When Brian Razzaque unplugs from his Baltimore-based social media marketing startup, he heads to the ice rink at the Reisterstown Sportsplex, where he puts on a helmet, elbow and knee pads, and shoes with a foam-like bottom.
Then, Razzaque picks up what looks like a broomstick.
That's because he relishes broomball, the close cousin to hockey that is played on an ice rink but without skates. The recreational sport trades a puck for a rubber ball that travels up to 85 mph.
Razzaque, the 38-year-old CEO of SocialToaster, says his Thursday evening broomball games provide a stress-buster and an outlet that helps him maintain a healthy work-life balance.
In his high-pressure job leading a startup, Razzaque raises capital from investors and guides the company’s strategy, relying on “superfans” who act as online ambassadors to spread the word about the likes of the Baltimore Ravens, Viacom Inc. and Sony Corp. The superfans share messages with hordes of followers through major social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter – with the click of a button through SocialToaster’s platform.
“We’re an emerging growth startup, and when you’re running a startup, it can be very tense. It can be very stressful,” Razzaque says.
“There’s hardly ever downtime. It’s pretty much a 24/7 type of thing. Having a few hours a week just to focus on something other than work is critical. I’m a 100-percent believer in work-life balance, and finding an outlet to provide that is so important. So for me, personally, finding that balance is absolutely a big factor. Being able to have something for myself where I can let off a little steam is really important.”
Razzaque grew up surrounded by broomball in the Detroit area, but didn’t begin playing competitively until joining the Baltimore Broomball Club in 2007.
He’s a defender who also sometimes serves as team captain during the six-week seasons. New teams form every season, so Razzaque helps recruit, organize and schedule.
“A lot of those lessons from being out on the ice and playing games and managing people and making sure they’re having fun, making sure they’re improving, translate well into work life too,” he says. “In the office, I’m always managing teams too, making sure people are happy, building on their skills. So I find broomball is a good way to hone my skills and make work a bit less stressful for people.”
Some fellow SocialToaster employees also play in the league, which Razzaque says helps build team spirit, foster camaraderie and recharge them, making everybody better prepared for work.
“It’s a way to avoid getting mentally fatigued, to have a chance to really focus on something else, kind of do a reset,” he says. “You go to sleep thinking about the business. You wake up thinking about the business. Having a couple hours where you’re focused on something else, engaged in something else, physically moving around, just puts you in a better spot mentally to be able to reattack the problems or focus on issues that maybe have been lingering.”
Photo courtesy of Brian Razzaque, shown at right with Baltimore Broomball Club teammates.