pretty regularly but during the heights of COVID work became the focus and training wasn’t as much of a priority. In the last 8 weeks I have been exercising with Linda and Charlie (my dog) daily which has ignited the fire in both of us to get fit.

We get some quality time together too and we’re both really enjoying it. More recently, I spend about 30 mins a day practicing my chipping in the back yard – I want to get out playing golf regularly again so I am focusing on improving the worst part of my game.

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

My favourite book at the moment is Fanocracy by David Meerman Scott. I’m getting the whole team to read it! It has some great examples of businesses and how they have succeeded in creating cult followers for their brand, not just customers.

My go to podcasts are How I Built This with Guy Raz, Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman and also a new one I’ve started listening to here in Australia, Open the Pod Bay Doors, hosted by my good friends Ian Gardiner and Phaedon Stough.

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

Cue the family eye roll – I love my gadgets and am a sucker for a good Instagram ad. I’m always buying the latest release of anything Apple or tech in general.

I am pretty addicted to my phone – email, Slack, FB, Insta, Twitter pretty much fills most of my working day. Having watched the Social Dilemma doco I’m hoping to change some of those habits soon.

 Right now I am intrigued, or should I say dumbfounded, by US politics and the powerful propaganda machine behind the current administration. I can’t stop reading articles or watching debates and commentary, all the while crossing my fingers and clicking my sparkly red shoes chanting the mantra “there is no place like home”.

Never ending content creation is killing my sleep patterns but apart from those I would say I buy anything I think will help me fuel my life engines. My house is filled with musical and film making equipment, sports and health gadgets – some of them still in their box –  but ultimately I’d hate to think they are things that I can’t live without.

I think that COVID has probably highlighted to not only me but everyone, is that the one thing people can’t live without is other people. Not sure people are gadgets though – are they? Maybe not now but may be released by Apple 2030 – Apple Family 1.0. 

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

The Dalai Lama.

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

I could roll out the usual quote – “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

I get the intent behind this but even when you may be doing something you love, there are still times in the  job that you have to do things you hate. Administration, accounting, letting people go, dealing with conflict. Or times when the work needs to be a priority over other parts of your life.  

 I have been lucky that I have been able to follow my dreams and passions in playing sports, being creative and running businesses I am interested in. I enjoy the thrill of building something new but it’s not all a bed of roses. It never is.

The way I look at it, what I do for living, for “work”, is part of my life, it’s part of who I am, it’s not the antithesis of life. These two things aren’t on opposite sides of the see saw and that we have to find some way to balance them.

What you do for a living should be part of your life source as well. Not everyone has the luxury to choose, I get that. I was lucky that I had a safe place to come home to and a family that supported me and allowed me to dream big.

 The dream of doing whatever it is you want to do to earn a living is more attainable today than I think it has ever been.  I can literally start a business in one day, within a few clicks of the mouse you can be up and running and selling to the world.

Sports professionals earn a great living by literally never growing up and playing the game they love. TV, film and media personalities get paid a decent wage to do what they do. Scantily clad men and women can buy their first home by setting up an Instagram account and building and engaging their audience.

The invention of the App Store means you can now build a product to solve a problem or enhance an experience and make it available to anyone around the world. Opportunity is everywhere so there is more chance you can find something that is part of you that you can also earn a living from.

 It doesn’t mean that traditional “jobs” should never be pursued but it’s what you let that job become that matters. Will it be a draining weight or an opportunity to grow. That’s why I love lemons to lemonade stories and inspired by “dancing street sweepers”. Their work doesn’t oppose their life; it is part of their life. 

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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.