What I've Learnt: Robert Slawson, Head of Thomas Cook Sport

Josh Peachey's picture
by Josh Peachey

Rob Slawson has worked in travel for the last 15 years, both in traditional tour operating and, for the large majority, in Sports Travel.

His work for Thomas Cook Sport has included delivering Team Travel for the likes of Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United. The role took Rob around the globe taking care of each team’s specific travel requirements.

He was made Head of Sport in 2016 and Thomas Cook Sport has continued to grow ever since. Now proudly Europe’s largest Sports Travel business, the company is trusted with delivering industry-leading Team Travel logistics and top-tier sports travel experiences for spectators around the globe.  

Here, he shares what he's learnt during his career... 


Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

Making my bed and a morning coffee.

Since being a teenager really, I’ve always made my bed before leaving the house and as I’ve got older it’s pretty much the first thing I do every day. It’s a task complete and clearly always nice to get into a made bed after a long day. There’s actually a cool motivational speech by an ex-Navy Seal, Admiral William H McRaven where he promotes making your bed so I’m in good company. The coffee bit speaks for itself. 

What's been your luckiest break?

Redundancy. Technically not redundancy but the threat thereof. My first role in travel was in traditional tour operating with MyTravel. Out of the fear, confusion and panic around the merger with Thomas Cook I was introduced to someone at Thomas Cook Sport. The rest, for now, as they say, is history…   

What's your best failure?

Messing up my A Levels. My school reports were always the same. Talented kid. Knows plenty but only ever does enough. I was due decent A Levels and a Sports Science course lined up at a good university. Cue poor results through a lack of effort and my future academic path changed. I ended up doing a third-choice course at a decent university. Thankfully, my attitude toward effort changed. Going above and beyond had to be the new norm.  

What is the best investment you've ever made, either financial or time?

Time with my children. I’ve got a four-year-old son and a 10-month-old daughter. Time spent with them, be it playing games or doing fun stuff takes your mind away from work and the stresses of the professional world. I’m not naive though. I’m getting ready for the financial hit both of them will no doubt cost me in years to come. For now though, it’s all fun.  

How would you describe your work/life balance?

This is something I think everyone will always look to improve in our industry. I love my job and although the hours can sometimes be unsocial, it can make downtime with the family even better.  

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

Simon Sinek – Start with Why. I was introduced to Simon Sinek via his TED Talks over a year ago and I’m big into his philosophies, particularly on leadership. I get him. For something a bit lighter I’ve read most of Bill Bryson’s books. I love his sense of humour and his love of travel.  

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Travel more and meet more people. Essentially step out of your comfort zone and good things tend to happen if you’re brave enough. 

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

My high school teachers. I excelled in classes with inspirational teachers. At the time you don’t really understand why. With experience and hindsight, those inspirational people got the best out of me. It’s been the same ever since with bad managers and good leaders. If you can inspire someone or something, good things tend to happen.  

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I’m a Bury FC fan. We’re a pretty rare species. 

What does success look like to you?

A happy family without too many worries and a professional career I can look back on and be proud of. As a leader, one of my primary functions must be creating and helping future leaders. Followers are great but the creation of future leaders is even better. If I can help and inspire a few others around me, I’ll be happy.

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