In conversation with…Richard Robinson

We were lucky to get hold of Richard recently.

Despite being so busy as the Managing Director of Xeim Engage and Oystercatchers, he somehow found time to tell us about his favourite brands, his best advice, his first job.

In short, his story as a marketer.

And what a story it is.

What was your first-ever job?

My first job paying money was working as a Lifeguard at a Convent, however, my first full-time job was working as a sales rep for Filofax in Swindon. It gave me early insight that a career selling paper-based personal organisers might not have longevity.

Who would you most love to share a coffee with / go for a drink with?

Malcolm Gladwell. He introduced me to the concept of Connectors, and made me realise this is who I am and where I’m at my most happy.

Highlight of your career (so far?)

Uncovering the story of The Olympic Games Pledge, a promise made on the 5th February 1924 between Great Britain and Baron Pierre de Coubertin (the Founder of the Modern Olympics) to place a gold medal awarded for Mountaineering on the summit of Mt Everest not just for your country but for all humanity – and then making it happen one month before London 2012.

This involved proving the provenance of the story, locating the original gold medals, convincing Samsung to sponsor the expedition and ensuring my good friend Kenton Cool, the world’s most successful western climber on Everest, to carry the Olympic medal to the summit which he duly did in a story that was covered extensively by the BBC and CNN.

Nature or nurture?

Nurture all the way & every time. I have a degree in Educational Studies, and while I agree where and how you were born can give you a clear advantage – it’s what comes next, the nurture you receive from day 1 onwards that makes the biggest difference to your future outcomes whether they be good or bad.

Best advice you ever heard or received?

“Hard work will always overcome natural talent when natural talent does not work hard enough” – Sir Alex Ferguson

This went off like a bomb in my head when I first read it in a Harvard paper. Think of this as the modern-day equivalent of “the tortoise and the hare”, where I am always the tortoise.

I work on a principle there will always be people more gifted than me, and this makes my working life very calm because I know I have to work harder and longer to out-think and out-work anyone I’m competing against.

This is driven by a restless belief I don’t know the answer, so to succeed I have to keep going like the tortoise. Whereas natural talent always hits a point where s/he knows they’re right and stops just like the hare.

What talent do you yearn for?

Patience. It’s the first casualty of hard work.

What is your favourite brand and why?

McDonald’s. I’m biased because I used to be Head of Marketing a long time ago, but the path we set in 2004 to answer the three fundamental questions of food trust, namely “what’s in it, what have you done to it, and where does it come from?” are as relevant today as they were back then.

The brand has evolved, digitally transformed, embraced changing in-home as well as out-of-home eating habits & all the while remained consistent to the original mantra of Ray Kroc that “if you look after the customer the business will take care of itself”.

What book do you most recommend to others?

A Peacock in the land of Penguins by BJ Gallagher. Always have confidence in who you are & never suppress it – even if everyone else tells you to change. Back yourself to walk away from the people you work with to find the people you should be working with.

What last impressed you at work?

The digital transformation of people as a consequence of the Pandemic. Effortlessly transforming to the 168-hour a week economy to enable our clients’ customers to consume content and purchase product whenever and however they like.

Which lesson has been the hardest to learn?

Sheryl Sandberg’s “Done is better than perfect”.

I like perfection, and I always want the best for every client I work for or team I work with. That said, you have to know when to stop and accept what you’re created is as good as it will be (for today).

What failure did you learn the most from?

Messing up my A-Levels, not being accepted to any of my University choices & going through Clearing to be accepted to study at a Polytechnic reset my life and enabled me to become the person I am today.

Every moment of this experience, and the required switch from studying a traditional degree to the vocational understanding of Educational Studies has enabled me to have a career focused on creating bigger ideas, making things happen and connecting people for positive outcomes.

What do you want to do when you retire?

Be a really helpful person.

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