Balance the Grind, 21 April 2023
Peter Petroulas is the founder of WizButler, the only restaurant booking system that autonomously and dynamically maximises online bookings.
Like most people, when I finished high school I had no idea what I wanted to do with my career, but I knew I wanted to challenge myself in business. I started with a business degree with majors in accounting and computing science, simply because I was told at the time they were the most challenging and difficult majors within the business degree. I ended up completing the degree with honours.
I then spent a number of years in the accounting profession and obtained my CPA qualification, after which I returned to university to study a masters in marketing. I then turned my attention to corporate planning to become the Corporate Planning Manager of Bayer Australia. After a couple of years I moved onto Eastwest Airlines initially as the Planning Manager, and then as CFO, which was also responsible for the technology, legal and planning roles within the company.
After the merger of Eastwest Airlines with Ansett Airlines I moved to Papua New Guinea where I took up a similar role as CFO of Air Niugini. After leaving the airline, it found itself in financial difficulty, whereby I agreed to go back as Administrator to restructure the airline for it to become cash positive again before moving to London to work as CFO of Exodus Travel.
After my stint in the London corporate world, I returned to Australia wanting to take some time out and seek an entrepreneurial challenge. I acquired and expanded the drink, dine and entertainment precinct at 1 Martin Place “GPO Grand”, which was developed into the most awarded and diverse dining destination with iconic venues like Prime Steak Restaurant, Intermezzo Italian Restaurant, Postales Spanish Restaurant, GPO Cheese and Wine Room, Sosumi Sushi Train and the Crystal Boudoir Cabaret show.
With my background in I.T., accounting and operations, over the years it became apparent to me that all existing online restaurant booking systems were inefficient and could easily reject bookings when restaurants were only 60% to 65% full.
I also noticed the point of sales systems that formed the backbone of hospitality systems were legacy systems that were not developed for the internet, as amongst other things, they could not handle multiple transactions as part of the same sale.
Then after waiting many years for someone to develop better systems, my frustration led to me undertaking the challenge of developing better systems despite professors from MIT, Cornell University, PhD Thesis, Apple Computers, IBM, Amazon, Disney and others having failed. I lodged patent applications for my work in 2017 and in 2022, I was awarded my first US patent and believe additional patents will be granted in due course.
As a CEO of a company that is a start-up and looking to scale up, my activities are very broad. I always take a longer path walking from work to hope as it gives me time to get some exercise and get a chance to plan my day in my head.
The first thing I do however, is call my mum who just turned 90 to see how she is doing. While she has 4 sons, I am the only one living in Sydney. When I arrive at work, my day usually involves many meetings to ensure that everyone in the business is on top of things and that we are all moving in tandem.
A typical day would look like having discussions with our Sydney lawyers concerning our trademark application for “dancing tables”, then talking to our US patent lawyers concerning the progress of our patent applications, followed by a meeting with our support team to talk about any client issues and explaining the new features that were deployed as part of our two weekly cycle of upgrading our software.
The meeting with the CTO and the development team as part of their daily “standup meeting”, then a meeting with my partner and co-founder as we develop our “pitch” and “data room” as we get ready to raise some equity to scale the business.
Afternoons are usually left flexible so that I can meet with clients, and progress any tasks that I handle personally, such as, planning for new features to the software, prioritising activities and having some time to complete the textbook that I am writing on the upcoming revolution of the restaurant industry. I normally finish the day with a call to our London-based product development manager.
I try to spend quality time with my partner of over 20 years, Song, which is not always easy when you have different time zones that you are dealing with. However, last year after being locked down for so long with Covid-19 we made time to experience Antarctica in February and spent an extended time in the Mediterranean, the French Riviera and some quality time in Greece from July to August. Being able to travel means we have longer periods of time together, and more experiences and memories that we can share.
Travelling to Antarctica did two things for us. Firstly, it showed us how small we are in perspective to the world and secondly, while the world is beautiful, it is also very fragile and we need to be more responsible while we are privileged to be part of it.
Throughout my career and life I have always sought change and challenge, however, I also believe that the change needs to add value and have a purpose. Change without debate and purpose is wasteful and unnecessary, hence I find Jordan Peterson the Canadian psychologist, author and media commentator thought provoking.
Work-life balance is not about what it means to other people, it is about what it means to you and how you can make it work for you and the people around you. I also believe work-life balance will mean different things to people at different stages of their lives.
My approach is to periodically take some time out to think about your work-life balance, and if your work environment is positive and makes you happy, and your personal life is positive, and you are a positive influence to the people around you and the people around you are positive, you are probably doing really well.
A see-saw, if always balanced, becomes dull and boring. We cannot stop things from changing, so do not be stressed by the unexpected, accept it, adapt and redefine what your definition of work-life balance is as you seek inner happiness.