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In this series, I uncover the insights and strategies behind the world’s most interesting entrepreneurs. Today, I had the pleasure of catching up with Mark Denham Founder and CEO of, Source Workspace.
Here is what he shared me…
John White: What is your backstory? How did you become an entrepreneur?
Mark Denham: I became an entrepreneur at the age of seven, and I wanted to start a little lawn mowing business, and so my sister taught me how to print up cards on a typewriter, and I went around and called on all the neighbors and introduced myself and handed out my business card, and I got two callbacks and two customers, and that’s how I got started being an entrepreneur.
John White: I love it. That’s cool. Alright. How have you been able to scale up your company from idea stage to where you are now?
Mark Denham: I think the first part of that is to find out that proof of concept, that you’re on to something good, that the market is acceptable of your concept or your idea. And then, put together the right team — ’cause usually entrepreneurs, of the three or four disciplines in business, they’re usually good at one or two of them, but not all of them — and either surround yourself with people that have those other disciplines or are a consultant for those disciplines to help you map out and chart your course.
But once you do that and you really have the best player in the right position, you’ve done all of your budgeting, your projections, you’ve capitalized the company properly, and you execute your marketing plan, maybe getting an early adopter customer as a beta test is really good, even before you come out from behind the curtain.
John White: What has been your biggest challenge thus far in your entrepreneurial journey?
Mark Denham: I would say knowing what you’re good at and knowing what you’re not good at. And if there are not people around you that are really good at those items that you’re not strong on, and you have to step in and do them yourself, I think the business suffers. It definitely slows up the growth. It’s not playing into the strength of the entrepreneur. And today, you can’t go it alone. You need people to make it happen, and nobody is the perfect entrepreneur that has every discipline dialed. They’re just not around, very few of them, and you need help, and I think it’s just understanding that and having access to those people.
John White: Great answer. Okay, the next question: Can you share your best advice with prospective entrepreneurs?
Mark Denham: I would say don’t ever quit. It’s not an easy road. There’s going to be a lot of dark moments. There will be a ton of people that will question you, what you’re doing, why you’re doing this, why don’t you just go get a normal job. It could be even your spouse or your girlfriend or something like that: “How are you going to support our family?” All these questions come up where people question your motives, why you’re doing this or whether you’re going to be successful.
I certainly had a lot of that, probably ten to one, a negative comment to a positive comment, for those that are close by. So, you have to look beyond that. You have to just be super focused on what your goal is. I wrote mine down. I read them three times a day. I had a visual board in front of me at all times, and I saw where I was going to go. This is my roadmap. And because it’s easy to get knocked off balance, and all of a sudden you find yourself in the ditch, so I would say stay focused and don’t quit.
John White: In terms of marketing your business, what have you found to be the most effective?
Mark Denham: Well, first of all, there’s a lot of demands of being an entrepreneur, and it’s very easy to get pulled down into the weeds to where you’re working in your business instead of on your business. This is something that I struggled with a long time, and you have to make time for your marketing. There’s nobody that has a better voice than you about your products, your vision, your business, and you need to make time for it.
I find the best way to do that is just to get away, do it outside of the office, get away from it, it’s quiet, where you can write, put your ideas down. You may have somebody with you that’s helping you do that, pull that all out. But to clarify your vision for the business, to speak from your voice I think is really effective. Clarity, honesty, integrity, those are things that are really important. People are looking, “Why should I do business with you, and how are you different?”, and we need to convey those messages to people.
But I would say social media today is really where it’s at, to be out there hiring good people to do that. You can’t expect to be a LinkedIn expert, a Twitter expert, or any place else where you need to have a voice, and so I have found people that are very effective in those areas. We have a new business that we started last year, and we’re just in the early stages of launching that, and I’m excited that we have the right team pulled together.
John White: Okay. Is there anything you would do differently when you first started out that you wish you knew then?
Mark Denham: Okay. Getting back to the three or four legs of things that you need to be successful in business, I would say if I did anything differently, I would’ve brought together those missing legs and had them a part of the business from the ground up.
Skin in the game, the disciplines that many entrepreneurs lack. Some are great at product development, or finance, or sales, marketing, or vendor relations. There’s just a bunch of things you’ve got to be really good at, and it’s very rare to have all of those, and it’s good to have it. So, in hindsight being 20/20 that I had those people on board identified, they had skin in the game, they were part of the team. I didn’t go it alone.
John White: Okay, Mark, what is the next step in your journey? What does the future hold for you?
Mark Denham: Well, since I sold my last business a couple of years ago, I’ve been working on taking issues that are environmental problems, like recycled materials and what to do with them, and trying to incorporate that into something that’s useful for people. My industry background is commercial interiors, and so we’ve come along products that are made out of recycled water bottles, and so I really love that. There’s a purpose behind that.
The first prototype that we had was a phone booth that had over 2,000 recycled water bottles in each booth, and that was something, to leave a legacy behind. It mattered that you were here, that you actually did something to make our world a better place. So, I’m focusing on that.
However, I have goals of millions and millions and millions of recycled water bottles and putting them into all kinds of things, making furniture out of it, lining walls with it, creating sound-mitigating material for people. Just about anything you can do with this, I’m trying to come up with some solution for that.