Creative Directors / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Stuart Thursby, Founder & Creative Director at Stack Creative

Stuart Thursby is the Founder & Creative Director at Stack Creative, a Toronto-based boutique agency specialising in brand identities and platforms, websites, and marketing creative.

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

I’m the Founder and Creative Director of Stack Creative, a boutique agency based here in Toronto, Canada.

We primarily work on brand identities and platforms, websites, and marketing creative, and some of our clients (Canada and abroad) include Mars-Wrigley, World Vision, Wattpad, Canadian Women & Sport, Mother Raw, The Moment, and many others.

Before opening Stack, I toured through a number of great agencies in both Toronto and Berlin, including AJ&Smart, BBDO, Cossette, DDB, FCB/SIX, Proximity, and Teehan+Lax.

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

As the saying goes, it’s kind of nuts how many hats you wear when you run your own company – especially when you didn’t know about half of them before you started!

Rare is the day where there’s any one task. Most often, a day is split between creative work, business development, project/account management, chatting and working with the team, and “owner stuff.”

In practical terms – take email, Slack, Zoom, Figma/Sketch/Adobe, and Google Docs, blend them all together, add a dash of lunch breaks here and there, and you have the average day!

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

Our team has worked mostly remotely over the last few years, and I share a space with a couple of other agencies (COVID times to one side).

WIth that said, my long-term goal is to have an office where people can gather and work together and dogs can run about while we sketch and work away. There’s a magic and enjoyment that comes to that (not to mention better boundaries between “work time” and “home time”).

But life isn’t cut and dry, so we’ll always be a working-from-home friendly shop.

Like with anything, it’s less about “100% remote” or “100% in the office 9-5”, and more about encouraging a productive and enjoyable atmosphere for staff and clients to come into 3-5 days per week, while allowing no-questions-asked flexibility for those who choose to work from home a day or two per week.

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

I love what I do, and I’ve been fortunate enough to work with many people who feel the same way. The sparks and bonds that can come with that are essential to a well-run agency, and heck – if we’re spending ~8 hours per day Doing The Thing, the least we can expect of owners and managers is to foster a positive environment.

But travel, time off, family, and friends are not only key to a rich life, but why we’re all working for a salary in the first place. Nobody likes 60-80 hours weeks, so I do everything I can to ensure that the work is scoped and timed well enough to not create crunch-time conditions for all except the most extreme situations.

(Not to mention that the expectation that people are just at their desks from 9-5 without breaks, walks, socializing, etc has thankfully gone the way of the dodo)

5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?

Consistency. I’ve been an early riser my whole career, often at my desk by 8-830am, most frequently ending the day around ~530pm. It’s a slightly longer day, but it spreads out the tasks, prevents too much rushing, and is a better approach for me than logging in at ~10am and working into the evening.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to discover a job, set of activities, and career path I was passionate about fairly young, with a lot of different ways into it. Having a consistent daily operation alongside a career path that can meaningfully go in 2197123 different directions is a nice mix.

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


Books (with sub-categories):

Sci-Fi: The Expanse, The Interdependency, The Broken Earth Trilogy.

Business: The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Making of a Manager, High Output Management, Obviously Awesome, The Business of Expertise.

Graphic Novels: Essex County, Jerusalem, Killing and Dying, literally anything by Chris Ware or Seth.

7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

See above re: my daily schedule! An hour or so’s walk every day is essential too. In the Before Times, that was mostly taken care of with commuting, but over the last few months, it’s just been a daily walk around the quieter parts of my neighbourhood in Toronto around 4-5pm as the “commute home”

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

Somebody who works in a job where that’s fully out of their control – but it’s realistically just part of the gig. I have no idea what the day-to-day looks like for someone who works in, like, the UN, certain branches of government (not the bureaucratic part, but the political part), etc.

How the heck do you have work life balance while also being a mid-level employee in a global organization like that? No idea – but I’d be curious

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

Try and think through two things: 1) What do I want out of life in a big-picture sense? And 2) What does my ideal day look like? The closer you can bring those two together, the happier you’ll hopefully be.

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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.