DM Focus at 10
It is one thing talking about the way marketing and in particular direct marketing has changed in the last ten years and another talking about how the biggest recession since the 1930's has affected every business in the country.
When setting up DM Focus, the dream was that I would be able to demonstrate my marketing knowledge to organisations in the UK and also have a good, balanced life between family and work. At times the latter has definitely been a challenge as when you enter business you forget all that is involved in being the boss!!! It's not just about doing the work but the day to day chores of keeping an eye on cash flow, ensuring all regulations are kept too, managing staff – all take up valuable time and cannot be ignored or forgotten.
The first six months was totally about building the business and involved endless new business meetings, lots of calls with 'sorry not available' etc… but a great challenge. Having a client base of zero was an interesting place to start but great to look back on and see where we have managed to get to. It really helped that I was known in the industry and the outlay to set up on my own was small. Clients did start coming through the door and within three months the business relocated from my study at home to its first premises in Ampney Crusis. After another three months I took on my first member of staff. In summary, the company moved four times and employed ten members of staff of which six are still with us now. Matthew is our longest serving member of staff and has been here for eight years. Well done for putting up with me for that long.
But what about running a business over the last ten years? What were the biggest challenges?
1. Cash Flow
Keeping a close eye on cash flow is up there. Since 2008 and the recession, it has been very hard to borrow money and if we had not set up our business in the way we did I am sure we would have suffered the same fate as many other organisations our size at that time. Many forced out of business, not because they were not profitable, but because they didn't have sufficient cash flow to keep going.
2. Client results
We rely totally on our clients spending money and when results start to falter their budgets do get cut. Results are still not at the as good as before the recession but over the last year we have definitely seen improvements and let’s hope that we are starting to see consumers, and therefore our clients being more confident in investing in the future.
The environment around us is continually changing and we need to keep an eye on the landscape around us to ensure we remain competitve. Looking at the macro enviroment, taxation, HR policies, a change in government, European directives have all affected how we trade. Looking at our industy sector, changes continually happen here too. For example, when DM Focus started there were lots of list brokers in the market place and list managers too. It was a similar story with other media but over the last ten years either companies have changed direction (Occam would be a good example of that), shut completely (Swetenhams, Tri Direct to name a couple) or merged for economies of scale (Acxiom was a combined merger of NDL, CMT and Consodata).
So what would be my finals words about setting up a new company? You might be good at something but that might not necessarily make you a good business person. I think you need to be able to live and breathe it and be prepared for it to take over your life, as it has for me. That said it also gives you great freedom, there would be no other place I could simply go out for a run and train every lunch break! On the business front, I can simply make a decision without needing board approval. I would not have changed it for the world. I have thoroughly enjoyed the last ten years and really looking forward to what the next ten might bring!!!