Mark Topley spent time as a primary school teacher, drum tech and roadie before setting his sights on coaching in corporate social responsibility.


We are thankful he did. Mark talks us through his early work as CEO of Bridge2Aid, and how a financial fraud against the dental charity almost put a stop to its operations.


Mark also talks us through his decision to step away from Bridge2Aid after a decade at the helm – and how that eventually led to the  corporate responsibility coaching work for which he is now known.


“We trained about 450 people, that’s access to emergency dentistry for about four-and-a-half million people.” – Mark Topley


In this episode


02.21 – Getting started

14.04 – Charities – competition and differentiation

20.00 – The Bridge2Aid model

32.10 – Facing down challenges

40.01 – Family life in Tanzania

44.21 – Endings and new beginnings

52.02 – CSR – WTF?

01.05.14 – On teamwork

01.10.58 – Mark’s last day on earth


About Mark Topley

Mark’s early professional background is in teaching and community project management. He also worked in charity startups and has toured the US and Europe with bands as a production manager.


A chance encounter in 2003 led to him working in Tanzania alongside the founders of dental charity Bridge2Aid. He spent a decade as CEO of the charity before advising businesses on corporate social responsibility (CSR).  


Connect with Prav and Payman:


Prav on Instagram

Payman on Instagram

Prav: Hey guys, and welcome to the Dental Leaders podcast. Thanks for tuning in and today’s interview was with Mark Topley, the CSR Coach. Before I met, this guy didn’t have a clue what CSR was, and how you go about implementing it in a business and he educated us a lot. His journey about the charities, the struggles, the fraud, and the challenges that he faced really, really interesting conversations, and a really nice guy as well. Pay.

Payman: I love that, but I knew the stuff he was up to. I knew that CSR stands for corporate social responsibility.

Prav: Meant nothing to me.

Payman: But what I didn’t know was that sort of combining charity with business kind of idea. You always think with charity, sort of just people who want to do good and somehow there’s a there’s a demarcation between the charity sector and the business sector. It’s very interesting how you combine those two together and if you want your business to be more accountable to your team, accountable to the society around it, then he’s your guy. He’s the guy you go to and I love that. I love that he’s made that connection between those two worlds which I wouldn’t normally connect.

Prav: And super niche, right? He’s really niched down on what he does and who he serves.

Payman: And great guy, great guy. Lived abroad and done a bunch of work and there’s lots of dentists have done their bit through Mark and his organisations. Excellent. I think you’re going to enjoy it.

Prav: Enjoy.

Payman: When you were living there, what did you miss most about the UK, outside the family and friends?

Mark: Real ale.

Payman: Was there no ale? No, I guess not.

Mark: Fizzy lager. Fizzy lager.

Payman: Was there not an Irish Pub somewhere?

Mark: No, there was. So in Dar es Salaam, where Prav’s dad comes from, there is an Irish Pub.

Payman: There’s an Irish Pub in every city in-.

Mark: There’s an Irish Pub in every country in the world.

Intro Voice: This is Dental Leaders. The podcast where you get to go one on one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts, Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.

Prav: Today, we’ve got the pleasure of having MarkTopley here, who is the CSR Coach and has got a long standing history with lots of dental charities, which a lot of you will know about. I think would just like to kick off by saying, thank you very much for making the trip to come and see us today and share your story with us. I just like you to give the audience a bit of a background of your backstory, how you grew up, and then your first career and how you ended up finding yourself here working with dentists.

Mark: Of course, yeah. Well, thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure to come in. So where do you start? I’m a boy was born on the south coast and lived in a place called Bognor Regis right down the south coast, which some people would have been on holiday to. A lovely little town. I did a bit of time there. I grew up in sort of West Sussex, and then when I was about 10, 11 years old, my folks decided that they were going to up sticks and move to South Africa for a couple of years, which we did. We did a couple of years overseas.

Mark: My dad at the time, had been working in a variety of jobs and had an opportunity to learn dairy farming. So from that age on, I was a farming boy. We did a couple of years in South Africa, had a great time, came back, lived in the New Forest for a while, continued with school, and then went off to college and did a teaching degree in Southampton, which was a lot of fun and still live near Southampton nowadays.

Mark: After college went off to Havant and taught in a place called Leigh Park, which is just up the road from there. Did four very happy years as a primary school teacher and from then on a whole variety of things. I think I got itchy feet when I was a teacher, I really enjoyed education but wanted to travel, wanted to do stuff. So got into community projects, then ended up in the music industry, working as a tour manager, as a drum tech, did some production management.

Payman: What’s that like?

Mark: What’s it like? I wouldn’t want to do it now as a married guy with three kids but as a guy with who was newly married, it was a lot of fun because it was a lot of time away travelling, blocks of time away. Yeah, a lot of fun. A lot of fun. You got to see the inside of a lot of venues and not a lot else because you get on the bus at the end of the day and then off you go.

Prav: What’s the craziest story you’ve got from back in those days?

Mark: See, the guys I work with a fairly tame when it came to the whole sort of alcohol thing. I guess the most challenging thing was working with people that were teenagers in bands because they just haven’t got an organisational bone in their body. So trying to get teenagers through airports was an absolute nightmare and I guess the closest, I never ever missed a plane. I did miss a ferry once, driving into Dublin and getting completely lost on the way to Dún Laoghaire, which meant we did actually miss the gig the next night in Liverpool.

Mark: One day I decided to give one of the guys who was working with us the responsibility of planning the trip to the airport. So we turned up at the time that we were supposed to and got in the bus and off we went, and then somebody forgot something which they always did and then we ended up, anyway, on the way to the airport, we realised that he hadn’t planned to be there when checking opened. He’d plan to arrive when checking closed, which meant that we were now going to be half an hour after check in had actually closed.

Mark: So we made a mad dash got to Heathrow, threw the stuff on the floor, ran through the terminal, ran onto the plane and sat just as they closed the doors, and he never was given the responsibility of planning that again.

Payman: Well, you’re not telling me that’s the craziest road story. We’re thinking more of sex, drugs, rock and roll.

Mark: Do you know what, those guys weren’t really into that-

Prav: Was it the same band all the time?

Mark: No, no, I worked with a variety of different people and it was mostly stuff where you’re working hard. Although, I think at certain levels of the music industry, they get above a certain level where you’ve got enough money to be able to kick back and do those sorts of things. A lot of people who work in music just working really, really hard. They’re working jobs as well. So we had fun, but was somewhere next to get to the next day, and something else to do and then you have other commitments you got to do, recording and those sorts of things. Yeah, not much in the locker, I’m afraid.

Prav: Thinking about growing up as a kid, we’ve interviewed lots of people on this podcast who are dentists and we ask them what did you want to be when you grow up, and a lot of say a dentist. So I guess your first stage in your career ladder was a schoolteacher? Is that what you always wanted to be? When you were growing up as a kid, did you think I want to be a schoolteacher or were there other ambition?

Mark: Do you know, I had no clue about what to do. I kind of found my way into teaching because it seemed like a good thing to do, and one of my best friend at school, his mum was a lecturer at a teacher training college and I found out there was a ratio of nine girls to everyone, bloke, and I thought, well, that sounds like a good course to go on, but I kind of happened into it and I was okay at it.

Prav: What sort of teacher were you?

Mark: I was the hard taskmaster who had a lot of fun. So we laid the law down, and we could be serious when we needed to be, but we had a lot of fun as well. We had a lot of laughs and I’m still in touch with a couple of people that when I started teaching they were working and then they’re head teachers and it’s great because their schools are exactly that sort of thing. High standards, but they have a lot of fun as well.

Prav: Did your pupils get good results?

Mark: I don’t know. I was a primary school teacher. This is pre SATs era. So before any of that nonsense came in, and people started measuring whether people could pass tests or not.

Payman: I know you spend a lot of time in Africa, though and do you see the difference between the status of teacher over there compared to over here, because certainly, my experience with other third world countries, teachers actually, massive job in those countries, well respected and well paid. Whereas here, you’re almost relying on the sort of vocational sort of aspirations of the teacher and the goodwill of the teacher to give a job to someone who’s a quality person. Someone who really wants to do something right, but is happy not to have a career that pays the mortgage. Do you know what I mean?

Mark: Yeah, certainly for Tanzania as an example, teachers were undervalued, underpaid, demoralised.

Payman: Really?

Mark: Yeah. I’ve seen it. I have seen it people held in higher esteem elsewhere. I think it’s one of those professions where, unfortunately, it’s always going to be undervalued, unless people really need to have a teacher or work closely with a teacher and then you see the value of people. In some ways, those sorts of professions, you don’t really want people going into them that are in it for the money. You want them going into it because they care about the kids and that doesn’t mean that you should then pay them less because they’ll put up with more, but inevitably, you’re going to end up with the people that want to do it for the right kind of reasons.

Payman: I’m thinking of a friend of mine, who was very talented. Went to Oxford, wanted to be a teacher but he could earn 10 times as much doing computer science somewhere, like being a computer guy for a bank. In the end, ended up doing that.

Mark: Yeah, and that’s always going to be the case because you can’t compete with the salaries that the commercial sector can offer but it certainly should be better than what it is, and conditions could be better as well. Unfortunately, education like health care is a political football and whatever government in power we’ll use it for their ends, largely.

Prav: So just fast forward in from teaching if you just summarise your career and how you ended up landing in the world of dentistry.

Mark: So while I was working as a teacher, I was doing a lot of travelling, I did community projects overseas, worked in Ethiopia for a bit, bit of teacher training in a slum school. That’s an interesting thing as a 24 year old and while I was doing that, I realised that I needed to make a change because I was running out of holidays. Hard to believe, but I was running out of holidays to travel.

Mark: So I ended up starting doing some communities projects, play schemes, that sort of thing for a church that we were part of down the south coast, they then brought me on staff for a couple of years. While I was doing that, I did some charity startup works, because all sorts of little projects offer that kind of organisation. Then from that I had mates that were in bands and needed somebody to carry the gear on a weekend and then they got more and more successful.

Mark: So we started not shoving at the weekends, but touring in blocks of time and then from that, people pick you up and use you for other things, which is when I then started ushering teenagers through airports. Then from that, what basically happened was that I was about to take on a major national musical in terms of production management. So left my job, got ready to go and then the contract was cancelled.

Mark: So I took a month off and learned to play golf, which I still play very badly, so it wasn’t a really month well spent, but it was a beautiful month, and gave me a bit of time and space and that’s when somebody phoned up and said, look, can you do some work for us, and it was in Wilson from Bridge2Aid who just started. They needed somebody to help him with their systems and stuff like that.

Prav: How did you know Ian?

Mark: So him and his wife Andy he had moved down to the same city that we lived in, in Chester and we found ourselves in the same church at the same time. They were one of the unusual couples that we didn’t have kids at the time, they did. They were one of the only couples we could find to have a drink with on a Monday night, because everybody else was like, oh no, you’ve got to put the kids to bed and that sort of thing.

Mark: So we would hang out with them and just chat and have fun together and then we waved them on their merry way when they moved out to Tanzania in 2002, moved into their house, rented it from them. Then that’s really when things started to kick off in the whole oral health world because we started to get involved with Bridge2Aid.

Payman: Is your charity work informed by your religious beliefs or not?

Mark: The charity itself was started off the back of a couple of people who had spent time overseas doing things from a church context and wanting to start something from that sort of motivation. For us it was, that’s where our friendship originated, that’s what tied us into to them. I think, we hang a faith tag on what we do, and the drive behind it, other people do it for other reasons. With Bridge2Aid, we wanted to make it a charity, where people were clear about the fact that we were believers, we were Christians, but actually anybody could come and do their bit without any sense of judgement or whatever.

Mark: We had a number of people who came to work with us who have been to other organisations and not had the same response and that was something that we were determined to not have happen. Certainly nowadays, it’s a charity which retains those kind of values at the core in terms of relationships, people, caring for the poor, justice but it’s not an overtly religious organisation in that sense.

Payman: The world of charities, do you think of competitors in the way we do in the commercial sector?

Mark: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s a difficult one because people are working towards similar aims. People are working for the common good but the reality is, is that for every one pound there is out there, there are seven charities chasing it and it makes it very competitive. I think what you’ve got to do, and I think there’s a lesson for this, and I think you probably guys would be on the same line anyways is that you don’t seek to compete, you just seek to stand out and be very, very clear about what it is you’re trying to achieve, why you’re trying to do it and how what you’re doing is a good way and is achieving results, because people will find whatever cause they want to support and the thing that when I was chief executive at Bridge2Aid, I would say be very clear with people.

Mark: I don’t expect everybody to support this charity. In fact, that’s not going to happen. But what we do want, you should find what you’re passionate about and then go for that 100%. If that’s Bridge2Aid, then great, but whatever it is that you do, make sure you’re doing something that that you feel you can make a contribution to.

Payman: Is there a marketing department and an operations department? For the record, I think Bridge2Aid’s marketing is excellent. If you said to me name, six dental charities I couldn’t. Bridge2Aid is the one I could think of. Is that you? Was that you or how does that work?

Mark: To start with, we did everything in the beginning. When things started, it was just Ian, Andy and then it was myself and my wife, Joe, together with them and a couple of Tanzanians and we did everything to start with, and it’s not to the point of a marketing department. Now there are people who have some responsibility for marketing, but we were very fortunate in that we managed to establish relationships with people in the industry who had skills that we could draw upon. To this day, Bridge2Aid has a creative group of different people from across the industry, in the sort of marketing and sales arenas that meet once a year and say, right, let’s throw some ideas around and then that means we can go in and implement them.

Prav: As somebody who has got a choice of six to seven charities to donate their pound to or whatever it is, there’s always that question on someone’s mind is, where’s my money going and how much of my pound goes to that end cause of either treating patients, educating people, whatever that end goal is. What was the case with Bridge2Aid? So would you be able to tell me for every pound that went into the business, what ended up and how you actually went around measuring that and being transparent about it?

Mark: I’m glad you asked this question because it’s one that comes up a lot and it’s one I feel really strongly on. I think that the difference between the commercial world and the charitable world is that the commercial world expects charities to do things that they would never sign up for. So, if I said to you tomorrow that you got turn off your sales and marketing budget, but you’ve got to sell more, then you’d be like, aye, what you’re talking about?

Mark: So there is this whole thing that a charity is going to make an investment in its marketing, and in its fundraising, what it does with that is it leverages the money that I give you. So for me, it’s not a case of, well so much a case of how much is going to the cause. Because that’s a little bit like asking my car, how much of my car is the parts and how much is the R&D and everything that went into it? It’s a similar sort of thing.

Mark: I can tell you how much the materials cost and how much it costs to run the car and all those sorts of things, but there’s a whole load of other things that are kind of involved. So I think question I would always ask is, if I’m giving you a pound and you choose to use that for fundraising, How much you’re going to turn it into? Because if you just turn it into another pound, then that’s rubbish.

Mark: You should be turning that into at least three or four pounds for every one that I give you, and if you decide, okay, I’m going to spend 20p of every pound on fundraising, but I’m going to turn that 20p into a pound or into two pounds, I’d be like, crack on, and that’s the creativity that I think charities have to be able to use, but that requires trust from their donors to say, do you know what, you know how to run a charity, I don’t, and I’m not going to use a simplistic a metric is how much do you spend on admin, whatever admin is. Is that paperclips or is it people who work in the office?

Prav: So I guess the way you’re, and I haven’t thought about it like that is that, if you’re using part of that budget, or that budget for fundraising, is actually the donation creates cash flow for you to multiply that cash flow to then…

Mark: You have to. If you didn’t use it for fundraising, if you said 100% goes to the cause, unless you’ve got a sugar daddy, who’s paying all your fundraising costs, or unless you’ve got a couple of hundred million quid stacked away that’s paying your operational costs, then that’s just not happening. I would question anybody that says that not over 90% of their money goes to the cause, because they’re doing something to dress up the figures. Ours is about 83, 84p in the pound, but that made things really, really tight. If a charity didn’t invest any of the money that it got in fundraising, it would die in about six months, because the cash would all dry up.

Prav: When you say like 83, 84p in the pound goes to the cause, are you talking maybe 50p of that goes towards fundraising, which generates more that allows you to make that 83, 84 overall figure?

Mark: No. 83, 84 would be going to the cause and then the other 16, 17p will be split about 8 or 9p to fundraising and the rest between the other things that we have to pay for.

Payman: Explain to us with the Bridge2Aid model, what was the way that it worked with regards to, we always hear about dentists going and firstly fundraising, climbing a mountain or rock bike rider and then secondly actually giving their own time. Talk us through what happens when they go and visit, for instance, a country like Tanzania.

Mark: Sure. So one of the things that Ian was very passionate about at the beginning was mobilising volunteers in a way that would make a long term difference. I think he’d spent a lot of time in the 90s when he was a young man, he turned grey a long time ago, but he spent a lot of his time travelling around doing short term dental visits, which were great for the time that he was there, but actually left very little behind, and would in some cases, demoralise the local workforce because you’ve got people that are, you’re going in and doing something but then you’re walking away and leaving a complete vacuum.

Mark: So one of the things that he was very passionate about Andy, his wife was very committed to as well was this whole thing of sustainability. So when we started the training programme, it actually morphed from, okay, let’s get some volunteers out to a conversation with the government to say, what can we do that will make the biggest difference to the healthcare system?

Mark: They were very clear that they had this cadre of workers, clinical officers, three years diploma training in medicine, that were based in the rural areas that had no dental training and yet, the majority of people that would come into a health centre were in dental pain of some kind of varying degrees. So they had a defunct training programme, which had been very successful. They couldn’t fund it, they couldn’t resource it.

Mark: So we put that together with all the volunteers that wanted to come and work with Bridge2Aid and said, well, what can we create from this? So with Ian’s dental expertise, my wife Joe’s expertise in training, she’s got a background as a nurse and my logistical kind of expertise, you put those three things together, what you ended up with was a two week intensive training programme in emergency dentistry for these rural medical workers where they would work one to one with a qualified dentist over a seven to nine day period.

Mark: On day one, the dentist was doing all their extractions because that’s all we were covering was just simple extractions. Then on day nine, the clinical officer was doing the extractions and the dentist was just supervising and watching. What that meant was that every dentists that came to work with us and every nurse that ever came to work with us, they might have seen four to 500 patients in the two weeks that they were with us, but the legacy of every trip was five or six people, each responsible for another ten thousand’s care, that are for the rest of their careers are able now to practise an emergency dental skill.

Mark: That’s a huge leverage of investment from the dentist and the nurses and from the organisation. Because I walked away from Bridge2Aid two years ago now, and in the time that I was there, we trained about 450 people, that’s access to emergency dentistry for about four and a half million people. Had I walked away from that at that point and just run short term training programmes, all that work would be done now, but those people that we trained when I was there and still treating and they’re still treating, they’re still treating, that’s what it’s about.

Mark: For me charity, in a development sense, it’s about outside of the world of emergency aid, it went in disasters, that’s a different shebang. We’ve got to be looking at how we can build the healthcare system, how we can build capacity into it, how we can serve the governments of countries overseas and help them to do things for their own people.

Payman: It’s interesting what you’re saying. I have a couple of questions really on that. Firstly, how easy is it to get access to the government of Tanzania? Are they all up for it straight away or is that not a easy thing?

Mark: It was in the early days, Ian did a lot of the groundwork and Ian, if you ever meet him is a very gregarious, charismatic kind of guy. He can kind of talk his way into anything, and thankfully out of most things as well as I’ve found, but yeah, he did a lot of the legwork and I think the big difference with Ian is different if you’re the UN or you’re a big international organisation, you’re walking into some of these government departments to get an audience but he was a nobody.

Mark: He wouldn’t mind me saying that. In the early days Bridge2Aid was a nothing but he went in with humility and a genuine desire to serve and said, what can we do? Got to know people. The Tanzanian culture is very much a relational culture. There is a hierarchy but it’s not transactional. You’ve got to be very, very relational in order to win people over and win people’s trust. It’s a form of socialist government.

Mark: So in some areas, there’s a natural distrust of foreigners that are coming in to save the world before next Tuesday. So he worked very hard on the relationships, built the trust and then we were able to then build on that over the next 10, 12 years. As the organisation grew, and we followed through on what we said we were going to do, then it became easier and now, we’ve got a couple of our patients, former health ministers, the current High Commissioner in London is one of the patrons. So we’ve got some fairly influential Tanzanians on the organisation now.

Payman: Did you ever think that it might make more sense to have people full time over there training these medical offices rather than getting dentists to come up all the way through or is it that dentists want to give their time and so that’s part of the whole business model?

Mark: Yeah. It was an interesting one we had to balance. In the early days there wasn’t a question of having people on the ground full time because we were still building the evidence base for it. During my time, couple years before I left, there came a point where in a strategic discussion with the government, we change to a two pronged approach, where we’ve been laying the foundations for what we call phase two, which is where rather than training dentists to clinical officer, we would train dentists to regional dental officer or district dental offices.

Mark: So you’re training qualified dentists to be trainers. It’s a train the trainer’s programme, which builds capacity for the long term, but the size of the country and the amount of resource that was available, we weren’t going to cover the whole country by doing train the trainer’s quickly enough without the other thing. The other thing we had to balance was the fact that and this comes down to funding, is that a lot of that funding came from dentists.

Mark: So we had to balance that need to keep people engaged with our commitment to sustainability, and that’s a difficult one to navigate but I think I was happy with the way that we navigated while I was there.

Prav: Was it quite easy to recruit volunteers, dentist because I can imagine certainly for a lot of clinicians, you’re giving up a sizable amount of revenue. I think probably the biggest cost to them is their time out of the clinic, and giving up that time is a big ask. I’m sure obviously there are lots of people out there who are willing to give back to the community. Did you have a recruitment process for that or were volunteers just knocking your door down, saying look, I just want to give back and how do I get involved?

Mark: Yeah, we had both of those things. We had people knocking on the door, but we had a very strict and stringent recruitment process. So everybody was interviewed. Everybody was properly prepared, vetted references, those sorts of things. Because as well as being qualified, academically and clinically to do it, we wanted people that we’re going to play nice with the other kids. So we had a fair amount of that.

Mark: You can imagine putting a team together that then goes to a developing country and has to land on the ground and has all of their buttons pushed. You need people that are fairly resilient or weren’t going to sort of cave under pressure.

Payman: So did you end up rejecting many people?

Mark: Not many, but we did do, ad there was a few, to my knowledge, there was a couple we didn’t ask back. We were pleased when they didn’t ask to come back, but the overwhelming majority were fantastic people and repeat offenders, as it were.

Prav: How do you test whether a candidate is good for coming out and delivering aid work? You say, obviously, you’d filter some people out and they need to be resilient because you’re going to push the buttons while they’re out there. Would you try and push the buttons over here?

Mark: No, it was a little bit more relaxed than that. So, the process now is different to when I was in, well, it was a long time since I’ve done any interviews. We interviewed people face to face and you’d get a sense for people. I think a lot of it was more what to look out for, or who to pair them with rather than this person can’t come. The ones that we did reject, it was very clear from the interview that this wasn’t going to work because they had a different agenda. I think that’s really the only thing where it was a big issue.

Prav: What are the agendas that people might go out there for?

Mark: A bit too, I’m going to do it my way. I do it like this in my clinic and that’s the way it’s going to be. We would gently push back and say, well, actually, there’s a protocol here, you’ll be expected to follow the protocol because you’re not just training one person, you’re training six people, and they’re going to go around each of the trainers over the time. If you’re telling them one thing, and you’re in and they’re being told something else by somebody else, that’s going to screw up the whole process. So if they’re not prepared to adhere to a protocol, then we would weed that out.

Prav: Playing devil’s advocate here. Do you think there are any people who want to go out there not to do good, but to look good?

Mark: Yes. I mean, the short answer the question is, yeah, but I think my hope would be that even If they came for those reasons, they’d go home very different anyway. I can only think of one or two people who came thinking this is the latest thing on my CV and went back and carried on being exactly the same out five, 600 volunteers probably that they’ve had now.

Mark: So, my hope would be that even if people did arrive a little bit full of themselves that you don’t have to do anything, because the experience will sort people out because everybody will reach their low point and everybody will reach their high point. We worked very closely with them in terms of the leadership teams and how we looked after people in the whole process to make sure that was all out worked and processed properly.

Prav: I guess you’re changing a high volume of number of lives, the easiest way for me to explain it, in comparison to what they’re doing back home, either in private or NHS practise, right?

Payman: How many teeth would they take out in a day?

Mark: Oh, not as many as you think because they were training. You’d be looking at Probably 20 to 30 patients a day. Again, sometimes as low as sort of 10, 12 because the priority is training. We might take 20, 30 minutes over one patient. What we would do in cases where I mean, one day, I think the record for the time that I was there was 400 people who turned up looking for treatment on one day, and in those situations, we would protect the training, but then the people that were supernumerary in terms of our clinical oversight, and the local government oversight would then set up a chair and we’d have extra equipment, where we could just bash through people and get them out of pain as quickly as possible.

Prav: How many dentists on a typical trip?

Mark: They might shoot me down. I think it was seven. So six training and one supervisor, site clinical lead, and four nurses. It’s been a while, I might get the numbers wrong. I’m sure I’ll get a phone call.

Prav: There or there about.

Mark: There or there about. Small teams. 11, 12 people, enough to fit in two Land Cruisers because you’re working in some pretty remote areas,

Prav: You’re looking at between that team, about 140 teeth a day?

Mark: Yeah.

Prav: Still quite a lot, isn’t it?

Payman: Working in the third world, there’s always going to be issues. Tell me about the worst clinical issue that came up. Anything. You’d imagine something’s going to happen, go wrong.

Mark: Yeah, we had instances where post extraction complications and nothing that wasn’t then dealt with that was pretty traumatic, and for the patient.

Payman: Bleeding.

Mark: Bleeding and then having to travel to access care. Thankfully, very, very, very rare. A number of cases where we’d get so far and then had to stop and then refer them so that patients then got a couple of days before they’re able to then get to a full blown clinic and have a surgical extraction. We were very, very careful to make sure that in the training, we taught limitations as well as skills. So to my knowledge, thankfully, nobody during the training has ever run into such a problem that we had a real big medical emergency.

Mark: We had a few medical emergencies, fainting often because people hadn’t eaten for a long time and then they’d get an anaesthetic and faint, but we carried crates of soda for that sort of thing and people usually tend to perk up. Because we’re not doing sort of general surgery, thankfully, we were able to control the environment as much as possible.

Payman: Then from the admin side, you had a couple of well publicised issues. Run us through those. Run us through your lowest moments. Perhaps this is the favourite, perhaps favourite part of the podcast.

Prav: [inaudible] get you to cry, buddy.

Mark: Never a dull moment. Never a dull moment. I think all sorts of things. I talk about the financial issue but we had people involved in car crashes on the way back from the airport and all sorts of stuff, planes not arriving, people getting sick sometimes because of poor choices they’d made. Other times just because they got sick, but we had a good infrastructure set up. The hardest one I think was the financial issue in 2013 into 2014, where we had a big grant cut, and at the same time, we had a fraud perpetrated on us in the bank.

Mark: The two of those added up to a shortfall of about $200,000 that we were looking for in our budget, having just ramped up for a big expansion in programmes. So we had to launch an urgent appeal to do that, which was start at 2014 for 50,000 pounds just to get us back on an even footing. We’d made cuts, we’d save money wherever we could, and I think that the challenge at a time was, can you talk about fraud because if you talk about fraud and charity in the same sentence, then people will get very, very scared.

Mark: There was a huge reputational risk with going public with that, but we all felt as a senior management team, it was really important to be completely honest with people. So we did, we wrote about both circumstances and the fraud was probably 10% of the deficit and the grant was 80% of it, but we felt it was important to do that and thankfully it paid off although there was a few nervous moments and sleepless nights over Christmas in 2013, I can tell you. It was-

Payman: Tell us about the first time you found out there was a shortfall in the bank account. I mean, exactly how did you find out and how did you feel?

Mark: Do , I would felt sick to my stomach because I knew that if it had happened, that was going two major consequences. One would be the actual loss of money, and the second one was going to be dealing with the whole process, because Tanzania’s set up from a legal standpoint and a policing standpoint is very different to the UK. In the UK if that happened, you could feel confident going into police interviews, and you could feel confident that the police were going to handle it.

Mark: We probably had less confidence given the circumstances and the amount of money that was involved. So that was the initial reaction. The only reason we found out was because the first fraud happened two days before we found out about the next one, they made another attempt and it was on the second attempt that it was uncovered. So there was a whole mix of, money’s gone missing, police are involved, all that sort of thing. It’s all that kind of crisis.

Prav: Were you more concerned over there than here because of corruption?

Mark: I think my major concern was, we’ve got to manage the process with the bank and we’ve got to manage the financial thing. The financial thing can wait a little while, although we’re going to have to deal with it quite quickly because it would leave a big hole in the cash flow, but it was more navigating the complexities and the subtleties. I think one of the things that I found when I used to come back from Tanzania to the UK was, there was a level of stress that you live under, when you’re an expat in a different culture that you don’t live under here and it’s almost like it lifts off.

Mark: It’s subconscious in many ways, but there’s a lot more going on behind your back than you realise and even what’s going on in front of your face you don’t truly understand. So, I think my friends that are fluent in the language, although we’ve got a reasonable grasp of Swahili, but my friends who are fluent in the language are much better.

Payman: Do you speak Swahili?

Prav: No. Just about say, hello mate. Jambo, habari gani?

Payman: Was there any idea that the bank would pay you? I mean, if it happened here, you’d imagine the bank would find the money for you somehow. Their error. Were you thinking that?

Mark: That was our argument. That was our argument. I can’t go into too much detail about it because we made agreements in closing the whole thing off, but from our point of view, it was a breach in protocol. From their point of view, there were things that shouldn’t have happened that did happen, which we disputed.

Payman: Did you change banks?

Mark: Yeah. Very quickly, very quickly and it worked out. The great thing was picking up the phones to friends in the UK after it happened, the people that have done work overseas were like, you can have all the due diligence and all the protocols in the world, and people will find a way through and they did. Then they close that loophole, and they’ll find another one.

Payman: I remember that time very well. I think it was interesting what you said. Bridge2Aid was doing really well. So you’d scaled up, but the nice thing is that Bridge2Aid was doing really well, so people really wanted to help at the time. It seemed personally, not for a minute that I think, look at this fraud or that’s something they’ve taken. I thought this is just, but then coming from a third world country, you can understand the way these things work, but people did then come up with money from the appeal which is lovely.

Mark: Yeah, it was great. It was one of those really bad things that turns into something really great and you move forward with a whole load more confidence. Although we still had a tough, tough period to navigate.

Payman: What’s it like living in?, you just alluded to it living in Tanzania. You’ve adopted three children you were telling us before. Do they go to regular school or do they go to English school and then what’s it like bringing them here after living there all that time?

Mark: So we were fortunate in that the city that we lived in, in Tanzania is the second city. So there’s an international school teaches British international curriculum. So they went to that school amongst probably a smattering of white kids and a bunch of Asian kids and a load of Tanzania kids. Then they came back to the UK and it’s the complete opposite, because obviously, there are very few ethnic minorities where we live.

Payman: How old were they when you adopted them? Were they babies?

Mark: Yeah, our youngest was six months when she came to us and the boys were both 18 months. So relatively young. We’ve got a friend, Amy who’s now based up in Bolton who started the home that they lived at while they were overseas and they all came from the same place. Fantastic woman, got her MBA now, started an orphanage, it is a baby home because it’s an interim care home for kids. Kids that are abandoned or lose parents in childbirth. One of the big problems in Tanzania is that because formula is so expensive, fathers can’t afford to raise kids if the mothers died in childbirth.

Mark: So they will take, Forever Angels is the name of the baby home, make a donation. It’s fantastic charity. They will take the baby in for two years, feed them look after them. Take regular visits from the family. They’ll do vocational training for families to help them to get jobs and get skills, and then at the end of that period, they’ll go back into the family and then they’ll carry on with their lives. For kids like ours who didn’t have anything To go back to, they will find them homes to go to, or push them up into the next sort of level. So they all came from there.

Prav: So what were the specific stories of your children? Had they mothers passed away in childbirth or different circumstances?

Mark: Yeah, different circumstances and hard to know, because there’s not very much information about it. In Tanzania when you adopt, you cannot adopt any child that has any living relatives, and so it has to be proven first that there’s no living relatives. So [inaudible] been through that process, which is why they could be adopted, but that’s the daily reality and as I say, Amy, who still runs the baby home, but she lives in the UK, would be fighting for and receiving kids on a daily basis. That’s the reality of life for most of the world, unfortunately.

Payman: When you were living there, what did you miss most about the UK outside the family and friends?

Mark: Paper.

Payman: The newspaper?

Mark: A newspaper, yeah. Real ale.

Prav: Was there no ale?

Payman: No, I guess not.

Mark: Fizzy lager. Fizzy lager.

Payman: Was there not an Irish Pub somewhere?

Mark: There was. So in Dar es Salaam, where Prav’s dad comes from, there is an Irish Pub.

Payman: There’s an Irish pub in every city in-

Mark: There’s an Irish Pub in every country in the world. So it was those sorts of things.

Payman: A paper and a beer. How about what’d you miss most about there now that you’re back?

Mark: Now that we’re back, there’s not an awful lot that I miss. I think I was ready to come back. 10 years living in country, another two sort of travelling backwards and forwards I was ready to move on. I think it’s different for my wife. I was face to face with the bureaucracy and the challenges of doing business every day and so I was ready to step away. The main thing I miss is people, friends that we made out there some of whom now I live in the UK, some live in different parts of the world, some still live there.

Payman: And the tomatoes. Do you know what I mean?

Mark: I tell you what, fresh fruit, fresh fruit. My kids, that’s the thing that they miss is the fresh fruit. So we would have mangoes and watermelon and pineapple all chopped up in the fridge the whole time. So miss those sorts of things. Yeah, for sure.

Prav: So the next step, there must have been some point when you decided to step away from Bridge2Aid. What was the factor that made you make that leap?

Mark: It’s interesting. I was listening, just after I made the decision to leave, I was listening to a podcast that Deborah Meaden did with a bunch of entrepreneurs and they were all saying that 10 to 12 years was the maximum, the top end in anything that they would do before they’d move on. Because at that point, you’ve kind of given everything you’ve got to give to it and I’d been in Bridge2Aid 10 years, seven years as CEO. So it was that point in time combined with, I worked myself almost to death in 2016.

Mark: We set up Bridge2Aid in Australia. So I was there and back two or three times for four or five days stints, at the same time flying backwards and forwards to Tanzania to look after the team. I got to the point where, it’s that perfect storm of you’re exhausted. You’ve reached the end of your tenure, somebody is trying to tell you something.

Prav: Did you think to yourself at this point, do you know what, I want to do my own thing now. It’s time for me to start my own business, be that entrepreneur and do your own thing basically. As a lot of us who own businesses, we have that turning point in our life and say, you know what, I want to be in control of my own destiny. Was there an element of that?

Mark: A little bit, and it’s interesting because the person that joined Bridge2Aid is very different the guy that left Bridge2Aid, like hugely different. The way that I developed as a leader, working alongside people like Ian, other mentors like Chris Barrow and other mates that have sort of shaped me, and I guess, given me the confidence to lead and I think that’s the key thing for everybody to understand is that, you don’t wait for people to give you permission to be a leader, you just find out who you are and what you care about, and let that be the driver for it rather than waiting for a door to open.

Mark: So I came out a very different sort of person and I’ve been in an organisation for 10 years. The responsibility of leading a large team, of having to raise 50, 60k a month, just to keep the doors open, I think you reach the point to say, okay, we’re going to cut it right back. What do I want to do? So the decision to leave was the first one. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left, but started looking for jobs and thought, no, I want to find something I want to do.

Prav: So you didn’t have a master plan in place?

Mark: No.

Prav: You didn’t think to yourself, okay, 12 months before I leave my job, this is what I want to do and start making a plan, set up my own coaching company, rock and roll.

Mark: Not at all. I never had a master plan.

Prav: So was the CSR Coach an accident? Did you happen to fall into it because of a few experiences and then thought, actually, do you know what, I’m pretty good at this.

Mark: Yeah, I think it was a combination thing. I think once you create the vacuum, once you create the space, things start to happen but a lot of people wait until, they want to wait until they’ve got the right idea before they step out. So I think, it was a happy set of circumstances that brought me to that point and thought, well, crap, I stepped out. What am I going to do now? I got three kids and a mortgage to pay, and we’ve always worked for charities. So we got no money, what are we going to do?

Mark: So then you start thinking about, is what I’m passionate about something that people will buy, and that takes a while because what you’re passionate about, you think people will buy, but they don’t but then you find one or two friends who are prepared to give you a go, like Colin Campbell and Joe [Bat] and other people like that, who say, yeah, come on, let’s do this. Then you shape it up and I think over the last, what is it, nearly 20 months, I guess since I left and started things up, there’s been a daily process of thinking how we’re going to make it work, but it’s very exciting at the same time, because I’m in my sweet spot and doing what I love to do.

Prav: I think one thing that you’ve just touched on that really resonates with me is that you’ve got to create the space to make it happen. So it’s a bit like, I’m part of a mastermind and a coaching group and one of the topics of discussion that I’ve had is, you want to work with a certain type of client, but say 30% of your client base is not a client base that you want to work with. How do you make that point, that switch when you say, I’m going to let go of the 30% so I can do that? If you never make that space, you can never make it happen and I guess, for you in your career, making that space, making that jump allows you that freedom to be able to drop into what you did.

Mark: Yeah, absolutely. Getting into Bridge2Aid was because something else got cancelled and getting into this was because, I feel like I need to make the change. No idea but, I’ll bet myself to find something to do that will be good.

Prav: Did you ever have any doubts about the CSR Coach? Did you ever think that, oh, crap, do you know what-

Payman: Every day, right?

Mark: I was going to say, tell me an entrepreneur that doesn’t go, blimey, I really hope this works.

Payman: Mark, the thing you should bear in mind, I don’t need to tell you, but three years, any endeavour, three years, who’s your ideal client? Are we looking at Henry Schein dental directory or are we looking at dentists down the road or both?

Mark: It’s a bit of both. The stuff that I do works for all businesses. If you’ve got a team, and you’ve got customers, then it works. It even works for, so my biggest client is a multi academy trust in London. So, they’re a charitable trust, but they’ve got to attract staff and they also have a strong set of values around who they want to be as an organisation, and they know that as a corporate entity, that has to be fleshed out somehow. So going back to the dental side of things, I work with dental manufacturers, and I also work with practises.

Mark: I guess, the ideal client isn’t a certain size, it’s more of an attitude and an aptitude for, the best people to work with other ones that go, do you know what, this is the right thing to do, but I know it’d be good for business as well. So I say to people, don’t do this, just because it’s the right thing because although it is, but actually, this is something you can really use as a tool to grow your business.

Mark: The caveat to that is if you’ve got a real dysfunctional team issues, then you need to deal with that, but this will really help with it. If you are struggling to stand out because you’re rubbish at what you do or your website’s rubbish or that your branding is not good, then this can’t turn that around, but in a world where everybody looks competent, otherwise they wouldn’t be in business, and where everybody’s got a good team package, what’s the secret sauce, what’s the differentiator both from a customer point of view and a team point of view, that helps you to bring the right people in and provides the energy in the business.

Mark: Oh, and it’s a great thing to do as well because you’ll go ahead and put your head on the pillow and think, yeah we did the right thing today. We’re doing it intentionally on a regular basis rather than every now and then.

Prav: So before we move on in this conversation, just as I did before I met you about an hour ago, what on earth is CSR? What does it stand for and because you described it quite clearly to me earlier, actually, what it means in real term words and before that it was just a three letter acronym that I didn’t really understand how it sort of expresses itself in your business, so to speak, and what it means. Would you mind just telling the audience what it is?

Mark: Yeah, sure. So when you asked me that question earlier, I said, well, you said, who would know what CSR means in the street? I said, well, probably pretty much nobody. A few people would know that it stands for corporate social responsibility, but if you said to them, you know how people now expect businesses to do good, how they want them to treat staff right and to have a team that’s motivated not just by money, but because they care about doing the right thing, and about how the business needs to care for the environment and not be just chucking loads of waste out and using up loads of electric needlessly, or driving really big thirsty cars the whole time, and how you want them to be a positive contribute to the local community.

Mark: When you put those three things together, and that’s corporate social responsibility. So as a business, as an organisation, we choose to make a commitment because of our values and those are unique to every business. Every business makes, because of their values, they make a commitment to doing the right thing for their people, to doing the right thing for the environment and to doing the right thing and being an active and positive contribute to their local community. All I do is take people’s aspirations and put them into a simple structured plan, train somebody how to run it, so that it adds value to the business year round and they can use that as a differentiator to help them to stand out and show that they’re one of the good guys, which everybody is pretty much.

Prav: Cool. So you provide the structure to help businesses be essentially good guys in terms of socially, environmentally, and I guess in terms of leadership as well, right?

Mark: Yeah. Because I think, two problems people face, they either don’t know what to do. So they’ve got this idea that we want to do the right thing. We’re not quite sure what that looks like or they’ve got a very clear idea of what it should be, but they struggle with structure and putting it into a plan and making it consistent. So they don’t have a staff meeting in six months and think, well, that thing we did for charity a few months ago, brilliant, why don’t we do more of that? Then it gets forgotten about for another six months. So it’s going to be part of the business plan, part of the management system. That’s from my experience, that’s what I bring in and help it to work in that way.

Payman: Well, it seems to me that when times are good, companies are up for this sort of thing, but when it’s recession, then they’re not particularly Looking at this sort of thing. Is that right? Does CSR suffer with that a lot?

Mark: I would say no, and the reason for that is that, at the front end, a lot of the stuff that I do with clients is cost neutral. So any client that I work with, I can guarantee that at the end of the process, 80 to 90% of what they’ll be doing, they’ll be doing the same things, but they’ll be doing in a very different way. So they’ll be leading differently, or they’ll be communicating differently, or they’ll have tweaked a few things, but at the outside, that is all based and founded on a purpose that they started in terms of going back to their values and what their commitments are.

Mark: There will be some small things on the edge, which will be around giving some money back because it’s important that businesses have skin in the game because it shows to the staff, we’re not just asking you to do a bake sale or to raise money, whatever and we’re not doing anything about it, but we are actually putting something into the process. I would say that that investment more than pays off, and some of the stats around engagement of teams that work in socially responsible businesses.

Mark: The stats from Gallup are that staff in socially responsible businesses are 67% more engaged than staff in non socially responsible businesses. So that means they’re much more switched on. Now, every engaged employee that you’ve got will generate 120% ROI on salary. If you’ve got somebody who’s disengaged or actively disengaged, they’re costing you money because they’re generating 60 to 80%.

Mark: So you take an average salary, a lower end salary is 20 grand a year. If that person’s disengaged, they’re generating 16k. If you can flip them to engaged, they’re generating 24k in the first year, multiplied by the number of staff that you’ve got and you can see that putting a few grand into a CSR programme and making it happen actually is going to pay off in the long run in all sorts of ways.

Payman: So whenever we’ve done any charity, call it charity work, apart from the good that the work itself has done, from a selfish perspective, definitely for me the effect it has on the team is the biggest issue. Not necessarily the “marketing message,” that did that but I don’t know. I’ve never really tried to measure that, but the effect it has on the team and what you said before about it can actually solve friction within the team. Because there’s something about management and workers that people think, they don’t care and somehow glues the team together.

Payman: Certainly what I’ve noticed a couple of times that we’ve done anything CSR related, and I never really thought of it that way. I never thought that that would happen. It’s an interesting point, isn’t it? It’s for the good of doing what you’re doing. There is, I’m sure some marketing in it, but this one, definitely I thought the most worthwhile thing from the company perspective was how the team come together for something like this.

Mark: What’s the sort of age range of your team?

Payman: 25 to 35, most of them.

Mark: So they’re in the sweet spot. Anybody under 35, the millennial generation, three quarters of them are looking for socially responsible employees to work for and if they’re employed by those people, there’ll be more engaged, they’ll give more to it, they’ll advocate for the business, they’ll produce more. So times have changed. It’s not the carrot and stick anymore, if you do well and you’ll get a reward. It’s like what are we all trying to achieve here, and people want to come to work in a place where they feel they’ve got a sense of purpose.

Mark: Although there’s a commercial purpose and that’s around excellence and doing the right thing for the customer and personal growth, you add a CSR element on the charitable side and it’s actually, as a business by doing business, we’re doing good because we are either generating funds that’s going into things or as a team, we did something nuts or we do something nuts on a regular basis. We have a lot of fun together, it builds collaboration and the whole team gets a buzz from that.

Payman: I know it’s different for every practise and depends on what they come to you with in the first instance, but run us through Dr. Prav and his team want to do something CSR related. They’re not sure, they want to kind of help the community, would be nice to help someone abroad as well. What’s the process? They get you in? Have a conversation?

Mark: Yeah, so we always start with values. So I’ll always talk to an owner or a senior management team and say, what is it you’re trying to achieve? What are your particular issues that you’ve got? What stage is your team at, what stage is the business at, what are you doing already?

Prav: I guess to a lot of people who are not well versed in business language or talk and you talk values, core values, what are your aims? What’s your vision-

Payman: Go on. Go on Dr. Prav, go on. What are you sort of do the thing, pretend to be that dentist?

Prav: So actually, you know what my values are is, I want to treat my patients in the best possible way. I want to deliver great dentistry and I want to make more money, do more high end dentistry and I want my team to be happy. In terms of vision and values this, that neither, I’m actually not sure what you’re talking about.

Mark: So in terms of vision, I’d probably ask you why you bought the practise in the first place. What was it that got you into dentistry? What was important about that? If we were to fast forward 10 years time apart from sitting on a beach, what does it look like? What does the practise look like in 10 years time?

Prav: So the reason I got into dentistry was it seemed like the right thing to do as an Asian. I was too clever to be an accountant and run a corner shop or drive a taxi. So I became a dentist and I finished my anatomy classes at the neck. So I decided dentistry and not medicine.

Prav: So about the practise to basically move on from being an associate and be the, I guess the controller of my own destiny but I ended up working a lot more hours probably earning less money and I’m at a space at the moment now where I just want to reduce my hours, spend more time with my family, but I want the business to run on its own two feet is my ideal and if I could wave that magic wand [inaudible] I would say and pluck up my dream scenario in 10 years time, I’d be working two days a week in the practise, working a day a week on the business and enjoying the rest of my time with my loved ones.

Mark: So it sounds like family and balance and work that’s fun, work that’s rewarding is really important to you. So we then look at okay, tell me about it when the business is running really, really well in terms of the team, in terms of how patients are being treated, what does it look like?

Prav: I’ll tell you what it looks like, everyone’s really happy. There’s no argument. There’s no bitching. There’s no he said that she said that. Everyone’s given that little bit more discretionary effort, going above the hundred percent and I don’t know quite what it is about that, but there’s times where that business is just ticking away and firing on all cylinders and there’s times, almost like the total opposite where things hit rock bottom, shit hits the fan and it’s just like, I don’t know why. So if I could have my business firing on all cylinders like a well oiled machine, and everyone was super happy all the time, I think I’d get to that position a lot quicker. Can you help me get there?

Mark: Well, I’ll tell you what, what you’re talking about is a cultural thing around expectation of performance but also tolerance of types of behaviour. So what we can certainly do when we look at the people aspect of CSI is look at how you’re leading, what expectation you’re setting for the team, how you’re rewarding people that behave in the way that you expect them to behave in, how you’re recognising those sorts of things. Sounds like there’s a lot around communication in there as well about do we know where we’re going, what we’re trying to achieve.

Mark: So in terms of that vision piece, the vision thing is no grander thing to say, well, how do people know what you want them to do unless you tell them what you’re trying to get to? So if you can tell them why you’re trying to get to, then people will engage and get behind it in their own way. There’s a whole piece around culture, there’s a whole piece around expected behaviour. We can shake that up with the community and charity side of things in terms of getting people involved in stuff and if you’ve got people that are aspiring leaders or could do better, we can give them some responsibility in that area before we test them on live stuff like running the finances.

Mark: So there’s all sorts of things we can do around that as well, and in terms of getting more high end patients in now you need to talk to somebody a specialist in dental marketing about that. What I can tell you is that consumers will come to you if they can see that you’re a good person to do business with and you’re a trustworthy person to do business with. They don’t just see that from your website and your testimonials.

Mark: That’s a big part of it but if you can show them that actually you’re rounded out as a person and as a business, then that will help to build trust and to help and to feel that they can to you for their dentistry.

Prav: Cool. I’m just going to step straight out of role play now and ask you a question that’s actually really current with me right now, and it’s a recruitment question. So I really love the fact that pretty much every one of my team members gives me what I consider to be discretionary effort and as a boss, and I’m being very sort of blunt here, I can expect 100% from my team. So I pay the money, I expect 100% and I can’t dictate or expect 110% for example. I get that every time though.

Prav: I get the 110%, I get my team members stay in after hours, never dictate it to them. I get my team members texting me, messaging me, emailing me at midnight, 11 o’clock caring about the business the way I do, sometimes more. How do you recruit for that?

Mark: One of the things that I’ve found is that you can train skills, but you can’t recruit values. So if you’re going to recruit people that are going to do that sort of thing, you have to be able to identify what those values are and get those people in, and even if that means somebody less qualified than somebody else that’s a high flyer but won’t fit in the business and you’re very lucky, if that’s what you’ve got, then you’ve done a great job in building that.

Prav: I have and I feel very fortunate, but I would say you can’t teach the art of give a shit. You can teach everything else, right? What would you do to screen that in an interview?

Payman: Difficult one, isn’t it?

Prav: It’s one I struggle with all the, I am recruiting-

Payman: I think Prav, there’s a big part of your thing. You’re very happy to fire people too.

Prav: I wouldn’t say I’m happy to do it.

Payman: Not happy but-

Mark: You need to.

Prav: You fire fast, right? Definitely. Definitely, but never happy to.

Payman: I didn’t say, yeah. I did say but I didn’t mean that. I didn’t mean that.

Mark: If you’re a human being, then firing should always be hard because it has a consequence to that person, but we’ve all had to do it, and sometimes very early on, and it’s painful from all sorts of perspectives.

Prav: Taking food off someone’s table, and whatever all those other consequences are is really, really hard but then, as you said earlier, you’ve got that vision. You’ve got the rest of your team who are pushing in the same direction. It’s a responsibility to them.

Mark: Yeah, absolutely. Going back to your question, I’d probably tell me a story about, tell me about a time when that happened, get them to tell you about stuff that they’ve done. If they can’t think of anything, then that’s probably a good indicator.

Payman: Mark, do you think your time in the charity sector has prepared you well for what you’re doing now? So it’s clear that you’re obviously a leader, you’re obviously the kind of person you’ve managed big budgets, you’ve managed lots of people, you’ve talked to government, or do you think nothing prepares you for entrepreneurship?

Mark: Well, it’s interesting because I think, a few things happen. When I was with Bridge2Aid , it’s like you’re always reading in podcasts and blogs and those sorts of things. I seem to find myself on a lot of entrepreneurial type blogs because they tend to have the best tips. Very often I think you very much are an entrepreneur in the sort of charity that we were doing. It was a startup charity. It started with two people 15, 16 years ago. So you have to be able to think on your feet.

Mark: Cash flow is king. You can’t go to a bank and ask for another injection of funding, you’ve got to think on your feet in that way. So I think the charity was very helpful in that. I also think a lot of people that I met, a lot of people that I’ve worked with, during that time shaped my thinking, and got me ready. I think being prepared to grow as a person, had I not been prepared to grow during the time that I was chief exec, then no, I wouldn’t have been ready, but that’s not to say that I was ready when I started, but you’ve got all the tools in the box to use to build what it is that you need to build.

Mark: So I certainly feel like all the experiences I’ve had to date have got me into a position where I’m ready to take this challenge on. That’s not to say that it’s an easy one, but at least I know how I’m going to approach it and what I’m going to do, and it’s a lot of fun.

Payman: We’d like to wrap this conversation up with perhaps a favourite question.

Prav: Just before that. I just want to, there’s people out there, I am sure, like burning question on their mind. If I want to hire this guy, where do I find out about him, how much does it cost?

Mark: Okay. So to work with me, costs two and a half grand to get me in to do a two month intensive with you. That’s a couple of meetings. So I’m meeting with you as the principal with your senior management team. I’ll go away and put a plan together and then I’ll come back and I’ll meet with your team and get them overexcited about what it is you’re going to do together. Then once that’s done, I’ll then handhold whoever it is that you appoint to look after your charity work, your environmental work and your people stuff through the first month.

Mark: We then hand it on and then if you want to keep me on, which 90% of people do it, there’s something called the CSR Club, which is anything from 175 a month, starts at 79 a month for 10 months following that. So you’re looking at about 4k to get me in, all bells and whistles.

Prav: That’s for the year?

Mark: For the year.

Prav: And the club, is that a community of CSR devotees or whatever you want to call it?

Mark: Yeah, they’re busy people, so they don’t tend to hang out much but what I do is I check in them on a regular basis. So with my level one clients, I’m Zooming with them or calling them once a month and it’s not just a friendly chitchat. There’s a set of objectives that they’re supposed to have delivered. So what it means is that the principal can hand it on and sign up for the club and know that their CSR is going to get taken care of because I’m going to be watching and making sure that it’s all happening and supporting them. So that’s the way it works, and if you want to find out more than my website is

Prav: Wicked. Thank you for that, and just onto my final question, Mark. So imagine it’s your last day on the planet, and your three children are all grown up, in their own lives, and they’re stood at the side of your bed. You can give them three bits of advice, life advice that they can take away from dad, what are they?

Mark: Three? Gosh. First one, I think would be, don’t let fear stop you doing anything, and never make a decision that’s based on fear. Always make a decision that’s based on hope. The second one would be, don’t worry. If it happens, it happens. You’ll deal with it. The third one would probably be, it’d be something about giving, that life’s not about taking. It’s about you get more out of life, through what you give to others, and that’s everything from me what you choose to do with your whole life to what you choose to do on the way back to the tube station, and that’s where the sweet spot of life really is about giving back to others.

Prav: Lovely, and just while we’re on that subject, I know that was my final question, but what do your kids want to do when they grow up? Any ideas?

Mark: Oh, who knows? My youngest wants to be a radio presenter. So one of my best mates is a presenter on local radio, BBC local radio down in the south. So we went in to see him over the Easter holidays, which saved my bacon because it was like what am I going to do these kids throughout the day. So we went in and they were on air and all that sort of thing, which is a lot of fun. So now he wants to be, his radio name is Bobby Strong on BBC Radio silent instead of Radio Solent.

Mark: So that’s what he’ll be doing. So he’ll do that. My oldest is a strong woman. She’s going to be awesome. She already is awesome. She’ll either be a chef or a lawyer and I don’t know which one I want more and I think my middle boy, Jack, I think he’s going to do something in sport. He’s only 11 but he’s already built like a [inaudible] and he’s great footballer. I think he’ll end up either playing football or he’ll end up on the sports science side of things as a physio. He’ll be keeping people healthy and keeping himself active.

Prav: Amazing. Mark, thank you so much for your time today-

Payman: Thank you so much Mark-

Mark: Yeah, it’s been great to be here.

Prav: It’s been absolutely really brilliant.

Payman: It really has. I think for me, not a dentist but definitely a dental leader. Definitely a dental leader.

Mark: Thank you very much.

Payman: Thank you so much.

Mark: Cheers guys.

Speaker 4: This is Dental Leaders. The podcast where you get to go one on one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts, Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.

Prav: Thanks for listening guys. If you got this far, you must have listened to the whole thing and just a huge thank you both from me and Pay for actually sticking through and listening to what our guest has had to say because I’m assuming you got some value out of it.

Payman: If you did get some value out of it, think about subscribing, and if you would share this with a friend who you think might get some value out of it, too. Thank you so, so, so much for listening. Thanks.

Prav: And don’t forget our six star rating. Cheers.

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