A Week in My Life: Heather Baker, CEO Topline Comms
Heather Baker, Founder and CEO of PR and Marketing agency TopLine Comms, takes us through a week in her working life.
I start my day whenever my newborn decides – usually between 5am and 7am. Within minutes of waking up, I typically realise in a panic that I am behind on almost everything, and debate the merits, legality and long-term consequences of avoiding my kids entirely for a few hours to catch up on my huge tasklist. The kids usually win, which means my tasklist is going to be nagging me all day. My goal is to meditate for 10 minutes every morning – I probably manage to do it twice a month (and get stressed about not doing it the rest of the time).
Then I’m off to take Devon to the park. I try to make time for exercise every day as I’m training for a marathon. But mostly because I suffer from depression and anxiety, and I’ve found that exercise really helps.
At the moment, I’m working part-time to ease myself back into my routine after having a baby, so I have to have quite firm boundaries – I simply can’t do everything I was doing before. I’ve had to get used to saying no, and I am practising doing it gracefully, but more often than not, I just bark “no” at the nearest person and run away.
When I started TopLine Comms 10 years ago, I was involved in the day to day PR activities, working directly with clients and press. Now that we have a larger team in place, I’ve taken on a more strategic role. I mainly focus on the company sales strategy, the financial position of the business, the marketing plan and the health and happiness of each client account. I can do most of this from home too – that way, I can be with my family while getting my work done – or so I thought when I came up with this plan. As any parent will tell you, it is impossible to get any work done while in the same house as your small children.
I try to get an early-ish night but with two young kids, that’s not always possible. Instead, I debate the merits and long-term consequences of opening a bottle of wine. I like to end the day either watching TV or reading – anything that helps me to relax and not think about the dishwasher that still hasn’t been loaded. I’m loving ‘Luther’ at the moment whilst I'm in a kind-of limbo until Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Season eight starts.
At the moment I am lucky to get a few hours sleep before my newborn wakes me up (and the ramifications of my earlier wine choice become apparent).
Another early start – same story as Monday, but I’m determined to take my eldest to nursery today. In my mind, the 15 minute walk counts as bonding time, and I also get loads of important information from teachers and other parents that somehow I miss in the weekly newsletter – drop-offs are important. Then, I’ve booked in for a hot yoga session and probably forgotten my water bottle – I’ve given up buying water in plastic bottles, so this class is going to be hell (especially if I drank that wine last night). But I force myself to go because it makes me feel good and the yoga studio is a nice environment where no one needs to be breastfed and I can turn my phone off (though I usually sneak a look at my WhatsApps on my watch during the class – tip: Warrior two is really good for this).
Back to work, this time focusing on strategy and admin in relation to TopLine Comms’ recent acquisition. TopLine Comms is now a bigger company with a specialist STEM department, so most of my time is spent building the strategy for the next few years and consolidating the two businesses. Sounds important, and sometimes makes me feel like a big deal. But then again, consolidating two businesses involves endless decisions about things like which fruit bowl to keep.
I’m also completely obsessed with finances – I learned early on that if you’re not obsessed with the finances, your business will go under. So, I’m also working on refining our financial management system – creating a streamlined process for invoicing, debt collection, financial reporting and forecasting.
Once I’ve done all the work I wanted to do, I can think about wine dinner and ending the day.
This afternoon I have my weekly date with my toddler. I aim to run errands and get on top of admin during the rest of the week so that I’m fully available for this kind of family time. It’s important to me to totally switch off when we’re together. I invariably fail and start the date distracted by the council tax bill and mustering the courage to go next door and collect yet another missed delivery from our neighbour.
My morning is busy and efficient in planning. In execution, it’s chaotic. I go for a run but it’s shorter than planned because I had a second cup of coffee in bed (shit – I have a marathon in 12 weeks), and then check in with work. Today, I’m speaking to our organisational development consultant Marianna. We’re making a conscious effort to refine and improve our offering as an employer – in fact, we were recently recognised as a centre of Excellence in Wellbeing by Great Place to Work®. Today’s meeting is mainly to discuss how we can build on that momentum with new initiatives. I’m late for the meeting and have to close my laptop when I realise I can’t read and respond to emails while making big people decisions.
The meeting wraps up and I’m free to enjoy my afternoon with my toddler. I’m originally from South Africa but have been in London for 15 years. What I love about London is that there are always more nooks and crannies for me to explore – I’ll often plan to take my children to different events, museums, parks or galleries. But God laughs at those plans, and we usually end up walking round the block several times collecting leaves and throwing almighty tantrums when we drop one, or going to Tesco and filling up a shopping basket with randomly selected items from the bottom two shelves of every aisle. I love these afternoons that we spend together and I’m so grateful to be in a position where I can schedule this kind of family time.
Another early start (not by choice), but at least today I have time for some meditation before I start checking emails, getting the kids up and failing to walk the dog, then feeling incredibly guilty and messaging my partner and asking him to do it. I’ve got to run for a bit longer today in preparation for my marathon, so I’ve planned enough time this morning to do that.
But I get distracted by an Instagram post by Erika from Real Housewives and I’m late, so I cut my run short but still feel good about myself because I got out of the house. In theory, like having the marathon as a specific goal (that’s why I entered), it keeps me motivated and gets me up, out and running. In reality, it’s mostly another source of guilt.
Today I’m going to a baby massage class with my newborn. I have a reminder on my phone to take the baby with me this time. I remember, making it a proud day today. Definitely celebrating with wine tonight.
Another obscenely early start with my kids and running out of time to meditate – how can I only be on Day 10 of Sam Harris’ Waking Up course? I started it in November! Then, I check in with work to see what I’ve missed. At TopLine Comms, we’ve worked hard to create an environment that makes it easy to work from home, which has been incredibly popular with staff. I took a bit of convincing to implement this flexible working policy, but now that I regularly don’t manage to get out of my PJs or brush my teeth before midday, it’s much appreciated.
The management team recently had a strategy review where we looked at what went well in 2018, and what didn’t go so well. We then brainstormed ideas for the new strategy and that’s what I’m working on finishing today. We’ve got a lot of ideas in the pipeline, so my focus is to evaluate these ideas and get them up and running and assigned to the right people in the company.
I always make sure to log back on in the late afternoon/early evening to read the TopLine Comms positive update. All the team send their positive news from the week – the best results we’ve secured, client wins and any other news worth shouting about. It’s a great way to end the week on a positive note. They all congratulate me for remembering to take the baby to baby massage.
And with that, the week is done. Friday definitely calls for wine.