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Career, family and athletic passions: A perpetual balance

Tax associate partner, surfer and dad Todd King defines personal flexibility

Colleagues in his home base of Halifax know Todd King for his passion for surfing. And his personalized approach to work-life balance reflects a broader tidal shift toward personal flexibility at Deloitte.

The leader of Halifax’s 18-member Tax team, King serves a roster of tax clients that includes athletes like Olympic kayaker Karen Furneaux. He’s also the tax advisor of choice for award-winning Canadian musician Matt Mays – who recently used some of his downtime between tours with Sam Roberts and Kid Rock to perform at a Deloitte alumni event. And while King’s clients and responsibilities have evolved over his years with Deloitte, one thing has been constant: his quest to juggle client commitments and athletic pursuits.

The sporting life: Balancing professional and personal fulfilment
When King joined Deloitte out of university in 1994, he was a competitive fastball player. He represented Canada in several gold-medal showings at international tournaments – including two Pan American Games. Being part of the 1995 Pan Am Games team required King to take a month off work at the height of “busy season,” a period when fiscal year-ends translate into a deadline crunch for Deloitte professionals. And even though he’d only been with the firm for a year, he received wholehearted support.

At the height of his fastball career, King would hop on a plane to play ball in Florida most summer weekends. But trying to balance weekend travel, a steadily developing tax career and married life, King decided to “go out on top” in 2000. That’s when his passion shifted to surfing – a pastime he began in the mid-1990s.

Staying connected: From a BlackBerry on the beach to après-surf emails
With the unpredictable nature of ultimate surfing conditions – which generally come with less than 24 hours’ notice – the sport isn’t easily scheduled. But thanks to open communication and accessible technology, King generally has the flexibility to move quickly from boardroom to board shorts. If he wakes up one morning to a perfect surf forecast, he can head to the office early, get a solid start on his day’s work, then head to the beach – BlackBerry in hand.

“I’ll often have a half-hour between surf sessions to check my BlackBerry, burn through a bunch of emails, and make a few phone calls,” says King, noting that on such days, people can expect late-night emails from him. “In most cases, you can stay connected without sitting at your desk in the office at prescribed hours. We’re all professionals, and it ultimately comes down to leaders trusting individuals to take responsibility for delivering on their commitments.”

Leadership is about earning trust and setting the tone
An associate partner since 2005, King believes in setting the tone for work-life balance. Within his team, people are generally expected to define their own personal flexibility; at least five people have formal alternative work arrangements, ranging from summers off to 50% workloads.

“At our annual planning meeting, we talk about how we could make busy season easier for our people to manage. We try to think outside the box – like something as simple as offering a concierge service for someone who needs to get their car fixed,” says King. “Basically, it’s about being a team, recognizing the realities of our clients’ expectations, and doing what we can to help our people find contentment.”

Balance – like parenthood – is ‘an ongoing journey’
For King, contentment comes not just from surfing, but also from being able to work from home one day each week, and keeping his weekends free for family time – something that’s especially important now that he has two preschool sons. “Finding that balance is an ongoing journey,” concludes King. “But Deloitte is a dynamic organization, and being flexible is part of our success.”

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