A Small Business Heroes Podcast With Mark Pollard of Funky Vibes Marketing
Tony Radford 0:01
Hello, everybody, and welcome to a another edition of the Small Business heroes podcast. Today I have with me mark Pollard from funky Vibes.co.uk. Mark, how are you today?
Mark Pollard 0:15
I'm good, thanks. Right? How are you?
Tony Radford 0:17
Yep, I'm pretty good. And I'm enjoying the sunshine after two months of nonstop rain. Okay, Mark, why don't you tell us a little bit about your business?
Mark Pollard 0:25
Well, I've got I've actually got a number of businesses. Funky Vibes is probably the one that takes up most of my time on a daily basis for it's just a general marketing agency. So we do the full range of services that you've probably heard a million times before. So graphic design websites, social media management, marketing strategies, all of that kind of stuff, really, the other businesses that I have kind of feed into that. So it's all very interlinked. So we've got Squadron media, which is a commercial drone business, so that does film and photography using drones, which can then feed into things like website content and the like. And then I've got the pod station, which is a podcast network, which also helps people promote their businesses in sort of a marketing way.
Tony Radford 1:18
And Squadron Media, that's a slightly unusual one. How's it going with that business?
Mark Pollard 1:25
Good, it's picking up a bit again, during lock down all of the people who would probably make the decisions on whether to do something like this. We're all furloughed and locked in their houses, whereas they're all allowed out now. So again, we're getting a bit more interest. It's quite an unusual concept still, although drones have been out for yonks. And pretty much anyone can buy one. But the legislation that allows you to use it solely for commercial purposes is really tightened up massively because even the most basic of drums is a really tiny piece of kit, you can fly so far, and the power of them can cause some serious damage, that it's a bit like putting the car in the hands of a child, if they don't know what they're doing. You're just going to cause chaos. So yeah, it is picking up on it, it's really useful as well. So once people understand what it is the pickup on using it is quite, quite decent.
Tony Radford 2:27
And your marketing marketing agency, do you have an office?
Mark Pollard 2:31
You know, this is one of the things I thought a lot about when I was setting up all of the businesses really whether I wanted a a an office, to base myself. I'd always for many years, worked on the assumption that working from home was a bit of a nightmare, because the prospect of clearing cobwebs out of the corner of the room that you were in was much more preferential to sitting down doing some work. And so you quite easily got distracted. It's a bit different now because the nature of the job has changed. Actually, the ability to do work anywhere, anytime, is even greater than it was when when when I was a lawyer. And it's an awful lot more fun as well. The risk is that you end up forgetting its job and you work longer hours than perhaps you should because it doesn't feel like work. So I decided that I'd try being a bit more flexible as to where to work. And when I worked. And so far haven't seen any overwhelming evidence to justify me going into an office. And actually, as when, hopefully I can bring in more people into the team. I'm still not necessarily overly convinced that an office is necessary.
Tony Radford 3:50
Yeah, and I understand what you mean. Actually, though, when I started off software development, outsourcing services back in 1999, I worked from home. And then I decided to sort of raise my game. I'd already 7opened an office in Romania to do the work. And I moved out and moved into an office and my turnover doubled that year. And it might have been because it's just I was on a trajectory upwards, but it did seem to really help and I did a bit of rebranding and things like that. I think society has moved on since then. And it's sort of you know, even with Zoom, you know, like when, when you're selling you before, you know, you have to be there in front of people, right, shaking people's hands and you know, going for a drink with and all this kind of stuff. And that is still plays its part but a lot of it can be done on Zoom and it's quite radically different feeling anyway, I think.
Mark Pollard 4:39
It does. I think an office does allow a more defined line between when you work in and when you're, you should be recreation in, if that's even a word. When you start out when I had the law firm, we had an office and so there was that clear distinction of when I was in the office. I was working When I was at home, let's say that because I used to do a lot of work at home, outside of office hours, so our dots, I wouldn't say the line was that clearly defined Even then, but at least you still have that break point of when you were driving to and from the office to own wind or get yourself into that state. Whereas now I have a door. And if I walk past that door, I can quite easily just jump into that room and do something. So there's that inclination if something wasn't in the back of your head, it's all too easy to just go and do it. So I don't know, swings around about saying, I guess it depends on what you do when the size of your business and what suits you as a personality for me at the moment, I could do either. And on the basis that an office costs me and at the minute, on the basis that there's will virus out there killing everyone. I'm quite happy staying at home, thank you.
Tony Radford 5:56
Definitely, a couple of years ago, I I felt the need to get out. So in Liverpool, they do sort of free places, places where you can drop in right and just sort of work. It's it moves from place to place, but I thought I'd give it a go. And just for me, it was complete waste of time. And I just could not focus. I mean, I remember at one point, I'm trying to think and somebody over there says, What have you got in your sandwiches, you know, to the person next to me, they start talking about the sandwiches and the other person says, you know, what was good place to get damages. I thought you can't work in this. I'm used to peace and quiet. So it works for some people. So I
Mark Pollard 6:29
don't mind cafes, and I don't mind working in the cafe. I'll put my headphones on and I listen to some music, or usually I listen to podcasts while I'm working. And I do like that change of scenery. And I do quite like a break sort of looking up and people watching and seeing things happen. And because I've got my headphones in it does give you that peace of quiet that, you know if there's some screaming on the table next year can't hear them do it. So it doesn't bother you as much. Oh, yeah, if I had something really serious, or a deadline pressing a lot myself in my room and and there we go.
Tony Radford 7:05
Yeah. For funky Vibes marketing, what would be your ideal customer.
Mark Pollard 7:11
What I would ideally see as a perfect client is someone who I can build long term relationships with the pitfalls, the risk, the trap that people tend to fall into when it comes to marketing, is to kind of look at things in isolation too much. So today is I need some leaflets to do that. In a week's time, it's Oh, I could do with this. And quite often there isn't the thought process about how the two can be linked how the two can count to feed one another. Is it part of a bigger plan to achieve something specific, whereas if you have that long term relationship, so the clients who I have rolling monthly retainers with, get a lot more benefit and a huge amount more value for money from what they do, because we're all part of the same plumber almost on the same team. And so I kind of already are able to count, I can early guess what they want. Or if they asked me to do something, I'm already halfway through that job. Because I understand the branded names done the AM's, I understand what the wider plan is. And so being able to do I can do more in a shorter period of time, because that, that that's I've got that background knowledge as it were. Whereas if someone comes in cold turkey and says, I need a leaflet, I can do that. But I'll need to spend some time asking them about the business, what they want to do what they want to achieve, understanding what their branding guidelines are. And quite a lot of the time, people don't even have any branding guidelines. So you almost then after spend the extra time creating some guidelines for them. Which means that you've kind of got to reflect that in the price. So the short answer will be someone who wants to work with me on a monthly rolling basis.
Tony Radford 9:10
Did you say you've been in business for 18 months? Something like that?
Mark Pollard 9:14
Yeah, so I've Funky Vibes, Squardon Media and the Pod Station a setup pretty much at the same time, which is about 18 months ago. And prior to that I had my own law firm for about eight years. So I've been in business, running my own businesses for about 10 years.
And when I set up Vantage, which is law firm, I've been working as a lawyer for about eight years. So all in all, my working life has been about 15 plus years. And the majority of those have actually been as a self employed business owner.
Tony Radford 9:52
Yeah, I am a completely disastrous employee. You know, one of my one of my regrets is I didn't discover this sooner. Everybody would have been a lot happier, including myself.
Mark Pollard 10:05
Is that because of the way that we're wired up? I mean, yeah, when I initially started, I mean, this the, my employees, I mean, I wasn't a bad employer and employee, I didn't even say the word now. That's how I'm t employee I am is blank, true mind. I've never been a bad employee as such. But I never needed targets. To motivate me, whenever I did a job, it was always a wanting to do the job as well as I could do it. I always wanted to be the best person in that business at doing what it was that I did. And I don't know whether that wiring that I had just naturally pushed me towards realizing that, actually, I'm better self employed, because I don't need to be motivated. I don't need the whip cracking, I don't need to be told to do something because I'm kind of doing it yourself. And to the best of my ability, all the time. Whereas I guess some people perhaps aren't as motivated in that way. They're motivated for other reasons. And so perhaps they're a bit happier being told what to do. But once you've been your own boss, the idea of being told what to do just doesn't sit right to talk.
Tony Radford 11:18
No, no, it doesn't. And yeah, so anyway, there are there are thousands and thousands more people now who were employees and have been turfed out into this, you know, the big wide world, you know, what was some of your biggest challenges in terms of running your own business?
Mark Pollard 11:37
And I'm probably I would go back to when I set up Vantage law more than I did for funky Vibes and the others. Because having set up Vantage, a lot of the lessons are learned during that process, I was able to avoid the second time round as it were. So the first thing I'd probably say people find is the challenges the finance.
Now I set up a when I was putting plot in Vantage. And to set it all by the plan a a plan B and A plan C and all the different plans dependent upon how much finance I could generate. And the only variance in those plans was how quickly I could achieve what I wanted to achieve. So Plan A was I've got every penny I wanted. And within 12 months it have been huge and we've been great, Plan B was we didn't get some of the money we just reliant upon Plan C was I was just relying upon the input, the financial report that I did.
And what you quickly find is that the banks don't like taking any risks. They never, I mean, that time 2010 roof still coming out their financial crush, so banks weren't prepared to lend anything to anyone really, unless you had something that more than cover the cost. So if you don't have a house to put up against it, you're just not going to get the financial backing of the bank.
So you have to be quite creative, in what your plans are going to be how you're going to raise the finances are the shortcuts you can take to avoid spending money You don't need to spend, there's a whole raft of things you could do to try and do it. And ultimately, if all else fails, just accept that the only person you can rely on is yourself. I think the banks in the end, give about 10% of the money that I put in invested into setting up Vantage.
And setting up a law firm isn't cheap by any stretch. And even though year on year, we grew in terms of profit. And by the time I finished when when I decided to get out of the legal world, because it was going to be a heart attack before 50. Because of the just the sheer pressures of it. I don't think I've had any real support of my banks whatsoever.
So I would say come up with other strategies. Don't expect to go into a bank and give them they'll give you the check that you need to do it. And then the other challenge was contacts. I've got a lovely contact book now 10 plus years on, and it continues to grow on a daily basis. But going back to an asset advantage, I've been nothing but an employee. I've been shielded from a lot of the things that I didn't even realize existed when you set up your own business.
So when I thought right, I need a website. I had no idea what to do to go about getting a website. I had no one I could turn to to build me that website. Going back to 2010 websites were still relatively young in their use for commercial purposes. So maybe I might have known soon, a bit more but they wouldn't have been tried and tested at once.
Knowing how good they were, I wouldn't have understood what questions to ask. And as a result of which, probably every single service provider I use, when I set up advantage was probably replaced within six months. For somebody who I'd then come across who actually, I could rely upon a bit more. So my first website hated from day one, just hated it. So I changed it after sort of 612 months for somebody else who had worked with and who had referred work to win, therefore had seen firsthand how good their services war were.
Whereas if I'd have had them at the outset, I'd been trying to save myself a fortune. I spent two and a half grand on the first website, and I spent, I think, 500 quid on the second website. And it turned out it was a million times better, and a million times more reviews to me. So those lessons I could have done without learning quite the way it did. But when it came to setting up funky Vibes, and squad, drone and pod station, I already had the accountants I could turn to the web, as well. We do websites video to me now, I have the what service providers do a use these days, there aren't as many. But as a law firm, the banks and you which bank are wanted to use because not because they gave any more extra financial support, but because their systems were easier to use more flexible.
So yeah, if you're going to set up your new business, do some research and get some contacts go out network and get that information that's going to stand your massive stead when you do decide to sell your business.
Tony Radford 16:40
Yeah, no, that's so that's good advice. Actually, most people who answer that question say that their biggest challenge was they hadn't realized how many other things they had to do, how many other hats they had to wear, and how small proportion of the week they would actually be spending on the thing, they thought they will be doing full time which they did in their job, or you know, when they were thinking about it. So is a bit of a shock. What's the next step for your business or businesses, I should say?
Mark Pollard 17:08
The first 12 months was building foundation. So it's growing on those rarely. So obviously want to build more clients, more customers, that's always a good thing. But probably over the course of the next 12 to 18 months, I'd probably like to add a few more people to the team. It would be nice for me to be able to step back from doing the day to day onslaught of work, you know, the the nitty gritty of it.
And go out there, generate work, build relationships, and sort of cherry pick the projects that I ultimately do at the moment, because it's mainly May, I'm doing a lot of stuff. And it's it's quite all consuming. As you said, there's an awful lot of other things to do when you're a business owner. So it can it can be it can be quite hard slog particularly when you decide to do it times three.
So it'd be nice to just be able to step back a little bit like it started to do with Vantage where I had a team of sort of seven other people doing the day to day grind. And then I was almost I was the managing director, I was doing that stuff that Managing Director normally would do.
Tony Radford 18:22
You know, in terms of when you started out? What's one thing you wish somebody actually told you?
Mark Pollard 18:28
My dad always said, You're a long time working, so do something you love. And the problem was, when I was doing choose my levels, the internet, it only just started out I didn't have an email address. I didn't really have access to the internet as such, I think it was available in the school library.
The first year was the first year of my a levels. So I missed out on the whole world of stuff. Certainly the kind of stuff that I now do for a living. It was like would you want to be market teacher fireman, a lawyer or you know, the bog standard stuff. And I decided to go into law.
Because it sounded like it was quite interesting because I'd seen all the movies of people shouting each other. The reality is it's not quite as fun nor is it as interesting as that. As soon as I walked into the first day uni I realized this wasn't for me.
But I was like I'm not telling me parents day worn of university that I've decided don't like it. So I did it then got qualified by which point you spent a shitload of money getting qualified. So you don't really want that to go to waste or start doing the job. And then the job starts playing really well. So you become used to a lifestyle. And all the while you just don't really particularly enjoy the job enjoy aspects but not as a whole. And so, I didn't really enjoy my work until eventually I decided to stop doing the law and doing what I do now.
So I wish I wish I could listen to what He told me to do earlier.
Tony Radford 20:02
That's nice to hear. You're a marketer. So if somebody gave you 500 pounds to spend on marketing, how would you spend it?
Mark Pollard 20:12
On Funky Vibes services.
But in all seriousness, it very much depends on what you do what your business is. What I would certainly say, if you don't have an online presence, then you are missing out on probably the biggest opportunities at the minute, certainly during a lockdown that the increase in figures of people buying online or using social media was staggering. But once people get used to doing things, they tend to stick to it.
So people buy things online, they'll tend to continue buying online because they realized how easy and convenient it is. And so if you're not, if you don't have that presence, then you're missing out. So I'd be putting that 500 quid towards a website, or either getting on the social media platforms setup and looking amazing. or managing the content of them getting some good content or some good graphics created, so that your online presence properly reflects your business.
Tony Radford 21:19
Talking about you know, buying things online, my partner, this probably is the smallest thing I've heard of anybody buying online, she bought me a packet shoelaces online.
Mark Pollard 21:33
Oh, no, I think I've bought less, I think I would probably say about 299 is probably the cheapest thing I've ever bought online. Obviously, other platforms are available. But Amazon so easy to go right and e x and you just jump on order it and is delivered to you the following day. And shoe laces is the kind of thing. And I do once once I tend to buy things in a certain way, I'll keep doing it. And I'll always look for that easy way because I hate shopping. And I don't particularly want to go into a shop physically because it's too time consuming to me. As a business owner, you look you stopped looking at hours in the day you look at how much you could have charged whilst you were doing x. So if combate online store easy sorted.
Tony Radford 22:23
Just moving on then to you have a business mentor or support group or something like that.
Mark Pollard 22:27
I'm part of being part of networking groups since a started Vantage. And I'd say if you're not part of a networking group get into one because they're amazing the benefits that you can enjoy from them, that you'd never even realize you would get. Whether it be just plain old friendships.I'm still really good friends with someone who I met at the first ever networking group that I attended, right the way through to obviously people being the service that you need, or someone who will send you a shedload of work, you never know it's it's definitely and and they're great for going to and, and getting help and support from from time to time, but I'm quite a private person.
So I have a small office, like in a circle of confidence that I use, they are essential for me with any idea or have any thoughts, any problems, any, any anything I want to do really, I'll always double check with them. Because the feedback I get from them is usually invaluable. And even if it's not necessarily in agreement with me, and I still decided want to go ahead and do it my way.
Their input, I often take on board and I will adapt that plan in light of that. So obviously, my fiance, she's, she's a business owner, she's a smart cookie, so I always use her, me dad was a business owner. Huge amounts of experience. So I use his advice.
And there's other people as well. He was sort of hub within that, that inner circle. And I think that counts for a lot because you can trust them. You have to be able to trust that inner circle. They do care about you. It does make a difference if you're successful or not. And so, probably said they're, they're my mentors.
Tony Radford 24:25
Now that's great. Mark, I'm just as we come to an end, could you give us one actionable sales tip,
Mark Pollard 24:30
Have a plan.
It sounds ridiculously simple, but I suspect 98% of people listen to this. Think they have one but actually don't. It's not written down. There's no structure to it, and then they don't revisit it. So business plans are a real thing. People. Marketing Strategy plans are a real thing. Right one I'll get someone to write one for you.
If you don't have The time or you don't think you have the skill sets required, it's worth its weight in gold, and then revisit it periodically, how periodically depends on what you do and how successful you businesses, I guess, at the very least, they'll probably say, revisit it every 12 months, see how closely you've stuck to it, see what needs changing, because things like that, and the cash flow forecast will tell you so much about where you go and right and where you're going wrong. And where you need to be aiming for the next short term and long term period.
Tony Radford 25:35
Mark, it's been really good talking to you, what would be the best way for people to get in contact with you?
Mark Pollard 25:43
I'd probably say, stick with the funky Vibes thing, because it's probably the easiest way for people to get in touch. So we were about to launch our brand new website, actually, in the next couple of weeks. So about www, funky Vibes, all one word code at UK. Let's go on the contact details on there. We're on as you would expect from a marketing agency, all of the social media platforms, so Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter. You can find me My name's Mark Pohlad on LinkedIn is a personal profile. And if you then want to find the other businesses, you'll actually find all the details there as well. So I think that's Oh, yeah. And email address, Mark, Paula, sorry, mark at funky Vibes code at UK.
Tony Radford 26:27
Okay, Mark, thank you very much.
Mark Pollard 26:29
Now, thank you very much.
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