James Pardoe, CEO of Grow: We Sold Everything and Decided to Travel the World with our Three Kids

BY james June 16 2021
Pardoe Family Travel Images
This past year has been a transformative time for our business and for me personally. I’d like to tell you a little bit about how our team learned to thrive working remotely, and how my family got rid of all our material possessions in 30 days and are now travelling the world.

When things started getting locked down in March last year, it was a huge transition for everybody. But for us, as a digital agency with teams in two continents, the move to remote working was perhaps less striking than for companies which hadn’t yet undergone digital transformation. When I asked the team how they were doing, much to my surprise they were actually very happy working from home. In fact, their productivity was up.

But our team were working so much that it actually became a problem and we had to find ways to slow down. There were none of the normal distinctions between work and private life. People weren’t able to leave the office at the end of the day and go home to decompress.

We found that we were suffering from ‘Zoom Fatigue’, having meetings back to back. Before the pandemic, you would have downtime between meetings. You would walk or drive to the next meeting, and during that time you could reset. We realised this had been so important for preventing burn-out. So I started scheduling in breaks between Zoom meetings. We found that it improved our mental health, our focus, and our productivity.

We have also instituted a Weekly WIFLE, or ‘What I Feel Like Expressing’, which is a casual meeting on Zoom where the team get together and chat about non-work related things. It’s worked so well that we’ve kept doing it.

For me, it has been quite a journey of discovery. There came a moment when I realised that I could be doing this from anywhere in the world. That thought wasn’t comforting. It was terrifying! My immediate thoughts were that I’d have to give up everything I owned and everything I was comfortable with. But the thought kept returning, and I started talking about it with my wife and business coach.

We realised the end of our tenancy was coming up, and if we were going to take this leap, it would be now or never. Getting rid of everything in 30 days was intense, but we managed it. The very next day we were on a flight to the UK. We spent three months with family in England as a kind of staging point; to see whether it would work for the Grow team and for our kids. It turns out there were very few downsides!

So we decided to go one step further. We found a little cottage in rural Portugal (population: 1,000), where I could work, and the family could be amongst nature, surrounded by beautiful farmland and animals. We spent the weekends exploring the nearby cities and during the weekdays I’d work, whilst the family went off on walks or played in the garden with the neighbour’s chickens. It was a surreal feeling having the mix of work and adventure. Something between normal life and a holiday.

After coming back to Dubai for Christmas with family, we decided our next adventure would be Sri Lanka. We find ourselves in a villa surrounded by more wildlife than I’ve ever seen, overlooking a paddy field. My eldest son has started school here, and after dropping him off, my wife & I head to the beach for a quick surf before Dubai wakes up.

My head is clearer than it has been in a long time, the team are one cohesive unit, closer than they’ve ever been, and our clients are really happy with the work we’re doing (touch wood!).

So if I were to give a word of advice, it would be to embrace change, no matter how scary it is. The comfort zone is a wonderful place but nothing ever grows there.

Dogma would have you believe that a company needs an office, overheads, face-to-face meetings etc. It’s true that the team still need physical social interaction and so they’re encouraged to build a stronger work:life balance. I’ve told them all that they’re welcome to Work from Anywhere as well. Our cost of living has reduced by two thirds, and our quality of life has 10X’ed.

My priority all along has been to maintain Grow’s prowess regardless of my personal life choices. What is important is providing value to our clients, otherwise none of this would be possible. We’ve discovered we can do that while working anywhere in the world, and do it better than we did before.

If you'd like to know more about my life traveling around the world with my family, you can follow our page on Instagram.


James Pardoe

Starting his first business at age eight, James Pardoe has been building, marketing and growing businesses ever since. He has helped hundreds of businesses double their annual revenue within a few short years.

James holds a unique combination of skills spanning business, psychology, design, development and data science. He has shaped Grow’s approach to encompass all of these disciplines, to build an ecosystem that plugs into businesses and builds sustainable long-term growth.

James is also a father of three, a consultant for Google, and a partner in a branding agency.

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