Business Advice, Startup Advice

How these 15 Australian business leaders plan to spend their holidays

Emma Koehn /

Business is important, but nobody can deny that working nonstop without making time for rest and time with loved ones is a sure-fire way to approach burnout, potentially at the expense of your business.

For business founders and leaders across the country, the last weeks of the year will see them balancing operations while also working out how to fit in time to unwind, reflect, and have some fun.

So what are their plans for the festive break? Here are some of them.

Paul Napthali | Co-founder of VC firm, Rampersand

“I have a wonderful wife, who also works like crazy, and three young kids, so quality time together is precious. I’m also a big believer in down-time, as that’s often when the big ideas turn up. So choosing what we do over the end of the year is always an important and fun decision. This year we’re going skiing in Canada, and then to LA for the theme parks and some family time.”

Emma Isaacs | Founder, Business Chicks

“I’ve never really seen a delineation between work and living — it’s all the same to me. As the founder of a business, ‘work’ never escapes me. Ideas come to me when I’m changing the baby’s nappy, when I’m in the shower, when I’m driving, and even in the throes of trying to be completely present, it’s not like these thoughts stop.

“In terms of the end of year we will be, as a family, taking some time off and heading to Mexico, but my laptop and notebook are never far away. In the US our kids only get two weeks off school and businesses don’t shut down like back home so for me, it’ll pretty much be business as usual.” 

Naomi Simson | Founding director, RedBalloon

Naomi Simson

“This is a crazy busy time in retail (and online is no different) … The great thing of course about RedBalloon is that people will continue to give our vouchers right up until 2:00pm on Christmas day.
“And that is when I stop too. No longer checking scoreboards, and ratios, I will gather around the table with my family, pop a cracker, and put on a silly hat … everything forgotten. My family laugh as they see me quietly take to the couch to have a nap about 4:00pm.

“I’m taking January to reset, recharge and refocus. We are back in
Shark Tank in the new year and so I have no doubt that the new year will be as frenetic as this one, but I guess if I was not busy, I would be worried. Over the summer I will read the new Peter Carey book and some other fiction, play games, paint, cook and swim … do yoga and be healthy. The phone and laptop will be hidden.”

Jarryd Burns | Co-founder, Thankyou Group

“I oversee the supply chain team, so the end of year is always a busy time. We balance supplier shut down periods over Christmas paired with peak trading season for our customers, so it can be tough! I’m a planner, so I work with the team to get everything in place early to ease the pressure on November and December.

“I’m a big believer in getting enough rest and maintaining a work/life balance, so I try to take a couple of weeks off to recharge at the end of the year. There will always be important work to do but we have an amazing team that supports each other and keeps projects moving while we all take a break.”

Jen Geale | Co-founder, Mountain Bikes Direct

“We’ve been working hard this year to set up the business so it doesn’t ever require ‘all hands on deck’ — that means that even in the last few crazy pre-Christmas weeks, a few of us have been able to take a break, while others will be relaxing with family during Christmas and New Year.

“We’ve got some of our overseas-based leadership team moving back to Australia in December as well so we’re looking forward to some face-to-face strategic planning early in the new year, ready to launch into a really exciting 2018!”

Mike Pritchett | Chief executive, Shootsta

I believe as entrepreneurs, winding down is one of the most important things we can do. I sprint as hard as I can, then take a break, then sprint again. 

“Headspace is the key to great ideas, and my best ideas have come to me while sitting on a beach, or camping or on a long drive. Without taking time out, we get too caught up in the minutia. With all that said, this will be the first Christmas in a long time that I won’t be going away somewhere for a holiday, simply because we only just moved the family to Singapore in October and in January, we move to the UK.
“We will take two weeks in January to drive up to Scotland and enjoy the UK. The joy of January in our industry is that most marketing managers take January off, which is a great opportunity for us to take some family time and to re-group with the team for some great team retreat planning sessions.”

Cyan Ta’eed | Co-founder, Envato

Envato co-founder Cyan Ta'eed.

I’m launching a new startup, Hey Tiger, in February so it’s a really busy time leading up to launch. We’ve got a key photoshoot, some heavy logistics work, and lots of production to get done in early January so it’s intense.

“Because I have small kids and a husband who will be free for the holiday period I’m going away over Christmas, and I’m not quite sure how I’m going to manage it! On one hand I know a break will energise me to focus and execute in the new year, but putting everything on hold and switching off will be challenging. But that’s the reality of startups with kids in the fray — you need to learn how to get it done without a singular focus and 24/7 obsession with your startup. I’ll be closing my laptop over the holidays with the knowledge this is my time to relax and recharge, and after that it’s all guns blazing in January!”

Nick Molnar | Chief executive, Afterpay

“This is the busiest retail shopping period of the year with Christmas, Boxing Day sales and Back to School. Strategically our team is great at planning ahead and we are looking forward for 2018 to be an even bigger year. That said, a good quality break is vital to recharge the batteries, especially for our team who have worked so hard all year.

“While I do take a breather, my mind is constantly working on ideas and my finger is always on the pulse — but I always try to take time to clear my mind to re-focus.” 

Emma Lo Russo | Chief executive, Digivizer

“This year is interesting for Digivizer as we expanded our team into Asia earlier in the quarter across 13 countries. Each has its own festival and holiday periods, so the Asia team is  pretty much  “live” for the duration. We choose to end our year with a 1.5-day hackathon where the team can focus on anything that helps our customers make better decisions around their digital investment.

“The hackathon always finishes the year on a creative high. The team also get to vote on our priority objectives and key results for the coming quarter. We officially close down the Sydney office for two weeks to provide everyone with a proper break, to enjoy their time in the sun with their families and friends …

“For me personally as CEO, I use this time to reflect on the progress and lessons of the year past, to relax and re-energise and to think and plan for the coming year. I try to balance the break between re-energising and connecting with family, as well as giving myself the space to think about the key plays and strategies needed to ensure our success in the new year.” 

David Stewart | Director, Insite Logic

“I will be taking a good break and spend some quality time with the family but will be accessible to my team and customers if need be. One of the beneficial advantages of running a technology business is that while you wind down, your business does not have to.

“If your platform is an automated one, you’ll be able to deliver your services while you sleep. Being closed over the Christmas period should not mean stopping selling opportunities and ongoing incoming cash flow, especially in this day and age of technology. Having the correct prospect nurturing software linked to your website will also provide an active and positive start to your business when you are back from your break, refreshed and ready to go.”

Elaine Stead | Head of venture capital, Blue Sky Alternative Investments

“This year, the end-of-year period will be the first time in five years we haven’t had a transaction to close before Christmas or December 31, so I am taking some time off over the break!
“I’ll be driving from Brisbane to Adelaide with my pooches and hanging with family and friends across the Adelaide hills and beaches. There will always be some work to do over that period but the portfolio is in pretty good shape, so hopefully it will be minimal. Taking the time to disconnect when possible and spending time with loved ones is pretty important to me now that I’m older and supposedly wiser.”

Creel Price | Co-founder, Investible

“Amid family time and an adventure-packed holiday (the best way to leave the office behind), is my annual goal setting ritual.

“On New Year’s day when most of my compatriots are hungover I set off on a solo hike for three days and climb to the top of a mountain to set my goals for the year ahead. Being out in the bush and getting some elevation helps me to get clear on what I want to achieve across six aspects of my life: career, health and fitness, friends and family, spiritual, financial and adventure.”

Gary Elphick | Chief executive, Disrupt Sports

“The end of the year is a chance for the team to take moment an catch our breath. Review what has happened over the year, celebrate some of the wins, reflect and appreciate each other for all the hard work … 

“We like to take some time to speak to customers the week before Christmas and find out their big business problems for the year ahead, as well as what our areas for improvement are. I then spend some time with our COO resetting our strategy for the year ahead before the annual ‘lets do this’ meeting on the first week of January.

“It’s then phones off for the whole team, go catch some waves, enjoy the wind and do what you need to switch off.”

Kate Morris | Founder, Adore Beauty

“Every year we improve our planning for the end-of-year period, so every year it’s a little less chaotic! This year has gone very smoothly, thanks to the great work from my team, so I’m hoping to have a laptop-free break between Christmas and New Year. The warehouse will still be shipping orders for our Boxing Day sale, but we have a great operations team now that has everything under control.

“I’ll be spending the last week of the year in Tasmania with my extended family, so will be enjoying the ‘peace and quiet’ of lots of sugar-fuelled children!”

Luke Anear | Founder and chief executive, SafetyCulture

Luke Anear, SafetyCulture

“We really want to celebrate what has been our biggest year yet so we have a range of fun activities on for our team. Along with the standard Christmas party, we have a family Christmas celebration where those employees with kids are encouraged to bring them into the office for a fun afternoon of arts and crafts.

“While celebrating our wins is an important part of SafetyCulture’s culture, we have our key goal — making sure every worker makes it home safely to his or her family every night — at the forefront of our minds. So while we will close down the office for a few days over Christmas to recharge, we have already got our Q1 plans ready to roll out the day we get back so that we can ensure 2018 is our most impactful year yet.” 

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is SmartCompany's senior journalist.

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