What I've Learnt: Rob Skinner, Founder and MD, Skout PR

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Rob Skinner is the founder and managing director or Skout PR, a Macclesfield-based B2B agency.

Last month, Skout celebrated its 10th anniversary and works with brands including Gazprom Energy, Miele, Sana Commerce and Wax Digital.

We sat down with Rob to find out more about what makes him tick. 

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

This will come as no surprise to anyone I’ve worked with, but it’s planning! It’s essential to ensuring that I spend time on all the different aspects of running the business – client work, finance, new business. Sometimes you can’t help having to go off-piste, but I even plan for that to a degree! It’s how I keep all the plates spinning.

What's been your luckiest break?

My first job after finishing university. I worked at an agency called Insight (now called Good Relations) in Macclesfield. My account director Helen Holland was great at ‘championing’ me when I was a junior, and really helped to push me along the career path. Helen then set up Chameleon in London and recruited me as employee number one. I stayed 11 years and much of what I learned from Helen paved the way to setting up my own agency, so I really owe her a great deal.

What's your best failure?

Not taking advantage of a great opportunity in my last job. I took on the role of MD, but didn’t make it my own, for various reasons. In hindsight, I think the time and place just wasn’t right. However they say you learn from your failures and I think it gave me the kick up the backside I needed to go on and do my own thing.

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

My current fellow director, Claire Lamb. She’s a great business partner and isn’t afraid to challenge me. You can always count on Claire for that! She brought a whole new dynamic to the company with her insight, and our different strengths combined have added to Skout’s success enormously.

How would you describe your work/life balance?

Realistic. For me, the balance is about knowing what you can achieve optimally in work and life. I don’t like wasting time whatever I’m doing! In the past I was much more rigid. Work time was work and life was separate. When I set up Skout it became much harder to divide the two, but it taught me that achieving a more realistic and fluid balance actually works better for me. Now I’ve got a great team who I can count on when I’m not around too. Last year I even managed to take a month off and go trekking in Nepal!

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

I’m a lover of vintage sci-fi. I find it fascinating to see how people thought the future would look all those decades ago. It’s the mix of past and future that really appeals to me. The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham and The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury are two of my favourite books and a good bit of escapism.

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

Get your hair cut – it’s going to fall out anyway! Back in the early 90s I had an indie bob. When I went for an interview for my PR work placement I was offered the job on the condition that I’d trim my locks. After I got my hair cut short, it didn’t actually last much longer so I wish I just cut to the chase (pardon the pun).

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

I’m not one for personal heroes. I think that too often we underestimate the inspiration we have on our ‘hero’ selves, especially when we overcome our fears and realise ‘you know what, you’re doing ok’.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

My schoolmates are always surprised to learn that I’ve run the London Marathon! I was the slow, chubby kid in games at school. Totally rubbish at it! Today fitness and exercise is such an important part of my life. I’ve definitely made up for my younger years!

What does success look like to you?

Work-wise, being recognised for achieving brilliant work. When clients say this to us it’s the best kind of encouragement. We’ve just turned 10 as an agency and we are still working with our founding client. It was reassuring to hear them comment “you’ve been 10 out of 10 for us in the last 10!”

But for me, in life in general, success is about happiness – whatever that means to the individual in question.