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Balancing the Grind with Simon Davies, Founder & CEO of Bastion Brands

Simon Davies is the Founder & CEO of Bastion Brands, an award-winning creative agency he founded in 2012 specialising in health advertising and medical marketing.

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

I’m the founder and CEO of Bastion Brands, an award-winning creative agency that I started in 2012 specialising in health advertising and medical marketing where ‘science and emotion collide’.

We now have offices in both Melbourne and Sydney, with clients ranging from consumer healthcare to multinational pharmaceutical companies, and during covid our team has grown about 30%.

I’ve been in the marketing and advertising industry for about 20 years. I started in the typical way most people start – working in various well-known agencies across different industries building up my experience and skills until I decided to start my own business. 

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

I’m based in Melbourne, so thanks to lockdown my routine has turned my ‘typical day’ into a whole series of Zoom meetings which occasionally feature one or all three of my young daughters!

Pre-COVID I was travelling interstate most weeks to meet with key stakeholders or clients but now that’s all done virtually. It’s been a huge, but welcome shift in my routine.

I don’t think any chief executive has a typical day, but essentially my focus is on strategy and the business, including acquiring new business, developing client relationships, and working with the team, so a day is usually made up of different elements in those areas.

I’m far more focused on the advertising and client side of the business because that’s where my experience comes from, whereas I have team members who specialise in the health and medical areas.

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

Prior to COVID I had a very predictable routine that saw me travelling interstate most weeks for work, and if you had suggested this could be cut back and replaced with video conferencing I would have laughed and politely said, no.

But going from travelling a couple of days a week to being fully remote and working from home has been a surprisingly good shift for me, to be honest, because it fits into my life and our business has actually grown considerably during this time. I can log on and do my work, and I can also spend time with my three young daughters which is very important to me.

Heading up a business makes it challenging to switch off because I’m at home in an environment where my family is accessible to me, I am spending more time with them and loving it. many of the changes I have made to how I work and live during covid are likely to stay. 

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

Work-life balance to me is the ability to keep fit and healthy, achieve the goals of the business and spend time with my young family. If any of those parts are out of balance, I really feel the struggle, physically, mentally and emotionally.

There’s no real secret to achieving this, it’s just plain old-fashioned discipline. Being disciplined means making, not finding, time to do the things that matter, like exercise and spending time with the kids. I try to exercise every day; it doesn’t have to be strenuous, but I will at least go for a walk or do some weights or something like that.

I receive work calls at all times of the day, but once the workday is done it’s important that I turn my phone off so I can focus on family. That’s something I’ve really focused on becoming a habit over the past 12 months.

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

One of the biggest things I’ve started is a regular practice of transcendental meditation. It’s a form of meditation that you do 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening, to achieve a restful mind.

I pretty much do that every day and it has really helped me focus and be in the moment more. Since I’ve been practising, I believe I’ve been more successful in everything I do. 

I also think this ties into my practice of turning off the phone to focus on family. If your attention is divided halfway between work and family, you’re not committing quality time to either and I’d rather be 100% present in whatever I’m doing.

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

Favourite books, I can’t go past a good biography or memoir, particularly if it’s a business biography. People like Richard Branson and Elon Musk interest me. A particular favourite is Principles by Ray Dalio, a famous hedge fund manager in the US.

As for podcasts, I really like listening to Scott Galloway, who is a professor of marketing and New York University Stern School of Business. He has a podcast called Pivot. 

Newsletters. Call me old school, but I love reading the Australian Financial Review every day.

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

Just the iPhone I think! It’s my main gadget and I can’t imagine how I’d function without it.

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

Obama. He did it. He was US President and had kids in the White House and that would’ve been very difficult even though he obviously had help.

People always want to interview him about his presidency, decisions he’s made, opinions he has on particular issues, but no one has ever really asked him what it was like to be both a president and a whole other person outside of that role, and how he managed that.

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

Achieving work-life balance is straightforward, but it is difficult: you just have to be really disciplined with your time and be in the moment of what you’re doing. When you focus on your work, focus on your work; when you focus on your family, focus on your family – make sure each receives the quality of your attention. I’ve started meditation, which has helped, but I still find it a challenge. 

Don’t forget to cut time out of the day to look after yourself, because if you’re not healthy, then you’re going to struggle all over.

And finally, don’t waste your time on social media if you’re not seeing a benefit. These channels are pitched to us as online community building, but they can often get in the way of other things you’re trying to do or distract you from the relationships you should be trying to build. Understand what the role of social media is in your life and put a fence around it so it doesn’t escape where it’s not needed or wanted.

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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.