Rob Day is an MDHUB success story. A member in the early days of the hub100, Rob has since joined the MDHUB team, and now facilitates workgroups for our members.
We chat over Zoom, as Rob now lives year-round in Jersey. In the background, I can see a freshly painted seascape, evidence of a healthy work-life balance after exiting his business.
Rob first met Fiona Shafer, current Managing Director of MDHUB, while she was consulting for Sussex Enterprise. The team at Rob’s web agency Liquid Light was at a cross- roads, having to make big decisions about whether to scale up. “Fiona was empathetic and supportive,” helping Rob and the team to make the right choice for their business.
Soon after, Rob made the decision to join MDHUB (then the hub100). Taking part in regular peer-to-peer work- groups, he was able to develop confidence and grow his knowledge to continually improve Liquid Light.
“If things are going well, you don’t think you need peer learning. But if you go to them all, no matter what, you’ll get that more appropriate support. You’ll have good days and you’ll have bad days, and when you feel safe in your group, then you can bring whatever’s going on,” Rob explains.
An important part of the support Rob received was from the Escape Committee, a regular workgroup focussed on business exit. “Having a regular monthly workgroup where that [business exit] is the centre of attention, even if you make very little change, people are checking in.
“Time keeps moving forward, and over the course of that time, you see other people successfully making their exits,” he adds.
Rob successfully exited the business in April 2016. He went travelling with his wife Evelyn, but on his return and even while travelling, he was still a member of the Escape Committee.
For Rob, it was a chance to check in with his old group, and for his peers he became someone on the other side who had left, proving that there is life after running your business.
With his creative batteries recharged, Rob returned to MDHUB as a facilitator and business coach. Alongside a number of other regular workgroups, he now runs the Escape Committee, helping the next generation of business owners to negotiate their own exits, something he finds an enormous privilege. It also helps Rob stay connected to the south east from Jersey. Best of all, “I get to do it in a professional capacity and support all these inspirational business leaders.”
Not just a facilitator, Rob was a member of the MDHUB board even before exiting Liquid Light. “I get to see where the business is going, and have a say in the direction of things.”
As a previous customer, Rob knows well what members might want or need. “The sense of integrity and compassion and care is 100% through MDHUB’s DNA; you see that in the board meetings as much as you see it in the delivery.” MDHUB matches Rob’s values and, all the while that continues, he believes he’ll be happy to spend his time with them.
“It’s a full profit organisation as it should be because people need to value the support that they’re getting, but it’s not first and foremost about the money. There are not many places in the business world where it’s not shrouded in hubris and ego.” While MDHUB provides a space to champion and support members in times of growth and success, it also provides a safe space for business leaders who are struggling. “This stuff is not easy, asking for help takes courage.”
Rob also runs Wildcards, one-off workshops, which are a great space to “react to what members might want, but also to try new things.” Tech 101 is one of Rob’s Wildcards. It was borne of the sense that technology is doing another one of those big ‘aha’ moments – the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The workgroup allows Rob to ‘switch the light on’ for business leaders and discuss the newest developments in the field, including how this could change the way we work. He feels it’s better to know what’s going on and feel informed than to sweep it under the carpet. He believes it’s all in a 101 environment because it’s all happening now.
For Rob, AI is the thing to watch for business leaders. “It’s affecting so many spaces: e-commerce, SEO, social media, content writing; there’s not an industry I can think of where it won’t have some impact.”
As well as watching YouTube videos about new developments, Rob suggested ChatGPT and Midjourney as a starting point for anyone looking to learn about what AI can do.
Towards the end of the interview, we chatted about the current business landscape: the cost of living crisis, Brexit, and rapid tech developments are all making for a very unstable environment. Rob’s one piece of advice for surviving this climate was, “don’t do it alone. It’s a lonely place to be an MD, and it’s impossible to have all the answers.”
As part of this, he suggested implementing an advisory board; having external support from ‘mentors you really look up to’ can help you make the best decisions for your business. “It’s about support,” Rob concludes, “The more support you can get, and the right support is fundamentally valuable. Being with MDHUB means you’re not alone.”