Balancing the Grind with Tarun Richards, Business Services Manager at Humpty Doo Barramundi

Tarun Richards is the Business Services Manager at Humpty Doo Barramundi, a 100% Australian family owned and operated farm located halfway between Darwin and Kakadu National Park.

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

I had 12 years of marketing and communications experience with the Northern Territory Government before taking a career break for 6 years after having our third child. I kept my skills fresh, helping Humpty Doo Barramundi establish its first website and starting our social media platforms before being offered a full time paid role as Brand Manager in 2017.

In 2021 I took on the role of Head of Business Services and company secretary for the Board. My team provides HR, training, compliance, work health and IT services to the farm so everyone else can get on with what they do best – caring for our Barramundi.

Humpty Doo Barramundi is Australia’s largest Barramundi farm located halfway between Darwin and Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. We are family owned and operated, we’ve been growing our premium saltwater Barramundi for almost 30 years, and it’s available fresh through major retailers, seafood shops and restaurants around Australia.

My husband Dan is the CEO and his father Bob is our Managing Director and also very active in the farm. I’m always conscious that other people at Humpty Doo Barramundi don’t just see me in my working role – they also see me as Dan’s wife and an owner.

It’s important to me that I maintain professional lines at work – at work Dan is the CEO and I report to him as I would any other CEO I’ve worked with. And I won’t overrule another manager’s decision, even if I don’t agree with it, just because I’m an owner of the business. It can be challenging working in a family business – fortunately my husband and I work well together! 

I wear many hats – Head of Business Services, marketing (I’ve kept much of the Brand Manager role), company secretary, shareholder and the CEO’s wife. I’m also on a local fisheries committee and a national industry board. 

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

My days vary so much. Last week I facilitated a short notice visit with chef Jason Roberts and the team from MGI Entertainment to shoot footage around our farm and coordinate a cook up over open fire for Plate for a Mate, a brilliant initiative we are sponsoring to raise funds and awareness for The Black Dog Institute’s programs assisting farmers who have been affected by recent natural disasters.

At the same time I was finalising papers for an upcoming Board meeting and learning a new software system to manage that. My children returned to school from mid-year holidays a day earlier than expected; one child had no socks and another was unwell. That was last Monday.

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

I used to think work-life balance was static, that you can find that right ‘balance’ and everything is magic. It’s not, it’s constantly changing and sliding. It’s about managing your priorities on that day.

The best metaphor I’ve heard yet is comparing work-life balance to juggling balls – some are made of metal: if you drop them they are noisy. Some are made of glass: if you drop these they will break. And some are made of rubber: if you drop these they will bounce. Work-life balance is about knowing what elements in your life are the rubber balls and which are the glass balls, at that point in time. 

To explain further: Sometimes work is the glass ball, and if you drop the family ball it will bounce. Other times family is the glass ball and if you drop the work ball it will bounce, or make a lot of noise. But it won’t break. When we treat everything like a glass ball, something breaks and it’s usually us!

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

I’ve been consciously taking more time at home to put work away and play cards, board games and reading with the kids. And defining work times and home times – I worked from home for 8 years and the lines blurred a lot. 

I started cycling twice a week at 5.30am for an hour or so. It’s the only way I can guarantee I get some exercise. I actually started in 2020 when we were working from home and dropped the ball a bit in the last few months but I’m back on track again, and it’s great.

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

I love ABC’s Conversations with Richard Fidler or Sarah Kanowski for true stories about ordinary people who have done interesting things. 

I love reading, particularly stories about people who have completely changed their lives around – whether for health, faith, altruism or something else. People who are willing to go against the status quo or give up their sense of self to serve others is inspiring. I also like reading historical fiction for pure escapism.

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

Whoever came up with that theory of work-life balance being compared to juggling balls. I think that sums things up brilliantly.

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

When you work in your own business, and/or with your life partner, you must work to keep the lines between work and home clear. Otherwise you’re always at work and your relationship suffers. At home Dan and I try not to talk about work, or we will set aside time to do that, then we stop.

The other factor to consider with work-life balance is that one parent is usually the ‘default’ parent, and usually it’s the mother (but not always). The default parent has a larger family mental load to juggle while the other parent can focus more on work – there is less for them to balance. 

In our house I’m the default parent – the one the kids go to first for homework help, food, transport and problems. It’s a hangover from when I wasn’t working a paid role and would balance my commitments around Dan to allow him to focus on building the farm. He travelled a lot in the early years.

Now he’s home more and I’m pushing back a bit on him to attend appointments and organise holidays and social events, which he’s enjoying. It can be hard to let it go, but also a relief to share some of that mental load.

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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.