Q&A – Robert Craven – Founder, The Directors’ CentreLast Updated: October 1, 2019
“I knew there was no way I could wear a suit and be told what to do by some boss man years older than me.” Robert Craven has carved a reputation as one of the world’s most remarkable business strategists, keynote speakers and authors. He spoke to AGENT about his business story to date.
IT COMES as no surprise to learn that from an early age, celebrated speaker, author and business consultant Robert Craven knew that he could not be told what to do by someone else, and that he had to be master of his own destiny.
He set up his first business at the age of 21, and, since 1998, at the helm of The Directors’ Centre, Robert’s style — described by the Financial Times as “the entrepreneurship guru” and by Cranfield School of Management as “the closest thing that growing businesses have to a modern-day John Harvey Jones —has made him one of the UK’s most notable Thought Leaders, speakers and writers on entrepreneurship.
Here’s a brief video in which Robert Craven sets out the stall for his ethos and for his straight-to-the-point, energetic and good humoured style of presentation:
Famous for rejecting classical teachings on business as “inappropriate” for modern companies in growth, Robert Craven eschews theoretical rhetoric for practical solutions, grounded in proven experience, to provide tangible business results.
Robert is respected worldwide for his ‘Free From Nonsense’ approach, which seems him quickly and energetically cutting to the chase in his dealings with huge numbers of PLCs and multinational companies in the UK and worldwide.
The desire to be successful has motivated Robert Craven since he was a child. His childhood ambition was to be successful in life. It remains so… no longer as childish aspiration, but as the mature, rounded ambition of a celebrated business growth consultant, international keynote business speaker and author. In many ways, Robert Craven’s career development has walked him through 180-degrees. The child who would not be told what to do has become the man whom businesses want to tell them what to do.
Robert Craven has worked with numerous household name brands but has not rested on his laurels, working tirelessly to make it the strategy and marketing consultancy of choice for fast-growing businesses. He points to the 30% growth in profitability his clients typically experience after working with Robert and his team.
In 2014, Robert Craven and The Directors Centre were named in the UK Entrepreneurship – Top 50 Influencers, which is nearly the latest in a succession of accolades and achievements.
He has also excelled in the academic world. Not only does he hold an MBA, he is a programme director at Cranfield School of Management; been a Visiting Professor at both Toulouse Business School and American Liberty University; and former head of consulting and training at Warwick Business School.
Robert Craven is also one of the world’s top-selling business authors, having penned works as influential as Customer Is King and Kick Start Your Business (both with forewords by Sir Richard Branson and described as “inspirational” by The Independent), in addition to Grow Your Service Firm. He is the co-author of many other significant business reference works.
11 Questions for Robert Craven
When AGENT made contact with Robert Craven recently, he was in the process of launching his latest initiative, The Check-in Journal, an online resource to help business owners map out strategies and plans in real time, enabling them to measure and monitor results, and offering feedback and ideas to assist with performance. He agreed to answer our questions, taking us from his Aha! epiphany in a pizzeria at the age of 21, right up to date with his latest project, and spoke about his motivations, passions and lessons he has learned along the way.
1. Briefly tell us how you first got into business, and describe your business goals.
I first fell into business with a big Aha! moment. Sitting in a café, eating a pizza I suddenly realised, ‘I could do better than this…’ That was the trigger to open my first business, when I was aged 21. My business goals are to make an impact, a difference to the lives of all our clients. We help them run the business they really want to run, so that they can live the life they want to lead.
2. What age were you when you realised you wanted to run your own business?
I went to university and knew there was no way I could wear a suit and be told what to do by some boss man, years older than me.
3. Who are your business icons and inspirations?
Sir Richard Branson, Seth Godin and my family.
4. What has been your biggest challenge in business, and how did you surmount it?
Watching one’s own business going through extremely tough times requires extremely tough decisions—decisions you don’t want to make but you know you need to.
5. Work-Life balance: is it possible? How do you achieve it?
Yes, it is possible but you need to decide your goals and be prepared to pay the price. There are always trade-offs but I believe you can design and plan your future.
6. What is the first thing you do every day?
Let the dogs out. The first thing I do when I get to my desk is to decide what the one big thing is that I need to achieve that day.
7. What screen saver picture is currently on your phone?
My wonderful granddaughter.
8. What is the most important app on your mobile phone, and why?
Google Maps and Calendar so I can get to the right place at the right time.
9. What is the last thing you Googled?
My new website www.checkinjournal.com, to see if it was up and running.
10. What item do you never leave the house without, and why?
My mobile phone, so my family can get hold of me.
11. What advice would you give to your younger self starting out in business?
Be absolutely clear about who you love (your target customers) and create a product or service that will help them. Don’t be shy to put up your prices, and employ the best people you can.