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Jazz Shapers

Shaper: Mark Wright

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Welcome to the Jazz Shapers Podcast from Mishcon de Reya. What you are about to hear was originally broadcast on Jazz FM however the music has been cut or shortened due to rights issues.

Good morning this is Jazz Shapers; it is where the Shapers of Business meet the Shapers of Jazz, Soul and Blues and I am very pleased to say that my guest today is Mark Wright; the Founder, indeed the Co-founder along with Lord Alan Sugar, and Director of Climb Online, a results driven digital marketing agency. Born in Australia, Mark moved to the UK in 2012 with just, it says here, £172 – that is very precise – and he found a position selling digital advertising services. In 2014 he pitched his business, Climb Online, to Alan Sugar on the BBC’s Apprentice and watched by millions, he went on to win the series – that couldn’t have been easy – we’ll talk a little bit about that. The impact was huge, as Mark says, some of the top companies in the world would work with us and we wouldn’t have been able to build the company so quickly without the show; it’s been a life changer really. Climb Online services including social media, content creation, paid media, as well as search engine optimisation have attracted clients such as Emirates, Hewlett Packard and Made.com; I’m sure you have heard of some of those. And in partnership with Lord Sugar, Adam’s aim is to unleash the success and growth of businesses worldwide – I love that word ‘unleash’ – whilst working towards one simple goal; scalable profit. “We don’t claim to have reinvented the world” says Mark, “but we’ve certainly changed the game.” We’ll be talking to him in a few minutes about all of this, his plans for expansion and his passion to inspire entrepreneurs globally – no small thing to pack in before 10.00am. We’ve also got brilliant music to get your weekend on its feet from amongst others BB King, Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin. That’s today’s Jazz Shapers ladies and gentleman. Here’s Snarky Puppy with Thing of Gold.

That was Snarky Puppy with Thing of Gold and it was beautiful too. My Business Shaper, beautiful as well, is Mark Wright; he’s the Founder, I said Co-founder because he was on that, THAT programme, I think it was Series 10, I think it was 2014, and he was the winner and he is right here with me now and he is now, ladies and gentleman, a successful entrepreneur!

Mark Wright
Hey what an introduction. How are you?

Elliot Moss
I know, it’s always better I think to stop at the introduction, it’s a bit like quit while you are ahead.

Mark Wright
Exactly. I might go now.

Elliot Moss
We can make this the shortest programme on Jazz Shapers ever. Mark Wright. And there he is. And he is available for all sorts of things. Welcome. £172? What’s that about?

Mark Wright
Well, thank you. It’s good to be with you. Thank you for having me on here. I always listen to your station, particularly when I am in the dentist, so anyone who is in the dentist chair right now, hello, I’m always in your position listening to this station. So, £172, I went backpacking around the world on a two year ticket. I got to Berlin in Germany and realised I had run out of money. I needed to go to the closest town which spoke English which was London. I got here, I was living just down the road in Victoria in the White Ferry House and I looked in my bank account and I had £172 and in England, in London, that’s not a lot of money, I quickly found out. I needed to get a job pretty quickly so I got a job as a digital marketing sales person. Started selling that, I was working at one of the biggest companies in the country; I really disagreed with the way they treated their staff, I really disagreed with the way they treated their customers. We have a saying in Australia, ‘Don’t get bitter, get better’ so if you think you can do something better than someone else, go out and do it. So, I put together a business plan for what I thought would be the best digital marketing agency in the UK. I took it to four High Street banks for a £25,000 loan but because I am not from the UK, I am from Australia, they wouldn’t even open an account for me so I went on The Apprentice.

Elliot Moss
And applying for The Apprentice – I look at it and I just think it’s a bit like Big Brother but much worse because the pain just doesn’t stop and you have to do stuff that you also have… but you are also being judged on your brain, you are also being given unrelenting and unfair feedback in front of people, I mean it’s properly humiliating, but you got through that, I mean, when you applied for it did you think ‘Oh it’s just worth a go’ or did you think it through?

Mark Wright
I had never seen the show before.

Elliot Moss
A much better way because if you had seen the show you probably wouldn’t have applied.

Mark Wright
You are probably quite right because I am a real business person. I think that I had never heard of…

Elliot Moss
It’s going to start early.

Mark Wright
…who Lord Sugar was. I hadn’t seen the programme. Lord Sugar hates when I say that by the way.

Elliot Moss
It’s okay, you’re not the only one. There’s plenty of people that haven’t heard of Lord Sugar. Maybe he should join me here on Jazz Shapers in 2020. We’ll see what he thinks.

Mark Wright
Exactly. So, I went down to the try-outs with one of my friends who was trying out and there was seventy five thousand people there which was just the most crazy experience. I didn’t realise it was so popular, I didn’t think so many people would be trying out but I am really competitive so they got me in an environment against thousands of other people and we went to an eleven storey building and they eliminate half the people at each level of the building so, the competition was starting to just warm up and I got so into it and going from the sort of seventy thousand to the final thousand to the final one hundred, I thought “God, this is getting pretty close so I might actually get onto this programme here.” They called me in to the final twenty and onto the show, onto the first call of the show, and I thought I then went back and watched some of the previous series to see what I was in for and I established a pattern, I went onto Wikipedia, I looked at all who all the winners were, I went back and watched their journey throughout the programme and I was trying to look for a pattern in what Alan Sugar looks for in the winners and I discovered that if you can get through the first week – the first week is like Russian roulette – he doesn’t know who anyone is, they just have to fire someone so the person who goes in the first week of the show is pretty unlucky, to my mind, it is a bit of gamble but after that you can establish rank amongst the other contestants and also you can get known by Lord Sugar, Karen and Claud – in my year it was Nick Hewar – so, I knew if I could get through Week 1, I’d win based on the pattern I had established from the previous series and I was right, I got through the first week by not putting myself forward as Project Manager, then I got on his radar and bish bosh bang, £250,000 mentorship from Lord Sugar and here we are.

Elliot Moss
And here we are indeed. And that, ladies and gentleman, is how you look at the way to increase your odds of success. That’s proper analysis. Stay with me to find out what happened next when Mark Wright took the world by storm back then but it’s since then, as he said, he’s a serious business person, he’s actually gone on and done something successful with his business and other interests too. Lots more coming up from him very shortly. Time for some more music right now, it is BB King with Better Not Look Down.

That was BB King with Better Not Look Down and Mark Wright who is now my Business Shaper here today, but he was on The Apprentice all those years ago and it sounds like he played it well, to say the least. Tell me about why digital marketing back then, before you then launched your business, I think in 2015. Was it just because you ended up in a digital sales job or was there something about, you know what, this is the obvious thing to do for a person like you?

Mark Wright
Well, to be honest, it chose me in a way and I think all good careers, and you shouldn’t stop searching for a career or a job until you find out that you are really good at something, you are the best at it and when you work there for a day it doesn’t feel like work, that’s how you know when you are in the right career. It doesn’t look like it now but when I finished school I was a personal trainer. I am dyslexic, I can’t read and write very well, I failed at school, I was in the half of the class that made the top half possible, and I finished school and I needed a job really quickly and the quickest one I could get without qualifications was personal training. I started training one of the richest men in Australia and I said to him “How do I get rich? I really want to be rich. I really want to be successful.” He said “Son, don’t be a personal trainer.” I said “Well, how do I make money?” He said “The people who make money are in sales and marketing.” So, I quit being a personal trainer and went to work at the college where I did my personal training certificate and the college was going bankrupt, it only had, the first month I worked there we got $2000 in sales, in Australian dollars, and I said to the owner, “This is a really good product but we need to get it in front of more people” and I said “How are you advertising?” and he said “We’re in the Yellow Pages.” I said, “No one reads or looks at the Yellow Pages anymore, we need to be on Google.” He said “I don’t know anything about that” so I taught myself how to build a website and get his website up the rankings of Google and in three months we went to number one for the word ‘personal training courses’ and the turnover went from $2000 to $240,000 and I kind of knew what my career was going to be; I’d found something that I enjoyed, I’d found something that I was good at and I just think there was lots of money to be made and when you are good at something and you enjoy it, you should keep doing that.

Elliot Moss
Let me ask you about the money thing because I have met lots and lots of people over the years and some people have a passion for something and then the money comes out the other end. Some people are also the other end of the spectrum and they just want the money. In your childhood, was there an absence of money? Was there clarity that you had to go and earn money? Where does that desire come from to have your own so that you are independent?

Mark Wright
My parents are both working class people, they both owned their own businesses so when I was at the dinner table in the evening, there’s no University Degrees in my family, I would be hearing conversations like “How am I going to pay the wages this week? How am I going to pay the rent? John didn’t turn up for work today. Sally’s not turning up tomorrow. Staff problems.” All of these things so, that was the conversation that was going into me as a child and to go to school, the school that I wanted to go to, my mum had to work two jobs, so she’d work at day in a hairdressing business that she owned and then she’d work at McDonald’s as a cleaner in the evening and I remember one moment is burned into my brain as I went to the McDonald’s and my mum was cleaning the tables and I thought to myself, “I am going to get old and rich so my mum doesn’t have to clean tables at McDonald’s” and actually I still think about that today and I don’t know, that’s probably a key to it. Since I’ve been in the job for so long and owned so many businesses, money is now not so much of a problem and I don’t think about money anymore, I think about creating things, creating jobs, creating a brand, creating a legacy so the money was a driver really early on for me and now, the drivers have changed.

Elliot Moss
And when did those drivers start to change? Was it when the money became less of an issue or were there other epiphanies if you like on the way, Mark?

Mark Wright
When you are a young boy, like I was, I think you think that fame and money can answer a lot of problems. I have been very lucky early on in my life to have a bit of fame and a bit of money and what you really quickly learn is neither of them solves anything. And I hope that everyone in life, if they want fame and money gets it because you quickly realise that doesn’t answer anything, that feeling good comes from within yourself and creating and helping others and I was very fortunate to learn that early on and since doing that and creating things, I’ve made more money than I would have if I chased the money.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me to find out more from my very honest guest, Mark Wright. He’s the Founder of Climb Online along with a certain Lord Sugar who neither of us have heard of. He’ll be back in a couple of minutes but first we’re going to hear from one of our partners at Mishcon de Reya and they’ve got some advice for your business.
You can enjoy all our former Jazz Shapers and indeed hear this programme again with Mark; THE Mark Wright, not the other Mark Wright or even the other one, and all you have to do is ask Alexa to play Jazz Shapers and there you can hear many of the recent programmes, or if you pop Jazz Shapers into iTunes or your preferred podcast platform, then the full archive awaits you, and that’s around 400 fantastic guests, and that’s incredible and we are going to have even more by the end of 2020. But back to today’s Business Shaper; Founder and Director of Climb Online, it’s Mark Wright. It’s a, and they are they say, a results driven digital marketing agency. I want to jump forward to launching this business and in my own working life I am very familiar with all the different bits of kit that digital agencies might sell clients. What differentiates the way that you deliver your services because for those people that don’t know, there are a range of services in your business and they go from search engines and optimisation through to provide content I am sure, building websites, maybe some e-commerce stuff, there’s all those things in there you and probably thirty or forty other yous are offering just the same thing to big businesses so what distinguishes Mark and his team?

Mark Wright
I think the reason I got into this is exactly because there was thirty or forty people offering me the same thing and…

Elliot Moss
I’m saying that, at the top end obviously there’s hundreds, thousands.

Mark Wright
…there’s three thousand registered Google partners in the UK at the moment and you probably if you are listening to this and have a business, you get emails from India, from China, from Pakistan, from companies in the UK and the thing that I discovered people weren’t tying the results back to the sales it was generating; we go in and have genuine business conversations with customers and say “We are going to ask you to spend X and we are going to produce you Y and if we don’t produce it, you don’t have to pay” and I was the first person to ever do that and it made a lot of enemies in the industry because I believe if you are not providing a service and you don’t receive results, you shouldn’t have to pay for them and I’ve made a lot of enemies and I am not welcome at many business conferences in my sector but actually, I have created one of the fastest growing and most successful companies in the sector by being honest to people and providing a good service and good results and it’s worked so far and we’ve attracted some big names.

Elliot Moss
And you are across the country as well.

Mark Wright
Yes.

Elliot Moss
What’s the logic of that? Because often again, there are very London focussed kind of businesses but you, I think, have gone to Bristol, you are in Manchester…

Mark Wright
Correct.

Elliot Moss
…and obviously there are huge amounts of businesses around the country but you’ve chosen to invest?

Mark Wright
I believe that local people in this country particularly, focus on one city called London and there are amazing businesses and amazing entrepreneurs all around the country and people like to work with local businesses and I think so far, you know, I am an internet business but we use the internet as an excuse not to connect personally with people and I believe offering the best service and a human touch no matter what business you are in creates a better customer service and a higher retention of customers and better results for the customer. So, by having local hubs as we call them, we are able to offer a better service and a more personal service and it’s something that a lot of people have forgotten about. Most agencies are creating one business in the centre of each country; it might be America, Australia and the UK and forgetting about towns like Leeds, Manchester, Bristol, whatever it might be and even in this country, you know, you’ve got Scotland and Wales and Ireland, Northern Ireland, which have incredible companies where we’ve been able to get some really big campaigns and have tremendous results because they’ve just been forgotten by the traditional London agencies.

Elliot Moss
And in terms of you, you talk about clients needing personal touch and that’s a distinction and that’s very, that’s absolutely true, it must be right. For you running this business now as the boss, moving away from the ‘fame’ bit and then the money bit and there’s a bit of ‘Oh, isn’t that the guy from Lord Sugar?’ and now it’s the serious stuff, the doors are shut, you’ve got real conversations with real people who are depending on you to ensure that they can earn enough money to go off and live their lives, what is your own style? How do you go to market?

Mark Wright
In terms of my management of my people? I try to make everyone who I work with at any point in their career, a better person. I try and refine anyone I work with, we talk about quality, I like things done properly and quickly and I think speed is a currency that we work in and if you are talk to my staff, they would probably say I am a pretty tough manager because I believe in my people in a lot of times more than they believe in themselves and I want people to think of me not as a good guy but respect me when they go and go “I learn a lot from him” so, I haven’t really answered your question; I would say I am a tough manager because I want the best for me clients and my reputation and Lord Sugar’s reputation is really important to me so the quality of the work that we produce has to be five stars so, I am hard on my people but I make them better and we make our clients happy.

Elliot Moss
On the impact of being on telly and then having Lord Sugar as a mentor; I asked the question about you being behind closed doors and what’s the reality of you managing people. What’s the reality of the conversations you have where Lord Sugar as a Co-investor, as a Co-founder, is giving you business advice? Strip away the fact the cameras are looking, strip away the microphone and it’s just you and him, what’s that like?

Mark Wright
What doesn’t come across on The Apprentice is just how wealthy he is and just how many businesses he has. I didn’t understand, he is a really successful businessman and working in his offices which I did for the first year following the programme, you get an understanding of how much he has actually achieved, particularly through Amstrad and through commercial property development in the UK. The other thing I didn’t really comprehend is, he comes across tough on the TV, he is ten times as tough in real life, I have never met a more hardnosed, tough business person full stop. He is incredibly straight talking, he is incredibly ruthless in his, you know, in the way his day-to-day dealings are and I have learnt a lot from him and probably not in the lessons he so much has given me but watching him conduct himself around the office is quite incredible, he has had employees that have worked with him for fifty five years and he walks into the room and there’s silence, there’s cereal bowls going under the desks, people sit up straight, the mobile phones are gone, he still has the fear in the people forty or fifty years after they’ve started working with him, it’s pretty incredible and he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to business.

Elliot Moss
In terms of the fear though, obviously people are intellectually intimidating and intimidating because they are successful and generally just because they know stuff about whatever it is that they are talking about. That only lasts for so long, I mean if someone is really nasty to you, you are not going to want to work with them. You just mentioned the fact that there is huge loyalty and here you are now, four/five years you know later having started knowing him then and knowing him now in the business. Why does the combination of fear and loyalty come together? What is it that makes the sense of being with him not so uncomfortable that you want to come back again?

Mark Wright
Because I think he never says anything that’s not true. I think if you are a bully and you are just mean to people for the sake of it, you are just saying things to be nasty or be a tough guy. What I have found with Lord Sugar is, he’s very loyal, he’s very tough but he’s very fair and he’s very honest, and there’s also stories of, you know, employees that are in his employment that have gotten fallen ill and he has paid for their cancer treatment privately, you know £40,000, £50,000, £60,000 and he’s just written a cheque and paid for it and he’s looked after their families and their friends and all of that stuff but under the condition that nobody knows about it. I think deep down he’s actually a good guy and I think more than anything when you are working in a company that’s always moving forward, that’s investing in new ideas, new businesses, there’s always new companies and new entrepreneurs walking around, it’s an exciting environment and he’s tough but he gets results. If he was just tough and the business was going backwards and he was bullying people, I don’t think it would work so I think that beneath it all he has a strategy and a reason to why he is like he is.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for my final chat with Mark today. Plus we will be playing a track from Aretha Franklin and that’s all coming up in just a moment.
That was the incredibly uplifting, and I don’t think I’ve heard that before ridiculously, Rock Steady from the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. This is Jazz Shapers, you are here on Jazz FM with me, Elliot Moss just for a few more minutes. I am with Mark Wright and we’ve been talking about fame, money, serious business, Lord Sugar and all sorts. A couple of more questions for you, the first one is, you were very complimentary about Lord Sugar and you talked about his toughness. What’s the difference? How are you different to him in the way that you conduct yourself? I got the tough bit and you’ve obviously picked that up from him and the hardnosed bit, you’ve obviously picked that up from him or indeed you felt comfortable bringing that part of your personality. Where do you diverge?

Mark Wright
I think we are very similar in a lot of respects and in a way I think that’s why he chose me to be his business partner, I think we are both good salesmen, I think we are both ambitious, I think we are both hardnosed, I think we take a lot of risks. I also think if you have any millionaire, billionaire, entrepreneur, whatever it is, those are pretty common crossovers in a lot of them. I think where we go our… we kind of crossover and where I am slightly a bit different is I am lot more personable I would say as an individual, I think I am a bit more soft when it comes to the relationships that I have and I allow into my life whether that’s good or it’s a bad thing and I am bit more flexible in my day-to-day dealings. I think Lord Sugar’s got a pretty rigid way that he runs his life and his diary and stuff and I am a bit more easy come easy go and actually I have found that having that approach is part of my personality but it’s brought me a lot of success and I think being a nice bloke is, if I can be remembered for anything I think that would be one of the most important things to me because how you make other people feel is how they remember you, not how much money you’ve made them.

Elliot Moss
Although I am going to quote you something, you said something back a few months ago in the national press, I think.

Mark Wright
Oh that’ll be The Telegraph. This’ll be good.

Elliot Moss
No, this good, it’s nice because you are a man after my own heart, you described yourself as a diary nerd. I believe that you programme your week ahead every Sunday, make time for gym sessions, socialising…

Mark Wright
Yes.

Elliot Moss
…I do the same. It’s a good thing. If you don’t put it in, it doesn’t happen.

Mark Wright
Yes.

Elliot Moss
You’ve got to be… have the whole cliché above your bed, ‘Don’t write it down, it doesn’t happen’. I don’t do that by the way.

Mark Wright
What gets measured, gets achieved.

Elliot Moss
And all that stuff. But I quite like that you do that because I think otherwise life doesn’t quite work the right way for you. If that’s true and you give yourself time in your diary, is that how you manage to now look at properties I believe you are looking at other, you are diversifying a little bit.

Mark Wright
Great research.

Elliot Moss
Yeah, I have very good researchers you know. They are brilliant. In fact, they should be here.

Mark Wright
Unbelievable.

Elliot Moss
They are sneaky, they find all sorts of things out. But is that how you find the time because you literally go, those four hours is going to be for me to think about that new business?

Mark Wright
Because this, my organisation now is because of the mistakes I made early on in my career. When I first started my first company I was working crazy hours. What came along with working crazy hours is eating poorly, not sleeping much, drinking too much, doing all the wrong things and my health was declining, my business was super successful by the way, but my health and my lifestyle was going down the toilet so, I did a lot of things in time management, I looked at health and work life balance and stuff that probably Lord Sugar would turn his nose up, but it really gave me an incredible life now. Every Sunday I plan my diary a week in advance so I look at when I will go to the gym, when I will see my friends and family, when I will sit particular meetings and when I will just have time where there’s no schedule, time to just be me and I have done that really successfully and my company is actually more successful from ever from doing that and I feel a lot better sitting here than I did in the first couple of years starting the company.

Elliot Moss
It’s been really nice talking to you, Mark.

Mark Wright
Thank you for having me.

Elliot Moss
You are evidently doing real things which is great, it isn’t just the puff of the television programme. I think what I’ve learnt today is that there is serious substance underneath that and that’s a good thing. Really good luck with everything. Just before I say au revoir, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Mark Wright
Ah, well this was so easy. Coming to Jazz FM to pick out one of my favourite jazz songs and of course it has an entrepreneurial route, one of my favourite films, if not my favourite, is Whiplash, a film that shows a young man’s journey becoming a drummer in a jazz band and how tough it is right at the top of this industry so my song is Whiplash.

Elliot Moss
That was Hank Levy with Whiplash, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Mark Wright. He was mature in his approach to the fame and the money, there was no sense that he would get seduced by that. He was also very substantive, someone who really wanted to be, and is indeed, a successful business person. And just like his mentor, just like his Co-founder, a very driven young man, someone who wants to work hard, someone who has got a very strong work ethic and is doing really well. That’s it from Jazz Shapers, have a great weekend.

Welcome to the Jazz Shapers Podcast from Mishcon de Reya. What you are about to hear was originally broadcast on Jazz FM however the music has been cut or shortened due to rights issues.

Moving to the UK from Australia in 2012 with just £172 in his pocket, Mark Wright has since become an award-winning entrepreneur and self-taught digital marketing specialist, Co-Founding results driven digital marketing agency – Climb Online.

Finding a job selling digital advertising services, in 2014 Mark pitched his business, Climb Online, to Lord Alan Sugar on the BBC’s Apprentice and went on to win the series. As the most successful business to have been founded by an Apprentice winner to date, Climb Online is renowned for its disruptive approach to digital marketing, working with household brands to generate profit and scale growth.

In 2017 Mark was recognised on the Forbes 30 under 30 list [Europe], and has since won a many business accolades including Entrepreneur’s Team of the Year at the 2018 Great British Entrepreneur Awards and Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2018 UK Business Awards.

Follow Mark on Twitter @Mark_E_Wright.

Interview highlights

I was working for one of the biggest companies in the country, and I really disagreed with the way they treated their staff and the way they treated their customers.

If you feel you can do something better than someone else, go out and do it. 

I am a real business person.

You shouldn’t stop searching for a career until you find what you are really good at. When you do a day’s work and it doesn’t feel like work, that’s how you know when you are in the right career.

I think about creating things, creating jobs, a brand, a legacy.

When you are young, you think that fame and money can answer a lot of problems…but what you really quickly learn is neither of them solves anything.

I believe that local people, in this country particularly, focus on London yet there are amazing businesses and entrepreneurs all around the country.

I believe in offering the best service and a human touch no matter what business you are in.

I try to make everyone who I work with at any point in their career, a better person.

I like things done properly.

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