“There are always five things that are going wrong, but five things that are going really well.” A day in the life of Michael Sindicich, GM at TripActions Liquid
- TripActions Liquid is TripActions’ spend management product. Spearheading the product is general manager Michael Sindicich.
- Doing nothing may be the one thing Sindicich can’t do. Whether he’s sprinting through meetings, shooting hoops, or flying a plane, the guy likes to keep busy.
TripActions is a corporate travel and expense management platform founded in 2015.
When the pandemic hit, the company had some less-than-fun numbers to deal with. In April, its revenue dropped to “below zero”, according to CEO Ariel Cohen. It was also forced to lay off 300 employees.
TripActions’s spend management product, TripActions Liquid, which launched a month before the pandemic took hold, was what helped keep the company afloat. Liquid lets employees pay for business expenses through virtual and physical cards. The spending is then recorded so that companies’ financial teams can keep track of expenses in real-time.
The product came in handy when suddenly companies’ employees became more distributed and their expenses less office-based.
Michael Sindicich is the general manager of TripActions Liquid. He joined the company early on in 2016 as a senior account executive and was promoted to GM of Liquid in December 2019.
Sindicich wasn’t always in high-tech mode, though. Since middle school, his plans had been to go into medicine. He was actually studying pre-med and double majoring in psychology and biology when he co-founded fintech startup Hurly Brothers. The experience became his ah-ha moment.
“Balancing between being in a laboratory basement versus building a startup kind of drew me to say, ‘Wow, I should really rethink about what I want to do’. Because building a startup was fun — I wasn’t getting that same satisfaction from medicine,” said Sindicich.
In the past six months, TripActions Liquid saw a 500% growth in transaction volume, and a 400% growth in active users. And being a general manager of the division means a whole lot of multi-tasking, quick thinking, and an ability to prioritize.
“There are always five things that are going wrong, but five things that are going really well,” said Sindicich.
But being on the cross-country team, doing pre-med, double majoring with an honors thesis, and building a startup to boot means Sindicich is no stranger to these skills.
“I think managing all of these various things that are coming and going all at once — the ability to multitask — while still being able to take a step back and focus on the three or four things that are the most important, is a skill that’s helped me navigate this role,” he said.
In his day-to-day life, Michael Sindicich likes to keep busy. “You’ve probably picked up on this by now, but I generally am doing a lot of different things at the same time.”
From color-coding his calendar, to managing Slacks and emails, to flying a plane, here’s a day in his life:
Morning ritual: automated emails, Slacks, a shower
I typically get up at 6 or 6:30am and usually the first thing that I do when my alarm goes off is check my email to see what pace we’re on for growth this month. We have an automated email that gets sent out with our spend numbers on TripActions Liquid. The email tells me how much we are on pace to grow this month versus the previous month. And it shows me all the data from all the recent days of the month, with a breakdown between the different types of spend that we have and are capturing on Liquid.
So that’s kind of my morning ritual.
Next thing I do is go over my Slacks. We have teams all over the globe. And our teams in Europe and Israel are up before us, so I’ll often get a message from there. So on top of emails, I’ll check these messages as well, and if there’s anything urgent I’ll respond.
But otherwise I’ll just get up, go shower, and get ready.
Heading into work mode: coffee brewing, a bit of commuting, podcast listening
So there’s some form of coffee. If I’m working from home, I’ll make it. Otherwise, I like to wait until I get into the office.
And if I’m working from the office, I’ll actually commute in and typically I’ll play a different YouTube video or podcast while I’m driving. How I Built This is one of the podcasts I listen to. Then there’s Bigger Pockets on Real Estate — it’s not related to work but it’s an interesting one.
I generally opt for topics like self-improvement, investing, and finance. I also like hearing about startup founders’ growth stories.
David George from Andreessen is this amazing growth investor that I like to follow.
Opening the laptop: Orange one-on-ones, purple group meets, some green time
If I’m working from home, I’ll make coffee, open up the laptop and begin working.
Typically, my days are very meeting heavy. And they’re very structured — I basically follow what my calendar says, whether it’s a group meeting or whether it’s time to build a presentation or prepare something.
I am very structured in my day to day, to the point where even my calendar is color coded: if it’s green, it’s personal work; if it’s orange, it’s a one-on-one with a team member; if it’s red, it’s a meeting with the executive staff members or with Ariel, our CEO. If it’s purple, it’s a group internal meeting; if it’s blue, it’s an external meeting; and if it’s yellow, it’s for interviews and things like that.
So for example, on Mondays at 10am is my all-hands — that’s when we come together and have a meeting as a team.
And then every Wednesday is our e-staff meeting, and that’s where all the executives from TripActions meet — that’s usually 9:30 to 11:30am.
Fridays between 2 and 3pm, I have my Liquid leadership meeting, which is also a staff meeting but within Liquid.
And so those are the big things that never move, always happen, and are really important for the week.
And then there’s one last meeting, and that’s our company all-hands, which is every other Thursday between 9:15 and 10:45am.
At TripActions we definitely believe in in-person connections and the second we could safely, a lot of us were coming into the office.
You can imagine trying to navigate a company like TripActions through Covid. We had to make sure that we were completely on top of our game, and at the same time, we had to make sure we were keeping employees engaged and happy and motivated.. We found it was a lot easier for us to do this in person.
Generally, any time I’m meeting with another exec staff member, I’m in the office. Typically, that’s Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and any other time that I have a meeting with Ariel. I live in San Francisco and our headquarters is in Palo Alto so it takes me about 35 minutes to get there.
Staying social: Basketball Mondays, Soccer Wednesdays, TripActions Happy Hours
I’m in a basketball league, and we play every Monday night, usually at around 8 or 8:30pm. It’s hard because you have to wear a mask while you’re playing but I think it gets me in better shape — especially after all the restaurant dining and stuff like that.
And then on Wednesday, we have a Happy Hour at TripActions outside our headquarters, which generally means a lot of employees are in the office that day. And so there’s a group of us — maybe 10 to 15 people — that go to the local park, set up some goals, and play soccer.
Winding down: A glass of wine, Ted Lasso, the occasional airplane
I’m generally in the office by 7 or 7:30am, so I’ll typically wind down at around 6pm or so.
I like to wind down through dinner and a glass of wine, or cooking at home.
And San Francisco has so many great restaurants and wine bars and things like that, so my girlfriend and I will typically close our laptops and then head out — either go have dinner, or go to the grocery store by our house and pick up some ingredients to cook.
We generally watch TV with our dinner if we’re eating at home. With the pandemic creating less commuting time I think everybody has started watching a bit more TV. And we have them all, actually –Netflix, Apple TV…I don’t know if you’ve seen Ted Lasso, but that’s the most recent show that we’re watching. It’s a feel-good show and we love it.
And then one thing that’s happened recently is that I’ve learned to fly.
So during the pandemic, when we all got sent home, I was thinking, how can I occupy my brain space?
So I went to the local airport here in Palo Alto and signed up for flight lessons, and actually got my pilot’s license. And now I fly my girlfriend on the weekends to various locations.
And flying has become the one thing that I do that allows me to completely block out anything related to work or or anything else going on. Because there are so many inputs and so many things that you need to manage at the same time while you’re flying an aircraft, that you actually can’t think about something else. So getting behind the cockpit and flying is almost like therapy for me.