Telling the truth about SME life today

Rob Symes: Build not a world class but world changing business


Rob Symes

Role and company:

CEO of The Outside View

Employee numbers:


Growth forecast for the next three years:

£5m by year three.

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:

We turn a company’s most undervalued asset, their data, into a competitive advantage. We make companies sales teams more efficient, their recruitment process more selective and their business significantly more efficient, enabling them a competitive edge. 

What’s the big vision for your business

To build not a world class but world changing business. The mission is take three separate ideas: Groundbreaking academic research on decision making and human bias, advances in predictive analytics and the explosion of data to create a whole new class of business improvement.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:

I crashed my car on the way to edit my documentary. I lost half my spleen and almost died. What I learnt is don’t drive when its snowing, no matter how important the project is to you, the company or your future success.

What makes you mad in business today

People who aren’t just ignorant but choose to be ignorant. People who don’t want to learn new things. People who think the status quo must be better than big, ground-breaking ideas because they just can’t be bother. In short, people that don’t care, really drives me mad. Also, when I miss a sales opportunity. Then I’m mainly mad at myself.

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years

That the predictive analytics market will exist. It doesn’t now.

Where do you see yourself in five years

As CEO of a huge software business I’ve built from the ground up. Working with the smartest minds of several generations to solve the toughest problems. Or as a fat, suntanned diving instructor in Thailand if it all goes pear shaped!

How would others describe your leadership style

Id like to think people would describe me as a passionate leader with vision. Having these two qualities is important in any industry, but they are absolutely imperative when leading a start-up. I have always tried to instil confidence in my team to try anything. However, being over passionate has at certain times placed a higher level of energy and stress on both the company and myself. When leading a company it is important to ensure vision and passion are balanced; too much passion without enough vision is confusing and stressful; too much vision without passion can be bland and alienating.

What would be your one piece of entrepreneurial advice for someone starting out

Focus on being the best you, not the best me-too: You see an idea; you think it’s innovative and great. But you forget the fundamental factor: it’s not yours. When an idea is not yours you are never going to be as good as your competitors as doing it. So dont try. In this market you have to play to your strengths, be the best of you, and be original. Everyone can spot a bull shitter and no one buys into something that isnt believable, because chances are the there are 10 other people doing it better.


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