Staying True To What Matters; Yannis Dimitroulas on the value of professional happiness.
At the core of FloLab is one philosophy; you can work and find success without sacrificing your health in the process. In fact, we believe that caring for your mental and physical wellbeing is vital for reaching your professional goals.
For the second part of our “Friends of FloLab” collaboration with photographer Tara Shupe, we approached freelance marketing strategist and productivity psychology buff Yannis Dimitroulas. Yannis is focused on helping organisations tap into the needs of both their customers and employees to reach maximum productivity and workplace satisfaction.
After generously giving us a hand with painting the FloLab walls, Yannis let us in on his thoughts about connecting with people in a grounded way, taking big leaps of faith, and remembering to stay true to what matters to you.
Q. Yannis! Thank you so much for agreeing to have this cosy chat with me. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, where you're from and how you came to be here in the Hague?
Sure! I've been a bit all over the place. I was actually born here in the Netherlands, but my parents are Greek and they studied in the UK then came directly here after their studies. And since then I've been in the international school system here in the Netherlands. My family in Greece used to go back and forth all the time but once I finished school I went to the UK and studied there.
Q. What did you study?
I did a Bachelor's in business but my direction there was always marketing. Marketing was kind of the main focus that I had. A lot of the specializations that I did were around that, and throughout the course, I did two six month internships. One was with this small scale, six-man marketing agency, which was really fun. I got to see what that small business vibe looks like, the stresses, the difficulties that it can come with. But it was really an eye-opening experience into what it means to be that size. It was really good.
Then, the second internship was this godsend in a sense 'cause - I started working for Ferrero, the chocolate company. That was my first experience of larger scale companies, but at the same time, there was a running joke that when I was younger, I used to be a really picky eater, so I used to only eat sandwiches with Nutella, every single day. Like every day! And it just seemed so coincidental that I would happen to go end up working for them. It went really well, so after I did my last year of uni I then got invited back to go and work for them, so I was working for them for the last two and a half years.
Q. Which did you prefer, working for a huge organisation or a small company?
I think the two are vastly different and there are merits to both of them. For example, in a small company, there is that personal aspect. I really liked that. You have to be involved, you have to contribute consistently because otherwise, it doesn't carry forward. If anyone doesn't contribute they are visibly out in the open that they're not doing so.
On the other hand, to work for Kinder, which is a world-renowned brand and brings joy to kid's lives to some degree - It's a brand that people can really get behind and parents love it as well. They also have a lot of power to do really great things, which for me, was a big factor. I don't just want to work for a generic company, it needs to have some thought-process in the background, and that was something that I really got. On the big scale of business though, sometimes progress is slow, which can be frustrating. Particularly for me, 'cause I know that I'm quite impatient with this kind of thing. It's hard to wait for so long for things to really to happen.
Q. You recently made the move to become a freelancer, why?
Towards the end of last year, I decided I wanted to use the marketing knowledge I have and apply psychological and management practices as a science. I thought 'Okay, if I wanna build a company, or I wanna lead a team, I need to understand how these people work, or how they think, or what their priorities are, and be able to interact with them better, so that not only do you get better work out of them but, at the same time, they feel rewarded by what they're doing.' I think it’s a really common problem for society today, people want to be happy with what they’re doing.
So the last 3 months have been a mixture of upping my psych knowledge and applying for studies of work and organizational psychology in September. Freelancing allows me to do this at the same time.
Q. How do you help your clients?
I'm supporting small businesses with their marketing strategy, helping them think about “If you do want to sell this thing, why? What is the real depth of it?”. Then we can work on who you're really selling to because it's really easy to just peddle stuff, but it has to have the grounding to connect people in to believe in what you are doing.
I really love that grind of thinking about 'Okay, how are we going to make this a reality?' And that's really what's drawing me more towards that freelancing thing at the moment.
Q. What is it about organisational psychology that got your attention?
The most important thing for me in organizations, or just in daily life, is: 'Have reasons for what you're doing, for why you're doing things, and then live up to the standards of that.'
I follow this guy called Gary Vee (Gary Vaynerchuk). He’s incredible. He has a really braggadocious way of doing things, but there was one thing that he was saying, which is that they don't have a Head HR Officer, they have a Chief Happiness Officer. And I love that because if people are happy at work, they will be more productive and deliver a better result for your company.
You can either treat people as resources to produce what you’re looking for, or you can really focus on what matters to them. When you do this, you get a better result than you expected and a happier, more fulfilled and satisfied employee. Many companies who focus on needing to sell 50% more, rarely ask how many more employees do we need to do that, instead they load more work onto people without properly considering the effect that will have on their workforce as individuals.
I think that now people are much more inclined to try and search for who they are, and what really matters to them, rather than the safety jobs of old, which is cool. I want to help companies and organisations to bring both sides of business and people together for a better result.
Q. You chose the library in Den Haag centrum for your photo shoot with Tara for this campaign, can you tell us why you chose that space?
So, for me, it was the first place that came to mind. That library, in particular, has a lot of significance for me and the reason is that everything that's ever been important for me has always started from there. When I was doing my exams to finish high school, when I went to university and had my exams, that was always where I used to go.
I'm also a huge reader, I absolutely love reading anything that I can, but it was also just one of those places that I always come back to when something important needs to happen. And I feel like the change from my previous job to here and all the stuff it entails was captured by that, in a sense of 'Oh, yeah, I have to start over, there are important things to happen, here I am once again.'
Q. What attracted you to the FloLab meetups?
So, for me, the big thing was, I came back home at the beginning of this year and it was a case of, 'Okay, a lot of the people that I knew who were here before have all gone. Everyone has gotten jobs in London, or the US, or wherever the hell it is. And it's time for me to build my life from scratch here.' I saw FloLab was a really interesting concept, and I thought, 'Hey, what the hell? This is a really cool thing that you guys are setting up every week in different cafes. When I went to the first one it was just such a pleasure. So calm, chilled out but people were productive and working. It just felt really cosy.
I think for me, FloLab was a great way to get out of the house and be like 'Oh, cool, there are other people out here!' A lot of the places that you guys pick are places that I actually go to now because I find out about them from you.
The most important thing for me was to find people who; A, have been doing the same, i.e. have moved from wherever it is or are expats, that kind of thing, or B, people who are taking big leap of faiths to do things which are important and I found those kinds of people at your meetups.
Q. What do you think about the FloLab concept?
I'm really glad to see what you guys are doing at FloLab, jumping on the idea of 'This is what matters to me, and I can be way more effective doing what matters to me than just doing something for someone else'.
The space is beautiful. I'm glad that I got to contribute my little aid. But yeah, for me, it's wonderful. It has that cosy thing that you guys managed to get in the coffee shop meetups. I'm really excited to see what you guys will do with it.
Q. Thank you so much Yannis! Lastly, I would love to know, do you have any advice for us?
Remember why you started, is, for me, the most important thing. The other thing to focus on is, how can you make the place as homely as possible? Like, how can the community be striving for that positivity that is so important for your environment? Keep doing what you guys are doing now, it's working really well.
Yannis can be contacted for professional queries on firstname.lastname@example.org.