Taf Chiwanza is the CEO & Co-Founder at Payo, Australia’s first buy now pay later platform that’s exclusive to the hospitality industry.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
My first taste of start-ups was as one of the first team members at Ento, a workforce management software company startup that has recently raised a Series B of $5 million.
We closed a contract with one of Australia’s largest companies, with three of us working out of a two-bedroom unit. That gave me a real buzz to see what kind of impact you could have working in startups.
After Ento, I moved to MyGuestlist as the National Business Manager, where I helped MyGuestlist’s growth in becoming Australia’s leading marketing and automation software for hospitality.
Having spent over five years at MyGuestlist building strong relationships in the hospitality space, I took my biggest career step joining the global food tech giant Zomato as the Australian Country Manager, which has just IPO’d with a valuation of $13 billion.
Having led a team of one hundred across Australia for three years, I was desperate to start my own thing. My fellow payo co-founders, Scott Lai and Sean Donnelly and I believe deeply that introducing a BNPL specific offering to hospitality would be a win-win for merchants and consumers.
Fast forward to 2021 where I’m now the CEO of payo which has recently launched in Brisbane and Melbourne with plans to expand nationwide.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I’ve always been an early riser, so I typically get up at 5am and skim through a bunch of blogs I follow for around 30 min.
6am I’m off to exercise for an hour. I switch between running and weight training.
7.30am – 830am I’m going through emails and organising my calendar.
8.30am to 9am I’ll typically speak with each of my co-founders, go through any high priority items, and see how we can help each other.
Between 9am – 5pm, half the day is spent in meetings, and the other half is blocked out to work on top priority items we’ve identified. At the moment, I’m focusing heavily on user acquisition and transaction volume. When I have lunch, I like to watch something completely unrelated to work so I can take a little break.
At 5.30pm, I’ll go for an hour walk with my wife and debrief on each other’s day. Like any early-stage startup, my day rarely ends at 5.30pm. I’ll generally spend a couple of hours in the evening working on strategy, responding to emails I’ve missed during the day or answering a customer service enquiry (all hands on deck).
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Definitely! I’m in the office 2 to 3 days a week and work a couple of days from home. I like both options, and they serve two different purposes. My days in the office are used more for collaborative work, and my days from home are used for when I need to focus on individual tasks.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you, and how do you work to achieve that goal?
My definition of work-life balance is constantly readjusting. What is important in my life is a healthy balance between work, personal life and my health.
I have strict boundaries to ensure I am always staying active (for my physical and mental health) and ensuring that I have downtime. This could be either reading a book, playing golf, or doing nothing. I do this to help reduce burnout.
Working in a start-up and something you are passionate about can take up most of your day because you get excited to start your day and drag yourself to bed to get some sleep, so I make sure I block out time to do activities outside of work.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
The last 12 months have been strange for everyone; I have always had a strict daily routine, but I have started training for a marathon. I started long-distance running during the lockdown, and it gives me time to listen to a podcast, clear my mind, and it’s a good break from sitting at my computer all day.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
- Angel hosted by Jason Calacanis. A goldmine of information for first-time founders.
- Dissect. This is for the music nerds. A nice break away from work. Start with the breakdown of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West.
- The Art of War. A must-read classic.
- Cult Status by Tim Duggan. A framework on how to achieve cult status for your brand.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
AirPods – I can’t remember when I answered a call with my phone next to my ear.
YouTube – Probably the most underrated app. Everything is on YouTube. You can learn, be entertained and of course, go down the YouTube rabbit hole for hours.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
In start-up land, it’s easy to build up an endless to-do list. I’ve found using an Eisenhower Matrix a great tool for considering the long-term outcomes of your daily to-do list and focusing on what will have the best impact.
For problem solving, I always go back to my old boss’s advice at Zomato, which was always to work backwards. Working backwards provides so much clarity by starting at the end of the problem and undoing the problem one step at a time.
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