Welcome to another edition of the Unusual Entrepreneur Interviews and today I am very honoured to have gotten this Unusual Entrepreneur in question. His name is Mark Harai, an entrepreneur with over 20 years experience. He blogs at MarkHarai, a blog on entrepreneurship, startup and how to leverage the new media for business growth.
If you are just joining us for the first time, this is the unusual entrepreneur interview series. It is a parade of unusual entrepreneurs who are changing the world and profiting from purpose. Profiting from purpose by changing the world isn’t an impossible dream as many tend to think of it, but a realistic one as many unusual entrepreneurs have extraordinarily proven.
It is my life mission to understand the unusual qualities of such unusual entrepreneurs and inspire as many others to profit from purpose by changing the world. If you’re not yet familiar with our philosophy of unusual entrepreneurs, kindly download our free ebook: The Entrepreneur’s Journey. This is the official manifesto for anyone who wants to change the world and profit from purpose.
Interview Questions Part 1
ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Awakening the Spirit of business
1. Can you please tell us a little about yourself and your business? What do you do? How do you do it? Why do you do it and who do you do it for?
I’m an entrepreneur/ business consultant. I live and work on a beach in Costa Rica with my wife of 14 years and 4 of my 7 kids. I also have 2 grandsons 🙂 My clients are U.S. based, so I work remotely via the internet. I help businesses, typically in the areas of marketing and business development. I’ve been working for myself for over 25 years.
I help entrepreneurs and business owners leverage my experience in starting businesses, growing businesses and expanding them. I’ve also been on the social web for a few years now and this has provided me an opportunity to help business owners establish their voice online. It’s what I do and who I am. It’s second nature. I work with other like-minded entrepreneurs to help them realize their vision and aspirations.
2. How would you describe your entrepreneurial journey into the world of business?
Exciting. Scary. Feast. Famine. Difficult. Natural. Rewarding. Hairball. At the end of the day, fulfilling. Living the life of an entrepreneur is not just a job, it’s an adventure! It stretches you emotionally, physically and mentally. You never ‘arrive’ and settle in to anything for too long; there are always new problems to solve and exciting things to experience and learn. It’s definitely not for everyone; entrepreneurs are built by the failures they endure and overcome.
3. Where there any key incidents or life changing events that inspired your decision to become an entrepreneur?
I grew up with parents who were entrepreneurs and worked in their businesses. After realizing my dream of playing professional football was not going to happen (fantasy), I found myself kind of lost and without direction. So, I started my first business when I was 21 years old and have been doing it and helping others do the same ever since.
4. When you started out in business, what specific idea, purpose or vision was your key driving force?
From an early age I felt like I had a big purpose for being born and that I would build hospitals and feed the hungry. I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to help many people in need, although I haven’t built any hospitals yet – but there’s still time and I’m not quitting anytime soon 🙂
5. What is your take on the general notion that entrepreneurs should build a business around what they naturally love to do?
When you do something you love, it’s not really work – it’s more like going out to play. You wake up every day inspired and excited to move things forward. It beats the heck out of having to do something in life that you dread.
6. What is your personal life mission as an entrepreneur? That is; what contributions do you want to make with your life or what would you like to be remembered for as an entrepreneur through the businesses you create when you die?
When you look at folks like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, they are saving lives and making the world a better place for all. That is my inspiration. Besides building businesses, there is nothing more rewarding then making life better for others. It’s the right thing to do.
7. What would you describe as the purpose of entrepreneurship? That is; what role do entrepreneurs play in the world?
They imagine and then build our future – and in the process create jobs and mentor future entrepreneurs to do the same. They make the world go around.
8. How are you changing the world through the business, products or services you create?
Business is people and personalities. People change lives. If you positively impact the people around you and help them realize their full potential, your changing one ‘little world’ at a time and these in turn will have an impact on the world around us. It’s a vibrating effect that trickles down to thousands or even millions of lives in communities, cities, states and even countries if your reach is international.
Interview Questions Part 2
STRATEGY: The unusual execution of business best practices
9. What would you describe as your secret formula for business success?
Serving others. It’s not a “What’s in it for me” mindset that changes lives and builds great companies – it’s “How can I best serve others to maximize productivity and results.”
10. How do you identify business opportunities and what metrics do you use to measure their viability?
I’ve always had close friends who are techy types, so I’m usually on the frontend of the next ‘big thing.’ Examples: telecommunications, cellular, dotcom, and now the biggest opportunity of all – the social web. My hunches have been spot on in identifying up and coming trends.
11. Do you have mentors, business coach or external consultants that you work closely with to grow yourself and your business? If yes, to what extent would you describe their impact on your business? If no, are there any particular reasons?
Absolutely yes. Most of the people I’ve worked with are older than me. I’m attracted to gray hair – always have been when identifying people I want to learn from. I leverage the wisdom, experience and knowledge of people I respect who have done the things I want to do successfully. They’ve been there and done that and leveraging the experience of others can save you time and money by avoiding the mistakes they’ve made.
12. How do you strategically use your time as an entrepreneur?
I build teams of qualified professionals who are masters at what they do to build businesses. I’m a big picture guy that can bring talented people together to maximize results. The most successful entrepreneurs I’ve been around are visionary’s who have the gift of embedding their passion and vision in others. Great teams of talented people who believe and join in your vision can change the world.
13. How do you generate profitable customers for your business? What unusual approaches do you adopt for marketing your products/services?
I like JV’s [Joint Ventures] and strategic partnerships. It’s much easier to build momentum for new products and services by leveraging the customer base of an existing successful business. It’s typically much more cost-effective to reach profitability rather than spending money on advertising and marketing to buy a market.
Expanding on the previous answer, in order to secure the right strategic JV/ partnerships, you need to solve a problem, enhance their products or service offerings and have immediate upside profit potential for the party who has the (your) market.
14. Many entrepreneurs complain about not succeeding in business due to lack of adequate funding, what is your take on this matter and how do you cope with funding issues in your business?
Many businesses I’ve been involved with have been very capital intensive to get started. Laying cables in the ground, acquiring FCC licenses, building cell towers, acquiring the necessary legal counsel and accounting firms to attract investment capital was a mid 7 figure investment minimum before you could collect any money from paying customers.
The only way I’ve ever funded a new businesses such as these is by assembling the best talent with proven track records, having a solid plan and sharing our vision with qualified individuals who have the ability to fund the business. I have found this is one skill many entrepreneurs lack. They don’t teach you how to do this effectively in school. The most successful entrepreneurs I’ve known are those who put themselves in front of qualified investors and are not afraid to ask for the money and they eat rejection for breakfast, lunch and dinner and like it.
15. When starting out a new business, who are the likely possible partners or professional service providers you would recommend every entrepreneur work with?
Obviously, in the times we live in, tech savvy partners can help out a great deal for establishing an effective online presence and even build the products you might offer the marketplace. As well, I recommend that every entrepreneur develop solid relationships with legal counsel and accounting firms. These are paramount if you need funding or want to sell or take your company to the public markets in the future. If this is the goal, you need to have your foundation and structure right from the beginning.
16. The pricing of products/services is always an issue for entrepreneurs, what unusual approach do you take when it comes to pricing?
When I work with partnerships and strategic joint ventures, my pricing model is typically cost + 20%. That leaves plenty of room for your partners to market your product or service, get it distributed to the marketplace and make a good profit.
Interview Questions Part 3
MISCELLANEOUS: Resourceful Recommendations, tools, books, and ideas for entrepreneurs.
Through the social web, you now have access to the brightest minds in business on the planet. They’re sharing their experiences, do’s and don’ts and best practices every day. If you want insight from folks who are making the world go around, start subscribing to and reading their blogs. Every resource you need is at your fingertips. The key is building relationships with people who can help you. The social web is not powered by technology; it’s powered by conversations and connections that evolve into working relationships.
17. Were there any particular questions you expected me to ask that is beneficial to entrepreneurs and I didn’t? Kindly share with us such questions and their relevant answers here.
All good here Tito. Thanks for having me 🙂
You’ve met Mark, what did you learn from this unusual entrepreneur?
Share your views below in the comment section.
Thank you for your time!