What Robin Skidmore did next - entrepreneur back with new firm

WHEN Robin Skidmore sold the digital marketing agency he built from nothing for £18m he found himself in his mid-30s wondering where to go next.

14 May 2018..... Robin Skidmore at the offices of Journey Further advertising agency in Leeds. Picture Scott Merrylees

In ten years he grew Epiphany to a staff of 160 people and clients all over the world.

Now, following a short career break, he is back with a new agency - Journey Further.

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Not even two years old it is already set to take in £2m in fees, has grown from a staff of two to 22 and is set to move into a 5,000 sq ft headquarters in Leeds Dock.

“I wasn’t quite ready to retire at 35,” Mr Skidmore told The Yorkshire Post.

“I’d sold the business and gone travelling but quite naively I didn’t think about what was past that point. I had ten years of being focused on work.

“But I felt a little bit lost and didn’t know really what i wanted to. It was at that time that I started to read a lot of the literature that came out of Silicon Valley. I still do read a lot of that stuff and a lot is about focusing on what you are passionate about.

“When I was travelling I started a journal and I realised that when I reflected back on the time of the business and the stories I told, a lot of what made me proud was not was not what we achieved but what we achieved for other people.

Epiphany founders Shane Quigley (L) and Robin Skidmore (R) with MD Rob Shaw (centre) PIC from Simon Dewhirst

“Part of this was hiring graduates straight out of university and watching them become leaders, or left to work for much bigger agencies. That gave me a real buzz.

“At the same time we worked with a lot of companies big and small and we came in and completely transformed their business.

“I realised that this is what I was passionate about. So when it came to what I did next it was very logical that I went back into an agency.

“So I made the decision to go back into the space.”

Mr Skidmore said that when it came to Epiphany, which he sold to Jaywing in 2014, he had always intended to exit the business once it reached a certain size.

But with Journey Further, he says things are different.

“If we were going to do it we wanted to do it differently,” he said.

“[The word] disrupt gets used a lot in this day and age but we wanted to disrupt the model that everyone was following.

“Most agencies have operational people and client service people. But we found that the client service people can sometimes act as a bit of a barrier to the people actually doing the work.

“We found clients wanted to get directly to the source. So our model was to hire the best analysts in the industry to work directly with clients.

“We got rid of that client services buffer that nearly any agency has and that means we can react quicker, educate clients better and provide a greater level of communication - and these are the types of things that clients are looking for and why our company is growing pretty successfully since we started. We knew the market, we knew we wanted to do.”

Journey Further mainly operates in the digital marketing space for the retail and travel sectors. Notable brands that it is currently working with include Sky, Moet, Claire’s Accessories and Christy Towels. It also just netted a huge contract win in the shape of Airtasker, an Australian firm just raised $30m to launch into the UK and functions as an Uber-style service for home improvement personnel..

The deal was won from a 10 agency pitch and Journey Further is now launching it into London and across the UK in the next few months before moving into Europe.

Mr Skidmore attributes a lot of the success so far to the team and the place in which it operates,

“There are huge advantages to being based in Leeds,” he said.

“The retention of talent, the access to talent, the overhead cost and the fact that there’s a train down to London which only just over two hours.”

Facts:

Journey Further operates under the strapline Clarity at Speed.

Two of the people on its board of four are people Mr Skidmore hired in the very early stages of Epiphany.

The entrepreneur expects the current £2m in fees to double next year owing to the retention of existing clients and winning of new ones.

To serve its recruitment requirements Journey Further is currently launching a digital academy, working with universities and potentially Leeds City College. It wants to hire people with a mathematical brain and business acumen.

Journey Further has an unusual approach to marketing in that it runs a books club. Every month it shares a new book that has impacted on the firm, along themes such as marketing, entrepreneurship, motivation and psychology.