"They’ve only scratched the surface in the Middle East and the US."
MarkRodge rs is a marketing and media professional with over 25 years’ experience. He has held senior sales positions with major media companies in Australia and other markets, including the Nine 9 Network, 10 Network Ten and Radio 2UE. He also founded and developed one of Australia’s most successful Retail/Shopper Agencies in Tribe Marketing. Mark was also, until recently, Chairman of Australia’s largest independent craft beer company, McLaren Vale Beer Co. and recently invested in two start-ups in Creative Community and Tribe Media SolutionsTMS (Australasia).
As a teenager, Mark had lofty aspirations of becoming an accountant. Thankfully, his IBM boss intimated that his attempts to balance the books were dire and he should try marketing instead. He listened, took action and changed his life’s course.
Now he runs Boost Media along with his business partners and the world beckons. Once a senior sales director at top media organisations – Networks Nine9 and Ten10 as well as Radio 2UE – Mark grew up a ‘Shire’ boy raised on surf culture and fishing. The line and lure he cast in his youth became the metaphor for his work in media sales – hooking the big fish and reeling them in!
Now As a partner in an Australian multinational media company, his top-end clients include the major television networks, foreign government-owned companies and a wealth of untapped potential global markets. He’s worked with some of the media industry’s very best. Mark harbours fond memories of being mentored, given opportunities and being introduced to the thrilling world of advertising at the time cigarette commercials were considered cool, relevant and still a large part of corporate sponsorship.
Self-motivated, savvy and generous in his charity work, Mark Rodgers is a man on the move, both upwards and outwards with views to setting up a media hub in New York for the business next yearin 2016.
Growth at all costsSteady, planned growth – not success at all costs – is Mark’s mantra. With total faith in Boost’s business model, a disciplined approach helps him keep his eye on the prize – developing strategic growth in key markets. Sophistication is the bright, addictive lure that Mark uses to catch some of the world’s leading media players – in markets from India to New York.
“Our mantra is to grow steadily and profitably. We’re not the sort business that’s going to go out there and throw millions of dollars at expanding the business. We want to work with big clients in major markets and invest in those markets and those clients, ensuring they’re profitable before we start moving onto the next one. It’s a very structured, steady and disciplined approach to moving forward in the business, but it’s not profit at all costs, it’s not growth at all costs.”
Newcastle born and bred, Mark Rodgers is the product of the 1950s – an era when Australian car manufacturing was at its peak and families seemed to simply follow where employment led. Mark’s father was in the motor business and worked for Ford and General Motors Holden (GMH).
The family moved from Newcastle to Cessnock and further south to Melbourne where Mark met a range of new people, learned about AFL football and loved the experience. It was a highlight of his childhood. The family moved back to Sydney and settled in the suburb of Lilli Pilli just in time for his high school years.
He grew up, like many other coastal inhabitants of the time, in a surf culture – at the beach enjoying life with his mates. The Shire (Sutherland) not only gave him Cronulla Beach, but the rivers as well, and the memories of surfing, fishing and crabbing would last a lifetime.
Now a Mosman local of 25 years, he says the colloquialism “You can take the boy out of the Shire, but you can’t take the Shire out of the boy” holds true.
After school, while studying for a Bachelor of Business degree, Mark landed a job at Westpac. He wanted to be an accountant – a source of some amusement to those who know him now. He then moved to IBM and his boss, the “fantastic” Russell Pierce, left an indelible mark on the aspirations of young Mark. As the head of the area, he noticed Mark (the esteemed, skillful accountant) had lost a warehouse full of parts on the books somehow. He said to him, “Mate, I think you’re a terrific bloke and we love having you here, but you’re not an accountant’s bootlace so maybe you should think of working in marketing.”
He quickly switched his major from accounting to marketing, transferred to marketing within IBM and then moved to CCAmatil. This provided a great opportunity because Coca-Cola and WD & HO Wills (a tobacco company) were both subsidiaries of the company and he worked across those areas. Not only did he find the job fascinating, in those days he was able to be involved in cigarette commercials. It was this opportunity which ultimately launched Mark’s career in advertising because he met Allan Johnson, Alan Morris and Don Morris of Mojo fame while working on a Sterling Silver cigarette campaign.
Mark was excited by the world of advertising. It was a world to which he’d never been exposed, but he could sense its potential. One of his friends from Coca-Cola, Ian Rowden, introduced him to Brian Walsh. Affectionately known as Walshy (and now head of television at Foxtel), he employed Mark at 2SM as an assistant promotions manager and opened up the world of media to him. Walshy was a great friend and supporter.
Working his way up at 2SM, Rodgers found himself as agency sales manager where he met George Buschman (who later became the founder of Boost). Everyone was telling Mark he should be in television but they suggested he start in the regional stations and work his way up. That didn’t appeal to him. He wanted to work for Channel 9 in Sydney.
David Leckie (with Channel 9 for 23 years and later CEO of 7 Media Group) interviewed him but didn’t give him the job. Instead he placed him as a sales rep at Channel 9Nine Melbourne (Sydney office) working with Vance Lothringer and Graham Yarwood, who later had long careers as the most senior sales staff at Channel Nine Sydney and Melbourne respectively. Mark had a fantastic apprenticeship under them and about a year later David Leckie tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Right-o, time to come over to the big house.”
He moved to Channel Nine working with Leckie, Sam Chisholm and Ian Gow. Mark remembers the period fondly. He became a group sales manager, working with Joe Winter, and Jim Honey, and other great sales people. He learned a great deal and established some strong contacts.
Then Alan Bond and Kerry Packer started interchanging assets and it became very convoluted. Mark felt it was losing its heart and went back into radio – Radio 2UE – as Sales and Marketing Director working with Nigel Milan, another great mentor. With John Laws arriving at the station and Alan Jones moving to breakfast, the station was on the rise. The first thing he did was to build a new sales team and increase the revenue, increasing it from $4 million to $24 million in less than three years.
Then 2UE was sold, the management team left and Mark went to Channel Ten for a year as Managing Director of the regional stations for Media Sales Network. But it didn’t have the thrill he’d thrived on at 2SM, Channel Nine or 2UE, so he left after a year and started his own business, Sales Success, with his wife just after they married.
The business grew quickly and acquired some high profile clients – Coca-Cola, Unilever, Channel Nine, Telstra and many others. He sold part of the business to Clemenger Group in the late 90’s and there were some changes and buy-backs over a few years, until eventually he sold Sales Success to STW Communications and Mark rebranded the business as Tribe Marketing, where he remained until 2014, when he sold his final 25% shareholding.
George Buschman, who had known Mark for a long time, invited him to become a partner in Boost Media – a business George had founded. Buschman had been a shareholder and a manager at Macquarie Radio’s 2GB and 2CH (owned by John Singleton) but had finished up with Singleton and decided to go it alone. Knowing they shared the same philosophies around sales and marketing George knew Mark would be good to have on board. Soon after, nearly a quarter of the business was Mark’s and they set about creating a bigger global platform for it.
Boost’s business is revenue generation on a massive scale and it works with big media companies across the globe, such as the Malaysian government-owned Media Primaemier Television, Media Corp in Singapore (also government-owned), ARN Radio in Dubai, CBS Radio in New York, as well as major newspapers across the USA.
“We work with big media companies in big markets. We have a very sophisticated structure and a very sophisticated process, and from this we generate huge volumes of incremental revenue for media owners across the globe.”
Essentially, Boost Media builds databases of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and uses finely targeted direct mail, digital, social and a host of other marketing techniques – including the power of the medium itself – to invite these SME’s to an Expo which will showcase the media owner’s products and demonstrate how to use the power of this medium to build their business. These Expo events are very sophisticated and run for a week, with six sessions every day. With hundreds of SME’s turning up to the events every day, huge volumes of incremental business are closed for the media owners at every event. As this platform of business grows annually it becomes an incredibly important part of the media owner’s business in the future.
Australia is still their smallest market with Ten Network Ten a client, but their global scope reaches from the Dallas Morning News and CBS Radio in the US to the ARN Arabian Radio Network in Dubai and Star Television in India (part of News Corp). And that’s just to name a few.
Mark and business partner George consider they’ve only scratched the surface in the Middle East and the US, and they haven’t yet talked to prospects in Europe or Latin America. But their hopes are high for global integration and they believe they can quadruple the business over the next five years.
“We have tremendous faith in our business model. We believe we’ve got the best business model in the revenue-generation world.”
Boost now turns over $150 million with just 19 clients, and it’s this focus on the big players that enables Boost keep its staff numbers fairly low. There is a need to grow the skill base and staff numbers, but their theory is that a massive workforce isn’t necessary if the clients they do business with are at the top end of the market.
Initially Australian-based, the staffing proved to be expensive because of the global travel required to meet clients. To counter this, geographical hubs will are beingbe set up: the Australian hub, the Asian hub, the Middle Eastern hub, the North American hub and so on. Mark has his eye on the US and Latin American market and is relocating to New York next year to set up thisa hub. He’ll run the Latin America, Canada, US, and Europe hubs while George will run hubs on the other side of the planet. Sounds like world domination given the size of the players they’re courting.
The business model of the Boost Program is geared for success as the players -, the clients – become addicted to the perpetuity of the business deals made at the Expo events that represent so much of their annual income.
Boost continues to reinvent itself; putting new products and systems in place, evolving the model, and growing those major markets. This gives Mark confidence that the business is sustainable on a long-term basis in markets already developed and also in new markets.
With hundreds of years of experience between them, the senior management team reads like a who’s who of Australia’s major media organisations; radio stations, television stations, and newspapers. The motivation factor is a critical element in the success of the business. These managers know how to motivate staff in the lightning-paced industry of the media, where (particularly from a sales sense), they know what makes people tick and how to get the best in performance. Staff rewards and recognition are key motivators as are guidelines, structure, and guidance.
Never without self-motivation, Mark attributes this to not having achieved as much as he perhaps could have during his school years. The need to step out into the world and leave his mark somehow, was strong. Choosing the media as a career path proved a fortunate move. Excellent mentors and challenging situations to respond to, have meant growth in confidence and ability, and the desire to rise up through those media organisations paid off well for him.
When Mark started his own business, Sales Success, in the early 1990s, Sales Success, fear was a huge driving force. Wondering if he would fail every day kept him going. He had a wife, young family, a house and not much money so this subconscious fear drove him – the fear of not succeeding.
Confidence in one’s own ability, thick skin, and being disciplined in one’s approach to business are the foundations of Mark’s success. The world of small business is tough terrain and one needs to be prepared to fight hard to succeed. “If you back yourself, you’ll succeed”, he says. “And it’s vital to have a long-term vision, not one for short-term gain.”
Brian Walsh, David Leckie, Nigel Milan, George Buschman, Ian Rowden and Russell Pierce, the IBM manager who told Mark he was no accountant, are all part of the list of respected businessmen who have impacted Mark’s life in positive and occasionally life-changing ways. His experiences with and through them have helped fine-tune his own self-belief and boost confidence in his ability to literally take on the world.
His wife Donna, who has been with him every step of the way, is comfortably perched at the top of that list.
- “If you back yourself, you’ll succeed.”
- “Boost’s business is revenue generation on a massive scale and it works with big media companies across the globe.”
- “We have tremendous faith in our business model. We believe we’ve got the best business model in the revenue generation world.”
Mark Rodgers had what every Aussie entrepreneur would think was the perfect job. He part- owned a boutique brewery and had a few other business interests as well. After an incredibly successful career in radio and television, mixing with Packers and Murdochs along the way, Mark’s now heading to New York, taking on the world and expanding a global media sales operation.