After years of working on one specific question that applies to all businesses, Robert Craven has narrowed the question to focus on one type of business. How does that work?
Robert Craven’s expertise for the past twenty years has been answering one question, “How do we grow this business?”. He has grown his in-depth knowledge and understanding of the subject by working in five-star business schools (Cranfield and Warwick), award-winning entrepreneurial businesses (Bigham’s and Nando’s) and famous blue chips (Barclays and Google).
Robert has been helping managing directors and their teams grapple with the basics of business strategy: “Where are we now? Where are we going? How are we going to get there? How can we guarantee our progress on the way?”
In recent years he has turned his attention specifically to digital agencies, businesses that thrive in a rapidly changing environment. Here, he has made a name for himself, delivering keynotes from Athens to Amsterdam, from Sarajevo to Singapore. Meantime his agency consultancy, The Directors’ Centre, is running business growth programmes for digital agencies in Bucharest, Bath and Edinburgh as well as in Brussels and Ljubljana in the New Year.
How did you go from being an expert in general strategy to becoming the go-to expert for digital agencies?
For some 20 years, I have worked in my own businesses and those of clients to understand what makes the above-average performers different from the rest. More importantly, how can we apply those lessons to other businesses. For the last few years I have been applying this to digital agencies working with the likes of Google Partners.
And are digital agencies so very different?
The answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no’. They are very different because of the rate of change (technology and social acceptance) around them, the state of the industry (breakneck speed of change but not mature) and because of the average age and attitude of agency owners. So, there are a number of issues specific to digital agencies. On the other hand, they need to grapple with the same issues that other businesses grapple with: strategy, marketing, teams, finance. So, same, but different.
So, what are you now, a digital expert or a generalist or both?
The answer is both! I spend at least 50% of my time helping agencies create businesses that can grow quickly and sustainably. We also apply the same rubric to other clients. They get the benefit of our broad experience as well as the lessons from the digital economy.
How has that panned out as an author?
My agency book, ‘Grow Your Digital Agency’ has sold in over 30 countries and is being described as a classic in the industry. And my new book, ‘The Check-In Strategy Journal’ completes the circle. Working with Adam Harris, we have taken the lessons from the last 20 years’ strategy work and combined them with the lessons for the digital world to create a must-have book that not only helps the reader to articulate and clarify their strategy but also helps them to keep on track, day by day, week by week, quarter by quarter.
So, what does the diary for 2017 look like?
In a word, fascinating. We have a whole series of digital projects being rolled out in the UK and in Europe. Meanwhile, word is out about the ‘The Check-in Strategy Journal’ – people love the fact that it is bang up-to-date, taking lessons from the digital world while applying the wisdom of the past.