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‘Profit is a journey, not a destination’

When entrepreneur Rob Stokes launched Quirk in 2009, search engine optimisation was virtually unheard of and he and his partners had the hard task of convincing the market that it was the next big thing. In 2014, Quirk was acquired by WPP. Today it employs 227 people across agencies in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and London. We asked him to shed some light on his approach to leading a team…

How would you describe your leadership style?Rob Stokes

It’s hard to identify a specific style, but in essence I am excited about where we can go and I focus on infecting others with the same excitement. It’s about leading through vision with a shared set of values. In a nutshell, I try to be vision led and values driven.

Any leadership lessons you can share?

I’ve learnt three things: Profit is a journey, not a destination. Culture really is more important than strategy. Stick to your strengths and outsource your weaknesses to people who can do them better.

 What is your greatest weakness?

I tend to take on too much and it kills my focus. The problem is, I care about everything, but can’t scale anywhere close to that – so I do end up dropping balls and disappointing people. I’ve tried to change this and say no, but I find it incredibly difficult.

You have said that your beliefs impact your business…

Yes, I believe in where we are going and I will make sure I look after my team on the way. I also believe in having a lot of fun and not taking yourself too seriously. And I believe life is too short to be boring – and I think this resonates with most people who want to come to work to smile.

Your advice for future leaders?

Communicate more than you think you need to. Do it early and often, you can’t communicate enough. Be as consistent as you can be in a world of constant change.

 What is your overall vision for Quirk?

We’ve developed into a group of companies, each with its own vision and goals. Where we are united is in a common need to do great things, with great people having a lot of fun along the way. And to make a positive difference in the world around us.

*This interview first appeared in the print edition of Your Business magazine. 

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