The Lancashire couple who created jobs for themselves and 100 others

PUBLISHED: 09:59 27 April 2012 | UPDATED: 21:20 20 February 2013

Damien and Helen at the Blackpool HQ

Damien and Helen at the Blackpool HQ

Redundancy led an award-winning Lancashire couple to create their own jobs and employment for another 100. Martin Pilkington reports

When accountant Damian Broughton was made redundant it sparked an entrepreneurial fire for him and his wife, Helen. Its a flame that burns as brightly today as it did 13 years ago.

But back in those early days, their company, Danbro, didnt exactly set the world on fire. We saw there was a niche - accountancy services to contractors. We placed an advert in a contractor magazine but it was a very slow start six clients in the first six months, recalls Damian.

Rather than give up the dream, he took a job with a consultancy and ran the business in the evenings with Helen manning the phones in their front-room office. When the business finally clicked, their first child was already born and another was on the way. I had a great mum and a family friend who would come in and look after the children. And mum used to help man the phone when I had to go out and restock the cupboards.

Another redundancy allowed them to invest in IT equipment and they could also afford to improve their office accommodation, but nothing too luxurious. We moved into our garage! laughs Helen.

Damien helped the cash-flow with contracting work of his own at GlaxoSmithKline in the Lakes, but in 2002 with another child on the way it was decision time. Looking at it from an accountancy viewpoint it was crazy for me to give up my contracting work and go into this full time. But we felt it was right, it was a leap of faith. And so we did it, said Damian.

Our core market is contractor-freelancers for example in IT, and management consultants. Somebody who goes in on a temporary basis to provide a service to a company.

Their faith proved well founded as such work arrangements snowballed. The garage returned to a more traditional use when they took over an old building society branch in Kirkham evenutally expanding into much bigger premises on Whitehills Business Park in Blackpool. Staff numbers dictated the moves. We paid 100 people last month, and were recruiting up to seven more, says Helen.

In 2007, The Sunday Times Fast Track Awards had them as the 30th fastest growing private company in the UK, and they featured on the same list in the following three years. So what is the secret of Danbros success?

We invest a lot in our team in these hard times many people have pulled back on recruitment. We went the other way, says Damian. Had we pulled back wed have put pressure on the existing team and could have made mistakes, could have fallen behind in customer service. It has proved to be a winning formula, culminating in the Lancashire Business of the Year Award last year.

Both Helen and Damian constantly refer to their team, their people. Weve a great group working for us. Its a family thing one of our team members has his two sons working here now, our financial controller has his wife and son-in-law in the business. Its a family of families, says Helen. They are equally proud of the other BIBA Be Inspired Business Award - they won last year as Employer of the Year. That accolade is backed up by the news that the Investor in People accreditation they gained in 2009 has just been upgraded to gold standard. That puts us in the top one-and-a-half per cent of companies in the UK in that regard, says Damian with justifiable pride.

Difficulties in recruiting skilled personnel and the need to challenge existing staff have seen the company look to grow their own as Helen puts it, gaining approval in the process from several accountancy bodies concerned with professional development. And last year we launched Daniels Brookes as part of Danbro to provide services for more traditional accountancy clients local businesses, painters, decorators, travel agents, taxi drivers... says Damian, describing a move partly determined by the need to provide wider experience for staff.

There is another side to Danbro, too, in the face of rapid growth helps keep things in perspective, namely the charities it supports. We have an office-based event every year for Children in Need: Yvette de Voil whos very passionate about this organises it last year they raised over 800.

Its a fun day, people get involved, says Helen. We do Movember and Race for Life too.

We also support Helping Hand in Blackpool, says Damian. It helps homeless people, and those with addiction problems. And we back Operation Orphan and the youth charity, Streetwise.

Damian and I are trustees of that charity, and we underwrite as a company all their administration costs so any donations they receive go directly 100 per cent to the cause, says Helen. It supports orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, Vietnam, and Eastern Europe. We visited an Operation Orphan site in Hungary, at a village called Tap. Theres a lot of poverty, difficulties with alcoholism and the second highest suicide rate in the world. They have communities out there where kids lack even basics like appropriate clothing for winter.

We just established a charity committee made up of staff members, and they have some great ideas. Through that well look to support more local charities.

Danbro was set up 10 years ago. The conventional view of accountants would have this anniversary marked by the directors enjoying a small glass of sherry and unveiling a plaque. But this company is a bit more inclusive. We are doing an Its a Knockout event on the June bank holiday the Danbro Olympics, says Helen. Well have family and friends watching us all make idiots of ourselves.

The print version of this article appeared in the May 2012 issue of Lancashire Life
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