Our readers have regularly commented they enjoy the ‘Day In the Life Of…’ features we’ve ran in the past, so, as part of our series of articles to inspire budding entrepreneurs, we will be publishing more such profiles.
Mediolana is a global educational products and services company based in Kensington in London, England. In our latest feature we get an insight into a day of the Creative Director and Chief Strategy Officer, Asad Yawar.
07.30: There is no typical day for a combined creative director and chief strategic officer because the nature of these roles – generating new ideas and constantly, subtly redefining the trajectory of the company as these ideas are implemented – means that every twenty-four hour period brings its new challenges. One day I might be interviewing a Russian model for a role in a video commercial; another day will find me in the depths of the British Library doing product development research. But regardless of my precise schedule – and unless an early start is forced on me by circumstances beyond my control – I try to be asleep and dreaming at this hour.
Before I was an entrepreneur, I spent several years in an insanely busy commercial law practice where the lifestyle significantly cut into, and affected the quality of, my sleep. Sleep is presently deeply unfashionable in our 24-7-52 always-on society, where constructing an image of nocturnal omnipresence is becoming a default lifestyle option. But for me (as well as the somnologist community), sleep is an essential competitive advantage resulting in better decisions, higher performance and improved well-being.
10.30: Something that I do on behalf of the company is curate and update the Mediolana blog. We aim to publish around 350 posts a year – a high total for any blog – but in line with the company’s qualitative principles, we only want to publish what we believe is objectively interesting. This doesn’t necessitate voluminous blogging – some posts are only a tweet or three in length – but the content must be at least gently and originally provocative. This is much more challenging to do than it may sound, because on the Internet factual availability is virtually universal and the corpus of commentators gets larger by the day. But we feel that we are succeeding in this aspect of our mission.
12.05: This particular early afternoon finds me reviewing some of our commercial material. Marketing is something that has fascinated me from a very young age. When I was ten years old and visiting some relatives in some export-oriented Asian metropolis of five million people that even most people in Asia are probably not aware exists, I was walking the dusty streets of the city with my late father; I remember asking him to explain the logic behind a Lifebuoy soap billboard that we were passing en route to our neighbourhood. As a child, I created my own designs for kits for European football clubs such as Sampdoria, Foggia and Austria Vienna. I found the sponsor details particularly compelling. In recent years there has been debate about the appositeness of marketing messages on the shirts of FC Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao, but to me the presence of such messages was the conference of a tremendous honour: it meant that someone valued you enough that they wanted to pay money to be associated with you.
I’m satisfied with the concept and content of the marketing campaign. We were incredibly lucky to work with a world-class selection of actresses; it’s rare to find people who can communicate naiveté and intelligence so convincingly. It takes a lot of skill.
14.30: While making further revisions to the company’s website design (screenshot below), it occurs to me that we need to create a new page type specific to the promotion of individual products. I make a note to incorporate this request in my next communication to our web development team in Cairo. Web development has been one of our biggest expenditures in the last year, but possessing an outstanding Internet presence has never been more important.
15.26: Lunch is usually a relatively late and unspectacular affair. I generally keep both breakfast and lunch simple and relatively quick, though nothing like as rapid or tense as in the days of commercial law, when chewing my food was all-too-often an unattainable luxury. And the days of surfing the Internet during lunch are over; it’s unhealthy on so many levels. Increasingly, I aim to concentrate on the food that I am eating: the colours, the textures, the fragrances.
But today I am distracted by an advertisement for an upmarket Mayfair-based matchmaking agency in a glossy magazine that has captured my attention. It is a very clever, full-page ad which depicts an avataresque businessman holding a briefcase. He is sitting despondently on one end of a see-saw; on the other end, no one is seated. Later, I find out that this agency typically charges £10,000 for its entry-level services. All kinds of questions start to circulate around my mind. Can money really ‘purchase’ love? Are the customers of this agency – people who are presumably some of the world’s most successful professionals – fully conscious that they are effectively delegating arguably the most important decision in their lives? And in our era of Internet dating, does this type of service represent a rejection of that method as too depersonalised?
18.07: Editing product footage (sample image below) is something that I didn’t envisage being straightforward, but thankfully Mediolana is operating in an era when software suites are exceptionally intuitive and processing power is leaping far beyond the nominal numbers assigned to it. It takes a fair amount of patience – the voice track that I am laying down is drawn from no less than 895 tapes! – but it’s also a genuine thrill when it comes together. The random element – one never precisely knows how sound and pictures are going to synergise – makes it all the more exciting.
This is a process which requires intense concentration – my door is shut and all possible distractions are silenced.
19.50: For most of my stint as a commercial lawyer, my physical condition deteriorated significantly. Coming home late at night, vigorous exercise was the last thing I wanted to contemplate. However, I now incorporate three kettlebell workouts into my weekly routine. At first these were not at all easy, but the benefits – both in terms of my overall shape and stamina – are too obvious for me to stop. The ultimate aim of this training regime is to get fit enough to play tennis to a reasonable level; I already have an idea of where I want to take lessons, and living in south-west London there is no shortage of courts or instructors. Month-by-month, I’m getting there.
22.00: After supper I try and stay away from screens in deference to my circadian rhythms, though it’s not always possible. Tonight I’m offline and revisiting corporate social responsibility doyen Wayne Visser’s remarkable The Age of Responsibility: CSR 2.0 and the New DNA of Business. It’s possibly the best business book I’ve come across since Jonas Ridderstråle and Kjell Nordström’s 1999 classic Funky Business: Talent Makes Capital Dance, and absolutely essential reading.
Anyone running a company needs to ask themselves what the ultimate purpose of their organisation is; in the most successful and sustainable companies, making money is one of many goals embedded in a broader vision. In an epoch of increasing transparency, obfuscation and greenwashing are strategies that can only get an entity so far; it’s much sexier to be looked up to as a model of innovative best practice.
00.00: My bedroom light should be off and my mind commencing the process of dreaming again, but instead I’m tip-tapping away into my smartphone. A promotional idea came to me while I was in the queue for the bathroom, and I cease wielding my electric toothbrush for a moment while I sketch out the details in Apple Notes. When one’s working day stretches to midnight and sometimes beyond, seven or eight hours in bed is the minimum recovery time that the body needs.