Ben Skuse is CFO at UserReplay, which empowers companies with an ecommerce presence to increase revenue by optimising the customer experience.
Strangely enough, I always wanted to be an accountant, which I think is the weirdest thing as I don’t think anyone has always wanted to be an accountant! I took the usual route of getting a university degree in Bristol, and after qualifying I spent a couple of years working in the pharmaceutical industry as a fraud investigator but I soon grew tired of permanently travelling. I was then asked if I wanted to re-locate to an English speaking part of the world and was sent to Ireland. There I met and married my wife and we came back to England for better career prospects. I fell into marketing services to be honest, landing my first role in recruitment advertising at Monster. In 2004, I joined my first startup, The Search Works – a paid search and SEO agency. The agency really flourished and ended up being bought by a listed company for £56 million in cash.
After the sale, a new opportunity came up to join Havas Media as CFO, where stayed for four years. But then like an old boyband, the management team at The Search Works had reformed to create an agency in the advertising and media space for mobile, called Somo. This company had some seed funding and it looked like a great opportunity and at that particular time, after four years at Havas it felt like it was time to move on. I spent the next three years at Somo before deciding I needed a new challenge, but I wasn’t actively searching. Then one day the phone rang and it was Michelle. She knew of me through my old boss at The Search Works, and what she had to tell me about UserReplay was great – it was all very exciting.
A big one has be qualifying as a chartered accountant and studying for an MBA whilst working as an advisor. I look back and think those are big milestones. The experience and achievements I made at The Search Works were pivotal in my career, especially taking the media billings from £750,000 to £88 million turnover and the revenue from £600,000 to around £3-4 million.
The biggest lesson from all of my career moves is always carry out due diligence to learn how a business is run. When it comes to larger organisations, pay attention to things like brand reputation and culture. If it’s a smaller company, the business will centre more around things like mission, philosophy and values. I have made the mistake of taking jobs in my career that look interesting without doing my research, only to then find it’s not the right fit.
What do you think are the key things to focus on to build a truly transformational team?
Balancing out and fitting different personalities and experiences together at the right time is a real art.
When I spoke to Michelle she gave me a good background on the business and the team. I felt like the business was occupying an interesting space and had lots of potential to grow. I hadn’t been through many recruitment processes but I genuinely felt that Michelle and the team were looking for the right fit and I thought it was a good marriage.