Member Profile | Ben Hartman

Member Profile | Ben Hartman

Ben Hartman is a Managing Director of No 2nd Place. He cares passionately about the potential for sport to have social impact. After a global career with Octagon, Ben has come home to the Coal Coast to launch his new agency from Suite 4 at WorkLife in Coledale.

With the surf calling, and his kids at school nearby, he manages to be both one of the busiest and most relaxed guys in our community. Don’t be fooled by the bare feet- he’s off and racing. He managed to squeeze in a quick WorkLife members chat with Kate Dezarnaulds this week and we are thrilled to share it with you below!

We’d love to hear your local life story. How did you land living here on the beautiful south coast?

I was fortunate to grow up in Thirroul. I went to school and high school down here, and I went to Wollongong Uni. After I finished there, I got a job at Octagon. So I moved to Sydney and we lived in the eastern suburbs for around eight years. After that I took an opportunity to move with work over to Singapore for about three years. We had our two eldest kids over in Singapore, before we decided to make the move back to our roots. My wife’s also originally from the area so we came home to Coldale.

These days it’s not just Octagon you are working with- describe to me the new venture which you have embarked upon since you’ve been here with us at WorkLife.

So for the last two years, we’ve been working on this project to launch a marketing agency that’s focused on the role of sport in driving social change. It’s called No 2nd Place, because unfortunately there is no second place for us to inhabit. We have a lot of responsibility to do amazing things with the one we’re in right now. And sports is an epic platform to be able to drive awareness of some of the issues we’ve got as a society. We need to educate and inspire people to act and think differently, and hopefully along the way have a significant social impact. 

It’s been an amazing start. We are now 12 months since the public launch and we have been blown away by the hunger there is to showcase the role sport can play in society. We have done a significant piece of research on Australians perceptions of the role of sport and where it can and should have a wider voice. The results are overwhelmingly positive about the potential for sport to play a significant role in inspiring and demonstrating social change.

It’s such a great initiative with so much potential. Where did the idea come from?

During the COVID lock downs, like lots of other people, I was questioning the role that I play beyond work. I have always been fascinated by and super engaged in the world of sport, but over 15 years I was not necessarily focused on how it can play a role more broadly. I was looking internally at what my responsibility is living in this moment in history. I’ve got a young family. It became increasingly important for me to work out how to work with the skills, the connections, the people that I know. To be able to put those all together in a way that can benefit the broader world. Octagon has been a great partner in getting it off the ground.

There have been some incredible early wins- do you want to credit some of the people you’ve been working with so far?

Right now we’re working with Standard Chartered Bank on delivering the world’s most sustainable marathon series. Recently we were fortunate enough to do an epic collaboration around the Wollongong 2022 UCI Road World Cycling Championships where we worked with Wilson Asset Management and a social enterprise called Good Cycles, to provide free bike repairs for people during the event itself, and also support local disadvantaged youth to be trained as bike mechanics. I think we’re going to be having a very busy six months ahead with the FIFA Women’s World Cup coming to Australia and an incredible suite of brands looking to ensure that the opportunity of that event is applied to the right messages. 

When you look at your Work/Life balance, compared to when you were living it up in the city- what does work life balance look like to you now?

I think there’s a physical part and a mental part of it. The mental part of work life balance is that work doesn’t infiltrate all the key moments of your life- it is a wonderful feeling to have that separation. Then the second element is the physical perspective, I now have the benefit of having an epic office less than a kilometer from home that allows me to balance the time between commuting to the city with being able to zip home for lunch, drop the kids at school, get a surf in and be around for the family more. I get to see my 15 month old daughter a lot more often than I saw my other two kids at the same age. I get to coach the soccer team, I’m a volunteer life saver. These things wouldn’t happen without the benefit of being able to work close to home.

What’s been the biggest challenge over the last few years for your industry?

I think delivering creativity on a global scale has become more difficult. For us, as a business with creativity at its heart, we know creativity flourishes when people are together in the same space. And as a global organisation it’s been really hard to get people together over that time. However, the amazing part of creativity is that people have found other ways to connect and other ways to be able to foster relationships. There is no doubt its been a challenge. 

One of the nicest parts of my membership at WorkLife, is that I have met a lot of creative people in the area that I wouldn’t get to know otherwise. And that’s in turn helped foster opportunities from a business perspective as well.

Now I know that you’ve got a few hobbies on the go- there’s no side hustle that I have heard about unless you want to correct me, but is there a hobby that is your passion?

No, no side hustles although I do work with the university down here in Wollongong to establish a sports marketing course. I get to lecture in that program which I absolutely love. It’s a growing course and I love working with the marketing professors there to bring it to life. That’s been a really rewarding experience. 

Now think of your bookshelf at home, what’s on there that you love and that you would recommend to the rest of the WorkLife community?

I have an overflowing bookshelf because I still love that paperback smell, touch and feel. I have recently finished an epic book by Australian author Robbie Arnott called Limberlost – it was probably the best book I’ve read in a couple of years. I was captivated- it was just a beautiful story about growing up in Australia.

What about a piece of furniture in your house? Something that you love?

Funnily enough, I think my favourite piece of furniture at the moment actually isn’t in my house, it’s in our office at WorkLife. When we started No 2nd Place one of the first things we did was put in a piece of furniture that represented the ethos of the business. So we have a stunning set of shelves by a business called Ply Room that’s made with sustainably sourced plywood, and it’s just epic. It makes me happy coming to work seeing that.

When you’ve got friends visiting you down here on the south coast, what’s the one thing that you recommend that they eat locally?

I can’t speak more highly of the people at Earth Walker – i’m sure everyone probably says that given how close we are to the place. But the food’s amazing and the coffee is brilliant, and the people there are unreal. Recently we had a family bout of COVID where all five of us were down and they were doing drops of coffee for us so we could pick them up and not be near anyone. 

What’s your best productivity hack? How do you get the most out of every day?

I definitely have to do some kind of exercise every day. I remember people telling me this when I was younger, and instead I used to just keep working. Now my day doesn’t start until after I exercise. I think the ability to get in the water and clear your mind and be able to start every day pretty fresh is pretty important.

Now what is a snapshot of what it looks like for you to be living your best life?

It would start with a little bit of a sleep in right now because we’ve got a 15 month old and she’s not sleeping the best! That would be followed by a quick surf with our two oldest kids and then I would actually come in here. For me a lot of the work we’re doing doesn’t feel like work. So after a couple of hours at WorkLife I would then hang out with my wife and do a walk together locally. She’s right into bushwalking and there’s a number of tracks  that are her favourites. Then honestly, after that, i’d head to the Wombarra Bowlo with our friends and their kids from around the area. It’s such a good little community that we’ve made particularly from the school. It’s always a good night out there, there is such a great atmosphere.

What is the best thing about your WorkLife membership from your point of view?

For me, it’s being able to facilitate having a corporate professional job and still being able to balance that with living a life that’s in line with the values of our family. That couldn’t happen without our office suite. So for me, I think it’s being able to provide that link between achieving your best from a career perspective but also being present in the family life.

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