Connecting with an old friend on Facebook

February 4, 2010 at 11:23 pm 4 comments

I don’t remember exactly when I first met Adrian Batten. I know it was during the 1978 – 1981 timeframe. He was a marketeer who came to sell media space in international trade publications to GESL, a shipping company for which I worked. I remember thinking, even in those days, that Adrian was a born salesman and could possibly talk eskimos into buying bikinis if he wanted to.🙂 The company I worked for in Hong Kong was not in a mood to advertise at that point in time so I really didn’t see that much of him. In fact I evaded him as much as I could.

Then I moved to the UAE for about 5 years and when I returned to Hong Kong in 1985 and was looking for a job, I came face-to-face with none other than Adrian Batten. The woman who was his Recruitment Manager/Executive Assistant interviewed me first. I don’t think she liked me very much and would probably have thrown my CV aside if Adrian hadn’t spotted it and insisted on interviewing me himself. As the interview progressed and I asked him more questions than he asked me, I found him looking more and more amused. Before I could puzzle over that for too long, he wound up the interview by saying “Well, if you are as good at marketing as you are at evading marketing people, you will be a brilliant addition to the team”.

I think he sensed my confusion at that point cos he said “You obviously don’t remember me,” and proceeded to tell me of our old connection, so to speak. I was horrified and embarrassed that I had forgotten, but he just laughed. Anyway, he offered me a job instantly. I told him that I needed to look at the material he had given me and make a decision on whether I would be happy doing this kind of work.

I did however end up joining Headway Media and spent 9 happy and interesting years working with Adrian to make it into a very successful regional Far East player. We worked well together. I travelled a lot during that period and after a couple of years, Adrian promoted me, eventually making me a Director in the company and giving me 25% shares. By the time I left Headway, I was running it as Managing Director. Adrian’s interest in it had waned over time and he was spending more and more time away either in the US or in Bali where, alongwith his fiance Nicole, he was planning to set up a Spiritual Healing Center.

In the years we worked together, Adrian and I became friends. We developed a mutual respect for each other and he trusted me implicitly with all things to do with the company. When he gave me sole signing authority on all of the company’s accounts – US$, Deutsch Marks, Pound Sterling, HK$ etc, I questioned him saying “You shouldn’t do that Adrian. How do you know I won’t clean up the accounts and run away with the money?” He just looked at me and said “You wouldn’t do that.” How could I have betrayed that kind of trust?

When I left the company and moved to Pakistan in 1993-1994, because of my mother’s ill health, it was tough. Headway Media had in a sense become my company. I felt a sense of responsibility, a sense of ownership. And Adrian and the team had become like family. We had shared so many ups and downs, so many stressful times, so many successes.

Adrian’s name came up during a conversation I was having with Zak the other day. Zak had spent some time working out of the Headway office in Hong Kong and he and Adrian had developed a good relationship. We wondered what Adrian was up to and where he was, so I searched for him on Facebook. And lo and behold, there he was – still in Bali, still “in a relationship” with Nicole. Hey Adrian, I have heard of long engagements, but come on man, this has gone on long enough, don’t you think?🙂

Adrian Batten recognized my potential and gave me an opportunity to learn a business I knew nothing about. He gave me breathing room to grow into the job, making of it what I would – going all the way to becoming head honcho (well, technically as Group Managing Director, he was still head honcho). He trusted me with a company that he had started, that was his baby. He recognized my sense of values, my integrity and my contribution to the growth of the company,  and treated me with the respect I deserved.

This anecdote is a great example of the kind of person Adrian is.  Adrian had set up a meeting with a very important Publisher from Japan. Unfortunately something came up and so Adrian wasn’t in the office when the Japanese gentleman arrived. Our secretary told him that Mr. Batten had been detained but that he could meet with me. He met with me but would not discuss details of the agreement. When Adrian called him later to ask what the problem was, he said he couldn’t negotiate or sign a deal with a woman. Anyone else would probably have met with the guy and signed the deal which was more or less in the bag but not Adrian. He told the man “Ms Jehan Ara is the Managing Director of Headway Media. If you cannot deal with her, then you can’t deal with Headway.” And that was that! Is it surprising then that I remember him fondly, and am glad to be back in contact with him?

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Connecting with an old friend on Facebook | Tea Break  |  February 5, 2010 at 12:54 am

    […] This cup of tea was served by: In the Line of Wire […]

    Reply
  • 2. yaser  |  February 5, 2010 at 1:23 am

    that was a really nice read… amazing… the connections .. the memories… nostalgic🙂

    Reply
  • 3. Fariha Akhtar  |  February 5, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    You are MashAllah very lucky when it comes to a lot of things specially friends. I’m really touched by Adrian’s sense of professionalism and how he dealt with the man hesitant of dealing with a *female* MD.

    Reply
  • 4. Ansar  |  February 6, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Thanks for sharing!!

    Reply

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