We have something of a standout candidate in today’s ‘Day in the Life’.
Nadim Sadek is an Irish-Egyptian marketing entrepreneur who sold his leading market research company to WPP in the ’90s, has featured on Ireland’s The Secret Millionaire, started a whiskey, food and music business on a small island, and now runs a brand management platform that uses machine learning.
There must be something in there to pique your interest. We caught up with Sadek to ask him about proquoai and his daily routine.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
I’m the CEO of proquoai , which is a brand management platform and consultancy. I set the vision for the company, making sure we have the right strategy and resources to achieve that vision. I also enable all the different departments – across Strategy, Finance, Human Sciences, Machine Sciences, Marketing, Sales, Customer Success and Business Enablement – to work together to deliver our promise to our customers.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
I report in a kind of distributed leadership fashion to the board, which represents all of our different departments. We govern things in a fairly collegiate way. We meet informally, frequently and formally, infrequently. That works really well. I also report to our shareholders, which I very much enjoy.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
You need to be financially numerate and understand business models. It’s essential to understand how important it is to have a business based on product-to-market fit. To inspire people, you need to have a sufficient experience working across the different departments you have within your organisation, and make useful, enabling contributions. Beyond that, there’s softer stuff. Having an aptitude for creating positive culture, enabling people to do their best, drawing in diversity and showing inclusion. It’s all of that.
Tell us about a typical working day
It starts when the first airplane over London wakes me up. If I’m lucky, that’s 6am and if I’m unlucky that’s 4am! To move myself gently into the day, I do a whizz through the football gossip headlines, the news headlines, check Instagram and catch up on everything that’s come in overnight on Whatsapp. And then I start reading things like Slack, my email – the commercial stuff – so by the time I’ve had my breakfast I’ve been fully briefed.
I’ll get to the office around 8… which I arrive to by motorbike. I enjoy the visceral excitement of riding. I guess I’m intellectually woken first, then physically woken!
I try to do most of my external work before I do any internal work. I try to speak to customers and clients of our platform and consultancy, first. Generally, the afternoon will be a mixture of meetings and focussing on planning, reviewing our platform data, and enabling teams by giving decisions where they’re needed.
The day finishes at 6 or 7pm with my same invigorating ride home. I usually do another hour or so of digital work there. We have an office in the States, so I’m conscious of staying online and being accessible for them until it gets to a decent hour. I’ll usually switch off completely around 10pm.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
I think very early in my life I realised I’m something of a transgressive being. It’s now so much more common to find someone who’s mixed race like me in the world, but as a child in the 60’s being half Irish and half Egyptian was unusual.
I’ve spotted that as I’ve gone through school, then university and finally through work – I’ve always found myself embracing something a little lateral – and I’m quite unlikely to be a part of an establishment or establishment group. So what I love most is that, with proquoᵃ ͥ , we’re really bringing together decades of development in marketing, marketing consulting and marketing insight – and saying actually there’s a better way for this to be done. We are truly walking a different path, never before undertaken.
We’re creating something that is unorthodox and it’s an extraordinary pivoting point. I’d love people to look back to the time of proquoᵃ ͥ and say, “That’s when marketing changed from being an art into a science.” “That’s when marketing became a democratically available, financially unintimidating discipline to activate within a business.”
So I am excited by our mission more than anything else.
It may seem like I’m being complacent but really, nothing sucks at the moment. I’m enjoying every bit of what we’re doing. We are of course surrounded by anxiety. As you produce something new to the scale you think you’ll achieve it at, you need to watch day by day how your subscribers grow. The customer experience has to be really satisfying. You have to be alert at all times, fast, agile and open to change. Some people would point to the insecurity that comes with making big investments in people and technology without a guaranteed revenue stream as being a source of great anxiety. And it is. But I seem to have the nerves for it.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
For me, I’ll be satisfied when we reach 1,000 subscribers, then 5,000 subscribers, then 10,000 subscribers. In fact, even with 100 or 200 subscribers, we will have proven we have a product and a service for which there is a great need that we satisfy. When it gets up to those bigger numbers, we’ll know we’ve created what we’ve dreamed—a brand management platform making use of an IP, with AI and machine learning behind it, which is available at an accessible cost in an easy to use UX. We’ll realise it was all really worth it. I find it very exciting to see that we are creating the future lingua franca of brand marketing.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
I think communication is the most important thing about building a business. It’s not just having channels, though we have lots of channels. I think communication is about honest, intellectual availability and the ability to both broadcast clearly and receive clearly without confusion. By enabling communication – giving people the space to speak their minds, and not to be intimidated by hierarchy or precedent – they have confidence to think and share, and to bring their ideas each day. Honest exchange is the most important thing that we have.
How did you end up at proquoᵃ ͥ , and where might you go from here?
I studied mental and moral science which was unbearably hard, except for logic, which I was good at. I then studied pure psychology as I was interested in how consumers related to brands and what drove those relationships. I went onto a 25 year career through Insights, starting my own firm, Sadek Wynberg Research, in the 90’s which became the biggest of its type in the world. I sold it to WPP and went on to help to run two of their global networks – Millward Brown and Research International.
I then decided the industry was ‘stuck’ with the wrong business model which made it impossible properly to innovate. I took myself off to an island off the west coast of Ireland, and started a whiskey, music and food business there.
I reflected on what I had done in the past and what I was doing now – creating my own brand and running it. I thought there must be a better way that intelligence about people could be used by those running brands. So my ambition was to find a method of understanding how people relate to brands and how brands have value for people, so the exchange between them could be optimised. It’s about how people can be more satisfied with the relationships they have in their lives – including those with brands.
That led to the birth of our Relationship IP, which proquoai uses today . It led to the epiphany that with a different business model this could be made more accessible and more democratic – so a brand of any shape and of any size, all over the world, could optimise their relationships through our understanding and our technology. We’re a live platform now with hundreds of brands and we’re doing exactly what I hoped we’d be able to do when all this started – enabling anyone to grow their brands through a brand management platform.
Which advertising has impressed you lately?
This feels like one of those classic questions that actually timeslips me backwards. It’s quite old world! The reality is that I don’t watch much advertising per se. I consume a huge amount of brand communication – but I don’t very often watch ‘advertising’ as such.
An advert I’ve watched recently was for Monday.com. They tend to be a YouTube pre-roll but it’s one of the few I don’t skip after 5 seconds. I like the informality of it, the clarity of promise, the solution to a problem. It’s well organised, its characters are accessible, it’s very well crafted in terms of the settings, the ages of the protagonists, the accents of the talents. It communicates simply about function and benefit, whilst making you feel comfortable with it and that you relate to it. It’s an ‘underwhelmingly brilliant’ piece of advertising.
The broader point though is that the stuff I get peripherally all the time from brands, is far more impactful on me than set pieces of stand-alone advertising.
What advice would you give a marketer starting out?
Brand management is an art that we are helping to make into a science. It’s important to maintain both – so take all the data that you can. What do people need? Are my competitors giving it to them? How well am I performing against the needs? And in that triangulation, how can I optimise what I offer them? Keep it that simple.
Then, give yourself the liberty to think creatively and say “what’s the best way I can differentiate myself with character and with personality?” so that essentially – beyond what your product or service offers them at a functional level – you’re delivering them a relationship that counts as well.
At the end of the day, we’re in the relationship era, and I think successful brand managers today understand that they can’t win by specification and function only – they have to win by maximising their relationships too.