Drew Sterrett is the co-founder and CEO of LEX, an early-stage startup focused on building a commercial real estate securities marketplace.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
My background is colorful. I began my career in real estate at Tungsten Partners, a real estate private equity firm, where I sourced, evaluated, structured, and facilitated real estate investments.
Prior to that, I worked on Capitol Hill as a Congressional Intern. During those years I was also Co-Owner of a company called Bluegrass Belts, a lifestyle apparel company sold in 2018.
Today, my current role is as the Co-Founder and CEO of LEX. As with any early-stage startup, that includes working on just about every part of our business, day and night.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
A day in the life includes one certainty: a jam-packed calendar where I live and die by my schedule. The workday typically starts with an important ritual around 5:30 am: email and coffee, my first of the day.
From there, a quick workout to get energized leads to the official start to my workday around 7:30 am. I’m goal-oriented so any day starts with planning goals. Those could be daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly goals that we’re working towards as we grow the company or I’m pursuing personally.
As a company we kick each day off with a standing all-hands which is the first in a whirlwind of meetings, both internal and external, primarily relegated to Zoom these days.
I have had the privilege of a few socially distanced in person meetings as well. With so much exciting growth at LEX, my day rarely ends by 7 pm and there are often days where it ends after midnight.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
As a founder, I’m typically on the move. COVID-19 has changed that dynamic, naturally, and our team is currently working remotely. In-person meetings have slowed down.
To keep the momentum of our business and my focus strong, I’ve designed structure and routine into my daily workflow. I know that my best output comes from having a structured work environment so I work hard to keep that in place and optimize my work.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Work-life balance, a constant struggle for an early-stage founder. To me, work-life balance means having the ability to balance the demands of life enough to enjoy every moment of the day.
I make a dedicated effort to separate my work and personal life. To be my best, I need to give my body and mind a chance to reset and enjoy the little things in life.
The most effective method I’ve used is to get outside, exercise, play sports, and take some time off on the weekends to disconnect from electronics.
We’re constantly attached to our computers and cell phone, dedicated time away from both of them has helped me stay sane and take much needed time for myself.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I’ve created a regimen around two critically important habits: sleep and reading. This year I started keeping to a sleep schedule and ritualized the practice of maximizing my sleep.
This allows me to wake up feeling recharged and ready for productive early morning exercise before the day really gets going.
I’m also strict about daily reading and commit to doing so with a hard copy of a book. I find there is a real difference between the tangible act of reading for fun and education on actual paper versus the screen.
6) Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Absolutely! For newsletters, I am a big fan of Matt Levine’s Money Stuff.
I have a daily ritual where I read Axios Pro Rata, Morning Brew, The GZERO Newsletter, Signal by the Eurasia Group, Pitchbook News’ The Daily Pitch, and Bloomberg Prognosis. These provide me with a daily download of news.
A few of my favorite books, which I have re-read often since I was young, are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s, Sherlock Holmes.
The last book I read was the Pulitzer Prize winning Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in monetary policy and history. Before that, Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I generally try to alternate between fiction and non-fiction.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Ever since we started working from home long-term I’ve found the Headspace app to be a great way to take a couple of minutes to center myself before and after a long day. The Peloton app helps motivate me through home workouts.
I used to use my commute to work to listen to Audible which helped mark the beginning and end of the days (even though I would often still be taking calls and sending emails late into the night) but I’ve found that exercise and meditation are necessary to keep from losing myself entirely to work. These rituals have helped me prevent burnout.
Also, a second monitor and a clean desk space is never a bad idea.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I think a lot of famous founders like to write books or give advice as to how they maintain a work-life balance after they are already at the top of their industry.
I’d love to read more about how they managed to maintain that work-life balance when they were still in the startup grind doing the jobs of five people at once.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Our CTO used to run triathlons and now aims to finish in the top 1% on the Peloton leaderboards. Over the summer our COO aimed to spend at least one day in Central Park per week reading a book, even if it was just for a couple of hours.
There is no “one size fits all” approach to work-life balance, especially right now, but my advice is to find ways to center yourself and make sure that you don’t lose it, especially in these crazy times.
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