From the Flank: Lessons Learnt by Bob Skinstad

From the Flank: Lessons Learnt by Bob Skinstad


We all know Bob Skinstad as a South African Springbok rugby player, but did you know that he opened his first business when he was 21, launched the charity Bobs for Good (now the PutFoot Foundation), today owns three pub restaurants and is a shareholder in Itec Innovate, which won the 2012/13 Itec Dealer of the Year award? Oh, and he’s a SuperSport presenter and is involved in numerous start-ups. Phew.

Getting things done

“We need to de-clutter our lives”

Focus is a powerful business tool. It took me a while to realise that I spent the same amount of time in a meeting that had a bearing on 90% of the business as I did in a meeting that had a 0,0009% bearing. Time is limited. You need to choose what’s important and focus on that. Does a meeting need to be one hour long simply because that’s what we expect it to be?

We have a lot of ‘walking’ meetings where we quickly and efficiently get straight to the point, which is a huge timesaver.

Personal mantra

“I can do this”

One of the things that influences me most within the South African business context is our can-do attitude. My dad sums it up best: South Africans are a hybrid of vigour, a survivalist mentality, paired with skills, enthusiasm and a love of adventure. In all my travels I’ve always been proud of us for that attitude, and I carry it with me in everything I do.

Business before ego

“Is my head a rugby ball?”

The association of my rugby career with my Itec business can open doors, but I’ve also learnt the limitations of this association. I’ve walked into meetings with large potential clients and quickly realised that all they see is me with a rugby ball in my hand. I’ve got a personal brand that works, but it also means I need to sometimes work harder than other entrepreneurs to be seen as a business personality.

Our clients trust me. I’m always available for calls and I build up excellent relationships with each of them, but I also know that they want to hear the technical details from our sales consultants. I demonstrate how much faith I have in our products and our sales team, and then I step back. Business is about doing what’s best for the brand and product.

Lessons learnt

“Don’t change what works”

I was a keynote speaker at a conference with Kevin Roberts, the ex-CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, and I didn’t want to give the same talk two days in a row. It was a different group of people, but I was very aware that Kevin had already heard the address, so I changed it. Afterwards he asked me why I had changed something that was working. He told me that repetition of a good thing is the secret to success, and I’ve never forgotten that advice.