Tony Rowe OBE – Embracing the shift from sport to business

Welcome to my second blog focusing on the parallels between sport and business. Here, I share another recent conversation I’ve enjoyed with an individual who has achieved both sporting glory and business success.Sam Seddon

Tony Rowe OBE has enjoyed huge success as the chief executive and chairman of SWComms, having begun his telecoms business following a stint racing powerboats and time served in the Marines.
Having seen his business grow and develop into one of the foremost telecommunications service providers in the country, Tony has also revived the fortunes of Exeter Chiefs rugby club, where he is currently chairman.
During his spell in charge the Chiefs have risen from the fourth division to second in the Premiership, and we spoke to Tony on how to make a successful transition from business to sport.

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I go through life now and I tell people that joining the Marines was like joining the university of life, you learn very quickly because you have to. It gave me a really, really good grounding and some of the values I learned then I still hold very dear today and I use them in my business. I’ve been very fortunate over the years because I’ve always found some very good people to work with. In anything you’re only as good as the people around you and I’ve had some terrific people work with me, both commercially with my business interests and also in the club. In anything you’re only as good as the people around you and I’ve had some terrific people work with me, both commercially with my business interests and also in the club. I don’t find it tough, it’s not easy, but I don’t find it tough.

Ensure you can gain a return

My first sponsorship of Exeter Chiefs was £4,000 back in 1993, it’s considerably more today, but in 1993 the company got it’s £4,000-worth and in 2016, SWComms is getting it’s fair value back from the sponsorship money it puts in at the moment. You have to balance that off and make sure it’s not just the love of the sport you’re putting the money in for. You’ve got to get a return. Be sensible about it and don’t get carried away with chucking money in when there’s no return to be had from it. I’m very fortunate that things for us have gone the way they’ve gone.

Embracing the analytical side of the game

Analytics has played a massive part in what I do. When you’re looking at, say, a front row player you know what you were paying previously, and what the market is paying today. You’ve got to analyse all the money you’re spending, in the Premiership anyway, because you’ve got a salary cap. You’ve got to make sure you don’t spend all your money because you’ve got to have some left over for injuries. We’ve just brought in a second row guy from Ulster because of the injuries we’re carrying so you use some form of analytics all the time to manage and run the business because you have to. Running any business, you need to know if you’ve made a penny or lost a pound and where you are on a monthly basis, how your business is doing. It’s no good waiting until year end to discover you’ve made no money. It’s too late then.

Follow your gut

Not for one minute did I ever sit down and think ‘I’m going to do this and I’m going to have a career in this’, the only thing that I decided was that I needed to sort my life out when I was a young man and so I joined the Marines. I thought that was a great idea to do that, and the next decision was giving up the Marines to go back to Civvies’ Street, and then it was sorting my life out there. Whereas I was enjoying every moment of it, I don’t regret anything I’ve done, I was living hand to mouth, two marriages and you have to make something of your life.

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