Yesterday, Lancaster University hosted Mark Wright’s ‘Apprentice 101 – How to succeed in Business’ talk, where he gave insight into life as an entrepreneur as well as the challenges he faces in running his digital marketing agency, Climb Online.

Climb Online has been massively successful, turning over a profit of £1.7 billion in its first year, making Climb Online the most successful business to come from the Apprentice, and the first one to turn over £1 billion.

A History of Mark’s Career

However, to be this successful Mark did not get there easily. Mark is dyslexic and didn’t do well at school, but when he left he decided he wanted to make lots of money. Mark worked at a training college where he created a website for them and did their SEO. Mark’s work allowed them to go from 200 sales to 240,000 sales – he managed to make the company hugely successful, but found he made the mistake of not asking for equity before he made them so successful.

Mark had quite the entrepreneurial spirit, so started his own SEO and PPC company, which he later sold at the age of 21. He then went travelling, and at the end of his travels he began work as a salesman at an internet marketing company. Whilst there, he disagreed with some of the ways management were running the company, and so his entrepreneurial spirit set in again. One year into the job, he created a business plan for a digital marketing agency, but found that no banks would lend him any capital.

After someone suggested he try the Apprentice, he auditioned as one of 55,000, which eventually led to him winning the series, obtaining Lord Sugar’s £250,000 investment, and also breaking the record for selling.

Mark Wright at Lancaster University Management School, presenting ‘Apprentice 101 – How to succeed in Business’ Source: Lancaster University Bright Futures Society

Mark Wright at Lancaster University Management School, presenting ‘Apprentice 101 – How to succeed in Business’
Source: Lancaster University Bright Futures Society

Entrepreneurial Lessons Mark has Learned

Winning the Apprentice has not meant that it’s been all rainbows and butterflies for Mark, there have certainly been challenges along the way: in Climb Online’s third week of business, they were sued by the largest company in the industry for copyright infringement. Although Mark was initially worried, he soon learnt that big businesses have a monopoly and when they see a small business start to get successful, they either sue them or buy them. Mark won against them in court, and showed that Climb Online is not a company to be messed with; they haven’t been sued since.

Mark has learnt many other key lessons since he started Climb Online, including that business plans are essential – over a year after starting Climb Online, he still looks at his business plan now. He also learnt how valuable mentorship is – if someone had asked him before he went on the Apprentice to choose between the £250,000 investment and Lord Sugar’s mentorship, he’d have chosen the money, but now would choose having a mentor. Mark advised on approaching mentors – find someone who has achieved the results you want to achieve, go to their talks and ask them about mentoring.

Mark’s Entrepreneurial Tips

Mark also gave some great entrepreneurial tips, one being that to be successful a company must not focus so much on new business that it forgets existing business. He gave the tip to continuously educate yourself, as he has found the more he learns the more successful he is, especially as the working world is constantly changing.

Mark pointed out that although people think they need funding to start up a business, you can start up a service business without funding. He also made the point that most people are scared to start a business, but if it doesn’t work out then you’re just in the same position as you were before you started the business. Mark advised future entrepreneurs not to have thousands of people investing in your business, as investors can eat equity out of your business.

At the end of the talk, I asked Mark if there were any downsides to being an entrepreneur, and he immediately said that there none, and that he wished he had become an entrepreneur sooner. He thinks he stayed in employment for too long, and would now never go back to working for someone else.

There are many entrepreneurs who feel this way, and who find that being self-employed is far superior to life as an employee. If you’re self-employed, what do you think are the best things about being an entrepreneur? Email, and you may be featured in an upcoming blog we are writing on entrepreneurship.

Many entrepreneurs do find that there is one big downside to being self-employed though: the accountancy side of things. Thankfully, ICS can deal with your accountancy. We’ve been working contractors, freelancers and the self-employed since 2002, taking the stresses out of accountancy, tax and paperwork, allowing you to focus on your entrepreneurial spirit.

Summary of Mark Wright’s Entrepreneurial Lessons and Tips:

  • Don’t be worried if a company tries to sue you when you start to become successful – show that you can’t be messed with
  • Business plans are essential
  • Mentorship is more valuable than money
  • Don’t focus so much on new business that you forget existing business
  • Continuously educate yourself
  • You can start up a service business without funding
  • Don’t be scared to start a business
  • Don’t have thousands of people investing in your business