#SeriouslySocial The Podcast
with Simone Douglas and special guest Dan Levy
This week’s guest on the Seriously Social Podcast is Dan Levy! He and Simone Chat about Dan’s love for Adelaide, Web design and chasing the elusive “work-life balance.”
Dan is the Founder and Principal of More Space For Light. More Space for Light is an Innovation and Strategy Consultancy. Their design-led approach to solving business problems helps leaders and teams overcome constraints related to strategy, product, service, or process.
Dan is also active in tertiary industry education lecturing and also speaking nationally on the subjects of Human-Centred Design, Design Thinking and Strategy.
Connect with Dan here:
Company website – https://morespaceforlight.com.au/
Future Of Now – https://morespaceforlight.com.au/morespaceforlight/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/morespaceforlight/
Check out our page for updates and teasers about upcoming episodes, links, and details about Simone’s best-selling books.
Hosted by Simone Douglas
Videography by Marie Carbone
Audio by Chris Irving
Music used in this episode is “Alte Herren” by KieLoKaz, used with permission under a Creative Commons Licence
This production is protected by a creative commons CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 licence
Welcome to the seriously social podcast with your host, Simone Douglas. Today’s guest is Dan levy from more space for light. He and Simone chat about Dan’s love for Adelaide, web design, and chasing the elusive of work life balance.
Simone Douglas 0:16
Today I’m joined by Dan levy for more space for large Dan, thanks for joining me today on the seriously social podcast.
Dan Levy 0:26
Absolute pleasure, Simone.
When you said seriously social, I was like, do I smile?
Simone Douglas 0:33
Smile, a smile is a requirement.
Dan Levy 0:34
Okay, I can do? I can do so. un-seriously social.
Simone Douglas 0:39
that seems fair? Um, can you give us a bit of a backstory about yourself and what more space for life is all about?
Dan Levy 0:47
Sure. So a backstory. So I’m not from Australia, believe it or not. I got here most probably 16-17 years ago. what’s relevant that I came here and I came here I came from a design background, I came here with a with a bag, not knowing anything of what to expect. I got here realized I fell in love with work very quickly realized I didn’t want to leave Australia. And I was really lucky or being in the right place at the right time, I ended up being able to go back into the field of design and web design and all that sorts of stuff. And slowly built up my career from there working in Sydney in big broadcasts, like Astro and Fox Sports and people like that, before moving to Adelaide. And the reason we moved to Adelaide was from love. That’s the same migration is the technical term for love.
Simone Douglas 1:53
It’s totally Yeah. You may stay permanently in Australia, you are required to live in South Australia, one of those?
Dan Levy 2:00
Well, I think it’s actually great. I love it here. So yeah, let me just say, first, when I knew we were, I’ve gone deviated from the question, but we’ll come back. When we first when we first from Sydney to Adelaide, I was a little bit worried. But it’s, it’s brilliant. It’s lovely. And so I got here work to different agencies for a while, had to go home for family circumstances. When I came back. I was going for this stage where I knew I could do more. And I knew we could do more in the industry. Yeah. And I, for a long time, I was trying to figure out what that could be. And then it was a case of working up the courage and also coming from the design background as having a business name and a logo. But you know, from a very superficial point of view, but really, it was my eldest son who was the really a catalyst behind that, because one night when I was putting him to bed, he said, Daddy, I want more space for light. And I said to mom, because I used to work.
Simone Douglas 3:19
Dan Levy 3:20
Simone Douglas 3:21
Dan Levy 3:23
I said to I said to I said to my wife, I said what does that mean? And she said, Well, he wants more time to play once more time to read. And that’s it.
Simone Douglas 3:30
Dan Levy 3:30
That’s it. I want more space for light in my life. And I want to be able to say
Simone Douglas 3:35
Dan Levy 3:36
And the business became the mantra.
Simone Douglas 3:38
Dan Levy 3:39
And i ne also took away a ceiling, it took away the application of what we were going to do. It was more about the intent and the outcome where we could help people get to and demystify all the BS that goes around helping them to get there. Now when I started, I initially thought would just be in like, product design, user experience, product strategy. But what I found over the last, well, almost five plus years now is that we’ve slowly taken a step further, further back upstream, working with business to help them align on their strategy.
Simone Douglas 4:16
Dan Levy 4:17
So they can and we use the tools of design thinking for them to be able to facilitate those conversations.
Simone Douglas 4:23
nice. So pretend I’m an idiot, because I’m like, I like to play that game because
Dan Levy 4:29
Beginners mind. I told you should never say I’m going to pretend I’m an idiot and come into the room because people will have a sense. Like, why I’m going to approach this with a beginner’s mind. Well, I really like sounds nicer as well, doesn’t it?
Simone Douglas 4:47
But Alright, so with a beginner’s mind, when you say that you use design tools in application for strategy, tell me a little bit about what that looks like.
Dan Levy 4:58
We We are a strong believer in design thinking. And the premise behind design thinking is more of a human centered approach to problem solving. What does that mean? That basically means that we take a step back from looking at spreadsheets and revenue forecasts and things like that. And we understand the pains, the gains, the needs of our customers, our users, our stakeholders, our members on we understand what it is and the role that we play in their lives. And then look at what we are trying to do and try and find alignment with that. So we use different tools in order to facilitate that conversation.
Simone Douglas 5:43
So you got you know, that you guys are then everyone is saying in marketing, that that is exactly what the key differentiator is going to be for business in 2021. So is that user experience and then taking a human centered approach and understanding so what all of the research that I did last week for my radio show was all about they’re saying that you need to you won’t be product and won’t be price, and it won’t be service that keeps people with you and turns them into advocates after they bond to business. It’s going to be the user experience on on the way through and that hyper personalization of trading people that people are not numbers. So your businesses like sitting pretty well.
Dan Levy 6:28
And see, so on the ride over today. I was thinking I’ve been reflecting on this week, this week’s been a quite tough week. For as a business owner, you know, you have
Simone Douglas 6:42
you have the roller coaster.
Dan Levy 6:43
Yeah, it’s been a roller coaster kind of week. And you know, he occasionally you drop the ball. And what you realize as well, you could take that upper level and you can look at what you need be able to relate to him. I’m sure you can relate to this as a business owner, and anyone else within a business Still, this is still applicable to the success of your business is how you manage relationships
Simone Douglas 7:08
Dan Levy 7:09
with the people you provide services for and the people within your business. Yeah, that same rule is applicable to the people you provide services with. Yeah, so it’s just basically come by it. And I was thinking on the way over here, I was thinking this week, how lucky I am with the people that I get to work with. We have relationships where it’s not that there’s a softer side, or there’s more depth. Yeah. And I even related it back to my little boy, I was just sitting outside on the bike this morning. But I had to get to a meeting this morning. And I rode out on the motorbike. And I looked over my shoulder gave him a little too. And I can see him at the window. And that image has been with me all day and just been sitting outside. And I thought to myself, I really let him down this morning because I could have spent more time or more focus and that’s Believe me on mornings. This is why I walked into the room we’ve said we might end up having a parenting,
Simone Douglas 8:08
parenting conversation. It’s good, though, because that’s one of the challenges for business owners who also happen to be parents.
Dan Levy 8:16
Simone Douglas 8:16
Is you are constantly being pulled in multiple directions in terms of where are your priorities? Are you doing the right things? Are you doing the right things for your kids? And it’s that challenge between putting a roof over their head and food in the fridge? Yeah. And then giving them your time and attention. And so I always say that there is noise that this whole concept of work life balance is bollocks.
Dan Levy 8:45
Simone Douglas 8:46
bollocks doesn’t exist.
Dan Levy 8:47
Not the bollocks.
Simone Douglas 8:50
Yeah, no, just like
Dan Levy 8:51
It’s called blending.
Simone Douglas 8:52
Yeah, well, I’m being funny. So it’s the same. So what I always say and you know, but I haven’t running conversations with my kids. So they’re 10 and 13. Now, but I always have a running conversation with them. And I you know, like So tonight, after I do a full day of recording and everything I will be at my 13 year old, year 7 play, you know, because even though it’s his time with his dad, you know, it’s the school play, and it’s important. And I said hunter Do you want me to be there? He goes, yes. I’m like, okay, no worries, I block it out my diary. But there’ll be other things that I will miss, you know, and they often say or read some really good things about you know, it’s about understand that you’re juggling three different types of balls. So you’ve got rubber balls that will bounce, you’ve got glass balls that will shatter you’ve got you know, other ones that will get a bit dented, but they’re, you know, like recoverable or that’s to work as a ball. And so it’s understanding which of the balls you’ve got in your hands at any given time a glass Yeah. So
Dan Levy 9:51
I I think it’s definitely taken a right turn. So just to close off that sorry, I just rang him and facetimed him and let him know Cuz I can. That’s how I saw it. Yeah. And but my worry, yeah, my biggest concern is running a business and juggling all those balls. In other the fact that you take the rubber balls for granted because every impression you make with your little one they remember well they do and, and, you know more space for light is not just the name of a company and not just what we’re trying to do. It’s also a mantra. So I sat on the car and I’ve had client opportunity. Yeah. Which has been quite a lucrative one. Or I could go and spend the time with the kid. Yeah. spend the time with my kids. Yeah, cuz that’s, that translates back to my North Star.
Simone Douglas 10:44
Yeah, okay. Yeah.
Dan Levy 10:45
And it’s been a real you know, I haven’t I’m not saying I’m 100% perfect. No one is. But I’m trying like that. That’s my, you know, COVID going into the COVID. conversation. It’s, it’s basically given me the opportunity to reset as a business owner, as a human being and a parent to be able to say, you know, these, the end of the day, these are the most important things in people in my life.
Simone Douglas 11:13
Yeah, no, that makes sense. And I think there’s a lot of people who are, like, hitting the reset button and evaluating what what they’re doing. Why did they do what they do? Because I think the other challenge for us as business owners is, you know, we could go out and get a job tomorrow. We’re highly qualified individuals, we can you know, I could wake up tomorrow and go, you know, I don’t play anymore. Yeah, I want a page a job where I know exactly how much money’s landing in the bank. And when it’s five o’clock, I can walk out the door. And it’s like, not my thing. And so it’s, um
Dan Levy 11:44
but don’t you find that whole night with stray cats now?
Simone Douglas 11:48
Yeah, no, I don’t want to know.
Dan Levy 11:50
And I think the worst, I said, there’s some things in my life, and I’m sure anyone that’s ever employed me would know this. I asking for permission to do things. I might like, you know, I’m allowed that whole concept. I’m trying to tell my kids that that is like, I’m allow these just the scariest thing. I know, people say that and it makes me frightened. Yeah. And I don’t like the idea of ceilings.
Simone Douglas 12:20
Dan Levy 12:20
Do you know I mean, I can see I mean, you know, Simone, I’ve followed what you’ve done over the last few years, when I used to work at agency. I remember when you first started and coming in, and you were doing little bits. And now I can say like, you know, this isn’t meant to push what you’re doing is incredible. You know, you got a couple of books out. I’ve seen you guys grow and you don’t have a ceiling.
Simone Douglas 12:49
No, I don’t have a ceiling. and stuff is fun, or it’s not fun. Yeah.
Dan Levy 12:52
And that’s it. You follow where your passion is. and Seth Godin quote, was it. They do? do what they love, say. The something like amateurs love what they what they hold on a second trying to get it in the right day. And then what they love. Yeah, they do. Do what they love. So amateurs do what they love. Yeah. Professionals love what they do.
Simone Douglas 13:20
Yeah, that’s very true. I like that.
Dan Levy 13:22
And that’s not I know, that sounds okay. That sounds very profound. But what does that mean? Yeah, but we love what we do. And because of that kind of continuous learning, and curiosity isn’t a ceiling. No. And that’s frightening for people around us.
Simone Douglas 13:37
You’re right. Actually, I’m that saved. That is a really good concept. Because I have, you know, so I have a business partner, who’s also my partner. So we have two businesses together, I have the three businesses in total. And one of the biggest conversations was, you know, he said to me, one day he goes, don’t expect people to be able to do what you do. He goes, You don’t understand you look at something and you just go, that’s where you going. And it’s a split second decision, and you’re moving, he goes, you have to give people time to catch up, you have to give people time, you have to slow down your explanations. He goes you don’t have to slow down he goes you can keep doing all of the big and exciting things. But you have to take the time to bring the people with you. And that was quite profound because I often but not often but sometimes because my social media I okay time have been around me for a long time. So they just come You know, so they used to me now they used to the way that I work and they just follow me. And you know, it’s you have but you have to cultivate a lot of faith in your team for them to be able to do that and not break them and you know, like occasionally I break Tamara, my general manager, sorry Tamara. Not so often anymore, because but but you know, I’ve actually got a business coach Sergio from complete work life solutions working with us at the moment. And one of one of his tasks is really to work out where I break the systems and the processes, and what we can put in place that will avoid me breaking workflows and systems, but still allow me to be who I am and to do what I do. And I have avoided this conversation for like, it’s been coming for three years
Dan Levy 15:26
Well tell me all about it.
Simone Douglas 15:27
Yeah. Well, I think it’s really because it’s, um, you know, it’s very easy, you can get a business to a certain stage on guts and determination, and where can you just like, I just keep working until any will be fine. And then eventually, you know, like, you start to go, you know, I’m gonna sacrifice some money to have more help. Yeah. And so then you bring more help in and then somewhere in there, you end up with a ridiculously large payroll, like, across the two businesses that don’t like to think about how much money I pay to people that they’ve earned. But then I pay the ATO money that like makes me sad. Yeah. But it’s, you know, that I didn’t realize how exhausted I was by having three businesses until I got an executive assistant. And now all of a sudden, there’s a whole layer of stuff that I don’t have to do or manage or deal with anymore. So you know, like I did, she’ll go here, the four emails that you actually need to deal with, I’ve dealt with 62 of them. And it’s, you know, it’s like, okay, so all of a sudden, I’m, you know, I don’t have to
Dan Levy 16:31
you’re like a parent.
Simone Douglas 16:33
Yeah, to all the businesses.
Dan Levy 16:36
We’ve, so we’re growing, really fortunate grown, and I’ve really tried to hold off on growth, cuz I went through, I went through that whole bringing people on and it didn’t work out, because I didn’t really know what I wanted the role to be. Yeah, but I’m learning as I’m going. And I’m trying to make the right decisions in regards to where we go, but doesn’t sacrifice the output and outcomes to other people. Yeah, that makes and also ensure that the people I bring on are prepared to skip down the yellow brick road. Yeah, what we’re on the hybrid, right. At least Hold on to me as we go. There we go down the yellow brick road. Yeah. I know so much. Make sure that we don’t do too much and just just do what we’re good at is, it’s probably tough. It is. And then parents and then be a good husband.
Simone Douglas 17:38
Yeah, it’s hard. Being a good partner doing all the things
Dan Levy 17:42
then the flip side of that, yeah.
Which somebody told me, a friend of mine here said, Can you imagine being the partner of the person skipping down the yellow, but my poor wife? Yeah. is the most amazing person in the world because she’s got three boys for including the dog.
Simone Douglas 18:01
Yeah, I look. And I think that that’s very true. Because I remember like having a conversation with Alex when we first took on the pub, so that was the, you know, like the second business. Yeah. And I say I said to him, you know, I found an Uber corn, it’s even better than a unicorn. I need you to come and talk me out of that place. Because I was terrified. I was going to work myself into an early grave. And anyway, so he came and had a look. And he said, I’m not going to talk you out of it. We can do this. That’s fine. It’s just hard work, done hard work before. I said, Well, you have one job. So he’s like, what’s that? I said, you’ll know, there’ll come a point where you have to pull the handbrake on, and you have to take me away from all of the things. Yeah. So I’m giving you permission to pull the handbrake when that happens. You need we need some kind of a safety word. And it’s like I enjoyed
we take me away.
Dan Levy 18:54
We have those in workshops. I call it the danger word. Yeah. So okay, guys, we’re gonna work as a team, as anyone heard of the concept called danger words, and you get your eyebrows. And we have a danger word. And when it’s meant to stop all the bulldozers and the Ramblers they call it out but but I have this mantra, you say yes, until you have to say no, yeah, with that guy like ecommerce, paint yourself into a corner sometimes. But yeah, but I feel like, the more you say, yes, the more opportunity presents itself to you. And if you have the right intent, or from a business perspective, you know, where you want to go. You can paint that picture within
Simone Douglas 19:38
Yeah. And I think that the challenge as you grow is if you hold on to more space for life, so if you go right, well do you know and I’m gonna get the same the week that I have the kids I like to drop them off to school. I like to pick them up from school every day. That’s my thing. And so what is it that I need to put in place around me that enables me to be that parent During that time now, you know, some of that is I get quite tired that week in some respects because I fit an entire working week into 25 hours.
Dan Levy 20:09
Yeah, you work from like, soon as the kids go to bed.
Simone Douglas 20:12
Yeah, yeah. But see now they’re at that age where they stay up till 830 at night is ridiculous, they should go to bed at seven, seven I could do. I’m an Early to bed kind of person. So now, I just go Hunter to the oldest in bed at 830. And I’m like, I’m in bed at nine.
Dan Levy 20:28
Simone Douglas 20:28
Yeah. And I get up at five, six o’clock in the morning, and they’ll get breakfast, and I’ll do a little bit of like emails and this. And then I’ll take them to school and be in the office by nine o’clock and then leave the office at two. And but I am not built for working at night.
Dan Levy 20:44
They remind us killing me.
Simone Douglas 20:46
Yeah. So that well. But the trick is you’ve got to, that’s when you know that you need that help. And so it’s like, you know, in talking to Sergio, what he says to me is, you know, it’s about, you know, high value, medium value and low value activities. So look at what you’re doing. Yeah, in a day and in a week. Okay, Simone, how much of that was low value activity for the business? And like, well, I printed off the name tags for the event and cut the things in I did this and he’s like, he just gives me a look that says he clearly on drugs. You know, you pay people, you pay people much less than your hourly rate. Yeah, to do this, that the other.
Dan Levy 21:28
And that’s something I think. I feel like I’ve, I’ve got that down. I’m quite good at delegating, and something that we’ve done. So I, I brought someone in, it’s just amazing. And we started bringing in interns as well, something we’ve done is we’ve we create an operating system for how more space runs. Yeah, cool. And with that there’s an initial hard work because I’m documenting everything at the moment
Simone Douglas 21:58
That’s what Tamara is doing at the moment.
Dan Levy 21:59
Oh, okay. So we use this tool called notion.
Simone Douglas 22:04
Dan Levy 22:04
So it’s notion.so I get no money from them. Yeah. the cool kids are already on something else. So I was cool when I decided we wanted to go to notion but the speed of action from execution to decision took a while. Yeah, but we’ve now started. It’s like a Wikipedia and we’re basically using that Wikipedia to
Simone Douglas 22:27
Dan Levy 22:28
Because I want to be able to say do this go here and and I and it’s up to me to basically take this and put it there because I want I want more space. Yes. I don’t like to say they get hit by a bus. I’d like to say the winner lotto son. Oh,
Simone Douglas 22:46
yeah. Sergio has the does it pass the Tibet test? If you got on a plane and move to Tibet tomorrow? Would you business still run? Okay. Yeah,
Dan Levy 22:53
yeah. Well, that’s the ultimate goal. Yeah, that’s where we’re going. Yeah. But yeah, this operating system that we put in place has enabled us to really unlock a lot of things.
Simone Douglas 23:06
So what would be your single most piece of advice that you wish someone had given you in your first year of business? That would have made your life easier?
Dan Levy 23:18
Don’t do it. single piece is really hard. Because I don’t regret any of the bad decisions I’ve made. No, because I will never learn. Yeah. The single piece of advice that I give myself is wow, this is a big one. It Believe in yourself.
Simone Douglas 23:49
Yeah, no, that’s a great one.
The process Believe in yourself,
Unknown Speaker 23:54
Believe in yourself back yourself. Yeah. And you and and be a good guy. And that that was one of the things that I when I started, I kind of I can see assignments, see macbookpro behind me, I thought, who do I want? What is the persona I want as a leader? Yeah. And what is the persona I want out of more space? Because I’ve worked for really horrible people. And yeah, and I didn’t want to be like, I’m hopefully generally I’m a nice person. And I wanted that to translate its way into the business and I wanted it. I didn’t, I don’t want it to be silly. And like clown. I want it to be a relatable business. Yeah, people can. You have even though it’s a premium brand, I want people to feel like they can have a conversation. They can relate. They’re getting some value out.
Simone Douglas 24:49
That’s a very good place to finish.
Dan Levy 24:51
Simone Douglas 24:52
Yeah. Dan, thanks very much for joining me today.
Dan Levy 24:55
Sure. Thank you for having me.
Simone Douglas 24:56
Unknown Speaker 24:59
We hope you enjoy This episode of seriously social. Check our website for the latest news show notes and for details about Simone’s latest book, confident networker.