In this interview with a CEO: Who is Danny Daley?
In this interview with a CEO, we dive into the life and mind of Danny Daley, the co-founder and CEO of Circulate Digital. Circulate Digital are an award-winning digital marketing agency that is causing digital waves throughout the UK and beyond.
Danny spent over five years perfecting his graphic design skills before starting Circulate with his marketing whizz brother, Matt Daley, 7 years ago. Find out more about how the brothers steered the agency to success by diving into the mind of a CEO below!
Tell us about your current role at Circulate Digital and how it has evolved throughout the years.
Okay, so… I’m currently the CEO and Co-Founder of Circulate Digital.
I mainly look after all of our finances and I ensure we’re bringing on the right clients on board. Just as importantly, I also ensure we’re bringing on the right team members that will fit perfectly into our team. I also work very closely with Matt, who is my business partner and brother, and we ensure that we’re driving significant performance and results for the clients we’re working with.
We also ensure that we’re growing in the right direction as a digital marketing agency by staying on top of industry trends and things that are going on in the world we live in.
Most importantly, myself and Matt make sure that everyone is happy really in the agency and we’re sticking to our main objectives which are being the best in the industry at what we do, for a smaller agency, and also having the best working environment for our staff to thrive.
That’s my current role, but when we first started the business, my role was more involved in the operational side of the business. We didn’t really have very clear roles when we first started and we did end up stepping on each other’s toes a lot – but back then we did everything!
I was doing all the sales, Matt was doing all the work, we were on client calls all the time, we were knocking on the doors of businesses trying generate business – we did all sorts of things back then!
Looking towards my current role, it has only been in the last year or so that I’ve moved to the CEO role, at the same time, Matt became the CMO. The transition in roles felt completely natural, purely because we’ve scaled as an agency and now have a decent sized team in place. That’s why there became more of a need for our roles to be more structured for our day to day roles and responsibilities.
What do you like most about your career or area of focus?
I love running a business. I love coming in every day and facing different challenges. My day varies from day to day and often does so rapidly! I can come in one day and get stuck into finances, working closely with Matt on sales forecasts, or I can come in another day and be hands-on with the team, helping to get the agency more organised or working with someone who has a problem that needs to be solved.
I think the thing about my career is that when I wake up in the morning, I don’t really know how my day is going to go, which is quite exciting!
What skills or qualities do you feel helped you build an award-winning digital marketing agency?
I think the skill that has helped us get to where we are, from my perspective, is my organisation. Some people might find it a bit irritating how organised I am when I am pushing for things, but that’s how I am! My wife always says “I can’t believe you’re so organised at work but not at home”. But when I’m in the business I like to make sure that everyone is on track; using the right tools with the right processes in place.
I think, with a digital marketing agency, the key to success is having processes in place that everyone understands and follows – this ensures that everyone is doing their tasks in a similar way. I think the biggest thing for me in terms of our growth and how we have become award-winning is literally the people we’ve brought on board and making sure everyone understands the way we work as an agency.
What do you wish you had known when you started out?
That everyone else that runs an agency or runs a business has the same problems that we have! At first, when things wouldn’t go to plan, if we lost a bit of business or we didn’t win the client that we wanted, or if we had someone leave the business when we first started hiring people – it felt like it was us doing it wrong, whereas actually, it’s just how it is in business, we can’t win at everything.
You’re going to lose clients, you’re also going to win new clients. The same with staff – you’re going to have some really great members of staff come on and sometimes they might want to go elsewhere or do their own thing. I think it comes down to understanding, that as a business owner, you’re not in this alone and other business owners are facing very similar challenges.
How has your relationship with your brother helped Circulate get to where it is today?
I think this ties into a previous question of how we became ‘award-winning’. I think it’s because of the relationship that myself and Matt have. As brothers, we’re obviously really close, we’re best friends, and running our business together is a dream come true really because we always wanted to run a business together.
We went to university together, sat next to each other in classes… so you know we’re literally living our dream by running this digital marketing agency. Our relationship is so strong because we’re both really hard-working, we both put in just as much passion as each other so having that strong bond makes it easier when things do get tough.
Do you have a mentor, or have you ever mentored anyone?
We’ve got a mentor at the moment, his name is Gareth Healey, he is a very successful entrepreneur within the agency space. He actually scaled an agency from 30 staff up to 175 with a 12.5 million turnover, so he’s currently mentoring myself and Matt.
We’ve been with him for about a year now and we can see that relationship going a lot further than that, simply because he’s helping us develop new processes and ways of working as we deal with new challenges as we’re scaling. The aim is always to grow our agency and that’s what he’s a specialist at; helping agencies to grow and be different, so working with him is really helpful.
We’ve also worked with other mentors previously, one of them was Luca Senatore. Again, a really amazing entrepreneur who runs his own agency, a really enthusiastic and passionate that drives a lot of energy. He gave me and Matt a massive boost which is how we ended up growing throughout the pandemic, he really helped us with that.
In terms of mentoring other people, we’ve consulted for some huge brands, many of those international, where we sat down and helped them shape their digital strategy from the ground upwards.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
The best advice I ever received was actually from my grandad, it was more of a saying. You know the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know?” Well, my grandad said this: “actually, it’s not who you know or what you know, it’s who knows you.”
I thought that was really powerful. If you’re doing all the right things, it’s about who’s coming to you. As a digital marketing agency, we want people to be finding us and knowing who we are and I think as long as we’re doing all the right things, the last point of “who knows you” is a big driver for me – not just professionally, but personally as well.
What inspires you, motivates you or helps you to move forward?
I think the growth that we’ve had as an agency, year-on-year, has been really good, but it’s the feeling as an entrepreneur of always wanting more that motivates me. I’m grateful for what we already have but having that constant challenge and reaching for those revenue goals drives me to move forward.
Another thing, I also became a dad a couple of years ago and that changes everything when you become a parent – simply because you have a lot more responsibility on your shoulders inside and outside of work. Making sure that I have that financial stability for my family – that’s a big thing for me. I want to make sure that they’re safe, they have what they need and I can provide for them. That’s a huge drive for me – to work my ass off for them as well as for myself.
What are you proud of in your life so far?
I’m proud of getting married to Vicky – I’m punching above my weight with her! Also having my twins because my dream was always to have kids before I was 40. I’m really happy that I have them – that’s my foundation.
Then, of course, the business. It’s my passion, that’s what I get up and do every day. Having this business is something that I’m really proud of. I put everything into it and it’s nice to now be able to share that journey with a whole team of people that I feel are on the same page as us, which is great!
What is your preferred way to meet new people/network?
Obviously, due to a world pandemic, I haven’t been going to as many networking events… but I think in regards to networking, I’m more of a one-on-one person. I like going out for meals with people and having one-on-one conversations as opposed to being in big groups of people. I have been to networking events with loads of people in them, but I feel it’s a lot more personal if you go out for dinner with a couple of people and I enjoy that setting the most.
Who do you most admire in business, academic or creative circles and why?
There are quite a few people! The mentors that I’ve had, I admire them. Mainly because I understand the journey they’ve been on and how hard they’ve had to work to get to where they are because I’m facing those challenges myself.
In terms of people that I don’t know, I’d say people like Steven Bartlett, he’s become very well known now. I listen to snippets from his podcasts and I have read the book he wrote. I like the fact that he’s not all about money and revenue, he’s about being happy and practising gratitude.
Another person I admire – and I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not – is Jordan Belfort who the Wolf of Wall Street is based upon. Yes, he did some illegal things – but he has this book called Straight Line Selling that both me and Matt have read and it really helped us become more energetic in sales scenarios and taught us how to take control of the call when you’re selling to people.
Outside of your professional/work area, what hobbies or interests do you have?
I used to be really into football. As I’ve gotten a bit older, I stopped playing it as much. Now that I’m getting a bit older… I love playing golf. I go down to the driving range and hit some balls every now and again, it’s quite a nice way to switch off from work.
I also go to the gym 4 or 5 times a week for strength training. Not only for the physical benefits but for my mental health. Running a business can be quite stressful sometimes and getting it out of the way in the morning really sets me up for the day. Once I’ve gone to the gym and sweated by lifting really heavy weights, for the rest of the day I’m just sitting in my comfy office all day, drinking coffee and doing something that I love.
Has the pandemic had a positive or a negative effect on you and/or your business, and how have you managed it?
The pandemic was obviously very difficult for everyone. Personally, myself and Matt had something really sad happen to us. Our mum passed away during the pandemic so that was incredibly difficult for us.
From a business perspective, we just had to adapt to businesses and how they were now operating. For example, a lot of the fashion brands we had were shocked by the pandemic and lockdowns meant their physical stores were closed so we had to turn things around and create more demand online.
We also had some hospitality brands onboard at the time and we had to completely switch our entire strategy up to ‘online deliveries’ as opposed to getting people to go to their restaurants. We just had to adapt really rapidly too, but once we did that, it actually strengthened our business because we had to become more organised.
In regards to our team, when everyone went into remote working, we had to put more systems and processes in place to make sure that everyone was on the same page and being really productive whilst working from home. The pandemic definitely challenged us but I think it actually made us stronger.
What advice would you have for someone looking to get into digital marketing?
The first thing to do is to sort of experience all areas of digital marketing, to discover which area is best for you and what you’re most passionate about – because obviously there are a lot of different aspects of digital marketing. There are some roles where you could be managing everything, but I think the best thing to do, is to become a specialist in this industry. I’d recommend honing in on a particular channel within digital marketing.
For me, I started as a graphic designer and was doing design for about five years before I set up Circulate with my brother. It’s what I always wanted to do when I left university because I was really passionate about design, websites, UX and that sort of thing and it’s helped me massively in setting up my own digital marketing agency. So specialise! Figure out what you like first and then become a specialist in that area.
What do you feel is the most common reason for people failing or giving up?
When it comes to business and digital marketing in particular, sometimes when you’re not seeing results, it can be quite difficult. If you put in loads of effort and you don’t feel like anything has come of it, it can be disheartening.
However, digital marketing is a long term investment, especially when it comes to SEO – because you’re making changes that can have long-term positive effects for your business, as opposed to seeing quick results. That can cause some people that don’t fully understand digital marketing to become quite deflated if they’re not seeing instant results, and that goes for both employees and clients.
Also if you’re not enjoying it. If you’re coming into work or you’re trying to learn something and you’re not connecting to it, it can cause people to give up. There are so many areas of digital that you can get into, and if you don’t like digital at all, it’s probably time to start thinking about a different industry!
For me, it’s all about enjoying your work. I think you work for so many hours throughout your life that it’s so important that you’re spending those 9 hours a day doing something you enjoy. For those people who don’t enjoy their job, my answer to that is simple – go find something that you’re passionate about and focus on that.
Is there a phrase, quote or a saying that you really like?
Myself and Matt are looking to set up our fitness brand soon and the tagline for that is “become your own inspiration”. I think that’s something big for me because there are a lot of people that inspire me but I like to look at how far I’ve come.
For example, five years ago, I thought about how great it would be to have a team of people working for us and have lots of cool clients. The list goes on – if I had a wife, kids, a family and a nice house of my own… I have that now, so I’m really proud of myself. Becoming your own inspiration is the best thing you can do for yourself.
What companies or brands do you personally like or think are getting it right?
I really love Nike because I’m really into my fitness and I just love how they’ve built up a community as well as a brand. For example, when you see people in Nike gear you know they’ve invested into their fitness, they want good clothes and the best performance gear. I also love their website, how they promote their products and all the different apps that they have – I use them myself. They’ve built this whole empire beyond clothing and I love that.
Apple is a big one. I really like Apple because I’ve been investing in their products for our business since we’ve started and they’ve standed the test of time. I’ve had a MacBook for five years and I’ve just had to update it, whereas the other brands of laptops often seem outdated after a few years.
I also love Ted Baker. I like how the clothing is quite vintage and when you go into their shops it’s like a themed experience with a vintage feel.
What is your preferred social media platform and why?
I’d say it’s Instagram just because I just like the app and I like that it’s image-focused as opposed to lots of updates of people’s statuses like other social media platforms. Also, I know I don’t get too fixated on it, whereas things like TikTok can be quite addictive and you find yourself scrolling through it for hours at 1 am in the morning.
Instagram is also really good for stories and reels as well now, especially from a business perspective, because it’s more of a commercial platform. It’s more influencer-led which drives a bit more character, I think, instead of being too rigid and professional like LinkedIn.
How do you define success, and what lessons have you learned so far that you could share with our readers?
Success for me is firstly being happy. If you’re not happy with what you’re doing, then what’s the point of even doing it?
Secondly, being financially stable off the back of what you’re doing is a huge bonus and I see that as a huge win but equally as important as those two things are being healthy.
If you’re in a state of unhappiness it can then make you unwell, which in turn can rock you financially. For me, it’s all about waking up in the morning and being happy and healthy whilst enjoying what I do – the financial side of it naturally comes off the back of that. Success for me is being consistent and having balance.
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This is the first in our brand new series called ‘Interview with…” a deep dive into the minds of successful business owners, marketing and PR experts and so much more! We hope you enjoyed this interview with our CEO & Co-Founder and were able to take away some nuggets of gold to apply to your own life and career.
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