‘I’m a zero inbox guy’: A day in the life of Rich Antoniello

In 2019, the “day in the life” story format has become a near-parody of itself, with people eagerly rising at 5 a.m. to perform a sun salutation before crushing a smoothie made of kale and nut milk. As a corrective, we have decided to profile people we know will shoot straight with us. Here, Complex Media CEO Rich Antoniello talks through a Monday in mid-May.

The conversation has been edited and condensed.

Part I: “It’s not getting through emails”
I‘m an early guy. I’m like a six, but not with an alarm clock.

My kids just flipped that switch from “I’m up at 5:30 a.m. every day, and I want to make pancakes” to “I don’t want to get out of bed, ever.” Now I get up early to just kind of get some shit done, for me. It’s when my mind is least cluttered.

It’s not getting through emails. I want to be clear about that. From like 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., before my wife gets up and we have to start waking the kids up, that’s my time to think of the big things we need to be thinking about. It’s so easy, in this day and age, to get lost in the speed and the iterations and all the crazy shit going on.

I get here anywhere between 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., but I’m working from 8:15 a.m. when the kids go to school. Then the phone comes out.

Part II: “I don’t do that Michael’s thing”
I do a lot of breakfast meetings. What I love is the breakfast at the Knickerbocker Hotel. It’s on the fourth floor, there’s almost nobody from our business that goes there. It’s a lot of foreign tourists, so you can have almost any meeting with anybody and not get known. You can talk about anything out loud and not worry about it. I’m not a see and be seen kind of guy. I don’t do that Michael’s thing.

Today, I took the subway in.

Part III: Zero Inbox
I am a zero inbox guy. I’m not saying I answer everything, but what I do is categorize them. The actionable stuff, I’m probably getting 100-125 actionable emails a day, and 50% of them are actionable in a yes-no type of way. I went from having 850-900 emails a day of actionable stuff three years ago, when we hired Christian Baesler, to over the past 14 months, 15 months, I’ve gotten my directs down.

I’m aware of everything that goes on, but I’m not as operationally involved. You can’t run a company, allocate 5-10% of your time to strategic stuff and continue to stay ahead. As the bets get bigger, you need to allocate more time.

Part IV: Meetings, meetings, meetings
I usually start my days with the most important meetings of the day. On Mondays I do my catch-up with Christian: Are we on-pace from a year perspective, and a quarter perspective? Are we making the right bets on the maturation of those businesses?

I used to hate the departmental meetings. When we were more executionally focused, we were spending 90% of our time talking about executional issues, rather than making sure our strategy was correct.

Three years ago, we were 98% advertising-driven. It was very similar stuff, so you could spend more time talking about execution. And then we spent three years talking about how we were going to diversify. Now we’re at less than 50% advertising. We have a nice events business, we’re about to start our second ComplexCon. Our licensing business is doing well. And we have an e-commerce business that supports those other businesses.

Each of those is not nascent anymore. Now we should think about how we can improve them, versus execute better.

Part V: Hammer through
For lunch, I don’t go out anymore. I try to get home for my kids. If I made the choice to be crazy and stay in the city, to not be home [at a reasonable hour] and see my kids on both sides of every day would be crazy. I hammer through the day.

My assistant controls my schedule, and she is a master at rejiggering things when situations come up. I try to get out of here by 6 p.m. Not that I’m done working, but I try to get out of here by 6 p.m.

Part VI: Math Dad
Everybody grabs dinner. My wife and I do the divide and conquer thing. By the time everybody does get home, there’s an hour of family catchup.

I end up doing math homework a lot with both my kids. My wife is super-creative. She’s the other side. I’ve become “Math Dad.” High school math is gonna be interesting. I know I remember how to do it. I was pretty good at it before, but that’s theoretical stuff.

I usually do my catchup from 10 p.m. until like 11:15-11:30 p.m. I’m a huge sports guy, so I’m a second screener on my emails and modeling and notes. The NBA Playoffs have been great, but I’m a big baseball guy. I have MLB Network on constantly. I’m a Yankees guy, but I’ll watch the Royals play the Mariners.


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