AGENT Q&A with Robert Walker, Founder & Director, Xcite DigitalLast Updated: May 1, 2020
Robert Walker has been developing his business vision since the age of 12. As founder of Xcite Digital he is the director of one of the leading digital marketing firms in the UK. He spoke to AGENT about his entrepreneurial story to date.
From as early as 12 years of age, Robert Walker was so set on being his own boss and a life in business that he was sketching out what he wanted to achieve, and how he would sell it.
“Balance is about quality time, rather than quantity of time…”
Eighteen years years on, Robert Walker celebrating the 10th anniversary of his own company, Xcite Digital, a leading UK digital marketing agency with a host of blue chip clients, including Pizza Express, BP, Skoda and the BBC, to name but a few.
Employing no fewer than 12 full-time staff, and with an annual business turnover of approximately £1.2m, Xcite Digital, Robert Walker has been recognised with such plaudits as the Inspire Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award (2010) and achievements such as reaching the national finals of the prestigious Dadi Awards and a nomination for the Young British Business awards scheme chaired by Secretary of State, Vince Cable, in August 2013.
He’s also a frequent contributor to the Guardian online and other media where he keenly and energetically shares his business insights and specialist expertise on the world of digital marketing.
12 Questions for Robert Walker
Robert Walker spoke to AGENT about the history of Xcite Digital and his entrepreneurial journey to date, recalling his earliest experiences in business, his inspirations and role models, life at the head of Tide, and shared some of the key lessons he has learned as a startup, for the benefit of young entrepreneurs starting out in business today.
1. Briefly tell us about your business and your business goals.
I run a digital marketing agency specialising in financial marketing and retail marketing. My goals are to make every person involved within the finance industry know who we are and what we are capable of.
Right now, we are achieving results second to none, and every client we win is sticking with us because of our specialist knowledge and great results. Secondly, we are also producing our own platforms within the finance industry.
2. What age were you when you realised you wanted to run your own business?
I used to create sketches of how my business would look. I still have these, and they date from the age of around 12. The sketches simply show what I wanted to achieve, and how I wanted to sell it. They helped to nurture a business vision, I suppose, although at that age my main inspiration was being the master of my own destiny.
3. Who are your business icons and inspirations?
They used to be people like Richard Branson, but would now be people like Elon Musk—people with a vision for disruption, knowing that everything can be improved. I feel I am becoming more altruistic the older I get. Creating something that benefits mankind; that is kind of cool!
4. What has been your biggest challenge in business, and how did you surmount it?
I took on investors when I first started who ended up inflating their prices, and never investing the promised funds. I had to remove them, non-amicably, which was expensive emotionally and financially.
I had read and heard about this happening and you never really think it will happen to you. With the benefit of hindsight, I’d advise people to plan for worst and aim for the best as they say. It’s about gritting your teeth and doing what you believe is right. I am now through the pain threshold—a couple of years have passed during which the business has been thriving.
5. What gives you the most satisfaction in business?
Producing good results. Funnily enough, this was never my motivation when i first started. It isn’t that I thought it wasn’t important, but there is a difference between running a business to make money on one hand; and, on the other, running it to be the best at what you do.
I think if you work to be the best you can at what you do, however that happens, it makes your life easier. Your clients are happier, you make more money, you get more referrals and life is good.
I ran a business that was not focused on this initially. It took me a while to realise that making a name for yourself gives you what you need, even if it’s harder and you make less money initially.
6. Work-Life balance: is it possible? How do you achieve it?
I find that working less helps you focus more. I used to treat working like being an athlete, pushing myself to work longer and longer hours. Then I realised that I was being a busy fool.
Now I let things roll a lot more. Rather than micro managing everything, I let things flow. This gives everyone else more control and makes me less imposing. I then concentrate on what I do best, which is building relationships and helping my team do what they do best.
I think it’s about quality time, rather than the quantity of time. I am a fan of working less to do more, being more efficient. This gives you more energy.
7. What is the first thing you do every day?
Stretch in the shower. There’s a nice thought for you! 🙂
8. What screen saver picture is currently on your phone?
A picture of my wife sitting in a tree. She is what truly motivates me.
9. What is the most important app on your mobile phone, and why?
Google Inbox (not to be confused with Gmail). Using Google Inbox, I can run the company from anywhere i am in the world. It allows me to be more productive and less constrained.
10. What is the last thing you Googled?
‘Vetiver oil’: apparently, it will help me be less impulsive. Apparently…
11. What item do you never leave the house without, and why?
Keys, phone, wallet—pretty standard things, I imagine. I like to know I can get back in the house, buy things if I am not in the house, and work from wherever I am.
12. What advice would you give to your younger self starting out in business?
The problem is, I listened to advice when I was starting out, knew it was reliable, and I thought I had followed it, but then I went through the same issues that everyone tells you about.
The thing is, I don’t think it’s possible not to experience those kinds of issues. Whatever you do, however much money you make, there will always be things that you want to improve.
I guess the most important lesson I learnt is to realise that what you do today is life. Don’t just aim for something. Live and breathe today. I was quite brutal with myself, before realising that 10 years had gone buy. So have fun and live in the moment.