Farzana Baduel - CEO, Curzon PR

Farzana Baduel - CEO, Curzon PR

Exclusive Interview for MOM.CEO

Being from the advertising world and working with PR people all the time, I recently read a quote that summed it up quite right.

"Advertising is telling people you are good. PR is getting someone else to say you're good."

I met Farzana Baduel some years ago when I was the CEO of a national newspaper at a business-focused event we had organized called THE TIGER CONFERENCE where we invited her to be an expert panelist on the subject of 'How to brand a country'. Farzana impressed me so much that day with her insights, confidence, and stage presence that I made it a point to keep in touch with her should I ever require a real global expert for future projects.

4 years later, I called Farzana asking her how to best launch DAD.CEO to the world. She gave me some great advice, but the one that struck me the most was:

"You need to launch MOM.CEO as soon as possible! Quality content is truly missing and needed for this influential target audience of business mothers."

I not only agreed with her advice, but I asked her to be one of my first interviews for MOM.CEO!

MOM.CEO: You’re a CEO and a committed mom, what’s your secret to making it work?

FB: I am a mother and a CEO, and the secret is simple,

"The secret is to be kind to yourself."

For many years I struggled with trying to balance motherhood and entrepreneurship and tried to pursuit perfection in both. I ignored my own needs and worked flat out, trying to be a superwoman until I was miserable and on the verge of burn out. It dawned upon me that I was working hard and not working smart, and the first step was to look after myself. So, I reluctantly headed to the gym and took time out for myself for fun, and it was transformative. 

If you manage yourself well, only then you can effectively manage a home and a business. 

For Farzana, connecting emotionally with her daughter is important.

MOM.CEO: What is the best advice you have received on being a working mother that you use in your daily life?

FB: The best advice I ever received about being a working mother is to abandon perfectionism and embrace a 'good enough' approach rather than striving for excellence in every aspect of life, which can be exhausting. If we look at life as a marathon instead of a sprint, then we can understand that there are many stages in life, and we don't have to achieve everything now.

"Plan life like a marathon and maintain your energy throughout." 

I would love to read more books and learn in-depth about world history, philosophy, and psychology, but ultimately I am in the rush hour of my life juggling the peak of my career and motherhood. It will not last long, and one day when my daughter ventures into the big wide world herself and needs me less, I will be able to pursue those passions I couldn't do so earlier. 

Farzana with her husband, Marco Baduel and daughter, Isabella Baduel

MOM.CEO: Do you find that it’s maybe time we start celebrating Mother's Day by acknowledging their roles in teaching, mentoring, influencing, etc. the next generations of CEOs (boys and girls)?

FB: Mothers Day should be about celebrating women who are raising the next generation with the values and skillset needed for a better future. There are significant challenges we face with climate change, nuclear war, and the accelerated impact of AI, automation, and robotics on the world of work and play.  Whether the mothers are mothers, CEOs, stay at home mothers, astronauts, nurses, teachers, they all should be celebrated and valued.

MOM.CEO: COVID-19 has forced many leaders to rethink their business and parenting models as before they had the luxury of separating life in order to focus on 1 at a time. Will we return to the 2-world system or are we now evolving to a new balancing the act of MOM.CEOs and DAD.CEOs?

FB: Pre COVID-19, there was already a divide between those who were able to work remotely and those who worked in a traditional '9 to 5' office set up with commuting. The gig economy has been growing rapidly in recent years. COVID-19 has accelerated an existing trend enabled by technology for some workers to work from home.

My firm embraced agile working and remote working last year, so we were well placed for the sudden disruption other businesses found themselves having to navigate working from home almost overnight. Ultimately, it is kinder to the environment and kinder to families if people can work from home. I suspect some businesses will revert to their traditional ways of working as they may have an authoritarian culture. Still, others will see the economic and environmental advantages and also will give them a competitive edge on attracting, retaining, and motivating talent.

Working from home with children does pose its challenges, such as managing constant interruptions. The research is clear; interruptions have shown to have a negative impact on the brain's ability to focus on tasks.  However, there are ways to improve mental focus, such as meditation apps and limiting access to social media. 

Pre COVID-19 memories - Family vacation in Kenya, Africa.

Farzana's daughter experiencing local culture first-hand in Kenya, Africa

MOM.CEO: Do you feel that mothers who are CEO’s have it harder at balancing their work/life duties than DAD.CEOs? Or is it now becoming an advantage due to the new realization of the ‘home isolation double-duty’ that fathers are now facing?

FB: Somebody once said:

"The most important career decision a mother will make is who she chooses to co-parent alongside." 

I am incredibly lucky to have married a man who steps up and takes at least half of the workload involved in running the home and being a parent. I am fortunate to have him as a partner as I know without his support. I would never be able to invest the time and energy into my career.

Research shows that even though there has been a marked improvement in the equitable sharing of housework and caring responsibilities, we are still not at gender parity. Generally, men have made tremendous progress in this area, and also society's attitudes have shifted to help men embrace their fatherhood instead of being seen just as the breadwinner.

Lockdowns around the world are forcing us to spend more time together, and it has both positive aspects such as increased bonding and negative too as the spike in domestic violence and child abuse has risen sadly.

Farzan Baduel is a regular contributing analyst on the influential BBC World News

MOM.CEO: What would be your top 5 tips for being a successful MOM.CEO?

FB: My top tips for being a MOM.CEO

1. Be kind to yourself, eat well & sleep well. 

2. Exercise as it boosts physical energy, but also gives incredible clarity of mind that you need for effective decision making.

3. Talk to your children when they are old enough about your work, so they feel included in all aspects of your life. I often describe problems at work to my 11-year-old daughter and ask her for her advice and perspective, and I am blown away by her ability to grasp grown-up concepts and suggest viable recommendations. 

4. If possible, keep weekends, evenings, and holidays for the family. I struggle here as I have workaholic tendencies, and the nature of my work means its challenging to disconnect completely. 

5. Surround yourself with positive people who do not drain your energy. 

"Life is often more about energy management rather than time management."

Farzana enjoying a day off from her company to spend quality time with her daughter.

MOM.CEO: Are you teaching your daughter about business and money management?

FB: Yes, I am teaching my daughter about business and money management. I bring her with me to meetings when it is appropriate to do so. I often talk to her about my business and engage with her by asking her for her advice. It is essential to develop two-way communication with children; otherwise, they disengage. 

I have also tried to gamify money management by giving her gifts of money for her birthday and investing it into a stocks and shares portfolio online and asking her to choose the companies. She, of course, veers towards companies she has heard of such as Apple and Netflix, but over time, she starts looking at other companies too. The online portfolio has great visuals so she can see at a glance from the graphs if it has done well or not. Sometimes her portfolio outperforms mine, which is frankly, embarrassing. 

Future CEO in the making?

MOM.CEO: The word NO is a powerful word in business, but how does its meaning work in your home or is it the opposite with YES?

FB: Saying YES or NO is equally important at home as it is at work.

Boundaries are important and define you as a person. I am clear about my values and goals in my life, and I say NO if something does not align with my values and goals. 

MOM.CEO: Being in the Public Relations industry where information has no set schedule, how do you balance this responsibility while keeping harmony at home with your kids/family? 

FB: Public Relations is a fast-moving industry peppered with deadlines and areas which are not within our control. As the communications landscape has exploded with countless communication channels, it has become increasingly difficult to manage communications in an increasingly globalized world with ever demanding stakeholders.  Reputations can be destroyed in minutes due to social media, and therein lies the anxiety, which is a constant companion to myself and my fellow PRs. 

Working in this industry, coupled with running a business, has had an impact on my relationship with my family where they have to put up with me working on evenings, weekends, and holidays. I try my utmost not to work during these times as they are for my family, but a work crisis cannot patiently wait until Monday at 9 am. 

I have taken up meditation to manage my emotions better, so my anxiety doesn't affect our family life. Exercise also helps with managing moods and stress. I even choose my clients and colleagues more carefully and look out for personalities that can deal with crisis issues, so I don't have to spend my time managing them and the crisis!

It is an industry I love, and after a decade in the industry, it gets easier as I accumulate experience and can foresee some issues before they become a full-blown crisis by conducting a risk analysis. 

MOM.CEO: How do you want to look back and be remembered as a MOM and a CEO?

FB: I would like to be remembered as a MOM who listened to the inner voice of my daughter and supported her growth journey instead of forcing her into a mould of my preference.

I would like to be remembered as a CEO who was more of a coach than a supervisor who helped colleagues fulfill their potential. The truth is, I am nowhere near being the ideal MOM or CEO. However, I know where I want to head towards being a better version of myself. It is an uphill struggle.

Like Mother like Daughter ;)

MOM.CEO: What top 3 lessons did your parents or mother/father or mentor give you that you feel are still relevant in today’s digitally connected world?

FB: My father would always tell me to keep my desk and working area tidy and well organized as it reflects the state of my mind. Working in a neat environment does help me think with clarity actually, but others can happily work in a messy environment. To each to their own, I guess. 

My father, who was an entrepreneur, often said to hire people for values and not necessarily for skills as values cannot be taught, but skills can.

My father always had lots of plants in his office area, and I love plants around me as they are calming and promotes positive welling. 

Farzana Baduel's father at the top of Mount Toli Pir in Pakistan

MOM.CEO: How do you handle patience and attention at home when you have serious stress at work?

FB: Managing stress is a work in progress for me. I find taking baths and listening to music helps me to unwind from work woes before I interact with my family. I am conscious of balancing my energies before I interact with them as I try to limit bringing my work home. But they know me so well that they can tell when I am stressed and anxious.

My husband and I have a lovely routine of me telling him about my day while he cooks, we have had the same routine every evening for the past 20 years we have been together, and it is very grounding.  

Farzana Baduel and her Husband with David Cameron, (former) Prime Minister of Great Britain.

MOM.CEO: Any last words of wisdom on being a MOM.CEO?

FB: I would say we need to celebrate ourselves a bit more, and not always think about the areas we need to improve on. Take some time to think about your strengths, and your work wins as well as wonderful family memories together.

I sometimes write a list of all the things in my life I am really proud of so I can remind myself of the positive achievements.

"It's so easy to get bogged down with to-do lists when you are juggling motherhood and business" 

We should take pride in ourselves and our abilities a bit more. 

About Farzana Baduel

Founder and CEO of Curzon PR.

 

Farzana Baduel set up Curzon PR in 2009, having previously served as Vice-Chair of Business Relations for the UK Conservative Party

Farzana has been appointed as the resident public relations expert and Ambassador for the Oxford Foundry, the University of Oxford’s entrepreneurship center, where she delivers masterclasses in PR and marketing. Farzana is a Chartered PR practitioner and has a Fellowship at the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Farzana has been a judge for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ PR awards. She has won awards including Businesswoman of the Year at the Muslim Awards 2016, Entrepreneur of the Year at the Asian Women of Achievement Awards 2015, and the Media Professional of the Year at the Asian Media Awards 2014.

She donates her time and expertise to various organizations and audiences on a voluntary basis.

www.curzonpr.com

www.farzanabaduel.com

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