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A Day in the Life: Snowball Effect's Simeon Burnett

Simeon Burnett is the CEO and co-founder of crowdfunding platform Snowball Effect. Here’s how he manages his time. 

What time do you wake up?

I’m normally awake by 5am on school days, and try and sleep in for a bit longer during the weekends, maybe 6:30am.

What’s the ideal way to start your day?

Good coffee!

Do you have any morning rituals?

Yes, I have a number of rituals actually. After getting dressed, I normally take 5-10 minutes to consider the day ahead, pray, and write down anything I’m stressed about. Before leaving for work, my wife and I always make sure we have time to stop whatever it is we’re doing and chat about the day ahead, or anything else we want to talk about. Once I’m at work, I make sure I have noted the key things I want to get done that day before doing anything else.

How soon do you begin doing work-related things, i.e. checking phone or emails?

I used to have a horrible habit of checking my phone and emails as soon as I woke up. However, now I don’t look at emails until I’ve been at work for about 20 or 30 minutes. I find that emails distract you from focusing on the valuable things that actually make a difference to your business, and clutter your mind with stuff that isn’t important. The longer you can stay away from them, the better!

What’s your media consumption or interaction like from the morning onwards – do you listen to podcasts, radio, watch videos, read books and magazines, visit new sites?

I listen to podcasts or music when I’m driving – I prefer that compared to listening to the radio. During the day I’ll have a quick browse at general online media, but it has gotten so click-baity, I find it’s mostly a waste of time. I read The Hustle on a daily basis and flick through the AFR when I can.

What kind of work do you do?

I am the CEO and one of the co-founders of Snowball Effect. Through our online marketplace, investors can invest directly into young, growing Kiwi businesses. We’re a team of seven – that keeps me pretty busy.

What responsibility does that involve in a typical day? What takes up most of your time?

I’m not sure I have a typical day, but in general, most of my time is spent building relationships with companies, advisors and investors within the NZ market. I also spend a fair amount of time in the office working with the rest of the team to help move the key projects we’re working on forward, or the companies we’re engaged with raise the capital they’re after.

Who do you see/talk to?

As mentioned before, my day is usually spent with the business owners, advisors and investors that Snowball Effect work closely with, and also in the wider New Zealand market.

Where do your best ideas come from?

I normally find my best ideas come when I’m not at work, but in an ‘out of work' headspace, like at the gym or when I’m at the beach. Often when I’m on holiday, I’ll come up with my most creative ideas.

I don’t really get stressed too often. But when I do, my strategy is to write down the things I can do to solve whatever problem it is I’m facing. Sometimes those actions aren’t immediately clear, so I’ll step away mentally by going for a walk or doing some exercise, and then come back to see if I can determine my plan of action with a fresh mind.

What are the most important tools or programmes you use for your work?

We use Trello for our weekly task management. We’re also a bit old school – with a whiteboard that is our ‘guiding star’ when it comes to our important objectives for the month. We find having something visual that isn’t another tab on your browser works really well. We’ve also built our own CRM that we file our key business information into, such as companies we’ve been talking to or investors we’ve spoken with.

How do you juggle all your responsibilities?

When it comes to work, I think the key is to identify what things will actually move the needle. Focus on those. I try and stay disciplined and only have a couple of windows a day where I get sucked into emails -– I find I can get on a roll and get through them quite quickly rather than when I’m dropping in and out. Sometimes the inbox seems unavoidable, particularly if you’re the one generating the emails, but I try!  

Do you use social media?

On occasion. I try and stay away from Facebook – it’s just so cluttered with meaningless content. I find Facebook Messenger to be the most useful function. I will flick through Instagram once or twice a day.

What kind of breaks do you take throughout the day?

I try and get outside for a quick walk three or four times a day, even if it is just to check that I haven’t got a parking ticket! I’ve always found that going for a walk helps my mind solve problems that I’m struggling with sitting at my desk.

What’s the most enjoyable part of your day?

I like getting into the office by 6:30am and having an hour or so by myself before everyone else starts arriving. I know if I can get some important tasks done first, it sets me up well for the rest of the day.

What about the least enjoyable?

Probably around 3pm. That’s when I tend to flatline and my productivity drops. If that happens, I try and go for a walk or do something away from the office for 20 minutes or so. That helps me recharge my batteries.

Do you procrastinate? Is it good or bad?

I think it’s more of a case of prioritisation than procrastination. For example, I need to get better at prioritising things that need to be done around the home over work related tasks.

Do you measure your accomplishments or productivity? If so, how?

As a team, we review our weekly and monthly performance against the objectives that we set out. Did we do what we said we were going to do? It’s always easy to find excuses for things not getting done, but life will always be full of unexpected events and distractions! Personally, I like to write my ‘to do’s’ down in my diary. There is something satisfying about getting a pen and crossing them off!

Is there anything you think is unique about your day?

No one else is doing what I’m doing, so I think that’s pretty unique!

What’s your interaction with friends and family throughout the day? Can you be both a successful entrepreneur and a good mother/father/husband/wife?

Yes, I think you can be. It’s about what you choose to prioritise. You can’t expect to be able to do all the things you’d love to do in life right now. It’s a matter of picking the ones that are most important to you and doing a great job of them, while realising you’ve chosen not to focus on the others. Then it’s a matter of being disciplined about it.

Do you get stressed? If so, how do you manage it? Do you practice any mindfulness or meditation?

I don’t really get stressed too often. But when I do, my strategy is to write down the things I can do to solve whatever problem it is I’m facing. Sometimes those actions aren’t immediately clear, so I’ll step away mentally by going for a walk or doing some exercise, and then come back to see if I can determine my plan of action with a fresh mind. Sometimes I find it’s also useful to talk the situation through with someone who’s not directly involved. Talking through whatever is causing me stress aloud allows me to get clarity on what to do next. As it’s often said, stress is a wasted emotion.

Do you exercise? If so, what do you do?

I try and get to the gym or do some form of exercise most days. Generally, I’ll head there at about 6:30pm. It allows me to switch my mind off for a bit before I head home for the evening.

What do you do once you get home? Can you switch off?

If I’ve exercised before-hand I can. If not, it can be a bit of a struggle!

What time do you go to sleep?

I like to have the light out by 11pm usually, but sometimes I won’t get to bed until 11:30pm or so.

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