Interview with Mark Joseph
“Learn to be a low reactor. Your emotions will run wild and some days you will be on the highest highs, others you will be on the lowest lows but take a moment to reset and learn to recognise when your emotions are taking over. – Mark Joseph
Today we feature Mark Joseph, the founder at Vouch Global. We hear their story in their own words, their successes, their challenges and their insights.
Let’s start by getting to know you. Can you please tell us a little bit about you and what you do?
In 2018 I founded Vouch Global, a creative performance agency based in London. I have over 15 years of experience in the industry and have worked for some of the largest agencies in the world, growing performance campaigns for brands such as Moneysupermarket.com, Tourism Malaysia, Puttshack and Creed Fragrances. I was previously featured in Media Week & Daily Mail 30 under 30.
At Vouch Global we work with some of the largest hospitality, property and eCommerce brands and are now on target to grow over 200% in 2022. Each day is different for me but typically consists of supporting my team, speaking with clients and suppliers, reviewing campaigns and ideating new client strategies.
A great introduction and start to this interview. Can you please tell us in your own words how did you start?
My journey started back when I was 22 years old when my girlfriend at the time fell pregnant. I had no choice but to start working to make money and provide for my family. After struggling to find a job, I began developing websites by teaching myself to code, reading books, and taking major websites apart. Within 6 months I had grown my first website to revenue of £4k a month and later I sold it and was able to provide for my new family.
I secured my first job in the media industry as an Account Manager working for one of the largest media groups in the world, PHD Media. Within two years I progressed to Senior Account Manager and from there I was headhunted by an agency called STEAK to be their Head of Performance and to oversee the performance digital media team.
When STEAK sold to DENTSU (another top 4 agency in the world), I thought I was well equipped to set up my own agency. Little did I know that this would become the hardest thing I have ever done.
I now didn’t have the protection of a large agency with an influx of clients at hand. I had to do sales, marketing, hiring, delivery, and finance all myself and it was a struggle. I ran this business for 7 difficult years. It was a very turbulent time with a lot of highs, lows, and many many mistakes. In the end, I exited this first agency in 2017.
After a year’s break and at the age of 35, I realised I missed the agency world and began looking at Managing Director job roles at other agencies. But it was at this point I knew that I didn’t want to work for anyone else. I didn’t care about the money, all I wanted was the buzz of being at the helm in what I call ‘healthy chaos’ every day.
With my newfound learnings from my previous business and the understanding of the upfront work and delayed gratification that would be needed, I was ready to go again and set up Vouch Global. I took my time in launching, building the company vision and targeting companies I truly wanted to work with. Although we incorporated in December 2018, we didn’t actively begin operating until the summer of 2019.
Since then, Vouch has gone from strength to strength and we will turnover double the revenue this year (in years 3 of trading) than we did in the entire 7 years under my previous agency. My passion for digital-only continues to grow, and whilst I have failed along the way, my entrepreneurial spirit led me to start Vouch Global.
So can you tell us…What does your business do and where is your company based?
Vouch Global is referred to as ‘The Creative Performance Agency’. We like to say we join the dots between people, culture, digital experiences, and results. We have a global client footprint, however, our head office is located in Shoreditch, London. Our approach to marketing is very different to most digital agencies as we like to focus on the three stages of human empathy (emotional, cognitive & compassionate) in order to build the right strategies for the right clients.
We use a variety of data tools in order to understand the varying cultures of our client’s customers. This approach allows us to be able to work with a wide variety of clients, from the likes of luxury real estate brand Pacaso, to more Millennial and Gen-Z hospitality brands such as The Cocktail Club and Puttshack.
So what’s been the story behind your success?
Ultimately no one helped. I reached out to many people but most don’t want to help people who are at the bottom on the way up. It’s only as you begin to gain momentum that people naturally start taking more of an interest and it’s easier to surround yourself with people that can potentially help you in future.
At the start, being sat alone with a pen and paper is all you need. Model everything out on paper and then execute. In the beginning, action beats the network. The network will come later.
Along the way, it’s great to surround yourself with people who support you in terms of advice. This is priceless as it will save you from making more mistakes in the future, but ultimately, your business is your vision and requires your execution. It is all on you and no one is coming to truly save you or help you. At the start anyway.
Having said that, I have met some great people along my career journey from that I have been able to bounce ideas off and gain new perspectives. These are mainly people who I admire that are in positions I am aiming to get to and founders of much larger agencies. Working to maintain these connections and business friendships over time has been key. Regardless of whether someone can help you or not, one day you may need that friend and they will be more inclined to help you if you have maintained the relationship over time.
My aha moment came through a realisation that for most of my career, agencies and clients had forced their personal views and perspectives onto the customers and audience of the brand. I knew there was a better way. Taking the ‘customer is always right mantra into the form of advertising, Vouch was born.
Using the power of recommendations and building trust between consumers and brands, I wanted to highlight problems users face and showcase solutions across the digital user journey. Segmenting the audience via data and interests, we create a user experience that feels personalised, through empathy-led marketing, really speaking to the individual and creating connections between them and brands.
The next step on this journey was building our own proprietary technology that helps us to manage this personalised digital user journey. Using this tech, we can take our learnings as an agency from 15 years of lessons, observations and failures, and scale the pace and impact we have with this unique approach.
Thank you for sharing that. We know that there are ups and downs in business. What’s been your biggest lesson so far?
Understanding that business is a marathon and not a sprint has been one of the biggest lessons I have learned so far. On social media, it is portrayed that you have to become a millionaire by the time you’re 25 and exit the business as soon as you can. But playing the long game, and building the foundations for a great business is so much more important than rushing to keep up with the unicorn businesses everyone is exposed to on social media. Slowing down to build sustainable foundations in the form of systems and processes is much more important.
In my first business, I was totally consumed with showcasing how well we were doing with raising investment and setting up a base in Soho, London. But the truth is, we were struggling to generate new business. This time I am going slower, and want to build everything great below the surface that most cannot see. Changing this mentality required a lot of work but now I can see the results.
Along the way, it’s great to surround yourself with people who support you in terms of advice.
We’re nearly halfway through our interview so it’s a great time to ask how does your business run. Most businesses need tools, app or services to run. What three tools make your business run better?
- Google slides, sheets and docs allow us to work collaboratively with the rest of the Vouch team, clients and partners.
- Slack – With our hybrid way of working, Slack ensures the team is always connected. We have a new channel for each client we work with and the delivery team for that client is involved in each channel, so client work is in a constant flow and everyone knows where activities are at any point.
- Trello – After trying multiple project management tools including the likes of Asana and Monday.com, we settled for using Trello due to its simple drag-and-drop nature. In client meetings we no longer take notes, we create action tasks, assign them to an accountable member of the team, and include a delivery date. Trello has become the backbone accountability platform for our business. It also houses our SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) and training documents that new staff members can submerge themselves with when they join Vouch.
We’re nearly halfway through our interview so it’s a great time to ask What do you know now that you wished you had known before?
- Hire from the top down as opposed to the bottom up. This is easier said than done but in my first business, I would hire juniors first. Doing this was cost-effective at the beginning, but it kept me in delivery for a lot longer than I needed to and I was unable to work on the business to grow it.
- Within Vouch, I have a great team of senior managers that are accountable for significant parts of the business which allows me to focus on working on the broader strategy and vision for the agency. It’s taken longer to do it this way as it is more expensive and requires more business coming through the door, but I feel it is the right way to do it.
- Business is difficult but enjoy the journey and don’t obsess over a big payday in the next 1-2 years.
- There is no magic bullet, and no one is coming to save you.
- Time goes quickly so compound deep, focused work for long periods of time. Phone distractions are the enemy, months are wasted each year by people not working to their true potential due to multiple 5-minute interval breaks each day.
- You never know everything so always be vulnerable and willing to learn.
- Be driven to move the needle and do something to improve your business by just 1% each day.
What has been your greatest or proudest achievement or moment?
Aside from Vouch Global’s continued success, I would say my proudest achievement to date has truly been in building a world-class team of great human beings and experts in their fields within Vouch.
Every single person at Vouch is a rockstar in their field and owns their sh*t. I have to pinch myself sometimes knowing that I have been able to assemble what feels like the ‘digital Avengers’ in real life.
What future life goals do you want to achieve and why?
These have changed drastically over the past few years. If you had asked me this 5 years ago, I would have given a very materialistic answer.
It’s taken me a while to realise this, but what I really want to achieve is to build a great business in the digital space over the next 10 years and beyond. I have no desire to sell or leave Vouch. I want to continue to do great work for great clients, help the team realise their career potential within Vouch, and grow the company to 10x what it is now.
As a byproduct of this key goal, I want to continue to be a thought leader and grow Vouch to become an impactful partner to brands within digital. Whilst growing myself to become a better leader and grow into being a diligent CEO within Vouch for the foreseeable future
A goal of mine outside of work involves creating more deeper memories and experiences with my family. I really want to travel across South America and the West Indies with my son and partner for 2-3 months. That would be a dream come true.
To finish our questions…”We believe that sharing advice to other entrepreneurs and founders can help inspire others.” If there was one piece of advice you would give to another founder or someone thinking about starting, what would it be and why?
Learn to be a low reactor. When something used to not go as planned, I would feel as though the business was destined for ruin and that I was a huge failure.
Now I know that if something bad happens, we manage it as best we can, with the knowledge that something great is around the corner. As long as we keep delivering to our level of quality, and vice versa.
Your emotions will run wild and some days you will be on the highest highs, others you will be on the lowest lows but take a moment to reset and learn to recognise when your emotions are taking over.
“Thank you it has been great learning more about your founder story and Vouch Global”
To learn more about Vouch Global Visit https://vouchglobal.com/
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