The first thing that surprises me about Daniel Broch is that he agrees to meet up with me at his home. After all, his company, Everyman Media Group, owns and runs a Hampstead landmark, Everyman Cinema, and I know that his company’s offices are in Hampstead too.
On the morning of the meeting I am met by his secretary and wait for him in the small office, which is situated at the back of his garden. Daniel wafts in like the wind and asks me to wait for a few minutes as he needs to finish some things before we start talking. He is very tall and has an easy manner, but at the same time his sheer force and determination are palpable. We end up talking in the kitchen while he makes himself a smoothie, as so far he hadn’t had the time to have breakfast.
Daniel’s childhood and formative years weren’t easy, as his mother was quite young when she had him and his father left the family when Daniel turned two. As a youngster he wasn’t disciplined and as soon as he left school he ended up working as a glazer for a glass company. He still remembers the day when he clearly understood that he was made for different things: he was sitting in the work van at a set of traffic lights at Wembley, it was freezing cold and he felt really tired. All of a sudden he noticed an estate agent office across the street on the right full of smart and happy young guys.
Within a short period of time Daniel managed to find a junior position at a Temple Fortune company and found that experience quite interesting. In a few years he ended up working at Benham & Reeves but eventually he got thrown out because of his general attitude. Daniel went on to work for Glentree, which became a big turning point in his career as the firm ended up dominating the market. He was one of the most successful people of his age and found the experience useful for learning and developing of his skills (he is bright and used to getting what he wants). That was a big part of the foundation that he was laying for the future but even though he was doing very well financially, he was out of balance with himself and in the end decided to walk out of the job as it wasn’t taking him to where he wanted to be.
Daniel admits to having a low boredom threshold and now realises that he has a creative mind but at the time he didn’t realise it, so by quitting a very lucrative job he wanted to confront himself and become better equipped for what lay ahead. Until that moment he worked obsessively and all of a sudden the world opened up to him. Daniel backpacked for a while in Australia and Thailand and it was becoming clearer to him that he wanted to control his destiny. He never puts limitations on himself and thinks that it’s a great shame that most of the adults are afraid of failure. Daniel thinks that one needs to push boundaries in order to succeed and says that each experience is unique.
Eighteen months after leaving Glentree, Daniel saw a derelict cinema in Hampstead, which at that stage had been bankrupt twice. Daniel, who surprisingly, is hardly interested in cinema, thought of Everyman strictly in terms of the property deal. Initially Everyman wasn’t profitable and everybody thought that it would fail but Daniel’s gut feeling made him persevere. He keeps on making the point that Everyman was never just about running a cinema and that the process made him reconnect with himself.
Daniel started with redecoration of the cinema but he knew that his job was to develop a concept that was ‘saleable’. Now he accepts the fact that he has an entrepreneurial streak but in earlier years it wasn’t obvious to him. He is a creative person and fiercely believes in his vision. He says that business often comes down to one person but often a good team is a necessity. First person to ‘come on board’ was Paul Wise, who was a very instinctive and tuned in trader. Together they appointed a corporate company and started to present ideas to potential investors.
Daniel also had a ‘gut’ feeling about Kaye brothers (who have tremendous experience in restaurant business and are considered to be luminaries of their generation) but couldn’t find them even though they also lived in Hampstead. Daniel had a meeting with Lewis Trust group and was told that they would consider doing business with him only if their partners, Kaye brothers, came on board, and the rest, as they say, was history. Members of Everyman Media Group board have different talents but complement each other’s approach greatly.
Concept of ‘Everyman cinema club’ is a mix of movies, special seasons, meetings with stars of the cinema and special screenings for mothers with babies and for older people. The cinema has very comfortable sofas downstairs and extremely luxurious leather sofas in the upstairs gallery. Once you watched a movie there, believe me, you wouldn’t go anywhere else. The staff is young and friendly and the snack food (my personal favourites are gummy bears and wasabi peas) is utterly delicious. One can order freshly made Illey coffee or have a drink at the comfort area or while watching a movie.
Daniel decided from early on that he wanted to run a business that treats people differently. The set up is transparent and it is very important for Daniel to have an open dialogue with the community, however, he cautiously mentions that when it comes down to focus groups, they often say ‘no’ to new ideas and Daniel believes in pushing the boundaries. Of course one is bound to make mistakes and he does admit to making some, notably ‘call buttons’ in the cinema for staff to request food and drinks. Daniel says that it is essential to keep ideas going in order to build and expand the brand, as in his view business is about macro management and one just can’t scale down.
In terms of the team working for him, Daniel seems to be a very rare kind of boss, who appreciates and encourages people and one who has a fundamental believe in the power of people. It is important for him to ‘jamm’ with people and he quotes Steve Job’s ‘joining of the dots’. People generate ideas and it is Daniel’s aim to find out what people are good at and encourage their development. He strongly believes in people’s potential and tends to ‘think out of the box’, trying to do 6 months reviews with his employees.
At the same time Daniel needs ‘to deliver’ to convince his shareholders and that requires him to often go with ‘tried and tested’ but that doesn’t prevent him from observing things and accumulating information which allows him to come up with new concepts. He listens to the radio a lot and hardly watches TV, which probably isn’t easy when one has kids.
Daniel met his wife when he was 32 and they have two daughters, who one senses, are very important to Daniel. I think he often chooses to work from home in order to see his daughters and see them grow-so far he hasn’t missed any important stages, like first step or the first word.
I ask Daniel how he sees Everyman is 10 years time and he says that he hopes it will become one of the most significant brands, because if you are a pioneer in something, that means you are the only one. He says that his life runs in 10 year cycles anyway and hopes to start expanding Everyman with more sights around London and the South East, possibly starting with Hammersmith.
In the course of conversation one also senses that Daniel can be quite extreme in the sense that either he is very consumed by something, be it an idea or a project or has no interest in it what-so-ever. I think he does make a strong leader for his team but then I can easily see him coping well during times of difficulty too.
I ask Daniel about what inspires him. He pauses for a minute and then says that it’s the people around him, adding that Steve Jobs of Apple is an inspirational icon. He also gives me a copy of the interview with Ralph Lauren that he read during the weekend and found interesting.
Daniel Broch is a rare breed of an entrepreneur who is both driven and spiritual and I have a strong suspicion that we will be hearing much more about him in the future.