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Farzana Baduel

Farzana Baduel

Farzana is the CEO and Co-founder of Curzon PR.

  • Location: London, UK 

  • Title: CEO and Co-Founder 

  • Company: Curzon PR 

  • Sector: Communications 

  • Degree: Did not complete my degree. I left in my second year of Economics and Math at Queen Marys, University of London.

How does your usual day look like?

My dog wakes me up around 7 am, and due to his enthusiasm for his morning walks, I am out of the house by 7:15 am for a bleary-eyed walk in the park. I head to Starbucks en route for a Chai Tea Latte and practice a gratitude meditation as I walk to start my day in the park, surrounded by nature and full of gratitude.

I then jump on calls with my colleagues in India and Nigeria for a daily check-in, which is incredibly important for connection as our team largely works remotely, so having time daily for a chat builds bonds and collaboration. I then head back to my desk and, on Mondays and Tuesdays, often have back-to-back video calls with short breaks for walking my dog.

Lunch is usually at my desk, and I forage around for food in the kitchen with little thought or care as I get into work mode, and when I am in the flow, I lose concept of time and work for 12 hours straight. I am thankful for having a dog, as having him forces me to go for regular walks. I love my work and adore my colleagues and clients, so work feels more like play.

After work, if there is no event to attend, I often order food as I cannot cook and spend the evening watching a documentary or binge-watching a series on Netflix.

Wednesdays and Thursdays are days for in-person meetings, so they are full of lovely breakfasts, lunches and teas with colleagues, clients and journalists.

Fridays, I reserve for strategy work with little or no interruptions, so minimal meetings to help me focus.

What are the things you like the most about your job?

I like working with my colleagues. We are lucky as a team to have people who are passionate about PR, and I learn so much from them daily. It is so important to work together in a positive environment, all of our colleagues are not only brilliant at what they do and driven, but they all are incredibly kind and supportive. Life is too short to work with toxic people. We are lucky to have good clients and a community of supporting journalists and a global network of people with shared values that we have built over the past 14 years.

What are some of the skills you utilise the most in your day-to-day at work?

Listening is a key skill I use on a daily basis. It is an active process to really listen as well as observe. After all, research showcases that communication is 55% non-verbal, 38% vocal, and 7% words only, so understanding body language is important in tuning into people. I am in the business of people, so being able to understand them as well as communicating to them in the style that they will be most responsive to is my primary skill in engaging with clients and colleagues.

Another key skill in consulting is the ability to multi-task and prioritise, as well as the ability to pivot and respond quickly as time-sensitive issues bubble up on a daily basis with little or no warning.

What was one of your happiest days in your career and why?

One of the happiest moments of my career was when I boarded a plane in 2011 for my first business trip heading to Kyiv in Ukraine, to work on a cultural diplomacy project to harness the power of contemporary art to present Ukrainian culture and creative talents on a global stage as its inaugural biennale. Blending travel, culture and storytelling was exhilarating, and I have been incredibly lucky to have worked in a series of fascinating client projects over the last 14 years.

What was the toughest career decision you ever made?

Letting go of staff members is the hardest part of my role. Colleagues become like family as we spend most of our waking hours with each other, so it's really difficult to let go of team members when performance is an issue. I reconcile my decision by telling myself it is far kinder to let them go so they can find a team that values their skill set and a culture that enables them to flourish. I believe that we all have value to offer teams and often need to find the right culture and role to flourish. Often we blindly promote people who are technically brilliant at their roles into managerial positions without thinking about whether managing people is the right thing to do for that colleague- some people work well as individual contributors, and others flourish building teams and managing projects.

What is something you had to learn to become better at your work?

One of the areas I still need to work on is the ability to give constructive feedback. My tone can be perceived as harsh and overly critical. I receive anonymous feedback from my colleagues regularly; it is an area that has dogged me for years. I have learnt that certain triggers, such as stress or working long hours, result in my management style deteriorating in giving feedback. I am learning to give positive feedback as it is as important if not more, than giving negative feedback. My big focus now is kindness, how to be a kinder manager and adopt a more empathetic tone.

How did you get to start your own PR company?

I became a CEO by co-founding Curzon PR and giving myself the title! I was the Founder and CEO of a tax consulting firm for over ten years prior to setting up Curzon PR, so I have been running businesses for over 25 years. Having the title of CEO and having the skillset are two different things. I feel there is so much more to learn about leadership before I consider myself a successful CEO. It's a work in progress.

What's the one piece of career advice you have for anyone interested in following your footsteps?

Kindness to self and others is key to thriving in a people's business. It took me 20 years to realise the importance of kindness in business to build relational capital in networks. Self-care is critical to ensure you have the stamina to plough through the trials and tribulations of running a business.

What's your number one productivity hack / when or how are you most effective?

I am tuned into my mind and body and know that mornings my mind is most receptive to complex thinking, so I allocate morning meetings and tasks which require complex critical thinking. I also know that in the early part of the week after the weekend rest, my brain is open to challenging briefs, but as the week progresses, my mind becomes less responsive, so I schedule meetings and tasks accordingly. Wrapping work around the way your mind functions is key to impact.

What makes you gracefullyBOLD?

I am not afraid of failure. I believe failure is key to learning and developing skills and insight.

How do you spend your weekend or downtimes?

I spend weekends with my family. We love food, so we enjoy eating out and venturing across London to find the perfect ice cream. I try not to work on weekends as working in the creative industries requires a mindset that soaks up culture and insight from adjacent disciplines, so I read widely outside of my industry and client sector specialisms.

How do you deal with stress and build resilience?

I could improve at handling stress. I overwork and deplete my energy reserves as I love my job and have to build in times for rest and relaxation and remind myself of the importance of play. I carry with me the immigrant culture as both of my parents were hard-working immigrant entrepreneurs who never took time off, and I have to unlearn their habits consciously. Daily walks in nature at the start and end of my working day help build resilience. Having a dog is the best stress buster, as my dog Dante is a mad cockapoo who always wants to play and go out. He is a pure hedonist; he reminds me that life is not just for work. Physical exercise, good nutrition through diet and supplements, meditation, practising gratitude, good quality sleep and keeping away from toxic people is the best way to build resilience and deal with stress.

What would have been your alternative career path or alternative University degree?

I would have either gone into politics or psychology. Both are adjacent disciplines to PR and fundamentally about people. I love people, and having a job which is about working with people and helping them brings purpose to my life.

What's one of the last things you learnt?

Using ChatGPT and AI-enabled tools to overhaul our firm’s processes. Technological change can be as much of an opportunity as it can be a crisis.

Who is a female professional that inspired you along your career journey? What did she do / say / or what are the character traits and professional skills she uses.

Women in the political sphere inspire me as women in positions of power with influence over consequential arenas such as politics sadly attract significantly more hate than their male counterparts. Women like Hilary Clinton and Margaret Thatcher challenged the status quo and had to operate in a toxic environment. The playing field between men and women has yet to be levelled. Legislation is not enough, we need to tackle culture.

If you could time-travel and meet any leader, who/where would that be?

It would be my maternal grandfather. He died when I was a child, so I have little memory of him. Like many from South Asia, he fought for the British Army and held posts such as Chief of Staff to the Sultan of Oman and Military Advisor to the Shah of Iran. He later went into politics and sadly died before the political party he founded made the changes we envisioned in the newly formed Pakistan. He was successful in business, the military and politics and touched many lives by supporting others in his community to pursue education and careers. He was a feminist who set the tone in our family for women to educate themselves to the highest level and hold leadership positions at work.

What do you love about PR?

It operates at the nexus of media, advocacy, storytelling and psychology. Each field is fascinating in its own right. Together they are intriguing.

One word answers & quick fire round. Let's go!

  • Your superpower: Intuition.

  • Favourite restaurant: Olivocarne in Belgravia.

  • Favourite fashion brand: Prada.

  • Favourite beauty product: Skinceuticals.

  • Favourite perfume: Berlin Rose by Serge Lutens.

  • Book recommendation: How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie.

  • Next holiday destination: South Beach, Miami.

  • Your hobby: Reading.

  • Who inspires you: My daughter.

  • Tea or Coffee: Tea

  • Red wine or White wine: White wine

  • Morning bird or Night owl: Morning bird

  • Cat person or Dog person: Dog person

Thank you Farzana for sharing your journey & wisdom with us!

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