Money & Me: ‘I do not measure my success by the money I have in the bank’

Doran Davies, chief executive of Bounce Middle East, credits his parents for instilling money management skills early in life

DUBAI UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 22 NOVEMBER 2020. Doran Davies, CEO of Bounce, the trampoline and activity centre brand. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: David Dunn. Section: Business.
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Welshman Doran Davies is the chief executive of Bounce Middle East, a freestyle terrain and trampoline parks concept he helped bring to Dubai after a corporate career with telecoms firm HTC.

Bounce has since opened in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, added venues in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Dubai, and also introduced virtual reality concept Arena Games.

Mr Davies, 44, who has been in Dubai since 2012, lives in Arabian Ranches with his wife, son and daughter.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude to money?

I was born in Liverpool and moved to Wales with my father’s work at Swansea University offering students career advice.

My parents instilled an early sense of being sensible with money and a work ethic. We were never a family who’d buy the latest TV or go on exotic holidays. Everything was provided but if I wanted something, I had to save for it. I was never into fads. On my doorstep were rolling hills, moorland, stunning beaches … I was more interested in going out on my bike.

What was your first paid job?

In Joe’s Ice Cream parlour, scooping ice cream when I was 14. I started on £2 ($2.80) an hour. It had a cult following in Swansea. One of my best friends worked there. It wasn’t about earning, I wanted to be part of that gang and ended up part-time for seven years.

My first “proper” job was as a graduate manufacturing engineering trainee with Rolls-Royce for around £14,000 a year. I was 21, but left after 12 months. It was planned … I wanted to go round the world.

Why swap mobile phones for trampolines?

I met my business partner, Ross Milton. At a barbecue, he showed me a video of a place (in Australia) called Bounce. I hopped on a plane to Melbourne. It reminded me of Joe’s; a lot of young, like-minded people, the job was about fun, interacting, smiles on faces. It was infectious and I felt like there was a strong sense of purpose about the brand – great exercise, but fun first and foremost.

Technically, it’s a licensing deal. I jumped in with both feet. Dubai piques your entrepreneurial spirit and I’m a sucker for a start-up. The other part of my decision was my kids … do I want them to say “my dad is a mobile phone guy” or “dad runs Bounce”.

How did you fund Bounce?

It was all myself and Ross. We put our life savings into this; that really focuses the mind. You’ve got the rational side of the brain thinking, “Don’t do it, you’ve got a secure salary, career trajectory” and the emotive side saying, “This looks exciting, a good opportunity, go for it”. There was no plan B, but I’m a firm believer that reward follows hard work. If you are single-minded, you can make it happen. I learnt young that you get out what you put in.

I'm not one who spends on credit cards. I can't remember the last time I took out a loan

What is your approach to spending?

I’m not one who spends on credit cards. I can’t remember the last time I took out a loan. I still follow that ethos drummed into me early; spend what you have, don’t overspend or borrow. We’re not wasteful and don’t spend a lot as a family. We prefer to re-use rather than buying new. In that sense, I’m more a saver than a spender. You’re talking to a guy who probably hasn’t bought his own clothes for about 10 years. My wife does all that. I don’t like shopping.

When it comes to business, the times we’re in, I take a cautious view to how we manage our money and our liabilities. We have around 300 people working in Bounce across the region, so decisions have to be with those people and their salaries in mind.

Where do you save?

I dabble a little in equity markets. I wouldn’t say I spend enough time on it, so I have investments with experts in London. Also, I invest in my children; their education and giving them as broad a range of interests as possible, whether that’s karate, rugby, gymnastics.

What has been your best investment?

Bounce, financially and personally. When it comes to money invested versus what this business is worth now – also, it gives me a strong sense of purpose. If you love what you do, you’re always going to work harder. And I’m always aware not to forget where we came from, which was to make money work very hard for us. Just because the business is making money, you should still have the same approach to managing it. I never want us to be wasteful.

DUBAI UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 22 NOVEMBER 2020. Doran Davies, CEO of Bounce, the trampoline and activity centre brand. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: David Dunn. Section: Business.
Mr Davies dabbles in equity markets and also has investments with experts in London. Photo: Antonie Robertson / The National

Do you have a spending regret?

It’s against what I stand for, but when I came here I bought a Range Rover Sport. I loved driving it, but then it went wrong. It ended up so expensive to fix and turned out to be one of my most detested purchases. From then, I decided I’m not buying new or flashy cars. It just has to get me from A to B.

How much do you value money?

I’ve never stressed about income and bonuses. Chasing paycheques is never something I’ve been concerned about. People talk about having a number, but that’s not important so long as I have that cushion, security for my family. I do not measure my success by the money I have in the bank. It’s not about a Ferrari. The days I remember at work are not the ones where we have record takings. It’s about what impression I can leave on individuals, how I can get people active, learning back flips, how I can create a culture that’s go-getting, inspired, energetic … that’s a measure of worth for me.

What luxuries are important to you?

I’m more than happy to spend on holidays, something I’m going to remember and the family will always retain. It’s a necessity; it’s not healthy to not disconnect or wind down.

Has the pandemic impacted Bounce?

Seriously, and I don’t expect the effects to be over until 2022. Our new Festival City venue operated for two days, then closed down. The timing couldn’t get any worse, a lot of financial impact. But we re-opened in Dubai on July 4 and had a queue outside. We’re in a healthy position as a business because we’ve made the right decisions at the right time, so we’ll get through it.

And at home?

Back in February (2020), I could see this coming; our numbers started going down. I sat with my wife and said, “We’re going to be in for a pretty tough ride”. We made sacrifices; moved house to save money, had conversations with the school around fees. We had to further budget. I started baking bread. You look at your cashflow as a family and make judgement calls.

Do you plan for the future?

My ambition is to grow the business into a large sports entertainment platform. What we do in terms of the culture and the model can be adapted and adopted by multiple strands. Getting people active and socially connected … that will always be valued.

There will be a point when we relocate to the UK, closer to family. But plans are tweaked and changed.