Self-confessed motor sports fan Behrooz Saeed is driving ahead in the world of marketing.
The Huddersfield-born businessman, who lists watching F1 and MotoGP among his interests, has taken his company to pole position since launching it 10 years ago.
The firm, called simply 79 – because Behrooz was born in 1979 – lists national names among its clients.
Based at Huddersfield’s Media Centre and in London, it has provided integrated marketing services for clients including Puma, Bathstore, property agent Knight Frank, Yorkshire Tea and Manchdester’s Trafford Centre to name just a few.
Born in Huddersfield, Behrooz spent his first few months in the town, but at three months old was taken by his grandparents to live in Iran,
“The first five years of my life, I lived in Iran,” he says. “But during that time, the Iran-Iraq War was raging and I came back here to live with my father.
“I went to Berry Brow Infant School unable to speak a word of English, but I picked up the language relatively quickly and I never looked back.”
Behrooz attended Newsome High School and later switched to Honley High School before completing his A-levels at Huddersfield Technical College.
He studied software engineering at Hertfordshire University for two years before completing his degree at Huddersfield University.
Almost immediately, he was headhunted by a company in Macclesfield. “They invited me to join them before I’d completed my degree,” he says. “They were looking to start expanding into e-commerce and I went there as a consultant.
“This was back in the ‘early days’ when people were only just starting to think about selling things online. It was an interesting challenge for me, putting plans together on how to sell online to their clients and building a dummy website.”
A few years later, Behrooz moved to a company in Barnsley as a senior programmer and worked his way up to head of the digital department managing a team of designers and programmers.
In 2004, be decided to start working for himself and set up a business called Number 79, which has since evolved to its present name – 79. It has offices at the Media Centre’s striking glass building at Southgate, where Behrooz is based along with one colleague, and a two-strong team at Farrringdon in north London. The firm also draws on a team of seven freelancers.
Behrooz has no illusions about the challenges presented by the sector in which he works. “There are a lot of people doing this,” he says. “But I think we have been successful because we have worked on building relationships with quite senior people in big companies.
“It all starts from creating an integrated marketing strategy. We will go into a business which has a project they want to launch – perhaps marketing a retail park – and we will look at creating brand ID, a website, e-mail promotions and so on to create a marketing strategy which will run perhaps over 12 or 24 months.”
The company wins a lot of its business through referrals and recommendations – but Behrooz acknowledges that 79 is not particularly well-recognised in its hometown.
“We have never really pushed ourselves in the Yorkshire area,” he says. “We have worked with companies in Scotland, Austria, Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Zagreb.
“If more companies in the Yorkshire area knew about us and the skills set we have, we would be doing more business in the local area!”
Behrooz stresses: “Since the recession started in 2008, it has not been easy, but the recession has separated the men from the boys in this industry.
“Weaker businesses have gone by the wayside and that has left the people who are better at what they do and have a more solid relationship with businesses. It has left the industry in a better position.”
He adds: “Marketing isn’t about creating superb or crazy designs. Now it is about demonstrating to a potential client that such and such a strategy will bring a return on their investment.
“We never do anything on a whim. We don’t make assumptions and everything is done for a reason.
“We do the research and we speak to our clients’s customers and ask them lots of questions. When we present our plans to the client and he says, for example ‘I don’t like purple’ we can say, ‘Maybe not, but your customers do!’”
Behrooz moved 79 to Huddersfield only in February, but is already benefiting from the decision. “I live in New Mill and I was commuting to Barnsley,” he says. “I was also in partnership with the business and we had decided to go our separate ways.
“The Media Centre allows for collaboration with other businesses based here.
“Clients come to the media centre, see the list of company names on the board and assume we are all in competition – but we are not all competing for the same type of client. The advantage is that we can call on people with other skill sets to help.
“The Media Centre is also a landmark building. Everyone knows where it is and there is room for meetings and to give presentations. Clients want face-to-face meetings and the Media Centre has the facilities.”
Behrooz aims to take advantage of the resources Huddersfield has to offer, including the town’s university.
“We are going to start looking to take placement students from the university.” he says. “They have fantastic skills and the quality of the people who come out of the university is great.”
Away from work, Behrooz says: “I love anything powered by petrol! I have a big passion for cars and always have had since I was a kid. I love motor sport and go to see F1 and MotoGP.
“I’ve been to venues like Silverstone and Snetterton. I sponsored a team in the British GT a few years ago. We had created a website and done some marketing work for them. They drive Aston Martins and I was given the VIP treatment.”
More sedately, Behrooz is a playing member at Meltham Golf Club, saying: “I am a keen golfer, but not very good – although I came second in one recent competition. That’s how handicapping helps!”
There may be fewer weekends on the golf course this summer, however, as Behrooz and his wife Alex are expecting their first child in July.
Role: Managing director
Family: Married to Alex
Holidays: Portugal, Barbados
Cars: Mercedes ML and a BMW M3
First job: Pizza delivery boy at Pizza Hut in Hatfield, Herts, when I was at university
Best thing about the job? Meeting new people. I love that aspect of the work more than anything else
Worst thing about the job? Not so much about the job, but I am trying to be more healthy by drinking less and eating better. I have lost nearly a stone, but it’s a real grind!
Business tip: Old ways won’t open new doors. There are so many businesses out there just doing the things they were doing in the 1990s and they are not embracing technology
Work: Integrated marketing services
Site: Media Centre, Northumberland
Phone: 01484 487951