Directors, Founders, Interviews

Balancing the Grind With Gabriel Wong, Co-founder & Director of Positive Good

July 10, 2019

Gabriel Wong is the Co-founder and Director of Positive Good, an integrated marketing and communications consultancy that works with cleantech and renewable energy businesses.

Positive Good develops and manages integrated marketing and communications campaigns for foundation clients including sonnen, deX, Solar Analytics, Sungrow and GreenSync.

Balance the Grind spoke to Gabriel about transitioning into the sustainability and clean energy industry, launching Positive Good, working on campaigns during a holiday in Bali, and more.

This conversation is brought to you by HelloFresh, delivering delicious ingredients and simple recipes straight to your doorstep each week.

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

I’ve lived my last 20 years running integrated marketing and communications campaigns in agencies, in-house and as an independent contractor working with clean energy and technology companies.

I had originally studied communications but developed a strong interest in sustainability, climate change and clean energy and took a sabbatical to complete my Masters in Environmental Management.

This set my career in a new direction as it opened the doors for me to work with clients in clean energy, waste management and even in the horticultural industry.

2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?

I’m a Co-founder and Director of Positive Good, an integrated marketing and communications consultancy that works with cleantech and renewable energy businesses.

I founded the company with Olivia Smith, my former client. We’re friends and business partners and its quite a magical combination to be working together again.

I’m a strategist, ‘traditional’ and digital marketer, content producer and media relations consultant all rolled into one.

My day involves aligning every element of a client’s integrated marketing campaign to ensure its optimised from generating leads, brand exposure to getting people excited about the brands I represent.

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

A daily start at 6am to scan for news and issues in the clean energy industry. This industry tends to be quite policy focused so an early start helps me to craft advice and to be ready with an update just as my clients start their day.

This is followed by a workout and I’m back online for calls, emails and meetings working with Olivia who is based in Melbourne across projects throughout the day.

I work with a virtual team of designers, our copywriter and media buyer to run client campaigns so we rely on video conferencing heavily.

It’s become a habit at the start of my day to clean out wine bottles, dishes and anything which makes working from home look fun!

One of the bonuses of working from home is not having to commute which means I’m ready for my glass of wine at 5:30pm.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

I tackle the most difficult task at the start of my day when my energy level and attention span is amazing. I’ll never leave the ‘too hard’ tasks, challenging meetings or difficult conversations for the end of the day.

I have a to-do list that I write daily which has to fit on a post it note. It really makes me disciplined about what I need to focus on for the day.

Sending or receiving unnecessary emails. At the start of my career, I worked with a director who said to everyone, “I don’t want to see any emails being sent to your team. You are all working in the same office so it’s much faster to walk over and have a chat and get things done.” Since then, my first instinct has always been to call someone before I reach for my keyboard.

When it comes to meetings and calls, I always add or send an agenda with my meeting request so we’re clear about what we’re trying to achieve. If it’s an important matter, I’ll finish with an email recap – which is necessary – so there are no surprises.

5) In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?

For me, balance comes from learning to disconnect from life when I need to. There have been times when I’ve switched my phone to flight mode so I can focus and regain clarity.

I’m a firm believer of fitness and always in the morning before work. I put it in my work calendar and guard this fiercely so it’s pretty much unmovable in my schedule.

Quality sleep is so important and as boring as it sounds, I’m usually in bed by 10pm. It will take a lot of convincing to get me out on a weekday to socialise.

6) What does work life balance mean to you?

Work life balance is a construct. I don’t believe this is how we should interpret life because balance is what we should strive for.

I was recently away on a two-week holiday and a campaign that I was working on was just about to go live. I spent every weekday up at 5am in the morning in Bali getting through emails and calls for a few hours before heading out to a beach club or brunch.

The beauty of technology is it allows you to be as productive and contactable as you want it to be. Increasingly, we are working in a flexible environment where people will respect your boundaries if you are honest about what your working circumstances are and how you would like to be contacted. They will respect it and it won’t change your performance or contribution.

I occasionally work across time zones so I usually make a joke about the fact its wine time in Sydney and apologise if it sounds like I’ve cracked a bottle when you are having your first coffee for the day.

7) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

Interrogating the brief. I have a habit of questioning what or why do I need to do something and what will it achieve.

It really comes back to managing expectations when I know what we are trying to achieve in the first place and how success is being measured.

I’ve developed a habit of asking far too many questions because I need to be clear about what I need to achieve so there’s no ambiguity and anxiety or having to say, “I thought this was what you wanted?”.

The other thing which I’m learning to get better at is saying no. It could be a new business opportunity that seems right but doesn’t have the budget to be delivered successfully. It all comes back to the quality of what I can deliver, my professional reputation and gaining the respect and trust of people working in my industry.

I’m a big believer in professional development. I completed two postgraduate degrees and got a digital marketing certification in the last few years. This has given me the ability and confidence to do some of the things I’m doing now and opened new doors.

8) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

Rising Strong by Brene Brown. She speaks about the power of vulnerability which is so important in the business world. Brene has thought me how it important it is to be brave, let myself fail, embrace fear and to be wiser from the mistakes I’ve made. That’s a pretty tall order for a perfectionist like me.

When I feel like I’m dealing with a shitty situation, I think about Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, a gift from Shirley Wong, my mentee.

There is a passage Shirley highlighted in the book:

There is no why. You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you are holding. And, dear one, you and I both were granted with a mighty generous hand.

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

Getting enough sleep so I can be the best version of myself during the day.

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

Self-care is so important. We try to work to other ideals, expectations and standards and sometimes we forget we have to put ourselves first.

Don’t skip lunch, find time to go for a walk or take a mental health day when you need one. You will come back stronger, better and more resilient. Your work mates, clients, family and friends will thank you for doing this.

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