Mark Wright, 2014 winner of The Apprentice shares invaluable quick wins to survive covid-19

Mark Wright - Apprentice

Chatting to Mark Wright is as real and upfront as the advice given to him by his mentor Lord Sugar. Speaking to Business Matters Magazine for our inaugural podcast, he describes the corona crisis as the ‘hardest experience of his life and career to date.’

Mark Wright, co-founder and managing director of Climb Online spent thirty minutes discussing ways to navigate through the crisis. To hear his full experience and follow his full advice please subscribe to the free podcast and end the week with renewed fighting spirit ready to push your business forwards next week.

So how have you found this so far?

It’s been an absolute rollercoaster, a lesson in management, in business, in cash flow, in structuring and an overall masterclass for business in a crisis. I know I’m not alone in that at all and I think that every single business owner will have a very similar story to me.

Lord Sugar said to me that in the sixty years that he’s been in business he’s never seen anything as significant or business changing across every single industry as this. He said very solemnly that it will be the biggest crisis and recession that he will have seen during his lifetime and career and that’s pretty frightening to hear from someone with such a vast experience. That said, he’s now fully up to speed with Zoom and Whatsapp so from 6:30am he’s on our case – full days, no slowing down.

What advice has he given to you?

Lord Sugar puts everything in very simple terms and the main advice that I’ve got from him is to do the same. Keep things simple and follow the numbers. If you do this you’ll gauge really early on in your business and sector which customers are able to trade and who are still spending and these are the ones that you need to go after really, really quickly. Lord Sugar was on the case with this straight away during the lockdown and we were able to identify these people and remodel our product to ensure that we could provide a meaningful service to those customers.

So you reacted really quickly.

Yes. Absolutely, along with that advice was the need for pace – how quickly you make the decisions and how quickly you move to effect them. I think that’s where he made me and all of the other Apprentice contestants really level up. We made a lot of decisions about finance, staff, cutting costs and changing products before a lot of businesses had really realised that there was a covid problem. That’s where having an exceptional mentor comes into play.

Mark Wright Business Matters podcast 2020

Have those decisions paid off?

I think our entire customer base was completely shaken up initially; the first three weeks were dire, but after that businesses realised that they still needed a brand presence, now more than ever. We sold more deals in the last seven days than we ever had as a record in the company with people listing new ecommerce website stores and people asking us to boost those stores out to their existing customer base as well as finding new customers for them. I think that no matter what the market is, business can never be held back – people will always find a new way of operating and that’s what we’re starting to see now.

Let’s drill down a bit to assist our readers. What can UK SME’s do for an easy quick win?

Yes, all businesses must have a web presence. We’re always going to need physical shops, all  consumers deserve an experience when they go shopping so I don’t think this is the end of offices or the high st, I think they’ll always have a presence but coming back to online you must have a website. If you are starting from scratch, start with the free social media channels while your site is being built. Having a Facebook account, google listing for your business are areas where you can list free of charge and also sell your products on to get started.Creating an app or a website for your product or service is such an easy way to talk to loads of local and international customers and it’s not as expensive as you think. Yes if you’re going to go all the way and really boost your products out there it can get quite expensive but you will get the reward. If you just want to stay local, sometimes just having a Facebook page or a small app built can be executed quickly, very cost effectively and get you trading sales which rival your physical store.

When you say fairly cost effectively, what would an average initial offering be?

You can build a very good website, a 10-15 page WordPress site for £1000 for a high standard now and yes that is crazy! I remember the days when websites were £20-30k for the same offering and the same for an app. There’s a lot of app builders out there who can build a simple app for £500-600 and set you up with a really good click and pay app for buying clothing, booking appointments – whatever it is your business does. The monthly upkeep is far cheaper than a physical store and the rewards far outweigh the costs once you get the results.

For companies that already have a web presence but they’re not ranking highly yet, what quick wins would you direct them to focus on?The absolute quickest win right now is free video content. List your business with a YouTube channel, an Instagram and Facebook account and start creating high quality content that demonstrates what your product/service does.  By the end of this year, 70%+  of what we consume on the internet will be video content so if you’re starting a website or moving online, you must think: video first. Also, 75% of traffic is on a mobile so you need to be very savvy about how you’re displaying things.

This could be overwhelming to some people – if so, where would you suggest to start?

I would implore any business owner to ask themselves: what are the frequently asked questions in my business and answer them through video content. Sharing that via the social media channels will enable them to analyse the results and engagement levels.The businesses that are being successful during this lockdown have hosted webinars and tutorials online and been busy producing video content. The businesses that are struggling are the ones who have sat there and done nothing, so it’s just a different thought process and mentality, but one which is all coming back to content creation and getting that out there on the right channels. During this lockdown I’ve seen so many tik tok videos, instagram videos, people are creating more video content than ever so you need to research the right channel for you and then become part of that movement.

Mark continues to deliver advice and his thoughts on pushing forwards – hear his podcast now and subscribe so you don’t miss next week’s edition.

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.