When I started, or at least co-founded, a small sales promotion agency called Marketing Principles in Oxford 20 years ago, I had no idea about the dramas that would ensue, or the mixture of fun and games and pain and heartache that could be telescoped into 12 short years.
I needed to get a lot of this off my chest for cathartic and purely selfish reasons, but in doing so, and in my current role as small business advisor/coach/mentor/NEC, I realised along the way that the lessons learned might be instructive as well as just entertaining, which is where it originally started.
The title is taken from the scurrilous in-house ‘newsletter’ our creative department took to compiling a couple of time a year, to debunk any of our employees who… oh, just anyone who worked for us (including me).
We begin the journey in 1985. The key protagonists (at the beginning) all have gainful employment at another local agency, and on the face of it should be content with their lot. But then this thing called ambition comes knocking, and a 12-year roller coaster ride begins.
For more information on my description of a small-business start-up through growth and contraction, to eventual trade sale, visit The Unprincipled where you can also order the book via PayPal, if the spirit moves you.
Described by one reader as part memoir, part business handbook, part comic novel, it will, I believe, strike a chord with anyone who has ever run or been part of a small business, and will certainly be useful to anyone who aspires to do so.
For 15 years David worked in marketing departments of various corporations and international companies, in support of direct sales forces. For the next 5 years, he moved to the agency side of the fence and worked in sales promotion/direct marketing/ advertising; then set up his own ‘through-the-line’ consultancy in Oxford, which he ran for 13 years, before selling out to an American multi-national. As an agency head, he necessarily has in-depth experience of most business sectors, both FMCG and B2B.
His marketing experience is overlaid with general management experience, having founded and grown a small consultancy business from scratch to a £6million turnover with 40 employees. The Unprincipled is his unvarnished account of the roller coaster ride that was his 12-year business in marketing services - Marketing Principles (www.theunprincipled.com)
He is currently working as an independent coach/mentor/advisor in the small/medium-size business sector, specialising in helping the MD/Owners of a wide variety of businesses in very different market sectors to grow and improve their businesses’ performance and profitability.
He works with business owners to help them achieve their personal and business goals, generally in one of three distinct areas: general growth strategies and plans; franchising as a specific means of achieving rapid business growth; and exit strategies.
He also works as a marketing specialist – de facto marketing manager – for some clients, developing marketing plans and strategies, and more importantly implementing them. As a marketing services business owner, he knows how to get things done as well as what needs to be done.
His strong belief is that the principles of marketing and business management remain the same, no matter what the product or market sector (his business was called Marketing Principles, and his book, “The Unprincipled” documents its roller-coaster 15-year history), though obviously his experience of the service sector gives him a particular edge there.
He is a strong team player (a zillion years ago, he played rugby football for Saracens for 10 years, and believe he still holds their all-time points-scoring record.)
I was intending to read this on my iPad in Oz, but I just
couldn't put it down - read it in the bath, on the settee, in bed. First chapter is especially interesting for
me, as I "was there" and remember that New Years Eve very well.
A cracking read, flows well and made me laugh out loud so
many times. It also made me glad I got
out of Sales Promotion or, rather, that Sales Promotion left me.
Part memoir, part business handbook, part comic novel: it's
hard to categorise, and hard to put down, once you start.
Amusing, bile inducing and memory jogging in equal measures!
Mark Catterson (aka The Cat)
"The Unprincipled" is utterly engrossing and
direct. I read it last thing before bedtime and it ensures I go to bed
giggling. This is the most entertaining book on business I have ever read and
is by turns, informative, challenging and outrageously scurrilous. Dave Croydon
gives us an honest, candid and funny expose of his setting up and running his
own marketing agency. It could have done with some more editing (it's clear he
used to play rugby - do I need to go further?) though there are some peachy
lines, for example, of a private meeting room in his new offices, he describes
it as, "handy for brainstorming sessions, say, or sackings, or a bit of
He is disdainful of business advisers (although he is one!) and rubbishes a lot
of the Total Quality Management of the '90s. He is particularly interesting
when talking of the personalities (particularly of those defrauding his
company) and how to motivate his staff (mostly food and a great deal of
drink!). There is some useful insight that he has found valuable - such as
personality profiling which gave him and his fellow directors powerful
information in creating the profile of his ideal customers. I haven't finished
it yet and am looking forward to this evening's read!
The Unprincipled is a thoroughly good read - It manages to teach you something without it hurting your brain or sending you to sleep – in fact you hardly notice that by the end you’ve actually learned something about running a business. That's because there are lots of hilarious goings on, with silly names and subterfuge to keep you amused. It’s the first business book I’ve managed to read to the end, probably because it’s not exactly a business book - more a comedic business memoir. Well worth a read, even though there are just one or two choice words that, as a woman, I would love to see removed in a subsequent edition!
I so enjoyed your book.It’s easy to see why you were successful in building and exiting your business. 12 years is a good stretch (ask any ‘lag’) and sustaining the business to exit time is a very significant achievement, for which I proffer my congratulations.
Your thoughtful Post Script is a valuable tool to focus one’s mind on critical aspects.
Integrated Sky Ltd
David Croydon and a couple of his colleagues were in employment but they were
spending some of the working hours setting up their own company which would be
in competition with their current employers. All's fair in love and the world
of sales promotion and Marketing Principles was born the following year. The
title of the book is taken from the in-house newsletter published twice a year
by their creative department to debunk anyone who worked for the agency and
judging by what David Croydon has to say they must have had a lot of material
to choose from. If I had to pick one word to describe this book it's scurrilous, so if the title of the book
suggests that the content might be rather dry, then think again.
started reading it struck me that what had happened had happened some time ago.
Times have changed. Governments have come and gone and some laws have changed.
I was expecting something mildly interesting and informative to anyone running
a small business and if, like me, you had a background dealing with companies
large and small then so much the better. Pencil and notebook at the ready I
settled down prepared to be educated.
Well, I was educated. I probably have
met the word vomitorium before but
never in the context of a book about business. I'm sure that it was entirely
coincidental that much of the business which Marketing Principles took on was
in the sector which might be characterised as booze and fags. It's not so much
that you would describe alcohol as close to their hearts - it was more a danger
to their liver. Croydon, Stid and the Cat were joined by Gaylord as the
Creative Director and whilst there can be no doubt that they worked hard they
played hard too. Very hard.
a straight-line narrative about what happened, with themes being covered and
jumps back and forth in time accommodated in the story. It works well with only
the odd repetition and I've read comic novels which engaged my interest to a
lesser extent. It's politically incorrect, scurrilous and quite probably
actionable in places - but it's a damned good read. How useful is it as a
business book? Pretty good I'd say. Croydon is forthcoming about what went
wrong (but perhaps not as fulsome about what went right as I would have liked)
and brutally honest about what could have been done differently. You'll
probably be able to add in a few things which you think they ought to have done
plenty of pointers which you can direct at your own business (before, during or
after...) and it would be an unusual businessman who didn't find the book
thought-provoking. Writing the book was cathartic for Croydon and you might
think that he was unfortunate in that a LOT of things went wrong for him -
fraud by a director, another director who defected, a sale of the business
which proved less than satisfactory gives you a flavour of what went on - or
you might argue that there should have been better planning. I doubt that
Croydon would disagree - this isn't by any stretch of the imagination a misery
memoir and he's made the mistakes so you don't have to.
to thank the author for dropping a copy into the Bookbag.
another view about starting your own business have a look at Start
It Up: Why Running Your Own Business is Easier Than You Think by Luke Johnson
(but I prefer David Croydon's approach!)