The Business Ninja Interview - Rob Knowles, Cubet Ltd

May 27, 2019

Rob Knowles of Cubet Ltd shares with us how to address the work-life balance, knowing the value of your products, and how we can learn a thing or to from Yoda.

Where did your initial idea for your business come from?

I had been considering working for myself for a while. In my capacity as an employee, I had lots of dealings with different companies of all sizes, with a focus on strengthening the business through the people.

Much of the strength had been derived from training, development, coaching and mentoring. I saw a range of quality in the delivery. Recognizing this, I saw a gap in the market. Over a period of around four years, I was making steady preparations for my business launch in 2018.

In 2012, I endured two redundancies by two different companies in 12 calendar months. These events catapulted my plans to become self-employed sooner than planned.


What was your mission from the outset?

Whilst I did not have a very honed and distilled mission, upon reflection, the golden thread that ties all my activities in and before I started a business was to ensure everybody had the opportunity to be the best they could be.


What’s the hardest thing about what you do?

I am responsible for all aspects of my business. I, therefore, have areas where I do not enjoy as much, such as administration. That said, I also understand the necessity of completing and the penalties of not. Whilst I try to be smart about all I do, there are many things (often small) that need attending to,

As personal development is high on my agenda, I find it challenging when met with staggering levels of arrogance around this topic. Trying to “convert” such people is both a challenge and (if successful) a triumph.


Is this your first business? If no, what happened to your first (and what have you learned)?

Previously, I started a business to deliver IT training for various providers. This was part-time while I had a full-time job. I wound up the business when the demand dropped off. I learned that to run a business, you need be on it full time, and that it is not good enough to just wait for work to arrive at your door.


What are your goals?

In the next five years, I plan to position my business so that I optimize technology to reduce travel and prospecting time. I aim to have at least ten repeat business clients, with five of them having retainer arrangements in place.

This will permit the much sought-after work-life balance. As I enjoy the work I do, I plan (all things permitting) to continue working beyond the five-year plan.


What does a good day in work look like?

I don’t have many (if at all) bad days. Some, however, are better than others. This may take many forms, including closing a sale, delivering a session to a client, feeding back and winning repeat business. I take delight when feedback is in the form of repeat business.


What do you do when you’re not at work?

My non-work activities include reading, cooking, hill walking, social golf, and struggling to solve the puzzles in the Times Jumbo Cryptic crossword books. I am also a lover of Rugby Union. These days, I spectate, imbibe & comment, as opposed to previously, playing, imbibing, and recovering.

I also like to listen to music. I have a wide range of tastes, from classic to rock & roll and big band swing.


What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting a business tomorrow or early into their journey?

Be clear and passionate about what you want to achieve. Seek advice – there are many who have trodden this path before, from whom lessons can be learned. This approach will save time and (potentially) tears. Above all, just do it. Don’t let “stuff” hold you up. As I often say to mentees on the Prince’s Trust programme - and inspired by Master Yoda - “you either do, or do not. There is no try” so JFDI.


Who do you look up to (in business)?

At the risk of seeming arrogant, I don’t look up to anyone. The business person I respect the most is a former client (from my employed days). This man went solo and turned a one-man band into a group of businesses in 15 years. He demonstrated many of the qualities I admire in leaders. He was humble, honest, brave and very resilient.


How do you advertise your business and do you have any tips for anyone creating their marketing strategy?

My business has a social media audience that I occasionally post to. I am aware of the current wisdom of perpetual posting on different platforms, but I prefer to post as and when I have something to share, and hope that it is more meaningful to the reader.

My work comes from me prospecting (networking) and referrals (currently a 70/30 split). I aim to have that figure changed to around 50/50 by 2021, and ideally move to 100 percent referrals by 2023.


To what do you attribute your success?

The world-renowned Brazilian footballer, Pele once said that “Success is no accident. It's hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love what you are doing or learning to do”. This very neatly summarises my approach.

Success is (I believe) a very personal thing. Observing Stephen Covey’s 'Seven Habits of Highly Effective People' is a useful guide to operating in business. I personally believe in Respect (for self and others) Integrity and Lifelong Learning.

These are three pillars on which I have built my professional life. Without realising, I started early.

At 14, I had Saturday job replenishing the wallpaper and paint shelves in an early version of the DIY warehouse operations we see today. Part of my role was to help customers – especially lifting heavy 5-litre paint tins into the trolley then helping them load it into their car. On one occasion, one customer, waiting until the transaction had been rung through the tills (25 tins of paint) complained “How much?! I can get this down the road at least a pound a tin cheaper”. I was completely unaware of what to do (and remembering she had previously checked the price on the shelf) my confusion was evident. I now know she was trying to get a discount.

I was rescued by my manager who promptly responded – “On you go then, madam. I’m sure every trader in this town knows the value of their products.”

He followed up by asking me a few questions and smiling explained – “It’s not always about the sale – if you value your products and can stand over them, there is no need to get into anything like what nearly just happened – well done!”

This, like many other lessons I learned, are still applicable today.

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