CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Riad Chikhani, Founder & CEO at GAMURS Group

Riad Chikhani is the founder & CEO at GAMURS Group, a digital media company with 16 websites focused on esports, gaming and entertainment.

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

I’m the CEO and Founder of GAMURS Group, a digital media company with 16 websites focused on esports, gaming and entertainment. We currently have a team of circa 500 full-time and freelancer team members worldwide, with offices in Sydney, Austin, Serbia and the Philippines, and plans to further expand in Europe.

We have over 50 million monthly readers across our portfolio, a network of 30m+ followers on social media, and over 115 million monthly article views. I originally started GAMURS Group in 2014 with a vision to bring together like-minded gamers to an online forum where they could engage as a community and we have evolved this into one of the largest gaming publishers in the USA. 

My current role is still very hands-on. I am involved in nearly every aspect of the company from raising capital to operational decisions to execute our strategy. The company has changed so rapidly in the past two years as we have grown that I am slowly stepping away from certain responsibilities where my team is better suited to handle it, whilst choosing to focus more on M&A.

I have now set my team up so that I can remove myself from the daily work in certain departments and only maintain oversight to provide resources, direction, and value. This lets me focus more on expanding our portfolio and executive team.

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

It is hard to answer this one as every day is different for me at this stage of my career. This year I have spent five months out of the country visiting our offices, investors, and expanding our executive team, so it has been a big adjustment trying to manage my daily workload while travelling. Routine has certainly been a difficult thing to manage but I’m working on it! 

  1. I usually wake up by 7am at the latest where I’ll start my day by taking my dog out for an hour walk where I may do a few of my meetings if they coincide.
  2. I’ll then have breakfast and handle any other morning meetings during that time, this gives me a bit of time to prepare for the day ahead. Afterwards, I’ll head to the office and use the drive to finish off any other morning meetings or just to mentally prepare for the day ahead. 
  3. I try to be in the office by mid morning and I have an open door policy for my staff, so I get a lot of ad-hoc meetings on top of my already busy diary. I try to be very hands-on in order to have my finger on the pulse, so I have a lot of direct reports within the company, however, this is something I am now managing to ensure the company has the right reporting structures for us to scale. 
  4. I try to set enough time each day to have lunch with key executive members if they’re in the office to handle any ongoing matters or just to further develop our relationship. 
  5. My assistant Toni has been integral in helping me manage my time and maintain real-time communications with a lot of my reports, so that’s something I make sure I allocate 30-minutes a day too, usually post-lunch or later during the day.
  6. Finally, whilst my day is usually filled with lots of meetings and calls it’s up to me to properly manage that for when I need to get other work done. This is usually preserved for 2-7pm.
  7. I aim to be out of the office at 7pm the latest, unless there’s an urgent matter.

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

Work-life balance is important to me, although I am ‘always on’ when it comes to work as I think that comes with the nature of the role and my personality. I have tried to take more time out to balance the weeks this year though and I’ve done that with a few getaway holidays and just generally taking some time off to decompress, meditate, and plan ahead. 

I recently adopted a dog and he has been a blessing. I like to start my days by taking him for a long walk and I do my morning meetings while doing this. I also bring him into the office most days, and it’s safe to say he is great for company culture and morale.

I’m also very in tune with my mental and emotional wellbeing in order to not burn out. I’ve been doing this now for eight years and have a great strategy to prevent burn out which works for me. My trick is that I strive to be very honest with myself and I consciously gauge my own performance often.

By doing that, I ensure that I remain flexible when it comes time for me to step back for the day or relax. It’s really easy to force yourself to work overtime constantly, but your job as a leader is to make 3-4 really good decisions a day, so being on point is more important than putting in long hours. And we all know, you can’t be on point if you’re burnt out.

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

I recently bought a NordicTrack bike and it has been a great way to finish the working day, going through work emails and also doing some final calls while getting some exercise which I am really enjoying.

There is no excuse if I don’t get the time to get to the gym as it is right there in my home. I feel like this has improved my health and my sleep patterns and it has become a habit that is benefiting me now and in the future.

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

Besides our own websites, I try to read The Australian, Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian, as well as The New York Times daily to keep informed. I also like to listen to podcasts while I am driving.

I am currently listening to Case Files, which may not be for everyone but true crime podcasts fascinate me. I also love to drive, so I find that the commute is sometimes the only time I get to sit and reflect on my day at work. 

Unfortunately, whilst I do love reading, I don’t get as much time at the moment to do a lot of it. A couple of years ago I binged a ton of philosophy content, especially about Stoicism.

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

Yvon Chouinard – climber, environmentalist and founder of Patagonia.

Also, it would be interesting to understand how Elon Musk is currently handling his work-life balance (if there’s any).

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

My family is so important to me, I try to spend as much quality time with my partner, my parents, siblings and my beautiful nephews as possible. If you can’t find time to enjoy the people that keep you grounded then you are working too hard and your priorities aren’t set straight.

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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.