The Davies Media Company: Ceri Davies

Startups profile

Name: Ceri Davies Age: 42 Business: The Davies Media Company Type of business: Media planning & buying Start date: July 2003

When did you first decide you wanting start your own business? Is it something you’ve always wanted to do, a natural development in your career or something else? It had always been at the back of my mind and it became a natural progression as the awareness of potential and opportunity came together

Tell us about your business We provide consultation, planning & execution of media and promotional activity to drive customer acquisition. We specialise in working with SMEs who struggle to get good, neutral advice and action relevant to their needs and budgets.

Was it your first business idea and where did it come from?It was my first real business idea and it came from 15 years of working in media and gradually knowing that I could do it better, provide a genuinely relevant service and have more fun outside a big corporate structure

Was your decision to start a business inspired by any other companies or individuals? No specific individual or organisation, more a range of entrepreneurial clients, associates and friends whose attitudes and experiences were a fit with mine

What makes you think there’s a market for your business?Focused research and due diligence, allied to an understanding of the market and a very positive year one!

And, having some specific skills and contacts. Which I know from being headhunted by bigger companies and approached with a view to partnership.

Once you’d decided to start a business, what did you do first? Got a very good accountant and started to build a network of associated service providers

What research did you do? One on one “interviews” with decision makers in the sector and potential clients and associates, desk research on competitive offerings and I devoured SME websites & magazines.

What advice did you seek? Did you approach any of the government advice centres such as Business Link? I studied their content but I didn’t, and this is a confession really, actually make direct contact. Now in truth I’m not really sure why not.

I work the area of business advice and that allied to strong commercial experience got me going. Marketing to generate business is my business and I was driven by the momentum of the start-up.

In retrospect though I feel that I should have done, it would have done no harm and could have generated a benefit.

What other help did you get? None really, finance was in place, so just got on with it really!

Does the government need to provide more help to people trying to start a business? If so, what should they do? Yes. Less bureaucracy and more financial incentives to employ people.

Talk us through the process of writing your business plan. How did you find it? Did you get any help? My work previously had involved writing plans, marketing and media, and contributing to clients business plans, therefore we had a base from which to move.

We used a Barclays template to ensure that we got all the key points covered.

How useful has your business plan been and do you think you’ll stick to it as your business begins to grow? Internally, very useful. We will stick with it, but it’s a benchmark not a bible.

How much did it cost to start the business? Approximately £40k

How did you fund this? From your own funds/savings or by raising finance? Own funds.

Similarly, how are you funding your running costs until the business takes off? From own finances where necessary and positive cash flow.

Have you made any provisions for business not being as prosperous as expected? Yes. We had a very positive start to the business with a really good project, this has allowed us to build some reserves and we focus on keeping a very tight grip on costs.

When did you stop working? How did you find the transition from full-time employment to self-employment? April 2002. It was a very big moment, a bit like before a big rugby game – excited, nervous, fear of failure but confident in your ability and preparation.

We also had a new member of the family who was less than one year old, the lovely and lively Billy, so it was a total lifestyle change.

But my wife Julia was 100 per cent supportive, which was brilliant as I started off in a spare bedroom with a laptop, mobile and fax.

The transition was weird as you lose all your routines, but you just have to make new, better, ones.

Are you working from home or from premises? Initially from home, but I now have office space with a company that I work with.

If you’ve already got premises, are you glad you made that decision? We will probably need to move fairly soon, but the space we have has been fantastic in terms of our development.

In addition to the space and resources its good to engage with other people, exchange ideas and occasionally have a beer.

How many hours are you working at the moment? Don’t look at it in that way, I think it breeds negativity – some weeks a lot, some less.

Time with clients isn’t a drag, that’s the best bit of the job, so I work hard but with flexibility so it seems really manageable.

I get to spend quality family time, eg home for bathtime – I might have to get the laptop out afterwards but that’s no problem.

How are you managing your day and what steps have you taking to ensure you’re able to get everything done without working around the clock? I think I use technology well and plan my time efficiently. You also have to deal with the unexpected and build contingency time in.

What about staff, is it just you? I am the only full-timer, but I have access to a very good and very experienced freelancer who I’ve known for a long time for the intellectual stuff.

I also have access through to outsource top-level media buying specialists, based in the same office as we are, when workload demands.

I’m about to hire an assistant, so I’ll give you an update on the last bit of the question when I’ve done it!

Is the amount of red tape that comes with taking on an employee something that concerns you? Yes it is, and it has caused to me delay & think long and hard before proceeding.

What marketing and advertising have you done so far? Ironically, given the service we provide, so far our workload has been contact and reputation driven.

However, we will embark on B2B advertising/direct marketing when we have increased capacity sufficiently to deal with the response.

Where do you hope to be in 12 months time? Maintaining same standards, but with broader portfolio of clients and work

What are the main obstacles to growth? Recruitment of quality people ahead of securing the work

How do you plan to overcome these? Planning our business development activity in phases to ensure quality of deliver to new clients.

Tell us about your website. How important is it to your business? Its brochure-ware really. Its not transactional and we don’t expect it to drive new-business eg through searches, so it’s a good to have but its not a priority.

What are your main ambitions, to make a lot of money or enjoy what you do? Success would equate with financial success and this would be very welcome.

I have a decent standard of living, and want to enhance that but also be able to enjoy it.

But fundamentally, you have to work hard so you have to enjoy what you do to do it well and also be in charge of your own destiny.

What have you found difficult about starting up and what do you wish you’d done differently? Just done it earlier really.

What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business? The ability to listen, to communicate and to see an upside in every situation.

Obviously, specialist skills/services/products that people will pay for – you have to have a market.

Energy, commitment, self-belief and support……. and the sense to take the right advice.

So what advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business? Do your research, then do it.

Thanks a lot and the very best of luck. Will you come back and tell us how you’re getting on in six months’ time? Yes, of course

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