CEOs / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Annette Franz, Founder & CEO of CX Journey Inc.

Annette Franz is a keynote speaker, coach, author and the founder & CEO of CX Journey Inc., a global customer experience strategy consulting firm.

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

I don’t have an exciting story about my career path. I basically fell into this customer experience profession when I started at J.D. Power and Associates almost 30 years ago. My love of math and writing made for the perfect combination for the classic market researcher.

What we were doing made total sense to me. I enjoyed working with companies to improve their businesses and, ultimately, the customer experience in order to grow and thrive.

After J.D. Power and Associates, I spent the next 20 years in various roles on both the client and vendor side, including market research, head of consulting or professional services for four different VOC technology companies, marketing, and head of customer experience.

In 2017, I founded CX Journey Inc., which is a customer experience strategy consulting firm. I focus on coaching and consulting engagements in which I work with clients on CX strategy from soup to nuts, especially starting with leadership, culture, and customer and employee understanding.

I am also a keynote speaker and an author, writing content not only for clients but for my own blog. Plus, I wrote my first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business), just last fall.

I am currently the Board Chair for the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA). I’ve been a member of the association since 2012, and I’ve been on the Board since 2015. I was Board Treasurer from 2015-2018. In 2019, I was Vice Chair.

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

I wake up, usually before 6am, grab my phone and start to read emails, check social media, and catch up on the morning’s news. I then go to the gym for a workout, which is my daily sanity!

After breakfast, I usually dive into social media for a bit, sharing content and responding to comments.

Then the meetings begin. I’ll be talking to clients, partners, or potential partners; conducting interviews or workshops for clients; writing; preparing presentations; and just getting into the meat of the day.

Right now, I’m not traveling, so I’m doing a lot of virtual meetings and workshops.

Around 4:30 or 5:00pm, I stop to call my parents. Every day. Wherever I am. My brother and sister have both passed away, and my parents live 2,500 miles away, so I like to keep tabs on them.

Afterwards, I’ll make dinner with my kids (two teenage boys) and enjoy some time with them. Then it’s back to the office for a final wrap-up for an hour or so, as well as some prep for the next day. And then I’ll watch the evening news before lights out around 10pm.

Of course, as we know, no two days are alike, but there are parts of the day – like the gym, the call to my parents, and dinner with my kids – that are daily staples.

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

I have my own business and work from home. I’ve actually been working from home for the last 20 years.

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

Work-life balance is a challenge for me. I am a work-aholic. I love what I do. I love my work. I love to work. I love to do and to create things. And I’m very competitive.

So I work at work-life balance every day. Working from a home office makes that so much harder. As a result, work-life balance to me looks more like work-life integration.

Ideally, work-life balance is all about: how can I get my work done but also spend time doing what I need to do outside of that, i.e., spending time with kids, reading, cooking, running errands, working out, going to the beach, taking time off, etc.

How can I be present and mindful, rather than wondering what that email or text says and how to respond to it? How can I schedule my time to ensure that I’m not only working but spending time with my family and friends?

I actually think that the lockdown and other changes during the pandemic have forced me to achieve a better balance in my life, and I’m hoping I can maintain that!

At the start of the pandemic, my kids decided they wanted to live with me full time, rather than the 50/50 arrangement their dad and I had.

So, with them here with me 100% of the time, a time with so many challenges and crazy conversations and concerns and what not – plus they were doing schoolwork from home – I was spending far more time with them than before (well, as much time as teenagers will allow you to spend with them, and they were surprisingly wanting to spend more time with me), which forced me to put work-life balance into a different, and much better, perspective.

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

I’ve always maintained a to-do list, which can be long and daunting at times. I still have a master to-do list, but in the last year or so, I’ve taken instead to making a daily list of three to five things I need to get done.

I’ll sit down at the end of my workday and plan the next day’s list. Keeping the list at three to five tasks to complete for the day feels achievable, and at the end of the day you feel good that you’ve gotten them all done.

Some days, if I complete the five, I’ll add more; other days, I’ll just end the day early. It has also contributed to a better work-life balance.

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

The last book I finished was Dan Crenshaw’s Fortitude. Great read about his many life lessons, his military career, and his views on current events. It’s not political at all. I want my kids to read it because there are some awesome words of wisdom in this book.

A newsletter that I would recommend, one that I start my day with, is Morning Brew. It’s an informative way to kick off the day, with views on the market, world news and trends, a chuckle, and more.

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

My calendar. Without a doubt, 100%. I live by my calendar. If it’s not on my calendar, it doesn’t happen.

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

Jeff Bezos.

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

Make time for the people and things that are important to you. Make time for you. Prioritize your day. Don’t take time (or anything) for granted. Be present and mindful.

Now I just need to listen to my own parting thoughts.

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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.