Scrumming down to business
Bob Skinstad is the Glenfiddich Fast Company SA Maverick for July
Every month, Glenfiddich and Fast Company SA identify and honour a visionary thought leader in South Africa: a pioneering man who has shown relentless determination in his path to success.
“Being nice to people is more important than just making money, or winning.”
Every South African rugby fan knows the Bob Skinstad who enjoyed a Springbok career of 42 Tests, 11 tries and the appointment as the youngest captain of the national team. But he also has a killer business instinct that has reaped rewards in many different facets: from sports broadcasting, executive directorships and ambassadorship, along with adventurous pursuits of diverse ingenuity.
Skinstad is also the founder and chairperson of the Old School Group, a multi-brand organisation specialising in festivals, live events, travel, sportswear, sponsorship, brand creation and all-round sport commercialisation; as well as co-founder and venture partner at Knowledge Networks Funding—a structured venture capital firm.
Fast Company: Would you class yourself as a maverick?
Bob Skinstad: “A maverick is someone who refuses to play by the rules, someone who is not scared to cross the line of conformity, and whose unorthodox tactics reap the results.” I’m probably not a traditional maverick, but I love the concept and feel honoured to be in the company of mavericks; in business leadership, their qualities are a complex blend of individual and team leadership, true grit, team culture appreciation, and an ability to see a vision through.
What experiences have contributed to your success in life?
I’ve had the privilege of working with great quality individuals, people who have been larger than life and have allowed me to come along for the ride—starting with a great set of parents in a loving home environment, to rugby allowing me a toe in the door of some of South Africa’s great business leaders.
What have been the biggest challenges you have encountered so far, career-wise?
Lack of focus; building a business portfolio while playing sport is tough, and the previously amateur environment in South Africa meant that people had to do just that.
How have you contributed to making a difference in South Africa?
I have started charities and businesses, and have represented my country. It’s been a great privilege to learn how all of that works and what it means for our Rainbow Nation.
What does your current role in Old School Group/Seartec entail?
I was the marketing director at Seartec, and I have set up a small business to do the role of the marketing team. It means we can be more agile and smarter about what we lead the business into, without having the unwieldy structures that usually come with corporate systems.
How do you plan to move forward as an entrepreneur?
I have some incredible opportunities to contribute with a unique skill set. Luckily KNF understands that, in the South African context, network is important, and I’m able to marry that with other investment teams in a global context too.
In your opinion, what are the essential traits for an entrepreneur to possess?
It’s all about grit, curiosity and a positive attitude.
What do you think shapes a person to become successful?
All those things in their character, and some family support—and little bit of luck.
What contributed to your effective transition from a successful sportsman to a successful businessman?
It’s still in its infancy! I still get people asking if I play! Lots of things will make it work or not, and I’m trying to concentrate on the simple things that make the biggest difference. Being nice to people is more important than just making money, or winning; I’m lucky that, during my career, I was nice to people… So I have been divesting and concentrating on the things I can effect, often in partnership with quality people.