Rob Mannion of RNF Digital
Rob Mannion of Warwick's RNF Digital catches up with BQ as part of our Meet the MD series to talk all things management...
What is it the company does?
RNF Digital is a software business which specialises in the deployment of mobile apps and services. Since 2010 we have been building apps on behalf of businesses with clients including Bridgestone Tyres, Calor Gas and Baxi Heating. We also have a particularly strong presence in the wholesale sector.
Over the last two years, and in parallel to the app development, we have built a customer engagement platform called Beam that integrates into any app, enabling the app owner to communicate with its app users via a mix of rich notifications and in-app advertising.
What does your role involve?
As managing director I am responsible for not only ensuring that the business runs smoothly on a day-to-day basis, but also that it evolves in accordance with its long-term strategy. In practice this means that the role is extremely varied (which suits me) and requires multiple skill sets. Part of my role is to sell the “RNF dream” to clients, colleagues and whoever else is interested. If the MD can’t articulate a passion for the business, then it can’t be expected of anyone else.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I spent the first part of my career at IBM UK in various roles, predominately centred around teams which were responsible for building proposals that addressed complex technical solutions. I left IBM to fulfil my long-standing desire to run my own business and started to import personal breathalyers in 2007. Despite securing several police constabularies and hospitals as clients, it ultimately became apparent that the business was too seasonally impacted, making it difficult to sustain long term. In 2009 I founded RNF Digital, which began by offering web 2.0 solutions to a variety of customers including the EU, Local Authorities and Social Enterprises.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Running a business presents a complex and unique set of challenges that vary on a daily basis, so any business leader needs to be comfortable with this sort of fast-changing environment. But ultimately you are responsible for creating and developing an environment that is conducive to meeting your business objectives. People are more often than not at the centre of a business and play a crucial role in terms of its success. Leadership is about inspiring those around you of in terms of the vision, the importance of their contribution in meeting the company goals and to lead by example.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Managing cash flow effectively whilst growing the company aggressively has been a tough challenge over the years, but this has led me to become quite resourceful in many respects. Hiring great staff has not been without its problems along the way too. Fortunately, I can honestly say that we have an incredibly strong team with no weaknesses anywhere in the business as it stands today – but we have come across some very interesting people along the way!
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Having two young daughters is definitely a distraction that helps me switch off, but cycling is also a great way to help put things into perspective. Last year I began commuting to the office most days on the bike and if I am lucky I can get out at the weekends too. I have resolved many business quandaries over the years whilst cycling through the Warwickshire countryside.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A pilot, but when it transpired I was colour blind, my ambition came to a grinding halt.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
People that take credit for their colleagues’ work or ideas wind me up, but fortunately this isn’t something that I can recall happening at RNF.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
18 months ago RNF was shortlisted for a couple of awards that we didn’t go on to win. I remember saying to my colleagues, next year we are going to go one step further. Fortunately, for the sake of my credibility if nothing else, we won “Best App Developer 2016” at Apps World London, then went on to win Rockstar Development Team of the year at the Techies 2017. Looking forward 5 years, I would like to think that the trophy cabinet will be pretty full, but while industry recognition is great, I hope the company will be delivering long term value into hundreds of customers and be a great place to work.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Keep going and don’t let any set backs knock your confidence. An extremely successful US investor was the first person I heard use the expression “fail fast, fail often”. Some argue that the saying is overly pessimistic, but for me it resonated perfectly. You will have to make so many decisions during your business journey, mistakes are inevitable, but the trick is to realise them quickly, address the issue, and don’t repeat them.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Finance is key – if it’s not your speciality, ensure you have competent people around you who have the required expertise.