Serial entrepreneur Mark Phillips is a digital nomad. He runs his business mentoring and advisory start-up from his 4WD vehicle, hasn’t worn a tie for 10 years, and works with clients whose feet get blisters if they wear shoes.
When you talk to a chartered accountant, with a career that includes stints at Microsoft and KPMG, about their journey, you expect to hear advice on finance, IPOs, investors, marketing plans and budgets, market differentiation, and business vision. Then you notice the bare feet, the relaxed demeanour, the sun-wrinkles around his eyes, and the grin on his face.
Mark’s other possessions amount to his dog, a motorcycle, a tent and his Microsoft Surface, through which he interacts with clients and partners around the globe. “My partner and I sold most of our possessions years ago!” he explains.
“It’s a long way from selling to the Australian Federal Government in Canberra,” he laughs. “But really there is no limit, literally, to doing meaningful business in today’s connected world. I’m living proof that you can talk business with clients in suits in offices in Europe, the US, Africa and Australia, from the top of a rock in the outback! And when it’s early morning here in Australia, it’s the middle of the day on the other side of the world. As a digital nomad, I’m always open for business.”
Mark is a founder or co-founder of seven companies and now serves on a number of start-up advisory boards, is a mentor to a number of others, and runs his own business, Business in Bare Feet.
“Business in Bare Feet is a community for entrepreneurs and business owners seeking to run their businesses wherever they are in the world
.. By creating this online community, I can help share everyone’s experiences from around the world. Start-ups share many challenges and successes, and by learning from each other, we all move forward. It’s like having access to a million business hacks, in your backpack”
After a successful career in Canberra, he did what many Australians do: took a year off to go travelling. The difference was that Mark trekked across Africa with a backpack. He travelled from one end of the continent to the other, discussing life experiences with hundreds of people from cultures as diverse as Kalahari bushmen, Masai warriors, tightly-knit West Africa families and Saharan Tuaregs. With a few weeks of rest in metropolitan Europe, he then took off to do something similar in South America. He has now visited more than 100 countries around the world and keeps motorbikes on 3 continents ready to go.
These experiences became the foundations for Business in Bare Feet. “My social media profile had risen on the back of my travels. When I crafted the concept of taking those life and business experiences and packaging them into structured mentor programs, and posted them on LinkedIn, the response was interesting and exciting: $50,000 worth of business in about four weeks. The concept grew from there.”
We asked Mark for some tips for entrepreneurs. “When you start your own business, especially if you leave a large company with some success already under your belt, it’s hard work. So first, surround yourself with great people who will support and accelerate you, who have skills that you can use, but ensure these are relevant to your new business right now. These supporters and partners will likely change over time, and they can be anywhere in the world. That doesn’t of course mean abandoning friends or colleagues, it does mean focus.
“Second, have your entire business, including the communications, right there with you all the time. For me that’s the Surface. That, plus my Internet connection, and I’m good to go. I use it for programming, graphics, video editing, communications, database management, web management, social management … – everything really.”
When asked how he sums up his vision for his own business, Mark says, “Continue to extend our global reach. Introduce low-cost, subscription-based options so that more entrepreneurs can share their experiences and tap into those of others easily. Empower entrepreneurs in their thousands to make great decisions, and to build great lives for their whole family while being successful!”
It’s a beguiling image and an attractive option. As Mark walks off into another sunset he notes, “the choice is ours to make, and with today’s technology, it’s a choice available to us all.”
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