getting to know you: Mark Roy

What do you currently do?
I am Founder and Chairman of REaD Group.

I might have a different style than more traditional Chairmen. Of course I work with the management team to ensure that we constantly strive to do things better, give our clients better value and boost our bottom line.  But I’ve just spent 2 years building a remarkable management team comprising people who are better at stuff than me, and I want to be alongside them for the ride!  So a lot of my time is back where it began in crafting disruptive strategies, challenging the status quo, creating product concepts and generally boosting the profile of the good ship REaD Group.  Oh… and of course constantly reminding ourselves that this is meant to fun!  I’m having a blast.

What is the inspiration behind your business?
I’d be lying if I said there was a master plan when I launched REaD Group in 1991.  The truth of the matter is that the business was born out of necessity; my contract had ended at my current job in marketing and I needed to pay the bills.  One of the first things I’d done in my previous role was put questionnaires on the backs of aeroplane seats when people came back from their holidays. Some of the comments weren’t terribly polite, but understanding why customers leave you is crucial to stopping them doing it. I called the concept ‘negative marketing’ and set about building a business around it.

Who do you admire?
I tend to admire behaviour rather than individuals. Sometime over the past twenty years, business became so faceless that having a personality was seen as character flaw.  So I admire people who are honest and true, say what they mean and act on it.

A few examples would be: Richard Branson, because of the loyalty that he generates with his customers through great customer service and response; Steve Jobs, because nothing was going to get in the way of his beliefs (he may have been many things, but he was certainly honest to himself);  Richard Reed (Innocent) took on the giants and ‘smashed’ them. A simple idea, magnificently delivered.

Three beach bums that took on the world and won by doing it THEIR way.

Looking back are there things you would have done differently?
There is honestly not enough time to take you through them! Most relate to bad decisions around people, but also my approach to advice.  People make businesses and as a business owner you become reliant on people.  The problem is that your future ends up in the hands of someone else, not you! I got myself embroiled in all sorts of mess around shareholdings and ownership. My advice is DO NOT dilute without the ability to unwind it.

The second thing is that as a new business founder, EVERYONE has advice for you.  In retrospect, I would have been more sceptical about the advice I received from professional advisors.  In my experience, people are lawyers, auditors and accountants for a reason and that reason is most often that they have difficulty thinking outside the box.  Auditors these days are a tick box process and lawyers are great at channelling you down the most expensive route.  My advice would be tell them what you want and make them tell you why that is not a good decision.

What defines your way of doing business?  
That’s easy, passion. Trust me, after 26 years of doing this there are times when it has been unbelievably hard to maintain ones passion. As business owners we must lead and by definition that means that someone must be following you.  I’ve always tried to create a culture where people can express themselves through debate and opinion and in turn they feel valued and respected.  For this to be meaningful we all need to be on the same page, have the same objectives and goals leading to the same end.  To be a successful business owner, your people have to believe in you and in what you believe in.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out? 
Well, I have a little golden rule (after 26 years). It will take twice as long, cost twice as much and only deliver half the EBIT that you have forecast. If your plan still works after those ‘adjustments’, then you might, just might make it!

Whatever your business idea is, question it, interrogate it, tear it apart, then do it again and again, then ask your best friends to do the same, then repeat!  Flush out any fundamental issues BEFORE you spend a penny.

Be real – be you.  When I started my business I would do anything to win the business.  I soon found that the more I was myself the more successful we became.  I believe that good guys do win, particularly in today’s climate.  Do business with integrity, be honest to clients, suppliers and to yourself and you will find that you create a loyalty based business that will go from strength to strength.