Interview with Mark Wright, Climb Online: The lessons I learnt from working with Alan Sugar

Mark Wright of Climb Online

Mark Wright of Climb Online - Credit: Archant

Mark Wright won the BBC’s Apprentice in 2014. Now he runs Climb Online, the successful digital marketing agency he founded with Lord Sugar and is working with businesses across the Cotswolds

Who’s been watching the new series of BBC’s The Apprentice?

As soon as this year’s crop of glossily-suited candidates wheeled their cases on to our TV screens at the beginning of October, the onslaught of Twitter trolls, media reports and public opinion highlighting the stupidity of this year’s candidates started.

The thing is, these candidates battling to become Lord Sugar’s next business partner certainly aren’t and won’t be ‘stupid’. Far from it. The Apprentice is a gruelling, challenging and intense process, where even the UK’s masterminds would struggle in performing under significant pressure, away from any usual living environment and without any access to the outside world through the norms of mobile phones and social media. As society becomes increasingly reliant on technology, I am in no doubt this process becomes even more arduous.

Winning The Apprentice in 2014 was an exhilarating experience. As an entrepreneur it enabled me to launch my digital marketing agency, Climb Online, in partnership with Lord Sugar, where, to date, we’ve experienced incredible success and remain the only Apprentice-born business to turnover in excess of £1 million during our first year of trading.

Today, we’ve grown into one of the UK’s leading digital marketing agencies and are proud to work with a host of incredible businesses and brands from across the UK, including many located in the Cotswolds.

For onlookers, the ultimate Apprentice prize is winning the £250,000 investment fund. But in reality, it is the 1-2-1 mentorship and business guidance offered by Lord Sugar and his team.

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Digital Marketing and tech sectors bring a wealth of opportunity, but they also bring a wealth of challenges - particularly as the sectors are subject to change due to advancing algorithms, not forgetting a significant hike in market competitors.

Although we continue to steer through these challenges in growing and developing Climb Online, there are several key lessons that I have learnt from working in partnership with Lord Sugar:

Be innovative, not different.

Lord Sugar has always advised that if your competitors are all doing something over here, make sure you create your business over there, and create it with true innovation. In sectors like digital marketing, you can’t recreate the wheel – and actually, we don’t claim to - but you can be innovative in your business processes and brand positioning, particularly when harnessing the power of technology.

Think about it. We now live in a world where one of the largest hotel providers [Air B&B] owns zero hotels and the largest taxi firm owns no vehicles [Uber]. Both of these firms were incredibly innovative and disruptive in their approach, but without tech and thinking ‘over there’ this would not have been possible.

90% is showing up

Business is hard. A point demonstrated by the fact the majority of start-ups fail within the first year. Since launching Climb Online nearly 5 years ago, I’ve experienced some extremely challenging times, but despite how difficult I have found it, I have always shown up, supported my team and worked through any problem we have faced.

The term ‘pain is temporary – quitting lasts forever’ couldn’t be more true. For me, 90% of succeeding in business is just showing up. It may not be a ‘technical’ or innovative approach to success, but it’s certainly true.

Develop rhinoceros skin

In business - and particularly a business that is utilising new technologies or entering new markets – you will have doubters, you will have haters and you will have people who will just think you’re mad.

One of my favourite pieces of advice from Lord Sugar is to develop a rhinoceros skin, a layer of untouched ignorance that refuses to acknowledge the negative opinions of others or those around you.

They aren’t helpful, they certainly won’t enable to achieve your goals and they will only bring you down. Don’t listen.

Become invaluable

All Apprentice winners have one key thing in common – proven experience within their chosen business sector. In business, part of building customer trust and engagement is becoming invaluable by showcasing this knowledge and experience.

One of the best ways to achieve this is through social media.

My advice is to pick your three most relevant digital platforms and do them well, by harnessing the ‘jab jab jab hook’ approach.

In using this, you post a stream of informative, engaging and valuable content before you ask your customers to purchase your product or service.

Visit for more information.

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