Balancing the Grind with Azadeh Williams, Founder & Managing Partner of AZK Media

Azadeh Williams is the founder and managing partner of AZK Media, a global B2B marketing, content and communications consultancy servicing the technology, data, martech, adtech, health, tax and finance sectors.

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

As the Founder and Managing Partner of AZK Media, my role is to help our global base of B2B clients define their marketing and business strategy, refine their messaging and content, and then amplify it across the right media and marketing channels.  

Prior to running the company I was a global business, marketing and technology journalist (Reuters, Times UK, CMO Mag, CIO Mag etc) for over 15 years, a media lecturer and also worked across various PR, content marketing and media agencies. 

In those roles, I’d started to see a number of serious business challenges. CMOs were under immense pressure, juggling too many agencies who were overcharging and under-delivering.

Meanwhile journalists were frustrated, with media pitches from agencies who just didn’t understand the nuances of B2B tech, SaaS or data analytics.

So I wanted to start a new model of B2B marketing and media agency, where we operate more like a trusted ‘partner’ or ‘outsourced CMO’ to our clients.

We work like a natural extension to your team, deep dive and understand business needs at a deeper level, and articulate complex, often highly technical messages clearly and with impact to customers and to the press.

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

My day is extremely varied and dynamic. A mix of client meetings, managing deliverables from our team, liaising with business influencers, advisors and the media, developing strategy decks and identifying new business opportunities.

Once a month we also meet as a team to collaborate and find ways to refine and streamline our service offerings for existing clients, while identifying new ways to scale and grow sustainably.

It’s extremely collaborative, both internally with our talented team and externally, with clients, media and industry influencers.

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

One of the personal reasons I started AZK Media was because I believed in a more creative, productive and family-friendly model of work.

After having my daughter, I went back to my role as a journalist when she was only 5 months, only to be faced with a mandatory commute which took hours, plus out of hours events and press events and interviews that were inflexible. It was unsustainable and exhausting. 

At AZK Media, we believe in a flexible, hybrid model of work. It doesn’t matter where and when you do the work, as long as you get your deliverables over the line and it’s of high quality – and you make the requisite weekly team and client meetings.

A lot of us have children in our organisation and find we’re actually most productive very early in the morning. Others in our team find they get more work done in the evening. We’re living in a digital, global environment, so it’s important that our working model is as flexible and agile as possible.

We have a wonderful office space at Manly Beach, but it’s used as and when we please!

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

When you’re running a global business in the midst of a pandemic it’s very easy to get ‘sucked down the black hole’ of emails, meetings, zoom marathons, crisis management and late nights. 

To get some ‘balance’ I start with changing my workflow. I start work early, around 5am every day, so I can be as productive as possible before the meetings, emails and calls begin.

Those 4 hours are when I get the biggest ticket, high priority items done. It means the rest of my day is much less stressful, and I’m not working into the night trying to catch up on anything. 

I also schedule ‘Friday early marks’ once a month so I can use that time to slow things down and spend more time with my family. However, in reality, achieving that ultimate work-life balance ‘nirvana’ is much easier said than done!

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

The pandemic was wreaking havoc on my health, I became too sedentary, gained weight and exercise went out the window. So I’m now trying to be more active and taking care of my mental and physical wellbeing. 

For instance, I intentionally park a mile away from the office, to force myself to walk by the beach to get some exercise. I’ve also cut all sugar, which has really helped regulate my sleep and stress levels.

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

The 4-Hour Workweek was actually the book that helped me get into the mindset to start AZK Media. Then the The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck helped me understand time management and priorities when things became very busy.

I also recently enjoyed reading The Magic because it helped me visualise what success looks like. For marketers, Simon Sinek’s Start With Why is gold.

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

Laptop and iPhone are everything for running our business, because we do everything on the cloud! Recently we moved our social to Sprout Social – and that has been a game changer.

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

Being a bit existential here, but I’d like to probably re-read my own interview in 5 years’ time to see whether I cringe or clap.

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

When you get rest, you’re at your best!

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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.