Mark Wright discusses business cliffhangers and looks back over a surprising 2020

Accepting stress as part of life and learning how to deal with the challenges of business so it doesn’t impact you negatively. That’s the aim.

Mark Wright, MD and Founder of Climb Online discusses those moments in life and business which push you to the edge.

Whet your appetite with this then listen to the full version on the new Business Matters Cliffhanger podcast 

Has anything ever happened with Climb Online where you’ve thought, ‘whoa, that was a cliffhanger moment. I’d better sort that out before Lord Sugar hears about it …’?

When I went on The Apprentice, I had 83 twitter followers which suddenly jumped to 94,000 so I went from being quite literally like an everyday Joe Bloggs, which I still am today, by the way, to being very well known, very quickly. But that actually resulted in upsetting a lot of people in the SEO digital marketing web design, PPC space. They got very upset, feeling that I didn’t deserve the success as I was too young. Everyone came out of the woodwork to share their disgust with me. So when I launched my website, my first ever website it got attacked, and given a ‘denial of service attack’ status. So Lord Sugar had been with this particular hosting company for 35 years, since domains were invented, and they rang Lord Sugar’s IT advisor and told him that they had to cancel Lord Sugar’s account, because the attack on Climb Online was so significant it was going to kill their whole business and every website on their server. And that was one definite tough moment. Three hundred things in the first year went wrong, where each day was just so hard. Starting a business is really tough, starting a business and kind of being famous for the first time is really hard because people are willing you to fail because it’s a great story. And there’s something about human nature is, we don’t want the people who are number one to stay there, you kind of want to have a story of them falling it’s like that Britney Spears documentary that’s on right now, it’s all about the story of when things get tough.

Has it got any easier?

It’s been a long road since The Apprentice, let me tell you, especially after the last year, that was the easy part of the journey. It’s never got easier, however, the element that’s changed is that I’ve just got better at dealing with it. So what used to be a critical stressful situation for me, it’s just like it’s like a Tuesday morning now, so I just fix it so it doesn’t even doesn’t even register by the time I go to bed that night,

What advice to fixing it would you extend to our readers?

Taking a deep breath, knowing that it’s not going to be the end. I think you can get yourself into a bit of a panic over any one or many problems. Just try to deal with one issue at a time, believe that it’s not going to end the business and get through it. It’s crucial to adopt this mindset because the bigger your business gets, the more problems there are. They say a business owner goes through a serious crisis every 3.2 months or something like that so dealing with issues is just the nature of the beast.

I remember, writing about Lord Sugar’s advice to you I think this time last year when Covid just happened. And it was very much: stop focusing on being profit and loss, and right now remodel finances to just make sure that you can stay in business. Is that how you tackled COVID? How has this last year been for you?

You’ve got a great memory and that’s exactly what happened. So, March 2020, we lost 42% of our business in two days. It was horrendous. There was a lot of overreaction before anything had actually happened, people knew something was on the horizon, lockdown was about to happen, they didn’t know what to do so they just started to react. And what they did was just start to pause marketing, furlough sales staff, fire sales staff, fire marketing staff. So we just got decimated over the course of a week. So I met with Lord Sugar to put a plan in place, we looked at all of our costs and made some tough decisions, and ultimately our business was fine. But then what we started to see was businesses recognise that they had overreacted and they started to come back because they realised they still needed customers and they still needed to perform. So, everyone started to come back, and the campaigns were working better than ever because everyone was sat at home on their phones and their tablets and had more time to digest ads, basically. People started spending more and all of a sudden our business went from losing half our customers to back to where we were, to double then triple where we were. We’re now at the point where every month has been a record for the last six months. So it’s been a year of contrasts – our worst month ever to our best.

Well that’s great to hear that it’s gone that way – preparing for the worst and then hoping for the best.

It’s been very stressful, and there’s been a lot of changes but this is why I love being in business so much – one day you can get out of bed, and you think your business is going down the toilet and you’ve lost half your company, so you’re contemplating failure. Six months later, you’ve done record business and you’re contemplating being a multi-multimillionaire. A lot of success in life and business is perseverance. We’ve all been thrown challenges, particularly in the last 12 months and it’s how you comprehend that challenge and how you react to it. Then reward your team. I think everyone sees a good business and points out who the amazing entrepreneur or business person is that started it. But if you have a good business you know that there is a good team somewhere with some incredibly intelligent, hardworking people that’s making those companies the companies that they are.

Cherry Martin

Cherry Martin

Cherry is Associate Editor of Business Matters with responsibility for planning and writing future features, interviews and more in-depth pieces for what is now the UK’s largest print and online source of current business news.
Cherry Martin

Cherry is Associate Editor of Business Matters with responsibility for planning and writing future features, interviews and more in-depth pieces for what is now the UK’s largest print and online source of current business news.