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A state of equilibrium




“Work life balance can exist, provided you work smarter not harder.” Gail Gardiner.

Gail (centre) with Energetiks Co-CEOs Karen (left) and Lynda (right). Image: Elly Ford, via energetiksblog.com.au

Under-representation of women in leadership across various industries and in some of Australia’s most thriving and essential businesses continues to be problematic. While some argue a plethora of factors contribute to women missing in leadership, it does raise a question: in 2021 are these ‘factors’ still relevant or are they now misconceptions?


In this series, we talk to women leading the way in their respective fields, across a range of industries, in businesses we bank. They share helpful advice and lessons learnt and most importantly, help us debunk some myths about their working lives.


Business Growth

All of the participants in this series have been involved in ANZ’s Business Growth Program. This year, the program saw a 27 per cent uptake of women in leadership roles participating in Business Growth CEO Clinics across Australia.


The ANZ Business Growth Program is delivered by The Australian Centre for Business Growth, University of SA with global growth expert Dr Jana Matthews, ANZ Chair in Business Growth at UniSA.


The online courses, seminars and webinars are open to all Australian businesses. ANZ business banking customers can speak to their relationship manager about taking part in targeted one-day clinics and an intensive nine-month program.


A balancing act?


Realistically, work-life balance impacts any gender, throughout various stages of their careers, however research has shown that obtaining the balance can be difficult for parents particularly mothers, and even more so single mothers.


Figures highlighted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show 55 per cent of mothers with children younger than 12 are employees, while 11 per cent manage their own businesses.


Here we speak with Gail Gardiner, co-CEO of dancewear brand Energetiks and mother of three, who shares her journey and advice on how to find a balance.


Born in Scotland, Gail migrated to Australia in 1971 and grew up in Melbourne, Victoria.  


After completing a commerce degree, Gail worked in the finance department at Caterpillar Australia. Following this, she launched Energetiks with her co-founders in 1988. And while she is a self-confessed lover of all things numbers and finance, when not working, Gail enjoys hiking, dancing, travelling and spending time with her family.


What is your job title and can you give a little insight into what a day in the life of Gail Gardiner looks like?


I’m the Co-CEO of dancewear brand, Energetiks. Each day starts with a meeting with my fellow co CEO’s. We do a run through of what’s going on each department, analyse results and strategically plan to ensure we are moving the company forward in achieving our vision and mission.   


Following this, I meet with the managers of my departments and then create a task list for myself which varies depending on the demands of the business. Each day is different, but some of these tasks include visiting retail managers on site, analysing reports, cash flow/financials, supporting our HR and finance manager and final approval of staff hiring.


DEBUNK: We quite often hear ‘work-life balance’ being promoted or discussed, particularly to women to make them believe they can ‘have it all’. In your experience, is there really such a thing as ‘work-life balance’?


Work life balance can exist, provided you work smarter not harder


When the business was in its infancy, I had three children under the age of two and also taught classical ballet! To say I was busy is an understatement. However, it forced me to be really organised and be clear on my priorities from the get go.


Striking a ‘balance’ is more to do with how you chose to navigate your life and the decisions you make, not so much about a balance of working hours or how often you work.


I have personally found that a good balance can be achieved, if you:


  • Hire the right people who align with your core values.
  • Delegate to build strong leaders. Don’t try to do it all yourself. 
  • Create goals with measurable results that can be easily assessed and altered if not workable.
  • Stick to efficient meeting structures help to keep meetings short and focused. 
  • Communicate clearly and effectively with your business partners and teams.
  • Be prepared and ask for help when life throws you a curve ball (because it will!).


Most people don’t know that I…


Hiked through-out Peru for 6 weeks. I also love Elvis Presley and love dancing like nobody is watching!


Energetiks has gone from local, to interstate and then on to become an international wholesaler of dancewear; how did you find transitioning the business into international markets and what was the biggest challenge?


The biggest challenge was being so far away (Australia) from the rest of the world!  Competitive freight charges and freight transit times was a big hurdle.


In addition, increasing stock levels and finding new suppliers to facilitate the growth was also a big challenge.  


We found understanding the market was so important - you cannot enter a new market without extensive research to understand the needs of that market.  And building connections with the right people in those markets who can help to navigate your way to create business opportunities


One piece of advice you would give to other women looking to lead?


Believe in yourself and your ability to do anything and you will! 


There have been many people on our journey who indicated we could not achieve our dream of building a successful business or that the structure of having three co-CEO’s would not be feasible. 


Lynda, Karen and I stand to prove everyone wrong.  We learn together and love and support each other through 33 years of ups and downs.


We are void of ego and listen. We simply work together to do what must be done and do it with integrity in the interest of our business, our staff and our customers.


How has your role adapted and changed throughout different periods of growth? And how do manage the changing needs of your role?


My role has changed significantly over the years.


In the beginning we were everything… from the cleaner, to the sales team, to the picker/packer/ dispatcher, to the accounts person, to the production and marketing team.


As the business grew, we needed to learn to delegate. It’s not always easy to do, but it is so important. It allows us to focus on the key areas we need to focus on, and make sure we are delivering on those things the best we can. If we don’t, the whole business is affected.


Being fluid and adaptable is so important and has never been more so than in the present, having to navigate unexpected curve balls such as the COVID pandemic.


Being agile has allowed us to change and adapt and continue to do so. We all had to become quicker in our decision making to ensure we capture opportunities. It also ensures I am on top of my ever-changing role.


I’ve become far more resilient over the years, learning and growing, especially from failures. Also, having to manage uncomfortable situations like the dismissal of staff or underperforming suppliers has really taught me to be more resilient and given me a thicker skin.


Energetiks  was founded in 1988 by Gail Gardiner, Lynda Chapman and Karen Tsonidis. What started out as a small storefront in Melbourne, Energetiks is now Australia’s leading dancewear brand and is also sold internationally. The business is committed to provide the very finest Australian made dancewear to dancers worldwide.  

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