On paper, Sean Cassar should be the last person to talk about work-life balance. He started out with one business, Design Hub Studio, a multi-award winning firm specialising in spatial design. Within nine years he has scaled up to launch a new branch with a physical outlet, Design Hub Store, building on the success of the initial project by selling finishing materials for residential and commercial spaces.
And then the trifecta, with Sean launching Elevist - a wellness centre that offers clients a new perspective - soon after the launch of the Birkirkara store. Running three businesses would have most people struggling to find time to stop for coffee, let alone midday breaks for Pilates. Yet, this is exactly what he does and what he encourages his entire team to do. How?
“I believe that leading a balanced day is important, both for me and for my in-house colleagues. One needs to balance time for family, for work and even for oneself. I find that an hour to myself each day allows me to deal with work-related stress, or any other stresses, a lot more easily. It’s an ethos I’ve believed in from a young age, and through the years I’ve incorporated it into my routine organically,” he states, adding that it’s this routine that has enabled him to hold three businesses without putting aside his physical and mental health, not to mention time for his family.
Sean is a firm believer that the old belief of going all out in building a career in your younger years and enjoying your life, and your family, after retirement doesn’t work anymore. After all, by the time you’re older, you’ve missed out on building a strong bond with your family and the reality is that even your physical strength is weaker.
“It’s easy enough to be successful, but at the cost of what? Life is short,” he says bluntly. Interestingly, Elevist also owes its existence to this belief as Sean wanted to provide a way for his colleagues at Design Hub to incorporate this ethos in their own lives as well.
“This is how the concept started out, although it also offers this same potential to the public too, of course. But I do want my teams to enjoy a balance in their lives and I’m always the first to encourage them to go out to do some training or meditation in the middle of the day, rather than late at night or first thing in the morning. Even if this eats away at some of the working hours, it doesn’t matter because I believe you come back stronger, more productive and more passionate,” he insists.
Part of this method involves recognising that one cannot do everything. Sean explains that the only way to run multiple teams in tandem is by trusting the teams’ ability, knowledge and talent while giving them the space to follow through with their vision. He stresses the importance of investing in passionate managers and collaborators.
“If you try micromanage everything yourself, it won’t go far I feel. My team is incentivised, and their goal is to grow the business. Sure, I do have oversight and final decision making on all businesses, but I give space to my team to do what they do best. For them it’s not only about buying and selling things but about trying to further a cause or fix a problem, as they believed in the businesses from the start,” he continues.
Sean explains how he plans his day and routine in such a way as to be able to give both businesses enough attention. He visits Elevist everyday for his own physical and meditation sessions, planning meetings around those hours so as to maximise on time. Elevist is remarkable in that it takes a very different approach from other wellness centres, offering personalised attention and unusual therapies like Physio Reformer Pilates. How did this come about?
“All the services we offer are geared towards helping people resolve any physical or mental issues, and they are curated by our heads of department, who are all professionals with years of experience. For us, it’s not a matter of pushing what’s on the market but of offering what clients deserve,” he says.
Elevist is based on the principle of offering complementary packages – clinical treatments at the centre and other products at home. Sean says that Elevist branded products are on offer at the shop and online store and that there are more in the pipeline. These will be spearheaded by Elevist’s general manager, an experienced and passionate pharmacist, and other experienced clinical professionals. In this way both the team and clients themselves will know exactly what ingredients are being used.
“In all honesty, my wife and I can give the strongest testimonial for Elevist. Our Head of Physiotherapy and a highly accredited physiotherapist, Laura Schembri, introduced us to reformer pilates and she was a catalyst from the start. Since my early twenties I have always followed a regular fitness regime, but no matter what I did I kept getting small injuries. Under Laura’s direction, all these little aches and pains have disappeared,” he says, pointing out that being a father to two very young children is heavy work, and that it's important for both him and his wife to be able to handle their energy and to enjoy being with them.
“Since we started following this regime, we can be excited with them and for them,” he says with a smile.
Sean has big plans for Elevist too, and the aim is to consolidate the Naxxar centre and to also see it branch out into the market. Works are in progress for the roof to be turned into an open-air chill-out area, where clients can enjoy an organic smoothie before or after their session. The addition of more services and a presence at hotel spas is also in the pipeline as Sean continues to build on the brand’s identity.
“Like Design Hub, Elevist is always a growing entity, in the sense that I pick on what people may need to make their life more comfortable and balanced and bring it in, using the best professionals in Malta and - if necessary - from overseas,” he concludes.
One thing’s clear - Sean’s careful balancing act is backed by a sound strategy that continuously strives for excellence.