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Balancing the Grind with Matt Lee, Founder & CEO of OACIS

Matt Lee is the founder & CEO of OACIS, a company providing off-airport check-in and bag transfer using innovative technology and logistics support.

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

I have spent my whole career in the aviation sector working for a number of different airlines here in Australia and overseas. I spent 10 years in Malaysia and the UK before returning to Australia in 2009 when I joined Qantas.

At Qantas I was the COO of the Domestic Airline during a period which saw a large number of crises (Cyclone Yasi, Volcanic Ash, QF32 A380 event and the Industrial action that saw Qantas ground its fleet).

After leaving Qantas I spent a couple of years consulting before founding my startup business, OACIS, along with some industry colleagues. I am currently the CEO of OACIS and we specialise in providing off airport check-in and bag drop services for airline passengers.

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

As a founder and the CEO of a startup, my days are constantly changing.

In the early days of the business I was getting up at 4.30am and driving a truck to Circular Quay to set up our check-in operation at the Overseas Passenger Terminal for cruise guests disembarking from their cruise. These days we have a team who perform the operational roles, although I still like to work “on the tools” when I can.

Given the situation with COVID-19 and the closure of international and state borders there is very little work for our team given the small number of flights and air travellers.

A typical day at the moment is spent engaged in video calls with various parties such as our key suppliers and customers (airlines and airports), managing our finances to protect our cash reserves, and business development activity.

We have some exciting growth planned in the Middle East and Europe and are working with partners in these territories to grow our brand and service offering. Given the time differences my day tends to span the start of business here in Australia and extend to the European work day.

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

Absolutely, we have always embraced flexible working at OACIS and encourage our team to work from home, a cafe, a park or wherever they would like.

The operational side of the business is limited to working where our customers require (e.g. cruise ship terminal, hotel, convention centre, school, etc.) but the non-operational team have full flexibility.

Having worked in corporate roles my entire career up until this role I found it strange initially working remotely. I think you get caught up in the rhythm and culture of big corporates where time in the office is rated more highly than working from home.

Thankfully, this is changing and the advent of COVID-19 has shown organisations that their people can be trusted and will be productive when not in the office.

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

I have five children so work-life balance for me is ensuring I have time to spend with my wife and children.

Whilst working in a startup means long days and constantly being switched on, the flexibility that I have now means that I can balance this with time with my family. I’m able to share the school drop off and pick up with my wife and cover the days when she works. I can get to my kids sports training during the week.

My corporate roles didn’t afford me this flexibility or, more to the point, it wasn’t the norm to have that flexibility. I’m getting to spend more time with my family and seeing my kids grow up in a way that I would never have before.

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

I try to make some time for myself each week where I can take a break from everything. I enjoy fishing and woodworking and try to get time on the water or to have a woodwork project on the go. The complete change from everything else helps me to switch off and re-focus and lose myself for a couple of hours.

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

I am an active Diversity and Inclusion advocate and a huge fan of Juliet Bourke, from Deloitte. I like to read her work and D&I information generally.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

I really rely on my iPhone and MacBook as my “tools of trade”. I can be online anywhere and be able to respond to emails, work on presentations, capture ideas/thoughts and research new opportunities. I love that I can do this from a cafe over breakfast, on the train, from my (parked) car, etc.

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

I’ve seen a few things by Barack Obama about how he always made time to have dinner with his family each night despite having to return to the office afterwards. I really admire him and just can’t imagine the pressure and workload on world leaders.

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

The CEO of Zappos (an American online retailer) uses the term work-life integration rather than balance. I like this term because “balance” suggests more of a binary relationship whereas “integration” suggests an analog relationship.

I don’t think you can totally compartmentalise work and life and I think if you try it will negatively impact your mental health. I think that understanding that we bring “work” home and “life” to work and owning that fact makes us more authentic and better able to lead others through empathy.

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About Author

Balance The Grind gives me a platform to talk to these people about how they're achieving their ideal lifestyle. I'm inspired by the passion, the work ethic, the hustle; and these conversations motivate me to live life the way I want to live it.