Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Andrea Atzori, Co-Founder & Director at Ambire

Andrea Atzori is the co-founder & director at Ambire, an independent performance marketing agency based in Sydney.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

My career has taken me from working client-side in the travel industry back home in Italy to some exciting times working for the world’s biggest media agencies in London.

This was at a time when Google’s AdWords was only a new player on the scene and it was a fast-paced and hectic lifestyle, definitely from the days before a work-life balance had been conceptualised of.

I was offered a job in a small start-up agency in Sydney with one of my now best friends, James Dixon, and despite my initial reservations about going from the world’s biggest players to a small one, I really valued my time at AtomicSearch.

However, as all good things must come to an end, I moved to iProspect and soon realised I wasn’t cut out for office politics and bureaucratic red tape, and so I launched my own digital marketing company, Ambire, in 2017.

My interest in paid media started while still working in travel – although I always kick myself when I think I didn’t see the importance of SEO back in the early days of Google – I’d be a millionaire today if we’d started from day dot.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Clichéd it may be, but I do start my day at 4am. What can I say? I’m a morning person. I like to start the day by catching up on what’s happened overnight in Italy and around the world and then flicking through my RSS feed to keep up with the digital marketing news of the day.

Then, it’s time to get the day planned for myself and the team. I’ve learnt that a lot of my team isn’t too keen on receiving emails at 5am, so I now schedule them all to be sent at 8am – makes for a much happier office that day.

In typical Italian fashion, I then have my strong espresso – without it I’m insufferable – before the house descends into chaos at 7am when the kids get up.

Then in true Zuckerberg style, I put on my ‘uniform’ of a grey t-shirt – but a fashionable one – and escape the madness of the house by dashing the 5 minutes around the corner to work.

From there, every day is different although I always start by catching up with my team. I try to deal with important tasks in the morning, whether it’s planning strategy, client meetings or preparing pitches.

In the afternoon, I’ll get through whatever is left before I’m usually the last one to leave.

At home, it’s more work. I kid (mostly).

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Yes. I basically live in the office and work at home. No, but really, they are very close. However, I much prefer to be in the office as much as I can.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

For me, work-life balance is about actively making and taking the time to completely switch off from even thinking about work. I have found that since starting my own company, this is much harder to do as I want to be involved in every aspect of the business, right down to the most intricate of details.

I am trying to counteract this by ensuring I have a strong team around me to whom I am comfortable delegating important tasks, and then trusting such tasks will be properly completed.

One part of the day that I look forward to the most is dinner time. After all, I’m Italian. I grew up in a large family and learnt to cook at Nonna’s side. I love getting in the kitchen, and have to say I like taking over this space. For us, dinner time is when we get the whole family together, sit down and share a meal. There are no phones (so no emails or work notifications) and no TV.

In fact, sometimes I can even be found cooking pizza in our clients’ offices.

Other important things for me include eating healthy and taking care of my body. Swimming is a great form of mindful exercise for me, and I used to be able to spend hours in the pool. Same goes for walking.

When our office was further away, I used to relish the time spent on the road in the morning and evenings as I really had a space to think, and just mull over ideas which otherwise got buried in the busyness of day to day life.

In pre-COVID times, I also travelled home as much as possible as, like many Aussie migrants, no matter how much I settle here I always find it easier to rest and recharge when I’m back under the Sardinian sun and with the whole (very large) extended family.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

I have to say that since COVID hit, I’ve been very much focused on work, and ensuring the business remains sustainable. Sadly for me, this probably means I haven’t been exercising as much as I should be, and I am trying to get back into that.

But, I have tried to take more time to completely shut off and shut down from thinking about work. Mostly, this includes reading or listening to podcasts – which I did a lot over the Christmas break, especially as the weather wasn’t fab in Sydney.

As a family, we also got a lot into geocaching. It’s good because it gets the whole family out and about in nature but there’s also the adrenaline rush of finding something.

I’m also trying to get into meditation using the Headspace app – although it remains to be seen as to whether I can actually shut my ‘work brain’ off that completely.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Funnily enough, I don’t actually like being asked this question because I really think the best advice is to read and listen as widely as possible. You can never have any bad sources because everything gives you a different point of view and challenges you to reconsider your own opinions and preconceptions.

That being said, I did get a little bit into self-improvement material recently, and although I am convinced a lot of it is just common sense, one book I thoroughly enjoyed was Jim Kwik’s Limitless.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

Yes – a lot. Well, digital marketing is my job so I spend a lot of time online. My mobile phone is definitely my number one gadget and I’ve basically hijacked the whole thing so I can use it as more of a computer than anything else.

In fact, I actually often totally forget that it can be used as a real phone. So, if you text or call me, I’m likely to miss it. Likewise, I was recently out later than expected for a colleague’s farewell and forgot to use the phone to do what it’s meant to do – call home to let them know.

I like any kind of technology that can be interconnected – smart watches and Google Home, for example.

At work, I could obviously not live without the whole Google suite, although I have to say I wish we could all move on from email. I think there are better and more streamlined ways to communicate now.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Aside from Bill Gates being the obvious answer, the other successful business person who really influenced me when I was just starting out in my career was Richard Branson. He’s the perfect example of how to be really prominent in your field, but also enjoy yourself and have a lot of fun while doing so.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Yes – and I think many people with kids will say the same thing. Life is short, so when you’re younger, you think that every minute you’re not in the office working is time you’re wasting. But, as soon as you have children you realise that in actual fact, it’s the complete opposite.

When you’re at work you’re actually missing out on precious time with family – time that you can never get back.

I think my take on all of this is to ensure that no matter where I am – work or home – I’m making the most out of my time.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.