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Marketing can change the world.

Services As I sit down with Diane and Gordon Young to hear more about their story and the immense growth with their business, The Drum, Gordon’s opening statement makes me smile as often when I talk about Couplepreneurs to people they start to get very animated with asking me why and how anyone could or would work with their partner. Gordon tells me “I don’t know how people can live together and not really know what they do” going on to add “living together and working together is just so normal. I don’t understand why everyone wouldn’t do this”. Diane reinforces this thought when she tells us “we used to do different jobs and it was a big source of irritation in our relationship. Gordon would be working late, I worked in the public sector so I was back home after 5pm and I would be waiting for him to come home and I would wonder what was taking him so long. But when I joined the business we would be in all weekend in the office and until late at night together and I understood exactly why. I got it”.

Couplepreneur – Gordon & Diane Young
Business Established – 1985
Industry – Marketing

More about The Drum and the global journey … and the impact coming to London is having on that growth…

After 28 years in a relationship (they celebrate their silver wedding anniversary in April 2019) and 22 of those running the business together it’s clear that this Couplepreneur are having great success together with finding a very good ‘Life’ balance – and that’s including a move from Glasgow to expand to London 4.5 years ago in 2013 with their 3 young children.

The business was founded in 1985 with Gordon and his business partner Nick who is still in the business. Diane helps to dispel a myth that exists where lots of people have pre conceived ideas around how Couplepreneur businesses are formed through a particular way. They are in fact formed through a myriad of ways as Diane tells us.

“I had just graduated with a degree in maths and couldn’t get a job in marketing at the time and I went in to the health service as an administrative assistant in the statistics unit. I rose up through the ranks but it just wasn’t for me. Gordon asked me if I could come and work in the business. That was in 1996 and within 2 years I was MD with Gordon focussed on editorial and creative, Nick managing design and technology so there was a clear gap for developing the finances and systems. But I didn’t initially give up my job completely and worked mornings in the health service and afternoons in the business to then migrate full time in to the business later on”.

Then in 2013 Diane and Gordon moved to London with their 3 young children in a strategic move that had actually been a thought that had been percolating for years. Diane explains “I got fed up of the business being a bit crap, having money worries and pressures and loans and thought how we must be able to do this better. We didn’t have much business experience so we set out to educate ourselves. We developed a proper strategy and started executing it. I read business books, attended lots of events and the more I did this the more I saw the opportunity. I took the learning back in to the business and applied it. We found advisors who were very good to talk to.  We were open to ideas.” So what has been the impact of moving to London? “Initially it was tough with the change and bringing 3 small children who were 5, 7 and 10. But they settled in quickly and for the business it’s been so good. You can spend time with people who are ambitious, energetic, have money to invest and going global feels so real and possible. The people, information you have access to and the experience is inspirational. That’s not to say we didn’t have that in Glasgow but the concentration here is immense”.

It sounds like the London move has been a game changer for Gordon and Diane and their growing team of 120. They are the biggest marketing platform in Europe and are an information business bringing people together and helping them find each other through awards, websites, magazines, webinars, conferences, consultancy, membership products and more. They currently have offices in London, Glasgow, New York and Singapore and their vision is to be the world’s best marketing platform – a marketplace for marketing.

“Living together and working together is just so normal. I don’t understand why everyone wouldn’t do this”
Gordon Young

Founder, The Drum

What are the benefits of being a Couplepreneur?

Both Diane and Gordon are passionate in their responses to how it works. Diane tells us “It works well with the children (their children are now 14, 11 and 9) and being able to share picking them up and dropping them off and if either of us need time off it works as we don’t need to ask anyone. Gordon reinforces this. “It is easier to mould the business in to your overall life. There are fewer boundaries between work and life. As an entrepreneur it’s just living – it is less about work/life balance, it is just life”. Whilst they haven’t necessarily thought of themselves as a ‘Couplepreneur’, Diane shares how she has been thinking for years that it would be great to develop something similar but for couples who run marketing and media businesses to meet for dinners and networking and to talk about so many things they have in common. It is something they do with friends they have met who run other agencies. It’s clear we are on the same wavelength and whilst Couplepreneurs work across all sectors there are indeed many who run marketing agencies. Cycling businesses, athletica clothing and food are industry sectors where we are also witnessing them being run by Couplepreneurs. Gordon goes on to reinforce just how running the business with Diane works so well for the Couplepreneur. He tells us “If you are both in the same business you know exactly what the risks are, you have chosen to take the risks together and the trust is nice and there is always somebody who has got your back”.

What challenges do you see or experience?

Diane tells us just how all in you are – a key theme for Couplepreneurs that can be a risk and a downside as Diane explains “when you are running your own business there’s no safety net but when you are both running the same business there is absolutely no safety net. If you layer on top of that you might have to give personal guarantees. Your family home might be at risk then there is just no safety net”. Gordon shares how he has never worked for anyone else but adds “there’s no escape and that can put a strain on things but there are compromises we all need to make in life” and “you are always on and a night out is a night out but it’s still business. It is good fun but also work “.

Children of Couplepreneurs – just how entrepreneurial are they?

As we spend time with more Couplepreneurs an emerging topic of conversation that is starting to happen is around their children and how brand aware, business savvy and entrepreneurial they are. Gordon and Diane tell us how their kids go home and play at meetings as they are often in the business if school shuts or after school. Diane shares with us how “my youngest offers a tea service but it’s not for free and if there are any sweets going in exchange that’s all part of the deal”. Diane says she’s not sure whether to feel proud or ashamed. As someone who asks candidates what their first job was in interviews I would be impressed if that 9 year old told me that story later in life.

If you knew then what you know now would you have still done it?

There is a resounding yes to this question with Diane telling us “yes, we have a really good life and if we want to change it we can. We are not beholden to anyone”.  The enormous drive and creativity is so evident as Diane and Gordon share their story and just what their teams across the world have developed and achieved.

What would you like to get out of the Couplepreneurs Global Community?

A big part of Diane’s role is to network so meeting other couples who are at different levels in their journey would be hugely insightful. They would love to meet a couple running a £500m business and hear their story together with sharing their own story of The Drum and its current £7m turnover.  There is so much advice they would like to get and would want other Couplepreneurs to have access to including tax advice, shareholder agreements, insurance, wealth management and the enormity around the joint finance and joint risk and the questions that need to be asked in coming together to run a business.

What would you tell an aspiring Couplepreneur?

Diane very clearly tells us. “Go for it”. 

Whilst Diane and Gordon have been working together for 22 years Diane can imagine an afterlife that many people can’t. She shares “I love property and we have some property interests and I can imagine doing that full time or when I want to. I would also love to do more teaching – I do mentor someone at the moment and I tutor maths on a Friday afternoon”.

Like to share your story?

If you would like to join our community and have the chance to share your own Couplepreneure story we would love to hear from you.


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