Balancing the Grind with Will Hayward, Chief Commercial Officer at Private Media

Will Hayward is the Chief Commercial Officer at Private Media, a digital media company which owns publications like Crikey, SmartCompany and The Mandarin.

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

My current role is Chief Commercial Officer of Private Media. That means I look after the revenue side of the company.

We own Crikey, which is a subscriptions supported news brand; SmartCompany, which is a predominantly advertising funded SME business site; and The Mandarin, which is a public sector news brand and has both subscription and advertising revenue lines.

Before Crikey, I lived in London, where I was CEO of a media company called JOE Media, and before that, I was the European VP of BuzzFeed.

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

As the father of three young boys, my day tends to start with someone waking me up looking for cartoons and/or milk.

The boys take up most of my morning; once everyone is settled at kinder or school (or their home-school equivalent during COVID times), I tend to settle down to work at about 8.30am.

I’m not sure there is much out of the ordinary about my daytime – I’m generally thinking about either advertising, which is a sales driven industry, or subscriptions, which is predominantly marketing driven.

We’ve experienced fairly rapid growth in the last six months, so most of the time I’m trying to focus all our efforts on where we can get maximum reward (as opposed to spending too much time thinking about smaller opportunities, or unimportant broken things).

I’ll come down to the family for dinner at about 6pm, and am fairly offline until the kids go down at about 7.30pm. I’ll then work again until about 9.30-10pm. I try to end every day with some reading.

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

Yes – at the moment we are working entirely remotely. At first this mostly felt like a poor imitation of office work – no real benefits, and lots of new hurdles. We recently surveyed the staff and most now would rather never return to full time office work.

I recognise people have different set ups – some staff live in shared houses without reliable internet or a great work space.

So once COVID settles, we’ll definitely make sure they have somewhere to go. But for me personally it allows me to waste less time commuting, be far more present as a father, and actually get more deep work done.

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

I think the balance is important, but I’m one of those people who probably blurs the line a lot. I’m fairly sure my teammates are fed up of hearing about my family.

On the other hand, my wife works in media too so we often talk through work in the evening. I recently tried to take my six year old through a finance spreadsheet – he wasn’t quite there yet. We can review at his next appraisal.

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

My main hobby is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which pre-COVID I would train four or five times a week. I don’t think training will be allowed again for a while, so I’ve had to find other ways to get exercise.

The other big change (non-COVID related) is I’ve given up business books in favour of online education. I’ve swung from being a fairly avid non-fiction reader to thinking most of what I was reading was a waste of time.

Almost all business books should be articles, many are not really based on good research but just on what will sell, and I always struggle with retention.

I’ve done several online courses since COVID started (all via the amazing Coursera) – for $80 you can do a term’s learning on financial markets, given by the Pulitzer Prize winning economist Professor Robert J. Shiller. How amazing is that?

And now I actually learnt something I can have faith in, and the style of learning (videos plus quizzes) means hopefully I’ll still retain some of it in a year’s time.

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

Books – see above. But my favourite business book is How Brands Grow, by Professor Byron Sharp. Read it, and you’ll know more than 99% of people who work in marketing about their chosen profession.

I’m not sure my podcast or newsletter list is particularly revelatory, though I do like recommending Conversations with Tyler. Perhaps I just have a thing for economists and academics.

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

The product that has had the biggest impact on me over the last few years is the iPad Pro. Being able to take handwritten notes in a meeting without sheets of paper or notebooks that I lose has been amazing.

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

Patrick Collison.

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

This is fairly specific and only applies to a few people (and isn’t about work!). But the best piece of advice I’ve been given is that there is never a good time to have kids.

Though I play this out with any big life event. There is always a good reason to not do something big and important and hard that you think could be positively transformative. Most of the time, you should probably just do it now.

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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.