Craig Downs, Managing Director
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Behind the Business with Up North Communications

Bdaily goes behind the business with Managing Director Craig Downs at Up North Communications, the PR, marketing and communications company, based in Washington.

What key challenges has your company recently faced?

First and foremost, one of the main challenges for the business was to get it up and running and fully established. The business started trading in April 2015 and like any new business, it takes time, effort and patience to build but if you firmly believe in your core values and have a clear strategy in place then hopefully, it will become a fully recognised and trusted agency in the region.

Another key challenge has been managing cash flow. In the first few months of trading, there wasn’t much money coming into the business and I couldn’t even draw down a salary to live off so I had to dip into personal savings, but we’re over that hurdle and thankfully the clients we work with pay on time which is always a bonus!

Client budgets are being reduced so naturally they are being very cautious about spending in areas such as PR and marketing and this is something that I have already factored in going forward.

What is your biggest achievement over the past 12 months?

There are a few and we are not even one-year-old yet but getting the business up and running and established is one of the biggest achievements so far but also, securing and working with some really great clients across a range of different sectors. To turn an idea into a business that is performing really well is very satisfying.

What is your most important focus for the coming year, and what do you hope to achieve?

There are three areas I will be focussing on this year - retention, growth and recruitment.

My main focus is to continue to deliver an excellent service to existing clients. I know it sounds a bit of a cliché but it’s true – they have shown their commitment to the business and I want to make sure that I continue to deliver a great service to them.

Naturally, I want to continue to grow the business and I am already speaking to new clients about some really exciting projects but I am also acutely aware that I need to manage within my own limitations. The original plan was to get through year one successfully, reflect then start recruiting in year two so hopefully, I will be looking to recruit this year.

What excites you most about your industry and business?

Meeting new people and working with some excellent clients. No two days are the same. One day I could be working on a marketing strategy for a product – the next, I could be drafting press statements or organising media calls with the press and media.

It really is varied and that is what gets me out of bed on a morning. A lot of projects I work on allow me to be creative and strategic and when you see these projects implemented and successful, its satisfying to sit back and say, “I did that”. The industry is constantly evolving and innovating and social media has a big influence on businesses.

What do you wish you’d known when starting out?

In all honesty, since day one I have never stopped to think and reflect on this but now you ask the question, I would probably say the amount of admin work that comes as part and parcel of running your own business. When you are employed, you take for granted things like accounts and administration but when you are self-employed, you literally have to do everything. I knew what I was taking on before setting up the business, but I didn’t appreciate how much time it takes but then at the same time, you still have those important deadlines to meet for clients.

What will be the “next big thing“ in your industry, and how do you plan to handle it?

As already highlighted – the industry is constantly evolving and innovating. It’s a very competitive industry but clients engage your services to be creative and proactive whilst delivering value for money. Social media, video and animation are key areas that businesses are engaging in and these are all services and projects that Up North Communications can deliver for clients as part of their integrated marketing communications strategy.

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