Rob Smith, Founder of That Day

S1 Ep6: Rob Smith, Founder of That Day Podcast Transcript

Chris: Have you ever wondered how the businesses you know, and love have evolved? What inspired the founders to create them, what chances do they take and what mistakes they make along the way?

Hi, I’m Chris, the CEO of Uncommon, a company that creates exceptional spaces for work.

In each episode of Alive with Possibilities, I get to sit down with a different business leader whom I admire and discuss the journey they’ve been on.

In this episode, I’m joined by Rob Smith, the co-founder of ThatDay. ThatDay design and deliver wellbeing strategies that inspire growth in people both personally and professionally.

He also, alongside Mark and Josh, runs Uncommon Man, which is a space for men to reflect, connect, heal, and grow together through monthly meetups. He’s been hugely successful, and people travel not only across London to attend the sessions, but internationally too.

Rob, thank you for joining me. I’ve known about ThatDay and its various iterations over the years, but is it possible for you to tell the listeners about the journey that you’ve been on?

Rob: We have been running in various different forms over seven years now, which is crazy to think about it. I set up the business originally with a very close friend of mine called Mark and we were both working in jobs, he was working at JPMorgan.

I was running a recruitment company at the time, and we were both feeling very disengaged with our work, and we wanted to do something within fitness or wellbeing, we didn’t quite know.

And we started getting our qualifications in personal training and nutrition in these sorts of areas. And an opportunity came up, which was to run some corporate fitness sessions for a company called MVF Global.

We went along, we did a trial class, and we got the job. I was running fitness classes every week alongside running this recruitment company. But I just enjoyed it, I just loved running the fitness classes, and it’s what I was most looking forward to during the week.

So, we saved up the money for six months and eventually took the leap. I closed down my recruitment company, which was — I was doing pretty well. We had about three or four of us at the time and we were very profitable, and it was absolutely fine, but I just wanted to talk about wellbeing and fitness and not about the financial markets anymore.

And since then, over the past seven years, the business has pivoted and changed and evolved so many times to where we are now. We are going through a big evolution at the moment.

So, like I mentioned, we still do fitness classes. That’s how we partner with Uncommon, primarily. And we do wellbeing workshops, diversity and inclusion programs, psychotherapy, executive coaching.

But what we’re trying to create now, and this is what I’m really excited about, is the destination for companies to book corporate events. Because at the moment there isn’t that in the world.

If a company wants to book a fitness class or they want to book a workshop or a talk or whatever it might be, you have to either rely on someone that you happen to already know, you’ve got to go through LinkedIn.

Kind of like how the travel industry was 25 years ago, you’d go through a travel agent, and you would book a holiday and you’d have exposure to a certain number of holiday destinations through the travel agent. The service may be good or it may not be good, but then the likes of or or Airbnb come along and completely change that industry.

Chris: ThatDay, in one sense, an emotive name. How and why did it come about?

Rob: So, originally, we were called MobFit when we just did fitness services. And that was great for us at the time because that’s what we did. But like I said, the company has evolved to encompass so many other things.

When we were considering our rebrand, we were reflecting on what our mission is, what we’re actually trying to do. And our lives are made up of days that we remember. There are days we don’t remember and there are days we remember.

And I suppose what we hope to be delivering are days or experiences that people remember at work in a good way, for a good reason.

And I love the idea that you can come across someone or you can come across a concept or you can come across a quote, whatever it might be, and it can completely change the way you think. And it can give you a realisation which can send you on almost a different path in life.

I just find that so fascinating because it’s happened to me. There’s been people who I’ve come across just from happening to see them on Instagram or someone introduced me, and it’s led me down a completely different path.

And I suppose that’s what we’re hoping to create positive opportunities for people to shift their life in a slightly more positive direction.

Chris: It gives the company a real sense of purpose when you put it like that. How have you actually dealt with all of the evolutions that you’ve had? Because it’s clear that you are very happy and entrepreneurial in the way that you want it to kind of change and evolve.

Has there been kind of a message you’ve had to it or is it just a mindset? What’s kind of allowed you to do such a thing?

Rob: I’m constantly questioning everything that we do. I think it’s a really important thing to not be emotionally tied to an idea. I remember when I was 17 at school and I was studying business studies and I learned about sunk costs and the idea that if you spend money on something in the past, it’s gone, it’s done.

And you shouldn’t have to continue spending money on it or time or effort on it just because you’ve spent that in the past and it’s foolish to do so. And it’s the same with anything.

So, in regards to our most recent evolution, I realised that we are not these wellbeing strategists. I don’t feel personally at home going into companies and analysing everything that they’re doing and writing these big wellbeing strategies.

What I feel completely at home doing personally is matching them up with fantastic speakers and trainers and coaches and making the whole experience really smooth and fantastic for them.

So, let’s double down and focus in on that rather than feel we are tied to being something that we’re not.

And I’ve actually sometimes gone too far in the past and maybe overthink and over question everything. And that can be a disadvantage if you do that. Sometimes you’ve got to stick with something to really see whether there are legs.

But as soon as you know that you’re not heading in the right direction, then I don’t have any issues with just ripping it up and starting again.

Chris: I think that’s a super helpful thing because people get so wedded to things. In the example that I’ve seen where you stop someone and say, “You are doing this currently, if you were a fresh person coming in, i.e., if you’re the new boss walking into a company, what would you do?”

And they give you a completely different answer to what they’re doing currently. You’re kind of there going, “So, why are you still going with that?” And they’ll try and give you a load of reasons as to why they’re still going with it.

But when they’re free from the shackles of the past or previous thoughts, they know the answer. But it’s just they’re tied to some sort of past element, which you are saying is exactly your sunk cost point.

So, super interesting that you then free yourself up from that by just having that mindset around it.

Rob: Alongside that, I think the point you raised there is about the power of questions and reframing. So, okay, if you are coming in fresh to this business, what would you do?

You’re getting people to step out of their own space, and you can’t read the label inside the jam jar. You’ve got to step out of it. You’ve got to step out of that space to be able to have that objective point of view.

And that’s where questions can be really powerful. And this, this is why I love coaching is you can help people just have this moment of clarity through asking the right question.

One of those might be, what do you wish you started five years ago, for example? And often people will give an answer that is something which they can start right now, right today. And they’re not doing it for some reason because they think they’re too old or they haven’t got the time or whatever it is.

And the other piece to that is creating the space for you to actually reflect on your business or your life or your relationship. I think that that’s one of the most beneficial things that people can do is do like a, I call it like a sitrep, situation report.

You carve out an hour, you go through the different areas of your life and you go, “How am I doing in my relationships? How satisfied, how fulfilled am I in my relationships at the moment? How am I feeling about my movement, my fitness? How am I feeling about my career?”

You reflect on these different areas because otherwise what we do, we just meander through life without any real intention.

Chris: How often are you doing this?

Rob: I do this at the very least on a quarterly basis.

Chris: Okay, Rob. So, I’ve taken a day, I’ve put it in my calendar and I’m sitting down, and I’ve tidied everything. I’ve now gone and bought some wonderfully expensive candles. I light them. What then happens?

Rob: Okay, so first of all, you don’t actually need a day. So, don’t not do this exercise if you are finding it hard to take a day. However, if you can, I’d advise that.

So, the approach that I use is to do something called the wellbeing wheel. So, imagine you draw a pizza shape with eight slices and each of those slices represent an area of your life.

Now you can choose whichever eight areas are most important to you. The ones that I look into are sleep, movement, how I feel about my body, relationships, career, my mental wellbeing, my personal development and fun.

And I’ll rate myself how satisfied or fulfilled I am in each of those areas. And imagine that pizza shape with eight slices, that centre point is zero and the outer part of the pizza is 10. So, on each of those slices, let’s say I mark myself as 5 out of 10 on sleep, I will shade halfway up that slice.

And so, you get this graphic where you can clearly see what areas of your life at the moment you are either neglecting or that need some attention.

Then what I will do is I will think about if it was a 10 out of 10 in each of these areas, what would that look and feel like realistically? So, with movement, for me it might be that I am getting in four or five workouts each week. I’m feeling flexible and supple and mobile and strong. It’s something like that.

What am I doing each week and how am I feeling? Those are the things you want to be thinking about.

And then once you’ve done that for each of those areas, then think of what is one simple action that I can do to improve my score next week? I’m not looking to move myself from a 5 to a 10 straight away. I’m looking to move myself from a five to a 5.5 or a 6.

So, let’s take relationships for example. I might feel like I haven’t really connected with my friends that much recently. Okay, I’m going to give Alex a call and I’m going to have a nice long conversation whilst I’m out for a walk with him.

Great, that’s going to improve my score that little bit. So, you end up with these eight small actions that don’t rely on you doing anything else in advance, they don’t cost any money. And suddenly you create this momentum in your life, and you can just start to improve your wellbeing step by step.

And it’s like that idea of salami slices. Rather than trying to eat the whole salami, slice it up into little bits and eat it slice by slice and improve that score piece by piece.

Chris: Amazing. It’s a way to be very present. You’re really thinking about your life and kind of taking ownership of it, the areas that you need to work on. Because I think probably everyone’s guilty of it when they’re sitting there like, “I definitely am like certain bits of that pizza slice, will be less than others and I need to work on it.”

Rob: The first step is awareness. If you ever want to make any kind of change, you first have to be aware of what is going on. And that’s why when we were talking about before, creating that time to reflect is incredibly important.

Chris: Right. Can we wind back a little bit? You said that you like to stop people and encourage them to ask themselves one question of what they wish they started five years ago. It’s a great question. So, what do you wish you’d started five years ago?

Rob: Wow, what a great question Chris. I’ll give you two answers because I’ve asked this question to myself in the past and it’s led me to make massive changes in my life.

So, one of those was when I decided to close down the recruitment company and start ThatDay. It came out of that type of question. And at that time my answer was, “I wish I started doing fitness classes on Uncommon,” I was just really drawn to it.

I was like, “I can do that. I love fitness, I’m good with people, I can do that.” And I was like, “Well why don’t I just start doing that as my job.”

The other time I did it was I also have a passion for drama and film and writing and I was in National Youth Theatre and at one point I was considering kind of going into acting or writing or something in that space.

And like with life you can get swept up in a different direction and I found myself spending five or six years in, like I said, financial markets recruitment and on reflection I was like, “I wish I had written a film or made a film,” and that’s what I did.

So, I decided to write a film with a friend, and we got it made and we put it in a cinema, and I felt great having done that. That same question led me to starting jiu jitsu at age 30. For some reason, I thought that I was probably a bit past it to start it at that age, but no, just start today. You’re only as young as you are today.

Chris: You’ve clearly had a lot of success in various different things you’ve done, whether that has been personal, events-based things or the sporting side of things runs, et cetera.

Do you think there’s been any one habit that you can kind of attribute your success to? Is it the flexibility that you put in with the way you think about things or has there been anything that you’ve gone, this has really helped me?

Rob: Two things come to mind. The first is how can I make this fun? So, at all points, whether it is doing the accountancy report for the year, how can I make this fun? And it might be the case of putting on some tunes, getting a nice meal or it could be as simple as that.

Or if I’m preparing to do a talk on something rather than focusing on the stress or the angst of stepping up in front of people. It’s like how can I make this experience fun?

And this goes back to when Mark, who I was working with at the time, we were doing these talks for Deloitte. They were doing a big offsite in Prague and flew us out to Prague.

We had to do eight talks on these topics, eight talks to all these different clients in a day. It was very intense, and it would be very easy to get very stressed out at that moment.

And we were very aware that we were like, “We need to keep this fun, we need to keep this fresh.” Before each of the talks we used to just sing. I think we sang … what’s the song, what’s the Michael Jackson song which is like “mama-say-mama-sa-mama-coosa.”

We used to just sing that and dance behind the curtain before we did the talk. I think the more times we can just make our work and our lives fun the better and it’s just going to lead to better results. So, there’s that.

And then on the flip side, I’ve always sought out people that will keep me accountable, whether that’s an accountability partner. So, I’ve had different friends that I’ve worked with, usually they’ll be at similar stages.

I have a friend at the moment who is building a property company and he’s at quite an interesting stage of the journey. I’m obviously looking to build my various things.

And so, we check in every other week, “What are you working towards? What’s been the challenge, what’s been the struggle, what are you going to work on in the next couple of weeks?”

And it’s just a space to reflect and to get some other thoughts and also if they haven’t done it, when you next check-in, “Why haven’t you done it? What happened? How can you move through that obstacle to get that ticked off before our next check-in?”

So, very simple, especially when you work for yourself, or you work in a small team, and I’ve worked for myself since I was 20-years-old. Those people are so important, so, so important.

Even if you are working — I fortunately don’t anymore. I work with Rose and Nelly who are fantastic in our team and then we’ve got 50, 60 wellness experts that we partner with as well.

But if you are just starting a business and it’s literally just you, you have to find someone else. I truly believe you have to find someone else who’s perhaps in the same boat where you can check in with each other. You can create that space where you support each other as if you’re teammates.

But even if you’re working on completely separate businesses, creating a team, you don’t have to be in the same company to be in the same team.

Chris: That leads us very nicely to Uncommon Man. This is something that you are super, super passionate about and the reason why it links together so well is obviously the group of people coming together communicating on what is a very, very important issue that the male side doesn’t do it well enough.

And this is you creating space and holding space for people, and they come almost globally to you to have this. Do you want to tell us a bit more about that?

Rob: Yeah, so I had an experience during lockdown where someone very close to me tried to take their own life and it was a big, big shock.

And I was one of their primary supports during that period and this person is a man and seeing what he was going through really affected me and made me want to try and do something about it.

And I was fortunate enough that Mark who I was working with at the time and still one of my closest friends and Josh who is a sort of a resilience coach and does a lot of work in mental health, were really on board with creating a space as well for men to just meet and talk about whatever’s coming up.

And we were lucky enough, when we asked you Chris, “Hey can we do one of these meetups at Uncommon,” that you were supportive of it, and it’s just really taken off.

There’s people that have, like you said, flown in from Ireland, come down from Newcastle for what is just a two-hour session every month and that just shows you how much men are needing this space.

Chris: Genuinely, tickets sell out super quickly and it’s amazing to see. Do you want to just give us a bit of context on what actually happened in the sessions? Because I know from the onsite team, we were really questioning what was going on when there were certain elements to it.

Rob: Yeah. So, I will run you through it as if you are someone arriving for Uncommon Man. So, at the moment we’re running the Uncommon Liverpool Street, which has this beautiful communal area on the seventh floor.

And you’d arrive and there would be some non-alcoholic beers and soft drinks and the other men congregating and you just sort of make yourself comfortable in the first 5 or 10 minutes.

Then the men, and usually there’s about 30 or 35 of us, will stand in a circle and we’ll just say hi to everyone and we’ll go around the room and people will just give their name and what brought them here.

And sometimes it’ll just be, “Hey, I’m Tom, feeling alright today.” Sometimes you’ll get that and sometimes someone will really go into a little bit more detail as to why they have really needed to come this month. And we’ve had all sorts of reasons why, bereavements, relationship issues, mental health issues, all sorts of things.

And then we’ll go into a grounding exercise. And a grounding exercise is typically led by Mark. It changes every month, but it’s just something to get them out of work mode and just to settle their nervous system a little bit so that they can be a little bit freer of the tension that’s perhaps built up throughout the day.

And we have a lot of guys, especially if they’re coming for their first time and it’s perfectly normal to feel a little bit anxious and a little bit nervous and it just helps with that.

So, it’s kind of a cross between a guided meditation and a little bit of physical movement. It might just be as simple as shrugging your shoulders and then releasing your shoulders. Just simple things like that.

And then we’ll go into some kind of themed exercise. So, last month for example, we talked about what is your stress response? And we talked about how we know about sort of fight, flight, freeze, that sort of thing.

But we actually talked about these other six stress responses, anxious, avoidance, ambition, anger and arrogance, the five A’s. And through that exercise people explored how they respond to stress, how in their life that’s affecting them at the moment, how they’re communicating that with other people and lots of really useful insights came out of it. And they’ll go off and they’ll talk about this and usually in threes.

And then we go into a breathwork session. And a breathwork session is quite a strange thing if you’ve never done it before. But basically, you are lying on a mat, we crank some music up and you are breathing continuously for about 20 minutes.

Rob: And the way that this can affect you is A, it’s one of those moments like we are talking about Chris, where you’re doing something physical, albeit you’re lying still, but you’re really focusing in on your breath where you’re just giving yourself that space from looking at your phone or whatever it is.

So, it has that immediate effect. But also, a lot of the guys, and I’ve had this experience myself, if we’ve got these emotions kind of trapped, these tension in our body that we haven’t released for some reason it can often come out in the breathwork.

So, this can come out in the form of shaking. This is something that I’ve had a lot of where your body literally shakes, it’s quite a strange experience but once you’ve done it, it feels kind of really amazing to have got that out.

Sometimes people cry, sometimes people shout, sometimes people are just quiet, and it can go off in all different directions.

But then at the end, and this might be what you’re referring to, people saying “What actually goes on here?” All the guys let out an almighty scream at the end of the breathwork.

And I think nearly everyone can resonate with you. Sometimes you just want to scream whether that’s into a pillow, whether that’s from the rooftops, whatever it is. But it might not be appropriate wherever you are to just let out a scream. It might really worry people.

So, this is a kind of a safe space for people just to let it out. And sometimes they’re angry screams, sometimes they’re sad screams, sometimes they’re crying, sometimes they’re happy and laughing. It’s such a variety.

But there’s something very powerful about being in a room of men who are just letting out their emotion because it’s not something that just never really happens. That’s really the flow of the session. Yeah.

Chris: If anyone’s listening right now and thinking about coming to the session and think it might help, how can they find out more? What’s the website?

Rob: We have a website which is We sell all of our tickets through Eventbrite. So, if you search Uncommon Man on Eventbrite, you’ll be able to find our sessions.

But you came to a few sessions, Chris, what was your experience of it out of interest, had you done anything like it before?

Chris: It’s a weird mix of stuff like Wim Hof, got a breath work element in there that forces you to be kind of pretty present and really think about what you’re trying to do.

But the whole conversation that’s built up to the breath work side gets your head into a very different place. It’s not just, I’m doing kind of guided meditation or guided breathwork.

It is, I know I’ve really had to think about things and then you come into it and then you just go to a different place.

By the end of that you are physically and almost emotionally exhausted, but you’ve got a lot more clarity. You’ve really done something for yourself, which I think is the point that so many people just don’t.

And you get so caught in your day to day whatever’s going on in your head, this is one of those real stop moments and it really forces you to kind of take stock. Yeah, it is an amazing thing. I mean just by doing those sessions at least you are then saying stop at that moment.

Rob: Exactly. Again, it becomes one of those spaces where you can focus on you, reflect, talk things through and let out a bit of emotion if it’s in there.

These moments, whether it is with a coach, whether it’s with a therapist, whether it’s with a friend, whether it’s with a group of people, you’ve got to allow yourself that space. You’ve got to allow yourself permission to put the focus on yourself.

And I think a lot of people will always be thinking about other people and thinking about potentially pleasing other people or performing for other people, whether it’s at work or whatever else and can struggle to give themselves those moments that we all really need.

Even if you’re not in a place of desperation, let’s say you’re in a good spot, it’s going to elevate everything else. It’s going to elevate, it’s going to bring you clarity, it’s going to bring you confidence, it’s going to bring you excitement, like I said about the future.

And like you said, we should be doing more of it. And I know you mean that as in like as a society, but it’s something I’m so aware of. Like we kind of have said before, if men’s groups were as common as being part of a football team, the world would be a better place.

And what’s really cool about men’s work and men’s groups is that we all kind of support each other. It’s not this competitive space like businesses can sometimes become, it’s this sort of ecosystem.

I have a friend of mine who runs a men’s group in Ireland called Blue Balls and they’re called Blue Balls because they do a lot of sea swimming and that’s their sort of thing. So, instead of the breath work, they do the sort of sea swimming.

And we’ll talk to each other about what’s working well in the men’s group, and we’ll support each other. And there are other great men’s groups out there as well, and it’s about finding one that fits and works for you. I think it’s a really powerful thing to have.

Chris: In kind of thinking about leaving the listeners with one key takeaway, there’ve been many in our conversation, but is there just one that you would leave for kind of like a piece of wisdom from your journey and why?

Rob: It’s a hard question. If I was to pick just one thing, I would say just give it a try. Whether that is a new business or a hobby, whatever it is, just try it out, see how you feel.

So often, I think we try and pre-plan everything and we spend way too much time in planning mode rather than actually doing something. And it’s only when you actually do it whether you know that you’re going to keep doing it or whether you’re going to be good at it or whatever. So, give it a try.

Chris: Actually, speaking to a lot of people on the podcast, they very much have benefited from just giving it a try. It’s what’s the worst that could happen.

Rob: Yeah. Exactly. And there’s probably loads of positives you haven’t even thought about.

Chris: So, my final question I get to ask everyone who’s a guest on the podcast to leave a book on Uncommon’s bookshelf, what book would you leave and why?

Rob: In the interest of people at Uncommon thinking about their business, their work, their career, and also their wellbeing, I think I would leave a very lovely book called Almanack of Naval Ravikant.

Naval Ravikant is a very successful investor philosopher, and this book wasn’t actually written by him. It was someone who’s taken bits from Naval’s podcast interviews and tweets and all sorts of things like that and put it into a really lovely little book and gives a very balanced and refreshing take on business and wellbeing.

And he’s very good at simplifying things to bring complex concepts back to their core.

One of the quotes, for example, that comes from the book, which I really like, which ties into a lot of what we were talking about was “The only way to truly learn something is by doing it. Yes, listen to guidance, but don’t wait.”

Chris: That’s a lovely quote.

Rob: Have you read that book, Chris?

Chris: I actually haven’t

Rob: I went to a bookshop before this. I was trying to buy you a copy because I think you’d really, really like it, but I didn’t stock it.

Chris: We’ll have to get it online. No, it sounds great. No, I’ll definitely give that a go. Lastly, it’s just left to me to say thank you. Thanks for coming on.

Rob: Been an absolute pleasure. Thanks for asking me to come on, Chris.

[Music Playing]

Chris: Speaking with Rob, three things really stood out to me. Firstly, I really like how Rob asked himself the question, what do I wish I’d started five years ago? It’s a really good question, as we quite often create these blockers for ourselves to stop us doing the things we really want to.

Secondly, hearing about how Rob goes through an exercise to ensure he finds joy even in the small everyday tasks, however mundane they might be, is really quite amazing.

He’s right. It’s incredibly important to kind of own your own personal wellbeing while doing these sorts of things. It’s something that I hope you give a go at some point.

And finally, Rob talks about Uncommon Man. I’ve been to the sessions myself and it’s amazing to hear about these personal stories that people share and how much value they get from the session, not only the fact they travel so far for them and how quickly it sells out.

I’m super proud of what Uncommon Man’s achieved and our small part in enabling that to happen.

I hope listening to this story has inspired you. And if you haven’t already, follow Alive with Possibilities wherever you get your podcasts, as there are different learnings in each and every episode.