Battlefield to Boardroom
12 September 2018
Wealth Briefing: Please tell us about your military career.
Tim Robinson: I graduated from Sandhurst in 1991 and left the Army as a major general in 2016. My regiment was the 9th/12th Royal Lancers (now the Royal Lancers), which I commanded in Iraq in 2008. I served in Iraq twice, Northern Ireland and Bosnia. My last role was a chief of the staff of the Field Army, the grouping of all the British Army’s fighting forces. I commanded an armoured brigade and spent time in the Ministry of Defence.
Wealth Briefing: Why did you decide to move on and what future careers did you think of taking on?
Tim Robinson: I left because I wanted to do something commercial and entrepreneurial. I wanted different experiences while I was young enough and wanted to apply my skills and knowledge to new situations and places. I was enjoying the senior military roles a little less than the frontline and felt I had done enough time in the public sector.
Wealth Briefing: What made you decide to go into the sector you are now in?
Tim Robinson: I was looking for a creative, lean, agile and ethical outfit that was growing and succeeding fast but where there was still the chance to influence the direction it was taking. I had an idea of the sectors where I could re-deploy my 25 years of experience to good effect. Protecting modern reputations and privacy from multiple threats was at the top of the list.
Wealth Briefing: How you do think your past skills work in an industry dealing with matters such as privacy, reputation, helping clients navigate complex issues, etc.?
Tim Robinson: Good soldiers are essentially problem-solvers. They have the ability to stay calm when others are losing their heads. They can assess a complex situation, understand it in detail, design options, make decisions and then follow through in a disciplined fashion. That is what I do now for Schillings’ clients. Our clients have built a good name over many years and don’t want to lose it in five minutes. They want a sound plan at a reasonable cost which will solve their problem; not make it worse. That sounds like what a politician wants from a military campaign!
Wealth Briefing: How can battlefield strategies, planning and execution be adapted and utilised when it comes to the boardroom?
Tim Robinson: The battlefield is full of lessons for the boardroom and vice versa. Here are a few ideas. Understand what strategy actually means: it’s the harmonising of ends, ways and means to achieve a desired outcome. Never forget culture. An organisation lives or dies by its culture. And its values. Be authentic: on the battlefield, soldiers smell bullshit instantly. For Schillings’ clients – and the C-suite generally – it will be their employees…and the media. Communicate clearly and honestly: there’s so much obfuscation around. Do the right thing, not necessarily the easy thing. Military and commercial success is nine tenth’s grind and hard work, and one tenth genius (Lawrence of Arabia). Finally, think to the finish and plan ahead: remember that ‘a person who’s surprised is half beaten’.
Wealth briefing: Do you see the hiring of former military personnel as a way of ensuring a more diverse and varied set of employees?
Tim Robinson: When organisations hire military people – so long as they have been discerning and looked behind the image – they should get someone who is honest, well-organised, resourceful and who will go the extra mile. Their ex-military employees will pick up the local skills quickly, so don’t worry about lack of direct experience. They’ll have non-military people like that too of course. But as a concentrated pool of talent, people coming out of the armed forces are a pretty potent force, ready for you to use creatively.
Wealth Briefing: What was the most difficult issue in transitioning out of the forces and into Schillings, and what was the most easy to make?
Tim Robinson: Easy – I was joining an organisation that was imbued with all the values I hold dear: dynamism, integrity and diligence. Difficult – I wasn’t a general anymore, no one laughed at my jokes and I had to make my own coffee.
Excerpts of Tim’s Q&A were first published by Wealth Briefing on 23rd August 2018.
Receive our monthly newsletter