Dan Cawdron is the CEO of Discourse, a Public Relations and Marketing Consultancy firm based in Halifax. Discourse provides PR, Marketing, Business Development and Funding support for companies across West Yorkshire looking to develop and expand their brands.
Why did you start your business in the first place?
I think, deep down, I’ve always wanted to have my own company, but it did take a while to figure it out myself. I was lucky to work at some fantastic businesses when I was younger that helped shape what I wanted to do. I worked in advertising sales for a few years, but I much preferred acting as a consultant. After leaving that role I worked as an in-house marketer for a local firm, but I preferred the challenge of working with several different companies as a consultant.
What is your business motto?
I think business in general is a bit too complex to narrow down to one motto. One thing that got me started was the saying that there’s ‘Gold in the Gaps’. A lot of people think that everything in business has been done before, and it’s too competitive so there’s no reason to try. If you can find your niche and make a product that people want, you can make a business or grow your existing one massively.
What advice would you give to anyone starting their own business?
If you’re getting started on your own, you have to be able to do everything, and I mean everything. It’s unfortunate, but I’ve seen a lot of incredibly talented entrepreneurs shut up shop because they’re missing a key part of the process. It’s not enough that you can make an excellent product if you can’t sell it or market it. Customers aren’t just going to appear for you, in the early days you have to go out and get them, and deal with all of the other challenges that come with that.
What was the biggest challenge you faced starting your business?
I think most business owners will agree with me when I say that scaling up is always difficult. Even if you’re in a situation to do so financially, handing off responsibility can be a big challenge, particularly when it’s a company you made from the ground up. Bringing new people in to my business has always been hard, but I was lucky that the first person who came in to help was brilliant and that’s given me a lot more confidence to move forward and grow.
What do you enjoy most about being self-employed?
This will probably be a slightly strange answer, but I think the thing I enjoy most is engaging with the local business community. There are a lot of exciting things going on in Calderdale right now, and to discuss that with other businesspeople and talk about our plans for the future is very motivating. It always feels to me like Calderdale has a close community of entrepreneurs who want to work together and see each other succeed, and everyone is better off for it.
What do you enjoy least about being self-employed?
‘Working your own hours’ sounds like a great prospect until you’re sending emails and writing press releases at 2 in the morning!
Which business figure do you most admire and why?
It will come as no surprise to any of my friends reading this when I say it’s Elon Musk. From making money in the dot com era of the internet he’s gone on to launch companies that are changing the world. From SpaceX to Tesla and SolarCity he’s doing everything he can to improve humanity. I think a lot of us go in to business because we want to have an impact on the world and leave something behind that’s better than when we started, he’s the embodiment of that.
What achievement in your career are you most proud of?
I think just starting Discourse is probably my greatest achievement so far. When the company got started I had about £70 in my bank account, so we barely even had a shoestring budget! Fast forward to now and we’re working with some amazing businesses and have got plans to really grow in 2018.
Where do you see your business going in the next five years?
Our goal is to be the biggest agency in Calderdale, and provide levels of service that are available to everyone. We want to help start ups as well as more established companies, as there’s a stigma around some of our services, particularly public relations, that they can be unaffordable. We’d like to move in to more markets and work closely with the arts, which we’re just seeing the start of now. In addition, with our role as consultants there are always more things we can offer our business clients to help them succeed.
If you could invent one new product, what would it be?
A parking meter for street parking that doesn’t need exact change. If I can order a drink and a meal in a pub on my phone sat at my table, I shouldn’t need to carry around 20p coins so I have somewhere to park, it’s 2018.
If you could work for one company, who would it be and why?
I think if I had to go work at another company, it would be something that has a positive social impact. There are a lot of social enterprises coming up in Calderdale that are doing great work to tackle things like homelessness and addiction, while still operating as a normal company. I think that would be incredibly fulfilling.