Wendy Bezzina is a CEO, keynote speaker, and advocate, leading Latrobe Valley Enterprises, a not-for-profit providing meaningful employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I currently head up Latrobe Valley Enterprises in Gippsland Victoria, we’ve been in business for 54 years and we provide meaningful employment for people with disabilities.
I’ve held a number of senior roles in health over the years, and working in environments where my job is about caring for others is where I gain the most job satisfaction. I love to be able to have an impact in other people’s lives.
I have constantly juggled over the years between family, degree, my own retail boutique and my full-time job. While CEO at LVE, I have just commenced another degree – my MBA, and over the next few years I hope to encourage other companies to employ people with disabilities so they can experience my daily happiness.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I’m a mum of 1 daughter, who is a swimmer, and my day generally starts out getting her to gym or swimming, which pre-covid was a 4:45am start but currently is a more conventional 6am start until pools reopen.
My working day follows soon after and I’m fortunate enough to arrive to work with my team of supported workers waving at me as they see my car approach.
This not only overflows my cup of gratitude, but gives me the drive every day to keep growing our organisation so we can continue to provide employment opportunities for our 90 employees with disabilities but also look to employ even more from our community.
My job is challenging and rewarding and no 2-days are ever the same, from business development to strategy to operations to speaking at events, we work to raise our profile and help our employees thrive and shine.
After my work day ends my daughter and I spend time together exercising – I look forward to this each day. Then it’s spending time with my amazing husband, he makes me laugh every day.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
It does, however with the type of business we run – manufacturing, recycling, facilities and grounds maintenance – we can’t run those services from home, so the workforce has not been able to work remotely so I’ve remained on-site to support the teams during these challenging times.
I enjoy going to the office though as it enables me to block that time as work-time and then leave each day at 4:30pm to go enjoy sunshine and family time. But I, and I encourage my team, to let life into their work if they need to. If they need to come in late, go home early or go and get their haircut, I let them – I hate being a clock-watcher and my motto is “family first”.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Work-life balance for me means time to do what I enjoy, time to spend with my family and time for myself.
I’ve had to work hard to gain a work-life balance this year, the growth of our organisation and the increased high-intensity demands of COVID meant a lot of extra time was required just to get through every day and ensure that everyone was feeling informed, safe and that their jobs would be secure.
Working with people with disabilities, there was extra communication required to help them feel okay about what was going on around them. Once we had all our plans in place, I set about structuring my time.
For a month I tracked my daily activities to see where I was spending my time focusing and then looking at what I could let go of and delegate, to then focus on what I needed to in a day to ensure I was leaving work on time.
I ensure I have time in my working week for self-development which could be a Business Chicks online session, podcast or CEO Institute webinar, or even time with my business coach, as well as time to work on the business, connect to my network and walk around the business and see what’s happening on the ground.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
In my early months in my role, I would often stay back after work – to get work done when others had gone home and the office was quiet. But planning each day to stay back meant I would put things aside, thinking “I’ll do that when everyone’s gone”, needing clear thinking time to complete the task.
But by restructuring my workload, delegating and planning for a better use of time each day, I’ve now changed this habit and now I leave the office every day at the same time as everyone else – and while it’s still daylight – I love that !
I’m competitive, so I often set myself a timer for 45 minutes, and see what I can complete, then I what you want for 10 minutes, then set 45 minutes again – try it, you’ll be amazed as you break your day down into small chunks how much more you’ll achieve in a day.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Favourite book: Useful Belief by Chris Helder.
As a pragmatic person who is far more likely to give you a reality straight talk than a positive pep-talk, I love how Chris reflects on how ‘useful’ gives you the strategy to pick yourself up, get out of your hole or bad year and move from ground-zero to one, then from one to three.
He teaches practical tools that give you the power and strategy to cope with your reality. In a year that has given us fires, floods and COVID, helping myself, my family and my teams to frame our challenges to make them conquerable and how to plan and focus forward without getting too overwhelmed by what I ‘can’t’ do and more focussed on what I ‘can’.
In podcasts, I listen to Jamila Rizvi and Mark Bouris – Mark is a straight talker (love someone who calls it as it is) and Jamila just amazes me how well-spoken, compassionate and knowledgeable she is could listen to her on any topic!
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Products: my Ecoya Guava & Lychee Sorbet hand sanitiser – it’s an absolute necessity in our current climate and it smells amazing – this product will remain in my life long after COVID subsides.
And also my iWatch – it keeps me on track with my activity, tracking exercise, heart rate, reminds me to drink water, get up off my chair and to breathe, it plays my favourite music when I’m working out and it also helps me stay connected with my team through the Teams app.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Michelle Obama – she’s dealt with a massive public life, constantly having to be ‘available’, always being in the limelight, bearing the weight of previously being First Lady. Yet she effortlessly demonstrates a very relaxed, down-to-earth persona that always makes time for her family, her self-care, meetings, public speaking and promoting health and well-being to others.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Don’t allow yourself to be influenced by other people’s expectations or let email or devices demand your time.
Schedule your days and your time according to what works for you. If you wish you had time to exercise or read a book – schedule it into your day, set a time, even light a fragrant candle so you cement the memory of how enjoyable it is to enjoy your favourite things.
Never have your phone (or iWatch) in your room, leave it in another room when you go to bed – remember, you’re going to bed to sleep. And if you’re using the excuse that your phone is your alarm, seriously – get an alarm clock and stop making excuses.
And always reflect on what you’re grateful for, I actually have cut out letters on my wall in my office that say “Today I am grateful for ….” It’s easy to get caught up in negative things but every day find the shining lights in your life.
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