July 12, 2024

The Chief Mag

Smart Solutions for Your Business

Meet the… business development director

5 min read

Julian Day, business development director at FooEngine, tells TVBEurope about the importance of preparation

Talk us through an average day in your role

It is a somewhat cliche answer, but no two days are the same. Over my 37 years in this business, I’ve worn a few hats (quite literally) and have thrived on the excitement that you can never be certain how the day will unfold. I started life as a film editor, first at Goldcrest and then freelance, before setting up and managing DGP – a post production and DVD facility in Greek Street, Soho. Since then, for the last 14 years, I’ve been in localisation and digital packaging, focusing on business development and team building.

Julian Day, business development director, FooEngine

After 13 years with ZOO Digital, I have very recently moved to FooEngine. We’re a small but growing outfit using awesome tech to efficiently provide a highly bespoke packaging and delivery service for FAST channels and streaming platforms. Our clients are all international players, so what I do now means attendance at major trade shows worldwide including NAB, IBC, MIPCOM, MPTS, Cannes Lions and Languages & The Media, as well as regular contact with existing clients to make sure they are happy and they are aware of everything we can do for them. 

Keeping abreast of what’s happening in the business worldwide on a daily basis is also a key part of my day-to-day job, as well as talking to (but more importantly listening to) potential new clients and finding out what is causing them the biggest headaches right now, and figuring out how we might be able to make their life easier.

How did you get started in the media industry?

I started as a runner in August 1987 for Neil Mills Editing Ltd at 3 Carlisle Street in Soho (above what is now Pizza Pilgrims). NME was a small film editing shop with three editors and two assistants, working primarily in commercials.

What training did you have before entering the industry?

None at all. I studied politics and economics at Manchester Polytechnic and really became interested in advertising and TV whilst researching my dissertation on the advertising and marketing of political parties. Through a work colleague, my Dad secured me an interview with Neil Mills and his partner Alex Pikal.

I later learnt what impressed Neil and Alex was: a) I had previously been a milkman, piloting an electric milk float around south London in the wee small hours, delivering milk door to door, and b) I was, at the time, working on the ‘Heavy Gang’ for John Lewis, delivering sofas, sideboards and fridge-freezers all over town. Apparently, this showed them that I was not afraid to get up early and not afraid to get my hands dirty. The fact I was vaguely presentable and reasonably articulate was an added bonus!

All my training was on the job. Learning to cut on 35mm and 16mm film, then 3 machine tape, before going on to one of the first Avid setups in town, meant I was lucky enough to have a great grounding in all cutting room disciplines in a pretty short space of time. As a runner and then assistant editor, being so close to and being trained by committed and brilliant editors who happily shared their knowledge and experience was an opportunity many now don’t have but an opportunity I absolutely seized.

Why do you enjoy working in the industry?

It’s creative. It’s always changing technically. It’s full of funny, clever, passionate people. As Neil Mills told me very early on – it’s a life, not a job and I completely agree with him. Also, as Anthony Bourdain said, “I’m asked a lot what the best thing about cooking for a living is. And it’s this: to be a part of a subculture. To be part of a historical continuum, a secret society with its own language and customs. To enjoy the instant gratification of making something good with one’s hands—using all one’s senses. It can be, at times, the purest and most unselfish way of giving pleasure…”

There are many similarities in the film and hospitality businesses, so I think this pretty much covers it. I consider myself so very lucky to have wandered into a job (sorry, life) that (as it turned out) I was pretty good at and still really love.

What piece of advice would you offer someone looking to explore a role similar to yours?

Watch and listen. Most people in this business are more than happy to help, teach and share. If you are unsure – ask. And then don’t be afraid to ask again. Ignorance isn’t a crime, but stupidity is. Don’t focus on the clever features of your software or service – sell the problem that you’re solving. Clients don’t really give a stuff about how brilliant you think you are. They just want to know how you can solve their immediate problems and make their life easier.

Prepare and practice. Presenting and pitching isn’t easy and can be nerve-wracking. Make notes. Print them out double-spaced in size 16 font so you can refer to them easily. Do this every time you need to speak in public, even to a small group. The one time you get cocky and don’t prepare you’ll die on your arse in front of your audience. Trust me. I’ve done it.

Know your products and services inside out. Know your competitors’ products and services inside out. What we do is complicated and costs a lot of money. Clients are only going to commit to you if they are confident their money won’t be wasted.

It sounds obvious, but no one wants to just be sold to. Clients want a relationship, a partnership with their key vendors based on trust. Make it clear that you are absolutely invested in their success. Align yourself with the customer, anticipate their needs and assure them that you and your colleagues are with them all the way at all times.

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