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Interview: Rob Dance on navigating with purpose and people-centred values

Rob Dance’s journey from selling his cherished Renault 5 car for a mere £1,000 to set up ROCK in 2008 is a testament to his relentless… View Article


Interview: Rob Dance on navigating with purpose and people-centred values

Rob Dance’s journey from selling his cherished Renault 5 car for a mere £1,000 to set up ROCK in 2008 is a testament to his relentless drive and entrepreneurial spirit.

In this exclusive Q&A, we sit down with Rob Dance, the visionary Founder and CEO of ROCK. With a modest investment, he laid the foundation for a technology consultancy that stands as a beacon of innovation and human-centric values. Join us as Rob shares insights into ROCK’s remarkable journey, its unwavering commitment to people, and how technology can be harnessed with purpose.

Please give us an overview of what ROCK does and what sets you apart from others?

Absolutely, ROCK is one of the UK’s largest technology consultancies, with our headquarters located in Bridgend and a workforce of over 100 dedicated professionals. In essence, our core mission is to assist businesses in any facet of technology. Imagine you’re a business with specific needs, whether it’s related to cloud computing, cybersecurity, or digital transformation – we’ve got you covered. We’ve strategically built a team of experts with diverse skill sets, capable of tackling anything in the technology realm. We proudly call it ‘anything technology.’

What sets us apart is our approach to customers and support.  Many tech companies work in a very transactional manner, but we recognised early on that our clients wanted a genuine partnership. They wanted us to feel like an extension of their internal IT department, deeply integrated into their business. So, we make it our business to understand our clients’ values, business strategies, and goals, and we work hand-in-hand with them to achieve those goals. We essentially become a part of their team and culture.

Our obsession with delivering excellence starts with our people, and we’re passionate about nurturing strong relationships, as they are the foundation of trust and long-term loyalty.

How do you stay at the forefront of technology trends, especially in fields like AI and automation?

Staying ahead of the curve is paramount for us. Around 25% of our workforce is dedicated to exploring new ventures. These individuals focus on the ‘big moves,’ distinct from the day-to-day operations of the business. Some of these endevours may pan out, while others may not, but we believe in incentivising our team to take risks, learn, and discover fresh solutions that competitors might not even be considering. This proactive approach has enabled us to branch out into new territories.

When it comes to technologies like AI and Chat GPT, we don’t see them as threats; rather, they are powerful tools for organisational growth. We’re excited to use these types of tools to enhance operations and not as a means to reduce resources. We’re hard at work on a new SaaS platform that’s going to revolutionise workplace culture so watch this space!

Could you elaborate on the people/culture at ROCK?

Investing in people is our cornerstone and yes, culture is crucial, and it starts from within. My inspiration comes from my dad who was a bank manager with a respected reputation in our local town. He was known for his warmth and reliability. I try emulating those qualities in my own business. And I believe that you attract people with similar or shared values.

Our team is our backbone, and each member plays a critical part in our success. We want our people to enjoy their work and have fun doing it, plus, we believe that autonomy encourages positive change. We foster a culture of trust and collaboration where our team members are treated with respect and valued as individuals.

As we’ve grown, communication and transparency have become really important. We hold regular meetings and share information very openly. I might even over-share, but I want everyone on the same page, and that trust in our team has paid dividends.

Building a successful business isn’t without its challenges. Can you share some insights into how you’ve managed to weather these storms?

It’s all about having a solid support network and unwavering dedication. I’m so lucky to have a supportive partner and a wonderful mum who’ve been there for me throughout. However, it’s also been about sheer hard work and commitment that have held everything together. The journey has been relentless but undeniably exciting. I’ve taken very few holidays in the last 15 years, but I’m learning the importance of finding that balance.

I was the boy who left school after my GCSEs, my confidence lower than a sunken ship. The day I started ROCK; our phone line was down. We couldn’t receive any inbound calls from new clients, yet I couldn’t muster the courage to pick up the phone and arrange for a repair. I knew I couldn’t build a solid business this way, so while I didn’t have confidence, I had courage, with this and the support of my family and friends my confidence grew alongside the business. I know that starting a new venture can be daunting, but with the right tools, you can achieve success. This is why I have begun sharing my story over on my LinkedIn and Instagram and will be launching a podcast this winter, to empower others to take action and build confidence.

Looking ahead, what’s your vision for the future, both personally and for ROCK?

I’ve learnt so much in the last 15 years and I’ve built up my confidence in both myself and the business. I now see an opportunity to be a positive role model for young people who, like me years ago, have aspirations but lack role models. I want to use all the knowledge I have gained to be a source of support and make a positive impact on my community in meaningful ways. So personally, my legacy is shifting towards giving back, and inspire my two young sons as my father inspired me.

We live in a world saturated with influencers, and it can be overwhelming, not to mention, superficial. I’m launching new initiatives including school visits, coding sessions, charity partnerships and the academy, to provide a comprehensive source of guidance and coaching in various aspects of life, in the hope that others can enhance their own chances of success.

Regarding ROCK, our goal is to expand and make a positive impact for our clients. We’ve developed a SaaS platform that we’re launching to assist various businesses in adapting to a rapidly changing environment. Our aim is to empower people to make the most of technology and propel themselves forward.

ROCK has grown by 30% in staff and turnover in the past year. Completing 10,000 individual tech projects in 15 years shows our dedication. We’re aiming for local and global expansion, but retain the same true north values and commitment to the people who work alongside us. Within three years, we’re gunning for 300 employees and revenue of £50 million in five years.

I want to help people get out of “living on autopilot”….  Going through the motions so to speak or without intention. I want everyone I interact with to gain a sense of purpose and belonging. By sharing my story, I hope I can inspire more people to create an awesome legacy.

Do you have any personal qualities or strategies that you attribute to your achievements?

Hard work, dedication, and relentlessness are at the core of my success. I’m also always looking to improve and learn new things. In fact, I’m a natural problem solver, and I’ve been that way since I was a kid – taking things apart to understand how they work. I am incredibly organised and a firm believer in the power of a well-crafted list. This approach helped me build my business plan 15 years ago, and it continues to guide me each year as a blueprint for the future.

Everything I do is methodical, I follow 11 core strategies every single day, these include: Night Owl Planning: Plan tomorrow, tonight. Listing my top 3 goals for the day which become my non-negotiables and actively working to shift my perspective, telling myself “This is what I will conquer today!” I shared all these strategies recently on my LinkedIn.

Do you have any role models who have influenced your journey?

I wouldn’t necessarily call them role models, but I admire many individuals. My father played a significant role in shaping who I am today. Additionally, someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger stands out, especially during my formative years. His dedication, good nature, and perseverance despite the risk of failure have always been inspiring to me.

How do you manage to strike a work-life balance, especially with your hectic schedule?

People often discuss work-life balance, but I believe it’s a personal journey. For me, work doesn’t usually feel like work because of how much I love what I do, especially in recent years. I’m grateful to have the right people around me which makes it fun. Last year we brought in Ian Elsbury as our Managing Director. With his operational expertise, I’m able to focus more on the exciting ‘big moves and I love that.

It’s clear that you’ve built a unique and special culture at ROCK. Can you sum up your organisation in a few words?

ROCK is both unique and special. We’re diverse, passionate, and above all, we get things done. And, of course, we have a lot of fun along the way.


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