Interviews / PR & Communications

Balancing the Grind with Sally Harley, Founder & Director of littleBIG Marketing & PR

Sally Harley is the Founder & Director of littleBIG Marketing & PR, a boutique agency, working predominantly with food & drink and lifestyle brands.

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

I founded littleBIG 13 years ago. Prior to that I worked in PR, sales & marketing and digital content – still in the lifestyle B2C realm but predominantly in fashion.

I fully embraced my foodie side upon starting littleBIG, hence our focus on the food & drink and lifestyle sectors. Having a rather broad-based background, led to making littleBIG a multi-service agency.

I believe having a great cross functional understanding is key to driving smart campaigns no matter the discipline – this has never held more truth, as integration becomes more and more important.

Now at littleBIG I’m responsible for top level business management and development, PR strategy and driving the team to be the best they can be.

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

As a Melbourne person in Stage 4 Lockdown this is a bit different to what it was in February!

Here’s the vibe:

  • Hit the computer around 9am, addressing emails hanging over from the day before
  • I hold the daily 9:30am team meeting where we go through everyone’s tasks for the day and interact/reprioritise accordingly, throw around ideas together and invariably gossip about Bachelor in Paradise
  • Review/edit work requiring my input/sign-off – digital content, reports, proposals, strategies, media materials, etc. Often I’ll video call the people responsible for the work to talk it through and provide feedback.
  • Talk to a potential new client about their needs and how we might be able to help – follow up with an email with further info or start getting their proposal underway.
  • Review financial reports and liaise with bookkeeper/accountant/account leads accordingly – this might be re: invoicing matters, payments, etc.
  • Step away from the computer around 1pm
  • Communicate with various business contacts via phone and email through the afternoon while I’m occupying the kids
  • Around 7:30pm finalise or start anything needing to be addressed before the next day

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

Yes! Flexibility has always been part of the littleBIG culture but given we’re now in Stage 4 lockdown with no childcare options every day is undertaken flexibly and remotely.

So in the context of the work day example above, before sitting down to the computer I’ve been wrangling our two kids under 5 and we pop them in front of ABC Kids while we run the morning meeting from our home office.

Rich converted our double garage into a beautiful office and studio space in the first lockdown and it’s working incredibly well for us. It’s separate from the rest of the house and has enough room for other team members to work here with us in between lockdowns.

Typically I work in the morning while Rich takes care of the kids and we swap shifts in the afternoon. There’s flexibility around this when we need to attend meetings, deliver on deadlines etc. When the workload requires it we hit the computer early in the morning or after the kids are in bed too.

I mostly work on a laptop and we already used G-Suite and Dropbox so working from anywhere, anytime was already part of littleBIG life. Now we all work from home all the time.

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

As a parent it’s about sharing the unpaid work/care load equally with my husband.

Pre COVID-19 we both worked 4 days a week, with a day each at home with kids and childcare the other three days. We continue this equal balance in lockdown. And we try and make all the work and life in general as fun as we can.

Having time just for me helps me feel grounded and centred and I mostly do this through yoga.

Also socialising with friends (even just on the phone), spending time in the great outdoors and cooking delicious things helps round things out for me.

There’s no such thing as perfect balance. It’s a constant recalibration of what’s important today. Focusing on the present is a great practice generally and has very much come in handy during COVID-19.

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

I used to get up before 6am to squeeze in a yoga class before my kids woke up. Lockdown life saw me adapt to practising yoga at home after the kids were in bed which means I get more sleep.

I think that’s really helped me feel more balanced and vital. Obviously that’s just one of many routines that have changed due to COVID-19.

Spending less time in the car travelling to childcare, work and meetings has also made for more family time and allowed us to slow home life down. This makes us all more calm and happy.

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

I’m a big podcast person. I listen to many Mamamia podcasts and recommend Mamamia Outloud, This Glorious Mess (for parents), The Quicky and No Filter.

Other’s on my regular rotation are The Briefing, Don’t Shoot the Messenger, Long Distance Call, The Nitty Gritty Committee, Hidden Brain, This American Life, Radiolab, Chat 10 Looks 3 – honestly I could go on about podcasts forever.

I admit I don’t tend to listen to work/productivity/etc. podcasts but I learn a lot about all aspects of life through these.

I just finished American Dirt which was amazing. I’m not a big non-fiction/business book reader.

Newsletter-wise, I read a few industry-specific ones like Mumbrella and Ad News, and pick up business news and advice from SmartCompany and My Business.

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

G-Suite keeps my work life alive! G-Mail, Google Documents, G-Cal, G-Chat, Meet, Hangouts – we find all the productivity, communication and collaboration tools we need within G-Suite.

Harvest is fantastic for time tracking, estimating and invoicing in a service-based business like ours.

My iPhone, iMac and MacBook Air make it all happen too.

Imagine COVID-19 times without all this amazing tech!

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

President Obama.

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

When you’re in a partnership or any sort of team it’s important to communicate clearly about the day’s priorities, express each other’s needs and discuss the needs of those you’re caring for.

I think that’s key on a micro (daily) and macro (lifetime!) level. It’s impossible for me to balance the different areas of my life in a sustainable and happiness-inducing way without helping the other people in my life do the same thing and vice versa.

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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.