Six weeks into her new role at the helm of Rip Curl, first-time CEO and former competitive surfer Brooke Farris tracks a day of living and working in the Victorian coastal town where the brand launched in 1969.
05:38 Wake up and take the dog to meet some girlfriends for a walk along the cliffs of the Great Ocean Road. We get takeaway coffees from Swell in Jan Juc and sit on the Bird Rock headland to watch the sunrise. I order almond chai because I don’t want to get addicted to having coffee daily.
07:15 There’s time for a house tidy and the ABC news. I make a smoothie, feed my cavoodle, Western, and review and send emails I wrote last night. I check The Australian Financial Review and industry site Shop- Eat-Surf and scroll on Instagram to see what customers are talking about, what’s new in surfing and what our athletes are up to.
08:20 The drive to Rip Curl’s global head office in Torquay takes three-and-a-half minutes – one song. Having head office in a regional town brings a sense of community to work; we retain employees for 10-plus years. That will be challenged by businesses around the country moving to flexible work but it will also widen our net for new hires.
08:30 I keep the first hour free to clear emails then list what I must do today. I want to get better at limiting the number of items but I address what’s most important first.
09:30 Fortnightly video catch-up with our North American president, Dylan Slater, in California. The US is a focus – we know its potential for growth. One pain point we discuss is the demand for wetsuits. The global supply chain is challenged but owning our wetsuit factory gives us a head start.
10:30 Join an investor call with Morgan Stanley. Six weeks into the role of CEO, I’m listening, exposing myself to parts of the business wasn’t previously involved with. I’m getting myself up to speed on what’s expected and preparing for strategy sessions.
11:30 Face time is a priority; four of my first six weeks as CEO were government-mandated work-from-home. I want the crew to hear that they’re appreciated, that it’s their commitment that got us through 18 months of working remotely and that I also found it hard – to share those vulnerabilities. I visit customer service to say hi, meet new faces and find out how things are going or if there’s anything to address. I listen and take notes but also remind myself to slow down. I don’t have to do it all now because I’m hearing it now. The first 100 days is the time to absorb new information then respond as time goes on.
11:50 I go to the watch service centre then our wetsuit warranty area. Through lockdowns, because people had the time, we saw an incredible uplift in returns. Currently the service centre is in our warehouse and customer service is in the front-of-house office. We’re bringing those together.
12:45 I used to never take a break. Then I got a dog. I drive home, make lunch and sit on the back step, without looking at my phone, to take some deep breaths and get the sun on my forehead. Even a 15-minute reset makes me as good a person in the afternoon as I was in the morning.
13:30 Because he’s inherited the women’s product team from me, I catch up with our general manager of product, Nichol Wylie, to work through transition of tasks. A positive in someone from the executive team moving into the CEO role is there’s trust and mutual respect. I’m also being sensitive to the new dynamic of leading former peers. It’s about being patient with the time it takes to find the natural groove between us as individuals but also about honest and open communication if I hit roadblocks or detect a difference in the relationship. I address that and say: “It’s still me. You know I’m on the same mission.”
15:00 A meeting on a new women’s logo. It sounds simple but it’s a big project. We’re working to be more unified across genders.
16:00 What protected us during COVID-19 was the ability to have product in 3000-plus doorways around the world. The monthly wholesale meeting is big, scheduled for two hours. But when there’s nothing further to address, you thank everyone and enjoy the white space. I definitely need to start scheduling 50-minute meetings so there’s 10 minutes to write notes, actions and follow-ups ahead of the next meeting. The 2-3PM video meeting, the 3-4, the 4-5: we all do it. But it’s impossible.
17:00 Normally I block out the end of the day for urgent meetings. Otherwise I use it to respond to emails so I’m not distracted by them in the day. You can easily become reactive and not be present in meetings.
18:00 Head home and walk that lucky dog. No phone, no headphones – just time and space. Other days, I’ll tap into a podcast: Masters of Scale, Mamamia’s No Filter, Ladies First or, if I’m feeling health inclined, Goop, to push and prod myself out of the usual routine. But during daylight savings, I surf. As a teen, it was all about competition and a way to travel the world with friends. Now it’s about physical activity and a mental reset. Nothing beats time in the ocean.
18:30 I always put on The Project and order a meal from the local, My Beach Kitchen, or plant-based service Soulara. I like cooking but I’d rather use that time on a presentation or other work, to get a clear weekend.
10:30 Committing to the morning walk makes me go to bed. If I’m anxious – and I’m happy to say that because sometimes there’s a lot happening – I’ll use a meditation app. But I’m learning that if I put space in my day, I get to a much better place at bedtime. I feel prepared for the day ahead.
In your face
When Stanford University researchers surveyed more than 10,300 people about video-conferencing, using their Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue (ZEF) scale, one in seven women reported feeling “very” or “extremely” fatigued after video meetings, compared to one in 20 men. People who identified as white suffered less than those in all other racial categories, plus fatigue decreased with age.
“Zoom fatigue can’t only be solved by employees. It requires leadership to reset norms,” says Jeff Hancock, founding director of the Stanford Social Media Lab. “That takes the burden off those who suffer Zoom fatigue disproportionately, especially women and people of colour.”
He and Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab, are currently exploring how Zoom options influence perception. “Consider small details: where the camera is placed relative to the head, using a virtual background or the ‘touch-up’ function,” says Bailenson. “We are studying how others form impressions of you, based on how you look in the Zoom grid.”