June 25, 2015

24 Hours with Simon Hill

Simon Hill is the Co-founder, Director and Investor in a diverse range of e-commerce businesses. He believes in promoting a less stressful work environment by giving his employees more control over how many hours they work and from where.

Simon Hill is the Co-founder, Director and/or Investor in a diverse range of e-commerce businesses selling products he’s developed with his business partners including supplements, coconut vodka, tea, sportswear and baked goods. His businesses collectively move over 40,000 units of product online per month, selling into over 117 countries. He shares a day in the life of running his businesses.

A digital nomad in Bali

6:00am: I spend the first hour of each workday going through emails to get an idea of where things are at across each of the businesses. I prefer to work where I travel so I’m working from a villa in Indonesia for the next couple of months. My base is in Sydney, but I didn’t set up an office – instead I work between cafes for meetings and my home office. Having an office meant more stress, a lot more mental fatigue and less enthusiasm, so once we let people work their own hours and gave back some of the control on a day-to-day basis their productivity skyrocketed.

I spend a lot of time in Asia because we have manufacturing factories in Japan, China, Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines and Hong Kong. In the past 12 months I’ve travelled through India (Mumbai, Delhi and Agra), Sri Lanka (visiting tea fields), Japan (Osaka, Kobe), Indonesia and The Philippines to see suppliers and experience these countries.

Once I’m across what I need to do for the day I’ll go exercise; sometimes I’ll head to the beach or do yoga but today it’s 18 holes of golf. Afterwards, I have breakfast at Milk & Madu, one of my favourite places in Canggu. I’m with Ben Lawry, the Product Development Manager at Your Tea, who’s also working from Indonesia at the moment and sharing the villa.


9:00am: It’s back to the villa where I check emails and make sure staff across all of the brands knows what they have to do today. I’m a Co-founder and Director for Vida Glow, Your Tea, Mr Bean Body Care; Investor and Director for 12 Health; and an Investor in Coco Vodka and Huntrlabel. They’re all online-based businesses with the exception of Coco Vodka, which is stocked in Dan Murphy’s, BWS and independent liquor stores.

My time is split across all of the businesses, every single day, but at different times one or more will take up more time. Vida Glow, a 100% natural marine collagen supplement, and Your Tea, a range of teas blended according to traditional Chinese Medicine principles, take up more of my attention because of their size. A priority is dealing with the manufacturers on quality control and product development.

1:00pm: I head out for lunch at Betelnut Café, which sells simple wholesome food. Today I spent most of lunch on a phone call with Kieran Lahey, my business partner in Vida Glow. We are mainly discussing cash flow and manufacturing logistics. I met Kieran travelling through Croatia a few years ago and we soon realised we had a lot of common business interests. With huge help from his partner Anna, who’s also a founder, we set up Vida Glow.


Working on the bigger picture

2:00pm: For the second half of the day I focus on things that will grow the business. I’m working on over 30 new products across all of my companies with many first to market products. I set up my laptop (by the pool) and work on product development, a new approach to marketing and analyse the sales figures, basically big picture stuff. Then I move onto working on plans for the launch of a water-based beverage I’m developing with a couple of others. It’s an alternative to plain water and we’re hoping to have it in the major Australian grocery retailers by spring. It’s a new business that doesn’t fall under any of the existing companies and something I’m really excited about.

I love working for myself. I studied physiotherapy at university and worked in private practice for about 18 months after I graduated but quickly realised I was better suited to working for myself and enjoyed the freedom that comes with being your own boss. It’s not the money that keeps me ticking, it’s the freedom to do what I want and to see my work, and my colleagues’ work, reach so many people worldwide. I’m also in the process of setting up a new website called the Lemonade Stand Investor, which is a vehicle to get behind more start-ups that have a focus on giving back and making a positive contribution to the world. Through our Your Tea Charitea program alone we have donated $87,993in just over a year to a whole range of amazing charities.

3:30pm: I take a break to do some yoga. I exercise every afternoon to clear my mind.


4:15pm: I check in with each of the warehouse managers to make sure deliveries are flowing smoothly. I’ve set up a third party warehouse distribution system in seven locations so whenever an order comes in it ships from the closest country within a couple of days. I use NAB to manage sales in currencies from Canada, the US, the UK, New Zealand, Europe and Australia. A big part of my afternoons is liaising with our freight logistics companies – I typically have 5-10 shipping containers in the water per month so there’s a bit of organisation required there.

I have a Skype meeting with Jaci Bailey, my business partner in 12 Health, an all-natural baking mix company. We’re working on expanding our distribution into the US and Canada so we have a lot to catch up on. Most of my meetings are on Skype. One of the challenges of not having an office means little face-to-face communication with staff so it’s really easy for people to misinterpret information on Skype, texts or emails because it’s hard to gauge the tone. In saying that we aim to hire people who are independent and can work their own hours. For example, Jess, our main customer service manager is an Australian currently living in Indonesia and she’s in Borneo this week with a National Geographic photographer who’s photographing wild endangered Orangutans in the rainforest.  It’s pretty special to be able to give someone a job and the flexibility to do these things along the way. She’s thrilled and her productivity is up as a result.

I call Rob Weir, one of my best mates who lives back in Melbourne. He’s a founder and owner of Bloke Undees, an online business selling underwear and active wear. We don’t have any vested interests in each other’s projects so it’s great to talk to someone who’s in the same space and trade information.


Winding down for the day

6:00pm: I have a quick Skype chat with my business partners in Huntrlabel who give me an update on a sports luxe active wear label. It’s in collaboration with well-known Melbourne designer Emily Highfield and her partner Adam Edwards. I’ve known them for over a decade and we’re using the global distribution I have in place to take this brand around the world. I answer a few more emails and then make a list of what needs to be done first thing tomorrow.

7:00pm: I call it a day, heading out to dinner with Hamish Buckley (Coco Vodka) and Ben at the Plantation Bar & Grill in Seminyak. I love these casual dinners because we get a chance to chat and it’s when new ideas come to the surface. I only go back to work if there’s a super-important thing that needs to get done for the US or UK time zone. I used to work late nights pretty much always, but now I focus more on getting the balance right.


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