Rob Bell is an award-winning Marketer & Internet Professional from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, in the North of England.
Born in the early 70s, the Son of a Coalman bankrupted in the 80s' Miner's Strike, Rob was majorly into computers from an early age, owning his first - a Sinclair ZX80 - at the age of 8. A reluctant child prodigy, promoted into classes with children much older than himself, Rob won a scholarship to study at boarding school, Silcoates School, in Wrenthorpe, West Yorkshire. He won a number of awards, certificates and bursaries in his 10 years there, and left with 11 O Levels, 2 AO Levels and 4 A Levels, "all without too much revising", he claims. He was also Captain of Hockey and a keen Athlete, completed the Chief Scout's Challenge, played lead and support roles in several school plays, taught rock climbing, abseiling and outdoor pursuits, won the Public Speaking contest, and sang in a school band and the choir for many years. "I never felt like I fitted in though" he remembers.
After a year out, spent working in a clothes store, as a Lifeguard and Forestry Ranger, "To get some real-world experience, and actually study with people my own age finally" he explains, he briefly attended The University of Newcastle in 1990 studying English Linguistics, Computer Science and Sports Science as a 'Combined Studies' degree. Although he enjoyed the location and the University, "the course was too fragmented - I needed something more focused". He left after one term, returning to Wakefield to work until the following Academic Year - in which he had secured a place at the prestigious Bradford University School of Management.
"I nearly didn't make it to Bradford. An unfortunate accident on holiday briefly left me dead (seriously - until I was resuscitated) after I was towed into a moored up speedboat rather fast in one of those doughnut tyre-like inflatables. After being dragged out of the water (thanks for that, man whose name I never found out), getting undrowned and packed off in an ambulance, I eventually came round 4 days later - I had no idea of where I was initially, until I spotted the drip in my arm - that gave away that it was a hospital, and the guy in a bed next to me with a bandage round his head too pretty much confirmed that. The accident left me with a small hole in my brain, although they didn't have to operate and told me it would self repair - I think it kind of did, heh - and 9 stitches in my left elbow, where the speedboat handrail stuck into it!"
This was only a few weeks before his first term, although he recovered without missing any time off Uni - and moved into Halls on the second week of term.
"University was the making of me" states Rob, without any semblance of doubt. "I expanded my horizons, and had an all round amazing experience". On the hockey team, and a member of the Technical Services Association - where he worked as Head DJ at University Gigs throughout his studies, getting to meet and play with acts like Ice Cube, Cypress Hill, the Stereo MCs, Carter, Cornershop and many others. He went abroad on Hockey tours, chilled out at Glastonbury several times, and reportedly still managed to attend all his classes.
He also worked 2 jobs throughout his studies to pay his bills, and admits it wasn't always easy - "Heck, I nearly screwed my 2nd year exams up because the work and DJing were taking up every evening 7 days a week. Yes, I was living it large, but I still needed to get it together for exams - it was a difficult balance! I was lucky in my 2nd year that I was able to sit some of the exams in the summer, when neither my gigs nor my term-time work were getting in the way of studying."
Voted the 'Head of the Management Society' by his peers at the end of his second year, Rob was elated - but didn't undertake the role - which would have made life impossible on top of existing commitments, which included the 3 jobs he worked throughout his final year - Pizza Delivery Boy, DJ, and Barman.
It was at the Management Centre where Rob discovered a love of Marketing, taking every available course in the subject, and sitting the exam for the CIM postgraduate diploma, where many of his classmates were MBA students. He is still the youngest person ever to be awarded the designation 'Chartered Marketer' by the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
He graduated from the University of Bradford School of Management in 1994 with a BSc(Hons) in Business and Management Studies, and the Chartered Institute of Marketing Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing.
In a 15 year career in Marketing, Rob has worked for several market-leading multinational companies, including Total Oil (Total Gas Marketing), Sun Microsystems, Integrated Technologies Europe and Digital Microcomputers. Products he represented include Data Storage, Java, Digital Video, IP CCTV, Mobile Tracking, Natural Gas and Electronic Security.
However, while working in corporations he found it hard to settle into working solely with 1 type of product - "It's tough for someone like me who likes to constantly have different challenges and plans on the go to settle in an environment where it was the same things over and over, and I soon found myself feeling terrible on the way to work - in several of my roles. I wanted to work for myself, but didn't have the confidence to give up what were really good salaries in return for the risk of starting up on my own. I also didn't have the confidence in myself and my own abilities."
Life has a funny way of making things happen - and in 2001 Rob had the month that got him voted "Unluckiest Man in Great Britain" on Radio 1's Colin Murray Show, 3 years later in 2004.
Okay, hold your breath and try to read it all at once...
In a space of 4 weeks, Rob separated from his wife, was made redundant in the first Dot Com Crash, evicted from his rented cottage, had to give his beloved Old English Sheepdog away, relinquished his company Freelander 4x4, he broke his back, destroying 78% of his T-8 vertebra in a sports accident (GoPed Jumping!), was diagnosed with Osteoporosis, and had to move from London (not unhappily) into the spare room at his parents' apartment back up north in Wakefield, not having lived with them since he was 17!
"Never mind 2001 a Space Odyssey, it was 2001 a bloody nightmare!" he jokes, making light of the first injury and subsequent difficult period that helped shape the man he is today. It took a while to recover from the injury, and Rob took some time out to recuperate, take stock of things, and start to build his life again after the 'month from Hell'.
"It's about this time I lost my 'Marketing Mojo'" he laments.
"I found myself unable to get myself into my marketing mindset because I was having moral and ethical struggles with the validity of the marketing profession, in part due to being overloaded with spam and awful adverts".
"I believe very strongly in marketing ethically, permission based marketing and two-way communication with customers and prospects, and the daily influx of badly thought out adverts, unscrupulous techniques, and spam was just too much on top of everything else - I completely lost my faith in marketing. I couldn't market so I tried some different types of roles - but none of them suited me, and I soon left a few companies where I didn't consider myself a great fit, and it wasn't always my decision to leave!" he laughs. "I started a sales job, then lost my voice within my first 2 weeks there - for 3 months my vocal chords were paralysed which, as you might imagine, isn't something that helps a salesman in his job. The company thought this too, and I think that position ranks as the shortest job I've ever had! It also taught me that I love marketing, and sales isn't the same thing - reinforcing my belief that marketing is the right industry for me, and the best way to change something is from within it."
"Marketing is something I now completely believe in again, when it's done right - it's my calling, my vocation, my interest and a part of my past and future. The link between the online world and marketing is evolving, and it's still a frontier for innovation - but the rules are still being worked out. We have to show people the right way to market online, and how not to spam just because it appears the easy way, yet it causes long term damage in perception of your business. We have to make a stand for ethical marketing methods in an increasingly automated world".
In 2004, Rob did serious damage to himself for the second time, falling out of the sky awkwardly whilst out kiteboarding on a local heath. A spectacular take-off was followed some 15 seconds later by an equally spectacularly bad landing, damaging Rob's lower vertebrae and discs, his hip, and his sacroiliac joint on his left side. This resulted in Rob's hasty retirement from Extreme Sports while he was still alive, albeit somewhat beaten up and aching, and no longer able to walk very well very far...
Read more about Rob Bell on Page 2...