Interviews / Operations

Balancing the Grind with Sarah Heering, COO of Muzik

Sarah is a media entrepreneur and tech startup founder, and is currently the COO of headphones and wearable tech company, Muzik.

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

My life before my current position at MUZIK has been that of an entrepreneur. Most notably I co-founded ‘NailSnaps,’ the only mobile/social nail design system, as a breakout innovation in the custom beauty and fashion vertical.

It won the 2017 NAWBO “Innovation of the Year” award before its exit in 2019. Prior to that, I ran a successful digital media agency for ten years, which was utilized by some of the most renowned brands and advertising agencies. 

On one hand, my position as COO is like that of a chief cheerleader; I’m focused on execution, to get things done, while making sure that everyone feels part of the team. It’s my goal to ensure that we’re all contributing to a mission that is bigger than us as individuals.

I joined Muzik to help take all the patents, innovations and ideas that founder and CEO Jason Hardi had put into the world and distill all of that into an overall vision for the company.

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

I live and die by my calendar, if something is on my calendar I generally try hard to get it done. My day now consists of 4-8 zoom meetings with various team leads, outside partners, and fires that arise daily. I’m juggling most of the day and that’s how I work best.

I keep a pen and paper next to my computer at all times and rearrange priorities on the fly. One thing I focus on is being present while I’m talking with anyone. I find multi-tasking is sometimes necessary at times but it’s not me at my best.

Thereby, I try to only put things on my calendar that ladder up to the company’s strategic vision and supporting our milestones. 

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

One thing that I’ve been very proud of is MUZIK’s excellent internal culture and value for team members. Like millions of companies, we have been forced to redefine our work environment and I took that seriously.

We have an internal Zoom and Slack culture to feel connected. We start each day with a :15 video stand-up where team members have 30 sec to 1 minute to say what they accomplished the previous day, what they are working on, and any blockers.

This provides accountability and an understanding of what each team member is working on to stay focused on execution. Every Tuesday we start with a longer weekly “All Hands On Deck” meeting to highlight the previous week’s progress and what we are all working toward in the upcoming week, then open it up to questions where anyone can ask the founder, Jason Hardi, or me any questions they might have.

This is so everyone can see the forest from the trees – which is equally important. We all need to be marching toward the same mountain top. One of the things we incorporate is “Friday Highlights”, which is an email that goes out company-wide to give shout outs to team members to showcase their deliverables for that week. Everyone loves a gold star and it’s a pleasure to give them out! 

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

Work-life balance is really important to me. One of my biggest goals for MUZIK to be on the top of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list in 3-5 years. I want to be part of the cultural shift of efficiency, rather than just booking hours.

My husband, being from Denmark, has taught me the importance of vacations and disconnection. The quality of your work is overall higher when you are your best self and aligned with your higher purpose. Success is sweeter when you have time to enjoy it and health and well-being is crucial to that.

We need to allow people the space to flourish as people, not just as workers. The best way to achieve this as a leader is through setting very specific goals for people and they can choose how to achieve them. I generally don’t care if you work in the middle of the night as long as you are a true team member, show up for our team calls with an amazing attitude and are crushing your milestones. 

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

I have a beautiful 4 month old daughter and truly thought I could juggle everything without skipping a beat. I took a 10 day maternity leave without fully disconnecting from the company at all during that time.

After 2 months of maintaining normal work hours without proper sleep, it took a toll on me. I began to set better boundaries on the weekends and nights to catch up on sleep, revisited my exercise routine and outsourced everything possible – from food delivery (thanks Simple Feast!) to getting a really fabulous nanny.

I should also say, I have an incredible husband that is an equal partner. The only way any of my success is possible is with his support. 

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

My mother gave me a book called The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran when I left home as a 19-year old getting ready to move to California. The book is a well-known philosophy book that touches on all sides of life. It holds a dear place in my heart and remains important to me till this day.

I keep finding new perspectives in the text every time I revisit it, which I do at least once a year. I love this quote on work: “In keeping yourself with labor, you’re in truth loving life, and to love life through labor is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret.”

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

Here is the time I can plug Slack, my hands-down all time favorite platform. I feel so strongly about Slack, that if you don’t use it, I can’t work with you because it only works if everyone in the company is on it.

I’m also often on back to back calls, so I need one place to check in when I have a free moment and can’t often respond right away. I loathe email with a genuine passion. If you are emailing me without a true reason, you don’t love me – and may not receive a timely response back.

I’m ashamed to say, my inbox is constantly exploding. I’m also a pretty big fan of a fitness app called Aaptiv and have been using it for years. 

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

Arianna Huffington. Her history with burnout is both fascinating and also motivating to find more efficient ways to be productive. I’m a believer there’s always a better way to do things and those who have taken the big turn before you are those that are keen on giving you a heads up.

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

I do believe that we as leaders have the responsibility to enrich the lives of those that we work with. This is often challenging especially in startup culture where it is a rollercoaster ride and there is a lot of uncertainty with choosing this path.

There are naturally high demands on one’s time and often seemingly impossible expectations, but  that’s also how BIG innovation happens.

However, equally as important, we need to nurture a culture where eating dinner with your family and enjoying nature on a daily basis rises to the top of the priority list. In the words of Will Durant, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” 

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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.