Social Chain co-founder Dominic McGregor gave up alcohol to improve both his leadership and life in general.

There aren’t many 24-year-olds responsible for running a multi-million-pound company, but McGregor is among them.

He set up the Manchester-headquartered marketing agency with CEO and co-founder Steve Bartlett in November 2014 and it has grown rapidly, generating $7 million revenue in 2016.

A visit to Social Chain's offices is typical of many a high-flying tech firm, featuring slides, ping pong, pet dogs - and a bar. 

Speaking at BusinessCloud’s ‘Secrets of leadership’ event at Themis, Burnley College, he explained his decision.

The event was also sponsored by Cascade Human Resources.

“In business you need to lead by example and be respected,” he told a packed audience. “It’s not easy running a business at any age, never mind 21 or 22.

“With no real experience of running an agency, alongside people who’ve run businesses before and who have 10 years of experience, you need to be old beyond your age.

“You need to have a separation.”

Running hundreds of social media pages with a wider audience reach of hundreds of millions of people, Social Chain has the power to get hashtags trending in a matter of minutes.

The firm, which also has a presence in London, has already opened offices in Berlin and New York and recently won a tender to run campaigns for British clothing brand Superdry.

It broke social media records this year with the most engaged branded live streams of all time for fashion retailer Boohoo.

It also recently acquired viral gaming portfolio Devise in a multi-million-pound deal.

Although never a big drinker, McGregor says going completely alcohol-free enabled him to  concentrate on major business decisions.

However it also allows him to develop as a person: he has begun learning French and to play the piano, while he is taking regular weekend trips abroad.

“It started with Steve and I trying to separate ourselves from what was going on in the day-to-day, and one thing led to another,” he said.

“We opted to take ourselves out of the culture of the business a little bit because we realised we couldn’t tell someone to do something properly by being their best friend and being out in the club with them.

“We asked ourselves what the point was of being out and living that lifestyle, when not drinking gives you a lot more time, energy and money – and everything else you need to focus on the task at hand.”

Bartlett told us of his business partner last year: “Dom and I are like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. There are no gaps. We’re very complementary.

“Social Chain has changed him: when I met him he was so thankful for the opportunity, super nice – too nice, almost – and now he’s a little more worn.

“Like a stone in a river, you come out a little bit different, a little more rounded off and hard.”

The other speakers at the event were Phillipa Winter, chief informatics officer, Bolton NHS Foundation Trust; Jonathan Wall, controller, Radio 5 Live and 5 Live Sports Extra; Michelle Rothwell, founder, Watch This Space; William Fletcher, managing director, Recycling Lives; Michael Finnigan, founder, i2i; David Beharall, former Newcastle United footballer and founder of CandidSky; Kirsty Styles, head of talent and skills, Tech North; and Simon Jordan, director, Themis.

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