In our regular #MyFirstMcJob series, those who soar remember when they still crawled
Hi, Dan! Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Dan Bladen, co-founder and CEO of Kadence. Kadence is designed to help companies figure how on earth they should make this whole new world of hybrid work. We help over 500 companies around the world to make hybrid work, from the NHS and Starling Bank in the UK all the way through to crypto companies here in Silicon Valley.
What was your #MyFirstMcJob?
Working for my dad in a hardware store in Framlingham in rural Suffolk, age 11.
What did you have to do?
They sold everything from nails and screws by the pound, through to fishing tackle and ride on lawnmowers. I’d do everything from count nails and fishing hooks, whack down nettles where all the Calor Gas tanks were stored to sell £1000s worth of ride-on John Deere lawnmowers.
How long did you work there for?
Until I was 15.
What were the perks of the job?
I guess the main perk was that it taught me customer experience and sales from a super young age. I loved ringing up the old school cash register and hear it ping when you got a sale after leading a customer to a particular product. I just loved that buzz of a sale.
Did anything memorable happen?
I was with my dad at the Suffolk Show county show. This lady came up to our stand, and I think I sold her and her husband a ride-on lawnmower, a chainsaw and a trimmer. I remember thinking: “Why would somebody trust a 15-year-old with £1000s worth of products?” She told me she was inspired by my passion considering how young I was.
What skills did you learn that you still use today?
I certainly learned how to understand a customer's need and how point them towards the right product. Also, my work colleagues who I’d go out to lunch with were much older than me. Some were in their 40s and 50s who had been at the store for 20, 30 years. I learned a lot about the world and adulthood, a lot earlier than I would have otherwise, which stood me in good stead for later.
Are you still in contact with anyone you worked with?
If I was in Framlingham, there would still be people working there I know. My dad no longer works there either, but when he would pop in, the staff would ask after me. I’ll never forget the smell. There’s something about DIY shops. They all smell the same.
Why is alumni important to you?
There was a famous basketball coach here in the US called John Wooden. His definition of a team was: those in which you are certain of. Whether you're currently on the team or have had good experiences with them in the past, that means they are there for you and you can count on them.
What would happen if you went back and did a day's work in the hardware store?
I'd probably end up trying to fix the computer systems. It sounds like that two Ronnies’ Sketch, but people would come in and say: “Can you put this compost on my ledger?” It was all done by paper. It was the late 90s, so my dad bought a computerised system got into the newspapers there were computers at the checkouts.
Talking of The Two Ronnies, did anyone ever ask for four candles?
Yes. Someone would probably do the four candles piece about once a month!
If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice to that period in your life, what would you say?
I think I'd invest harder in the things that I found hard. One of the biggest success metrics of founders are their tenacity and grit and I probably would have leaned into things that would've made me more tenacious and gritty, like the the boring things I didn't like doing like counting fish hooks over a Calor Gas heater in the cold in December because it was end-of-year stock taking. It sounds sadistic now, but leaning into more of that stuff would have built me more grit for later.