Directors / Founders / Interviews / Marketing & Advertising

Balancing the Grind With Tom Haynes, Founder & Director at Kudos Media

Tom Haynes is the Director and Founder of Kudos Media, a Sydney-based content marketing and digital marketing automation agency.

An award-winning journalist and 15-year media veteran, Tom founded Kudos Media after seeing a lack of quality in the communications between brands and customers.

Balance the Grind spoke to Tom about launching Kudos Media, a day in the life as a Director, systems and processes to manage his workload, starting the day with exercise and plenty more.

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

I have worked in media for nearly 20 years, initially in outdoor advertising sales and account management, before training as a journalist.

After working as a journalist, editor and then associate publisher for some 5 years – and seeing that brands were increasingly becoming less and less interested in buying interruptive “advertising” but rather wanted digital content produced to engage their target market, I took the plunge and started Kudos Media, a content-lead digital marketing agency.

In those early days I was mentored by King Content founder and content marketing legend, Craig Hodges, who I approached after he inspired me to start Kudos Media at a panel discussion.

2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day-to-day basis?

As Director of Kudos Media I manage all aspects of the business. I started it in 2014 without a single client and so in those days I was doing everything.

However as the team has grown, it is now less about personally doing the work such as mapping buyer journeys, writing content, scheduling social media posts and seeding content as it is about helping the team to ensure they have all the tools, information and resources they need to excel.

Importantly, that means constant training to stay ahead of the curve, for me and the team. In digital marketing tools, technology and algorithms change so quickly, you must allocate time to training or you won’t keep up.

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

5:30am wake up, stumble to the coffee machine. Bless my girlfriend for already turning it on so caffeine arrives more quickly. Let in the dog who does her best to interrupt a quick 20 minute stretching session.

Head out the door at 6am and in the water for a sunrise surf. Dry by 7:30 and make the short commute to the office. At my desk for 8.

Check emails, and respond to anything urgent, flag anything else important. Check various ad performance for clients and for KM. Note any suggestions for the team to consider.

Review HubSpot tasks and Asana project timelines and ensure I have a clear picture of what needs to be achieved for the day. Have a WIP with the team, including client projects scope, tasks and priorities.

Respond to flagged important emails and make any associated calls. Check through and edit projects with team. Understand and discuss their methodology to help refine and crystallise the “why”, which also enables better client communications.

Client WIP – discussing campaign progress, KPIs and the future roadmap in reference to their strategy. Head for a lunchtime run around North Head followed by a quick lunch.

Work on the “content outreach” section of a new client strategy. Check in with HubSpot and follow up on any inbound leads, including running complimentary website audits which we use as a lead nurture tool.

Price up a new client proposal and work with Manuel, our graphic designer on its design. Stay at the office until all important outstanding emails are addressed and work delivered.

Head home and cook up a meal with my girlfriend. Take the dog for a burn and wear her out. Then if it’s not too late we will sit down to watch a movie or something on Netflix and invariably fall asleep before the opening credits finish.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you prioritise your workload?

HubSpot has been amazing in managing and streamlining our business. HubSpot is a marketing automation platform that streamlines sales and marketing functions, automating many traditionally manual processes.

If your teams is working off spreadsheets or copy-pasting emails it will save you a lot of time.

It also provides end-to-end reporting on marketing ROI, along with insight into how well sales reps are performing, ensuring we do more of what’s working and less of what’s not.

We also use the Asana Project management app with a direct integration with the Everhour time tracking app. This ensures we efficiently prioritise jobs and understand how long various projects are taking.

This is important both for accurate billing, quoting and identifying any bottlenecks or skillsets that we need to work on.

5) In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?

We are lucky enough to be based in an office 100m from Manly Beach in Sydney. As a keen surfer, I can grab a wave before work or duck out for a surf at lunch. And I can easily go for a run through the bush trails of North Head.

Exercise is a stress buster, and when things get busy in the business requiring me to work 6 long days a week, even a 30-minute burn completely resets me, as well as helping foster creative ideas and providing perspective on problems.

Being able to do it in one of the world’s best locations makes it even better.

6) What are some of the things you do to take time out and recharge?

Surfing, and trail running are what I mostly use to break the monotony. I also practice yoga and increasingly train at the gym to stay strong and supple, with my late 30s beginning to bite.

The whole team also have sit-stand desks, which in itself helps keep the synapses firing. My physio once told me “your best posture is your next one”.

I also work from home at least once a fortnight and encourage staff to do the same. Changing the environment helps break up monotony and eliminating the commute gives you precious extra personal time.

7) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

Knowing that if I don’t set the alarm before dawn and get the blood pumping before work – even if it’s with a simple yoga session – that I am less productive and less passionate than when I do.

That alcohol during the week is best avoided. Even a couple of glasses makes it harder to achieve said dawn exercise.

That I never, ever work on Sundays – unless it’s something unavoidable such as a video shoot or event.

But if the business is simply busy, I won’t work Sundays. And that means not opening or checking email. You need at least one day a week to disconnect and I’d rather start at 6am on Monday than work Sunday.

7 days a week I have email notifications turned off on my phone and desktop and my phone is usually on silent.

So if you ever tried to call me, chances are it went to voicemail. Sorry about that. This enables me to immerse myself in projects and deliver clients better value. Multitasking has been proven to slow down productivity.

8) Are there any books you’ve read that have helped you with work-life balance?

I am pretty good at ensuring I have balance. There are times when I work incredibly hard, but I know this is only sustainable if I break it up with exercise and surfing.

However, the books which I have found of particular value to my business are those on behavioural economics:

9) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

Start the day with exercise. Something, anything that gets the heart racing.

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.