Dan Laurence is a founding director at creative agency Unite and Create.
The business, founded by Laurence and Chris Hobson in 2020, specialises in digital, design, live events and high-end film production and animation and operates on an agile freelance model to provide a bespoke team to each client and project.
The Manchester agency, which now works with brands including BASF plc, Travelodge and Bupa, announced annual turnover of £1.5m in May.
Here, Laurence shares all the lessons he has learnt…
Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?
One of the best things to come out of Covid was the realisation that we can work just as well (if not better) remotely. Losing that daily hour-long commute has genuinely improved all aspects of my wellbeing along with packing in an extra two usable hours in the day.
Daily walks are a big part of my daily routine and really help to reset and focus the mind. This starts with walking the kids to school in the morning, come rain or shine. I love this as it’s brought us all closer together and is always an enjoyable way to start the day.
By 8.50 I’m at my desk and ready to tackle whatever lies ahead. I also try hard most days to fit in a walk and talk in with my business partner Chris, and can genuinely say that most of our best ideas have come while clocking up the steps.
What’s been your luckiest break?
Meeting my business partner Chris. We bounce off each other every day and always have each other’s back – we are at the stage where we often finish each other’s sentences! We also have a shared vision for Unite and Create and recognise the power of providing a bespoke team for every client and project we work with for the best results. Put simply, the business wouldn’t exist if we hadn’t met.
What’s your best failure?
It might sound cliche, but failure isn’t something I’ve ever accepted. I’ve always been a glass half full kind of guy, and no matter the situation or the challenge, there’s always a way out and a positive to take from it.
What is the best investment you’ve ever made, either financial or time?
I’d have to say buying an iPhone way back in the day! That first phone changed the way I work and continues to do so to this day. There’s no such thing as being ‘away from the office’ anymore. Whilst it’s important to have dedicated time when you do switch off, the ability to be ‘always on’ no matter where you are is something I just can’t imagine running a business without.
Which podcast or book would you recommend others to read and why?
There’s lots of books I could name that have been a big influence on how I operate but one that I still reference to this day is Shoe Dog – the Nike story. I’m a huge fan of the business and its story of being the new kid on the block underdog who went on to be the biggest player in the sector. Being different and breaking convention is something that has driven Unite forward since day one.
What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
In the words of Nike, Just Do It! Our younger selves spend too much time overthinking the ‘what ifs’ in the negative sense, when the positive ‘what ifs’ are so much more exciting and rewarding. Take risks, push your boundaries, and always remember that great things happen when you step outside of your comfort zone.
Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?
My Mum! She taught me to work hard, be humble and always treat others how you’d want to be treated yourself. My motto is always to do a great job with a smile on your face and with the right can-do attitude and it will always lead to results and a lasting impression. That lasting impression is what builds relationships and this is the single most important thing in any business.
Tell us something about you that would surprise people.
I can recite the entire rap of Ice Ice Baby. Vanilla Ice, watch out!
How will the COVID crisis change work for the better?
It already has! As a business setup in November 2020 right at the height of the pandemic, we built ourselves from the ground up to be Covid-proof. We not only embrace remote working but believe it’s the present and the future. Delivering better results – packing more hours into the day and offering the most agile way to work possible. Tools like Teams, Zoom and WhatsApp meant we were well-equipped for the remote working situation instigated by lockdowns, giving us effective and immediate ways of communicating – genuinely facilitating a ‘work anywhere’ mindset.
What does success look like to you?
For me, it’s always been knocking a project out of the park! Getting the awesome feedback that someone else loves the concept, the execution and the results you’ve delivered can’t be beaten.
Keep smashing projects and the rest takes care of itself. Business is that simple. The minute you forget the basics the wheels will very quickly start to come off. Shoot for the stars every day and you’ll have success and make those around you proud.
Creating a legacy and making a difference is important to me and is something I firmly believe we’re doing at Unite and Create every single day. It’s about delivering exceptional results for our clients, nurturing a collaborative and creative work environment, and empowering our team and freelancers to thrive. We’re committed to creating meaningful experiences and leaving a lasting mark in the industry.