Rob Music is Chief Executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. After starting his career in the family jewellery business, he changed career path and took fundraising roles at the Stroke Association and Research into Ageing before becoming Chief Executive of Endometriosis UK. He joined Jo’s as its sole employee in 2009, and now leads a team of over 20.
Turned out jewellery wasn’t my life. I got average A-levels and rather than go to university, I went into the family business. So, I was a jeweller for about seven years of my life. Very nice business. Lots of travelling, dealing the upper end. Then, one day, literally, I looked at a couple of stones that were worth a silly amount of money, and I thought, I’ve got no passion for this.
But I learnt a lot from the business. It’s all about relationships and getting on with people. When I was a jeweller, I had to build trust, confidence and credibility. From that I could then start selling them pieces of jewellery. Even though I was from a family business that was well known, they didn’t know me. I think it’s the same in this sector. It’s something I say to my team all the time: that customer care, that relationships, our reputation, are absolutely vital. If you haven’t got that, you’re lost.
Friends thought I was mad taking this job. I guess in all honesty, my friends and probably some family thought I was mad going for this job because I was with a bigger organisation and then I went to a one-person charity. It was really hard and incredibly busy at first as it was when Jade Goody was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I spent most of my day, on the phone or doing TV interviews and then doing my proper work at night-time, until we started to raise more funds and I could start recruiting people.
There’s got to be clarity about your brand. Otherwise the first thing that you’ll get is a whole bunch of questions about what you’re about. So, you’re on the back foot straight away. When I first joined, we were just called Jo’s Trust, rather than Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. Our logo was a lily, which for me was negative and funereal. It gave the wrong messages about us and the positive work we do. I spent the first five minutes of any meeting explaining the logo, or trying to, and saying what Jo’s Trust actually was, because there was no link to cervical cancer at all.
Make a noise. We are a small charity but I feel very proud that people are quite impressed in terms of some of the noise we’ve been able to create and that we punch above our weight. So, for example, recently during our recent Cervical Cancer Prevention Week we had over 900 pieces – articles, TV interviews, radio interviews, national, local, print, online, etc. It was really quite extraordinary and had a reach of over 300m. And it got women going for screening!
The trick is finding an angle. There’s a real challenge with younger women, those aged 25 to 29 attending cervical screening tests. About one in three don’t go. So, we commissioned research, trying to understand in depth the reasons why. About a third came back with concerns about their body image. This hadn’t come up before and I think it was because of this angle that the press just really took it up. They just ran with it and we saw a big impact across our work.
You also need luck. You need Brexit or Mr. Trump to be quiet for a week, which is quite a rare thing.
I’ve learnt a lot from good bosses, and even more from bad bosses. I’ve worked for some not so good bosses in the past. Those that were micro-managers. Those who pitted people off against each other and created an unhappy organisation, and that’s incredibly unhealthy. I feel we’re a happy group of people at Jo’s and derive great pleasure from seeing talent develop. I think one of the interesting challenges for us as we continue to grow is making sure we continue to be responsive, so that people continue to feel we care, that we don’t feel like a big organisation. That’s why our values are so important and that they are lived by all of us.
Don’t give up. Fundraising can be hard and it can take a lot of time, much energy and great many conversations and meetings before you have that initial success. Again, it goes back to my time in business. I may not get a grant from someone for two, three, four, five years, sometimes, but you don’t give up and keep the conversation going.
Cause & Effect is a series from Hope, in which leading figures who have been involved in building and promoting good causes tell us what they’ve learned from their experiences. Interview by Michael Isaacs.