As someone just five years into my career in communications, I try to soak up knowledge and experience from wherever I can. Working for an agency like Skout allows me to collect these glistening gems of knowledge and general life experience throughout my day to day activity. I’m thankful that I get to work alongside highly experienced individuals who all have their own take on what makes a good comms pro. That is why, when Skout celebrated its 10-year birthday, I took the opportunity to speak to MD and founder, Rob Skinner, about the things he has learnt in the 10 years of growing and developing his business:
Think less, do more
Don’t be a chin stroker! Yes, it is important to plan, strategize and think things through, but it is also important not to let this stop you from making moves forward. Overthinking can cause delays and more often than not, jumping in at the deep end can help you to achieve the best results. PR and comms is an opportunistic industry and you often have to act fast if you want to see an outcome to your work, the best thing to do is to just have a go, even if you feel hesitant at first!
Learn what career satisfaction means to you
This can take years to navigate and it only comes with experience, trial and error. I was given many opportunities throughout my career but starting Skout helped me to realise what I truly wanted to do, and I probably wouldn’t have come to this realisation if it wasn’t for getting it wrong in the past! It’s about being open to change and allowing yourself the flexibility to try different routes to career satisfaction.
How to dig deep
When I started Skout, I was working alone and trying to come up with creative ideas was a huge challenge after working at an agency where I could brainstorm with 20 other people. I had to step out of myself and almost picture a brainstorm in my head to help come up with new ideas. That was when I realised how deep it is possible to dig to achieve more, win the client, seize the opportunity, and achieve the best possible result. There is always deeper you can dig!
That it takes two
I began this business as a jack of all trades but I quickly learnt the pressure that way of thinking brings with it. It’s all about coming to the realisation that you need to collaborate with people who have complimentary skills and different ways of working. When Claire Lamb, our Director, came on board, she brought a complimentary skill set with her. Her extroverted personality means that she can wake me up, while I can tone her down (on the odd occasion) and we can both benefit from each other’s personal strengths. The same goes for building the great team we have today.
There’s always a story
This really comes back to the idea of being resilient and self-sufficient when starting a business. We talk a lot about storytelling and when I started, I was really obsessive about finding the best possible story – especially when at first there doesn’t seem to be one. There is always something else; sometimes you just have to look from a different perspective.
Family comes first
While you could look back at your career and think “if I worked an extra couple of hours a day, I could have achieved more”, for me it’s always about having a good balance. I’ve consistently put my family first and when I started Skout I knew that I would always build my work around my life at home and not vice versa. This can be difficult to manage and there will always be times where you think you could have done more but if the cost of doing more impacts your family life then you need to consider if it’s really worth it.
Marketing is about relationships
Prior to Skout, building business relationships was not top of my skillset. I’m a data driven, details sort of person. Going it alone forces you do the things that you might not previously have felt comfortable doing. And it pays off. To convince people to go with your ideas you need to be able to build a great rapport. You have to try not to worry so much about what people think of you personally – your interpretation of what they think of you is probably not the reality anyway! I would picture someone much more bullish and braver than I am, and think to myself “I’m just going to behave like them on this call,” and it’s changed the way I am and how I communicate with people.
Learning to be commercial
Despite being in a managing director role in my previous job, I still did not really have a complete view of the commercial side of running a business. A lot of people think that setting up a creative business is all about just that – being imaginative and creative – but in reality, you still have to remember things like billing clients on the right day, getting contracts in place, ensuring payments are made and tracking your costs. If you don’t do any of that, then you don’t have a business – just a creative but non-sustainable idea. A good commercial footing is the true measure of success.
Limitations only exist in your head
This is something that I strongly believe in. I really believe you can achieve pretty much anything you put your mind to. I’ve learnt not to listen to that self-deprecating voice that tells me I can’t do something, or that I’m not any good at something. You have to realise that it is not your logical brain saying these things but your irrational monster. Now I just tell that little voice to piss off!
Success is personal
Success is what it means to you. I always used to use other people’s views on what success looks like when in fact, the way we view success is personal and can depend on a variety of factors. Really, the biggest measure of success is really whether you are content. When I look back on the last ten years, I can see so many things that I’ve achieved, even if it’s not exactly what I planned at the time. Growing the business has been a journey but it is only one part of the wider barometer to my success.