Mark has spent his career largely in Silicon Valley as an executive in technology and
financial services. He was Chairman and CEO of 401kServices.com, which
provided 401K services using the Internet to clients of major financial institutions.
Before that, Mark was President of Trust Consultants, Inc., which provided
retirement plan services for clients of financial institutions including Citibank,
Wells Fargo, New York Life, Chase Manhattan Bank, and T Rowe Price. Mark has
a BA in Economics from Stanford University.
How did you get started in this business?
I spent most of my business career in Silicon Valley where the idea always was — how can technology help you change the world? That ‘s what we are doing here.
How do you make money?
We sell advertising. Most people won’t pay for subscriptions online, but they are used to seeing ads.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
In our first company, we were profitable fairly early on, but you have to watch expenses. No matter your sales, keep your expenses at the forefront and don’t let them get away from you.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Yes there are lots of times and there are always doubts. That’s very natural when you are building something that is brand new. One way to control that voice of doubt in the back of your head is by estimating the chances of success. Your chances will rarely sit perfectly at 100%, but it is even rarer that your chances are zero. So, keep hope and keep moving forward.
How did you get your first customer?
Years ago I found someone who knew as little as I did and we got along great. Ha. We decided together to help a mutual client and managed not to foul it up. Those small transactions and relationships turned into a business.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Scouring the internet for people who display certain online activity that points toward the fact that they might be interested in your product. The internet is a fabulous prospecting tool to quickly and, without much expense, help you zero in on those people who are likely to be interested in what you are selling; while weeding out the consumers who clearly don’t care.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
There were several moments where we truly had to decide whether to hold back in fear/cut our losses and run or to start working that much harder and keep moving forward. Fear can paralyze you and give you very sane and valid reasons to stop; but as John Wayne said, “Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.” I like to think of myself as more of a ‘John Wayne’ type entrepreneur… with the hat and the boots and all. Haha.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
It is a combination of many factors. We are all given many gifts from God and from our parents and simply through childhood circumstances that we aren’t responsible for; being born in America, having an education, having gifts and abilities. You have to put them in gear at the right time, and always stay grateful that you were given these gifts and opportunities to employ down the road.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Selling a business successfully, then starting a new venture.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
There are tremendous online opportunities worldwide. The whole world will be online and connected and the future is ours.
What business books have inspired you?
Ogilvy on Advertising; Megatrends; and books about online marketing.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Just believe in yourself and what you do. A ‘no’ is not forever. Persevere and continue to believe in yourself and what you bring to the table and you will succeed.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
I mentor locally through a few organizations. If I had an extra moment to spare, I would open that up to a broader group, but right now my plate is overflowing.