top of page

Owner of Phanta Media Mark Drager

Owner of Phanta Media Mark Drager

Gabriel Flores  0:03  

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the shades of entrepreneurship. This is your host, Mr. Gabriel Flores. Today I am here with a fellow podcaster. But that's not all this gentleman does. He does a lot which we will get into Mark Drager. How are we doing, buddy?


Mark Drager  0:18  

I am doing amazing, you know, I'm gonna say that he does a lot seems to be a theme that most of us entrepreneurs run into right.


Gabriel Flores  0:27  

other duties as assigned as it is at this as the saying so. So Mark, let's let's introduce the world to you. For the listeners at home. Who is Mark?


Mark Drager  0:35  

Yeah, I mean, there's, there's, there's many different shades of me. I'm, I'm a husband, and actually my wife and I are about to celebrate our 22nd anniversary. Yeah, I'm pretty chuffed about that. We were highschool sweethearts. I'm a dad of four kids. And I'm an entrepreneur and being an entrepreneur means that it's really just code for making money doing whatever you love. And so I own a creative agency that helps with with branding and creative production. And that got me, you know, seven, eight years ago now into podcasting and into content production. And so I wear a lot of different hats.


Gabriel Flores  1:14  

Oh, yeah, it's kind of funny. I've been new, we were talking about this before, I've been doing this podcast for about a year now a little over a year, in the amount of experience I've gotten in areas I never thought I would get like podcasts editing, website design, graphic design, it's like all these different mediums that I'm kind of getting into, which has been really, really fun.


Mark Drager  1:35  

Oh, it's amazing. And, you know, I tell people, when you own an agency of any kind, any, anytime, whether it's an advertising agency, or a marketing agency, or whatever it might be, if you're a lawyer, and accountant, it doesn't matter. Your clients are in all of these different industries and all of these different verticals. And the more that you help them, the more you learn. And so I spent the last what 15 years now, not only building my own business, but building every one of my clients, businesses in all of these weird industries. You know, we have a client who is is one of the leaders in retail store design and building. So it's morning I was having a conversation with him about frictionless retail and what's happening within what frictionless retail? Is this? What is the term is the term used to help make the purchasing decisions for for shoppers buyer journeys in stores as simple as online, let's say. So maybe you go into a store that has no staff, maybe on your app, you scan all the items that you purchase as you put it in your cart, and then you just walk out. That's frictionless retail. You know, self checkout is frictionless retail, buy online, pick up in store. So So here's the thing. It's like, I'm a marketer, who's a podcast host. Those are the those are the main hats that I wear. And yet, you want to talk about the transportation industry. You want to talk about pension plans, you want to talk about insurance, like I spent 15 years in all these weird industries.


Gabriel Flores  3:08  

Man, I love talking about pensions. Don't get me started about pension plans. Oh, yeah, you want to talk about directly, we'll come down here and punch him in the face. And any more she hears about 401k pension plan.


Mark Drager  3:18  

Do you want to DC versus the DB pension plan?


Gabriel Flores  3:21  

You want the 403? What the 457? You know, we got some different choices. We're nonprofit over here, baby. We got some options. All right. So you know, you mentioned mark, you mentioned you actually do podcasting. You have the other hosts? To kind of explain what is it exactly all that your business does? And it how did you create this brand?


Mark Drager  3:39  

Yeah, so So back in 2006, I launched my agency Fanta media, and we started as a video production company now. video today is like, you know, you pick up your phone. And everything is video, Instagram last summer said, Hey, we're no longer a photo platform. We're now a video platform. Back in 2006, we were shooting on tape, we would take that tape and digitize it into computer. And then we would still, we would still compress everything for dialogue like like YouTube was wasn't even owned by Google yet. Facebook was just launching where you could put photos on them like, this was a long time ago. And so I started this this agency, this video production company. And we focused on corporate video, which became communications over the years, which then suddenly we find ourselves doing marketing. And then we find ourselves doing advertising. And before we know it, we're growing. And by 20 1314 1516 We're doing like national television campaigns and radio campaigns. And we're working with the NBA and we're working with all of these great people. And so, my own agency had this journey as media as the internet as as as our world continues to change as social media came online. And as I mentioned all along. I love the idea of giving back like most entre winners do you know we have our passion, we have our purpose. And eventually you want to give back. And the easiest way to do that you can you can start a blog, you can go on a speaking tour, you can start a podcast. And so back in maybe 2014, I think it was I started podcasting. And I fell in love with it. Like, I fell in love with the chance to like you, like, like anyone who has a podcast to be able to connect with amazing people and ask great questions and have great conversations. And what happened was, though, I found that I was spending a lot of time at work doing the things I had to do. So that way, I could spend a tiny bit of time doing the things I love to do. You know, I had to worry about production, I had to worry about finance, I had to worry about sales, I had to worry about payroll, we were multi million dollar company. So seven figure payroll, and I had to worry about all this stuff. So that way I could spend a few hours a week, or maybe just maybe a few years later, I could do the things that I really loved. And I love hosting conversations, I love having a podcast, I love hosting panels on stage and helping people emcee live events. And I love all those things. And so it was only in the last year, that we actually decided that I'm not going to live this double life, I'm not going to wear these, these two hats, I'm not going to spend all my time doing the stuff that I have to do so that we could spend a tiny bit of time doing the things I love to do. And so we pivoted the agency to bring everything together.


Gabriel Flores  6:32  

Nice, nice. Now why why did you feel that it was time to kind of pivot?


Mark Drager  6:38  

Well, a few things, owning a multibillion dollar production company, when COVID hit, you may imagine that all of our corporate clients and all of our massive projects, our six figure projects instantly got canceled or put on hold. And so going into COVID, I had 24 full time staff. And at this point, our company is down to four full time staff. So that was that was a bit of a hard time hard period, our revenues pretty much fell by 70%. Very, very quickly. And so I had the decision, though, for the first time in my life, I could shut down my agency, I could go get a job, I could change it, I realized that I had built this company that that honestly I kind of felt trapped in, I would have these moments of realization that for everyone on my team, and every one of my clients, whatever we were working on was was a stepping stone in their career path. But my company wasn't a stepping stone in my career path. My company. That's all I had. It was


Gabriel Flores  7:43  

it was the only stone Yeah, it was


Mark Drager  7:45  

it. And and and COVID actually helped give me the time the coverage, it forced me to make a lot of hard decisions and face a lot of hard truths. But in doing so, I realized that, that I still do love this. I love creating great spaces. And live events allow for great spaces, I love creating great conversations like we're having today where we can dig into real things. And I love designing and building brands and, and business models and working with entrepreneurs and with speakers and coaches and consultants, people who have a real purpose in the work that they that they do helps people after coming out of 15 years of corporate and all those industries that I mentioned, where sometimes you're pouring your heart and soul into something that at the end of the day, it doesn't really do very much for anyone you know, I I realized that I love this. I just didn't love what I was doing or maybe who I was doing it for. And then I had the power to fix it. You know, that was really the truth.


Gabriel Flores  8:55  

Yeah. Nice. Now let's, let's take it a step back. I want to talk about how I think a lot of listeners will be very curious to know how do you scale a multimillion dollar business while working in the corporate world?


Mark Drager  9:10  

Well, I mean, we went we went the advice I got early on, I started my business when I was 23. I quit my $45,000 year job, my wife just had just had our first child so she was three months old, my wife wasn't working had no Matt leaf had no coverage, and I just I'm gonna quit my job and start a company. And, and so that was a bit of a risk. But people said go where the money is. And for the most part, that's great advice. Like if you're starting a company, go where the money is because they will be willing to pay for things. And so scaling the business. After we figured out Generation One was not hard for anyone who's starting anything once you get the people and the systems and the processes all in place and you figure out whatever The first version of something isn't it works, often moving to a second or third or fourth version of something. Isn't that challenging as long as you can keep it together, so for so the way our agency works like most service companies is there's like working groups. And so I need to make my agency work, I need like a video editor. And I need a video producer. And I need a project manager. And I need someone who, right and someone who can design there's four people I need so so getting to that first group of being able to hire each of those people, was it started with me doing everything. And then I backed myself out of like, the lowest cost thing, which was video editing. So I hired a video editor. And then I was like, oh, I need to get out of production. So I hired a producer and I just over the kind of two or three years, as our revenues grew, I would just hire someone to replace me at a given skill. And each time I did, it not only freed up my time, but it actually helped us produce better work. Better Work meant a stronger portfolio and meant more referrals. Stronger portfolio, more referrals meant more sales, more sales meant I could hire more people. And so once you get into the first generation, or the first version of your business, moving from a team of say, four to a team of eight, you just have to, you know, increase your revenue, and then just go out and replicate that team. And then moving from two teams to three teams, you just have to do the same thing. And I thought, that's all I had to do. But then, but then you hit like 1820 24 people, you start to introduce different services, and then you realize, oh, scaling a business past that level is a whole different way to think and and we don't have to get into that. Yeah, well,


Gabriel Flores  11:39  

let's, let's continue to start with like the beginning. What was the difficulty? So how do you differentiate yourself as a brand, you know, as a, as a marketing brand, and in what you're doing? How do you differentiate yourself for your customers? When you're growing your brand? Or your company at that beginning stage? How did you get to that point where you now have the revenue to bring on new staff?


Mark Drager  12:00  

Well, you know, I am a brand strategist. And so how I did it isn't how I recommend people


Gabriel Flores  12:06  

actually do it. Do as I say, not as I do like,


Mark Drager  12:10  

Well, no, because it took me three or four years, and I wasted a lot of time and a lot of money. Now that I have 15 years of experience. I often say just because I did it this way doesn't mean it's the one way or the only way to do it. So when when people are starting creative endeavors, or are most service based businesses, it's a craft. You know, if I'm an accountant, then I'm really good at being an accountant. Will I be in a good business owner? I don't know. If I'm a graphic designer, I might be an amazing graphic designer, will I be a good business owner? I don't know. And so the first question I always ask people, when they're when they're starting these types of companies is, do you love the craft, like, if you love graphic design, and you just want to spend all day every day designing, then I don't know, if running a multimillion dollar company with 20 or 30 people and worrying about finances and collections and, and operations and management. Like you're gonna spend all day every day running the business, you won't spend all day every day designing like you love. So the first question to ask yourself, and the first thing I had, that I didn't even realize at the time was, I didn't love the craft. So I got super lucky because I could not wait to stop editing. And I didn't like going on set. And I didn't like I loved I loved helping people. And I loved the process. And I loved helping them figure out stuff, which made me naturally inclined to sales, like the early part of the process. And so I challenge everyone to to think about yourself, because if you love the process or the craft, you can still own a business. But you'll probably want to bring in a few partners who love the sales or the operations or the other part. Every business needs someone who can help market and sell sell it. They need someone who can help deliver. And then they need someone who can actually help with the people in the processes. And when you're starting, you're going to do it all yourself, and you're going to make mistakes, and you're going to bump along the way. But very quickly, if you want to grow, you need to identify what you are strongest at, and then either hire people or maybe partner or maybe get vendors figure out some way to help get the support you need on those other components. Because that's the only way to grow.


Gabriel Flores  14:25  

You know, one of the things you mentioned at the beginning stages, you had to do it all before you hire these individuals, right? What were some of the difficulties of building your own brand by or your own company by yourself.


Mark Drager  14:37  

The first was in my mind, it was and a lot of us struggle with this. It was how can I justify, you know, back in 2006 I think it was charging $600 a day. We charge a lot more now. But back in 2006 I was charging $600 a day and I thought how could I justify charging someone $600 For my time when they know it's only me? Like I can't I can't say well I have a team or I have vendors are I have all these people I have to pay was just me and my my mindset and what I thought about our work, I was struggling to justify paying that. And so we have to realize our value, and what we're worth that that helped me up. The next thing is the natural cycle that comes up, I have enough, I have no work. So I go out and sell, then when I sell, I have to take the time to deliver the work. So I'm not spending time selling. And now that I'm delivering work, my sales dry up, and then the work dries up. And then I'm back in. It's that cycle of like sales, to delivery to sales to delivery. I don't know if there's an elegant solution to it other than you just keep doing that until things kind of get so bananas and so overwhelming, that you move up your pricing, or you go out and hire people to help you. I mean, that's just the nature of startup. But that was the second challenge. And the third was it took me a while and I've had I've made I've had to do this a few more times with each pivot. It just It took me a while to figure out the the what people wanted, you know, should I package things or not? Should I make things kind of free and build an ascension model where people can upsell or not? Will they come back or not? Am I saying the right thing? Am I doing the right thing? When I deliver it? Is it the right way? Are they happy at the end, like all of this stuff just takes time. And it takes a certain volume of of clients or customers or sales, to be able to figure this out, if you have a product, you're going to launch the product, you have no idea how much warranty work you're gonna have to do like you hope none, but you don't know until you do. And because I was a perfectionist by by by default, I didn't want to risk making those mistakes I didn't want I wanted everything to be really quick. And now I've realized one, when you're starting, you're going to kind of make mistakes, you're going to kind of let people down and you're it's going to happen because it's the only way to learn these lessons. And to it takes a little bit of time to figure it out. So So if it is taking time, you're not doing anything wrong. Just be patient, keep going. That is what it takes. It'll take six months or a year, or three years, however long it takes to figure this out is how long it takes. You know,


Gabriel Flores  17:21  

you started out by saying you back in 23 I believe it was your first business you started first business, and you quit your job. Yeah, she


Mark Drager  17:27  

doesn't six,


Gabriel Flores  17:28  

how did you finance this? How did you how did you go through the financing? Did you venture capital and grassroots effort had to go through it?


Mark Drager  17:36  

Yeah. So So I a few months before I quit, I went to the CEO of the company I was working for. And I said, Listen, you know, I was doing, I was doing video work the very same way that I started my company, I thought, I thought listen, if I'm doing video for this one company, and I'm making 45,000 a year, what if I can get like 10 clients, I can make so much money, right? I could charge more I'm not on payroll and on salary. So I went to the CEO with kind of a proposition. I said, Listen, it doesn't make sense for you to have me on payroll, it doesn't make sense for you to continually buy gear and invest in gear and have this team and have no structure over what I'm working on. Why don't you let me leave? Why don't you outsource the work I'm doing to me right now to be or my company. And I'll have my first client to start. He said, Great, let's do it. So I took the equipment with kind of this written agreement that I would pay it off for work and trade. I asked my mom and she she took out a $25,000 line of credit on our home, I we had that. And I had Gosh, I don't know, five or 10 grand maybe saved up in the bank. And so with this free equipment, and with an this kind of promise of work to come in with this line of credit from my mom, and with some money in the bank, I just started and very talk about Bootstrap. Now a few things happened. One, the work didn't really come from that company. Because when I left, and they realized what they would actually have to pay me they suddenly decided that it wasn't worth it. So that was strike one against me. Strike two, I thought that sales would be a lot easier, and that I had a really great thing to offer. But I was doing such a terrible job of explaining it. New sales weren't really coming in. So I was just kind of desperately leveraging everyone in my network and being very honest and saying, Hey, I started this thing. Do you have anything for me? Do you have anything for me? What can you give me? Please, you know, I'm a husband and a father of a baby and I started this new thing. So I was just doing anything like anything at all. You know, we were a video company, but we were designing landing pages and I was coding HTML in the middle of the night and stuff, just anything for money. And and then that line of credit was really how we financed it.


Gabriel Flores  19:52  

And, you know, I think for for entrepreneurs, it's very important to realize that one a lot of these businesses do It takes some time and energy and it's not a you don't happen overnight successes, right? It takes some time. Now, you in fact mentioned you started your first business, right? How many iterations of businesses have you gone through, you now have kind of consolidated the video and graphic design? Is that how many other different businesses have you kind of started in, they all now coincide into one giant one?


Mark Drager  20:25  

Yeah, so So I mean, I've only ever had one corporation, because, you know, I've been able to do everything I've wanted to do within that corporation. But every two or three years, I've had to make some pretty major changes to that business. And that includes when we were, you know, I said, we were doing communications, which became marketing, which became advertising, it meant bringing in new lines of business. So we would we, in 2016 2017, we started pivoting from just content production. So just making videos, or just making radio commercials, or just making television commercials to be more of a performance based marketing agency. So we would do landing pages and Facebook campaigns and Google campaigns and reporting and management. And so I was running these, these two different business models, because my original business Fanta creative. It's, it's not a recurring revenue business, there's zero recurring revenue. So when we're a multimillion dollar company, It's project based, we have to replace that work every single year, we would have recurring clients who would kind of bring us new projects here and there. But once the project was done, and we got the money, sometimes we wouldn't see a client for two or three or four years even. Because, because they're like, Hey, this is great. I don't need this anymore. And so I was looking for ways to bring more recurring revenue into the business more predictable revenue in the business, try to try to not have to replace all of this revenue. And all of these projects, because we're working at, at our peak, we were working on two or 300 projects a year, every single year, it was just like a hamster wheel. So when I say the businesses, I've done a lot of different things we've we've pivoted, we've introduced services, we've cut services. Now, you know, I'm a professional host, and an MC. And so I help conferences and seminars and live events run as smoothly as they can, from either in, you know, on stage, or even we direct and produce conferences, but all of that stuff happens within the one company.


Gabriel Flores  22:33  

So why, why did you decide to kind of, because you're kind of talking about passions earlier, right? You're passionate about what is your passion?


Mark Drager  22:43  

Well, my greatest my greatest passion is really, I've, I've kind of learned I'm a bit like a cheerleader, I get really excited about what could be really, really excited about what could be. And so during this COVID, lockdown and pandemics and all this stuff, and when I mentioned that I took our creative agency and I decided I'm going to bring everything together, I'm going to bring me as the host me as the podcast, working with speakers and coaches and entrepreneurs and, and the creative edge. So I'm gonna bring it all together. I did a lot of reflecting, you know, what, what is the work that is our highest value work? What is the stuff that we do better than anyone else? Because there's a lot of stuff that we just did, okay, or not even great to be honest with you. So what is the stuff that were just amazing it and when I looked back at, at my, my involvement, my work my passions, I really realized that, that I'm like this cheerleader, because I really want people to pursue their passions at all costs. And so with the podcasts, with the interviews with our agencies, the people we're working with, I realized that that the most successful, most fun, biggest impact projects that we did, were when we were helping people pursue their passions, they may have doubt, they may have fear, they may not know what they're doing, or even how to do it. But when someone commits when someone commits to a really bold message, or amazing, creative or big idea, or they start that company, right, they are pursuing their passion. That last few words at all costs. People don't necessarily want to do that. And so when I am a part of helping people realize that they can do it, and they step up at all costs. That really gets me excited.


Gabriel Flores  24:43  

Now, what would you say has been difficult about starting unlike let's In fact, let's talk about the pandemic. You mentioned, you started at 20 some odd employees and had it come down to four. So let's talk about some of the difficulties of that. What was what has been difficult about starting business?


Mark Drager  25:01  

Well, I mean, when when you have a big team, there's a lot of stuff that I didn't have to do anymore. So I, there are some benefits to running a company that is successful. You have access to money, you have money in the bank, you can borrow money, you have a great balance sheet, you have a team, you can just throw stuff to people, you can say, hey, we need this done. Can it be done by Tuesday, and then it comes back to me and it's done. That's all amazing. Now, part of art of what's also a lot of fun, though, is every entrepreneur I've ever spoken to, at who has scaled a business and grown it, they always think in fondness to the times they were in the trenches. Because there's something really fun. And it builds a lot of camaraderie when you're small, and when you're nimble, and when you're kind of flying by the seat of your pants. And when you're figuring things out on the go. It's It's terrifying for a lot of people, but you will look back on those moments just like most people look back on high school and go high school was great or college was great, right? They look back on those times, when you are starting or you are small. I say this to my CFO all the time. You know, we know that that what we are doing right now in about 12 months is really going to blow up and it's going to change everything we're going to be at we're at four people right now we'll probably be at 12 to 18 people in about 12 months. And I remind him look back on this period this time right now with fondness even though it's hard and challenging and difficult, because we are going to look back and go remember, remember when we were doing this, remember when that project came in remember how we pulled that off? Man, it's just, it helps you feel alive. And so with the pandemic and with the shift more than anything, it it's helped me remind me that that we had grown to a place where we were kind of slow. We weren't just focused on sales on differentiating on standing out on taking risks, on trying new things on thinking really big and bold. Because the stakes weren't that high, like like, I wasn't really going to lose anything. And today, I feel like I'm kind of walking on a tightrope. I kind of feel like, like, if this doesn't work out what next, I need this to work out. I'm taking bigger risks. I'm more bold. And to be honest, business is more fun when you are in where I am right now than when you're running this kind of slow big machine.


Gabriel Flores  27:36  

Yeah, you know, one of the things you kind of mentioned pretty consistently is the need to be bold, right? And why that's important. In fact, one of the things you discussed at the beginning of this episode was talking about the risk you took from moving out of your former corporate role and deciding to I'm going to do this full time with a kid on the way right and married. Why? Why is let's talk about the risk tolerance of an entrepreneur, what is it? What what is the risk tolerance? And here's kind of explanation what would what do you would say it was risk tolerance? And then what what makes that what is synonymous risk with being an entrepreneur?


Mark Drager  28:15  

Well, outsiders believe that entrepreneurs are risk takers. And I don't think that's true when we start. I think that any one who starts something is optimistic, and perhaps maybe a little foolish. We foolishly believe that we can do it better, that there is a way to make it happen, that it will work out that and so it's not that we are going on to take on risk. Because to me taking on a risk is when there's a real level of uncertainty there. Everyone I know who started a business wasn't didn't have that uncertainty yet. And I'm not quite sure how it will work out and how long it'll take but but I know that that this thing that I'm doing people will want right there's like a real optimism there. And


Gabriel Flores  29:03  

it's kind of unique. It's like this drive that no matter we're gonna make it we have the there's a light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel might be long and dark. Yeah, scary. But shit, we're gonna get to this damn tunnel. Right,


Mark Drager  29:15  

right now. Now I don't want to scare any of our listeners.


Gabriel Flores  29:19  

Exactly. Because here's the truth.


Mark Drager  29:22  

You know, that this is this is not going to be as easy as I thought it's going to take WAY, WAY longer. Wow, this is way harder than I thought it was going to be. I thought I thought hard work was enough. It turns out it's not. I thought that having the amount of money I had would be enough. I thought that taking a year it takes three years like Like once by the time it hits you how screwed you really are. And you wanted to go deep. You're in so deep. You don't want to give up.


Gabriel Flores  29:49  

Yeah. And you were talking about you know, as as entrepreneurs, you kind of commemorate like in this misery part right when you're, you know, really kind of grinding through the grip. You You really learn a lot as an entrepreneur, you know, you're you go through the stages of even by yourself sometimes, right? Because sometimes you're kind of, in this position, you're an entrepreneur, and you're doing it all by yourself. As you mentioned, I'm at this position right now doing it all by myself. But I'm learning a lot, right? I'm learning a lot at the same time. But I'm like, I know, I'm going to succeed, we're going to make it. We just got to just got to continue to burn those wheels kind of thing.


Mark Drager  30:28  

Well, so so there's this really interesting principle that was written about maybe before this, but but I love this book that was written in 1960 called Psycho Cybernetics. What a weird name. But yeah, it was for self help was a thing or anything like that. But, but there are all these principles that have to do with guiding guiding mechanisms. And the explanation that they use, which I love, is if you think about an interceptor missile, so So you know, if you're World War Two and and you're on a, you're in a plane or on a ship, and someone fires a missile at you, you need your missile to hit that missile, your missile is moving really darn fast. Their missile is moving really darn fast. How the heck, before computers and stuff did they have these things hit each other? Well, they would have, you know, they would be moving forward, and the wind is buffeting them around and they're constantly going off course, and they would have these little servos kind of help redirect the missile to whatever target it needed. It turns out that in our in our minds, and the way that humans are built, is we also have this guiding mechanism. So if we think about setting a goal, or we can visualize a goal, and we believe in all confidence that it will happen, every time something bad happens, you know, the missile gets knocked a little bit to the you know, it hits a turbulence or it goes a little bit here, or the other missile moves a little direction. Like it's constantly correcting its course. So we have the ability, you said, you're going to be successful. And I felt this little shiver, I felt this little shiver because I believe you, I believe that you believe you will be successful. And if you have a vision in your head of what that looks like, and you believe it will happen, when when a turbulence comes when something happens when Something knocks you out of the way, it's just this little course correction, it's not going to stop you, it's not going to make you crumble, it's just gonna course correct you. And if you think about this, where all of these little things you continually course correct until you hit your goal, your goal is almost guaranteed to happen. Now, it may not happen the way you thought it would. Or even how quickly you might think 12 months, it might take you 10 years. But if you hold firm to that goal, and you believe it will happen, and you just continue to take steps towards it and correct when bad things come along. One day, you will find yourself realizing hey, that thing that I thought about doing, I just pulled it off, I just did it. And I have lived this other people have lived this studies, social science studies have proven that this is the case. And so I take a tremendous amount of comfort in knowing that if I just have that vision and believe it enough and take steps towards it and don't stop. It's going to all work out.


Gabriel Flores  33:22  

You know, the way I equate that to is for anybody that's listening has ever played sports before or maybe golf, right? You vision yourself making the putt or you envision yourself making the free throw. That's exactly what we're kind of talking about when we're thinking of, you know, positive mindsets and thinking of the future, really. And when I say I'm going to be successful, I truly believe like I'm working towards my success continuously every day. Because to your point, Mark, I'm putting the roadblocks, right, I'm building the roadblocks. And certainly sometimes those rocks might chip and I need to pivot to the left or right to find a different you know, Avenue. Nonetheless, I'm still moving forward. And that's that's the goal, right? The goal is if you're constantly learning every day, and you're constantly improving every day, and and I hope this podcast too is kind of a Help, Help improvement for for some of these folks that are listening, to take some of these tidbits from these entrepreneurs and really leverage them in life because we we don't know everything, right? Nobody knows everything. But I do know a little bit. And whatever little bit I know I'm going to hopefully share with you and then get getting some more insight from people like Mark here to really continue to move forward. Because what motivates me more than anything, is seeing my community continue to grow with me. I always I always talk about climbing the corporate ladder. And I'm always talking about you know, grabbing people below me and helping them climb up that corporate ladder because one day mark one day I know this will happen. My foot is going to slip down a rung and I'm going to fall down that corporate ladder one day and it's going to be the hands that I helped pull up. They're going to reach out to help me from stop and fallen. And so building these networks are very important now what motivates you Mark, what motivates you to keep going to keep building? You went through the pandemic, you had a release? What at some of all 85 and almost 95% of your staff? What motivates you to keep going?


Mark Drager  35:13  

Well, I mean, as I mentioned earlier, I love building things. I love helping people. But I realized, just just a few months ago, I was I was down in Tampa hosting a three day mastermind, I connected with this great guy as a mastermind group. I came down there and I was out on a Sunday morning in Tampa, like, right, right on the bay, and I went out for a run. And somewhere along that run, I realized that I used to be an ambitious person. I used to be really ambitious my wife in high school when she when she one of the things that she that attracted her the most was just like, she calls it cocky. But I say ambitious.


Gabriel Flores  35:54  

I feel you on that.


Mark Drager  35:56  

Yeah, really, overly confident. But But I was I was an ambitious person. And I think anyone who's listening who feels like they're, they know, they're built for greatness. They have high hopes, they know, they just, they just know there's something within them where they know they are meant to do really big things. I always had that. But for some reason, as my as my goals, and my dreams got bigger and bigger, and bigger and scarier, and scarier and scarier. For some reason, they became, I became, they became more out of reach. And I hit this place where where I realized that I was not sure that these things would happen, like, like, I want to set a really big dream. But what's the point of setting the dream if it's not going to happen? What's the point of working towards it if I don't think it's possible. And so on this run, I realized that my ambition is one of my greatest assets. And for some reason, through stories from people in my life, or somehow I was conditioned to feel that ambition is greed and ambition is wrong. And, and it's a terrible thing. And so, I've really embraced that ambition. And when you ask what motivates me, first of all, I'm ambitious. And I'm going to own that. And I'm not going to apologize for that. Because I know that the more that I do, the greater the gifts are to the people that I work with, the greater the gifts are to my kids, to my maybe potential future grandkids, to my wife, and to myself, and the people I work with the people, I help the people, I connect with my audience, my kids, my wife, myself, we deserve these things. We're not entitled to them. But we deserve those things. And so that's first and then the second is I am very, and this is very uncomfortable for me. So I'm very motivated by recognition. Now, now, a lot of us are right. But I spent again, 1015 years like the ambition, I spent a lot of time thinking, Well, gosh, that's shallow. And I want people to look at me and like me, like, that's not right, like, so I work to suppress the the fact that I actually am motivated by recognition, I am motivated by people thinking I'm smart, or recognizing that the work I do is really good. Or liking what I'm putting out, and I'm motivated by change. And so I spent 1015, maybe even 20 years, maybe my whole life, looking at the ambition and the recognition and the change as as things that were that were immoral, or are superficial or shallow or materialistic. And, and I didn't want to be that person. And I've spent the last bunch of months going no, no, no. If I'm ambitious, and I have more, how much more can I give? Yeah, if if I actually am motivated by recognition, and I accept the recognition, but I turn the spotlight on to the things that matter the most, how can that serve others? Yes. And if I love change, and I embrace change, because change is amazing. Most people aren't comfortable with change, but I love change. So how quickly can I change? And how quickly can I help other people change? Because what an amazing gift. And it was that little tweak in my mind a little way change of looking at it to suddenly realize these things that motivate me can be for evil, or can be for good.


Gabriel Flores  39:27  

Yeah, that's very true. In fact, you know, for the listeners at home, this is exactly how you overcome impostor syndrome. This is exactly how you overcome impostor syndrome. In fact, at the beginning of this episode, I asked Mark I was like, Hey Mark, how do i pronounce your last name? He's like I'll just pronounce I was like, No, I want to know exactly how I pronounced your name because having your name pronounced correctly, it also helps you feel confident about yourself. Now Mark, Mark has been telling you guys now hope you guys really listen because he's dropping some gems for y'all right now. What you're really talking about is being able to I'm sure some of the younger listeners might understand this, but flex on them. When you do something that is really, if you actually go out and do public speaking, like, for example, I don't do this often enough on my social channels, I do it on LinkedIn. So if you follow me on LinkedIn, you probably see this often. I've been to Missouri to national presentations, I'm going to Atlanta to a national presentation, I recently presented a Stanford University, doing all these different presentations throughout the world, or throughout the country. But I don't really talk about them, but I do on LinkedIn. And the reason I talked about them on LinkedIn, is because I tie it back to my organization, and I tie it back to the mission, right. So even though I'm out there, building, the game floors, banner, the Gabriel Flores brand out in the different locations, talking about our health care. In fact, Mark's probably sitting here, right now we're on a YouTube or a zoom, and he sees my degree hanging up because again, I like my recognition. So I'm hanging up my degree. So he sees that I see his award behind him as well, right? We're showing those things off. But it's not that we're cocky or conceited, is because we've earned these we've we've really worked toward this kind of area that we want to show it off, and we don't show it off to be cocky and and say, Hey, look at what we've done. We're doing it because this is something we've accomplished and take those accomplishments. I think there's so often where, especially now, you know, Mark, you kind of alluded to it, where we're in this kind of society where people don't really want to hear about the individual accolades, right. They don't want you to kind of pound your chest. Unless, oddly enough, unless you're a billionaire, make electric cars. And apparently, you can totally pound your chest and people will be fine with that or something. I'm not sure. But here's the thing, folks, if you do something well, and you do something, take pride in that showed off. I'm not saying like go and hold, this is me. And this is all things I do. But make sure you tie it back to the cause of why you did it. Hey, I'm out here doing this presentation talking about melanoma, because I want people to get their skin cancer. I'm over here talking about outreach in because I want rural communities in our state to have access to the best medical, they possibly can, even though they don't live next to a Portland metro area, or a metro area, right. And so having these conversations and really kind of championing what you've done, it's not being cocky, it's not being conceited. It's truly just being a champion to your own of what you're doing, and really rewarding your hard work. Because, again, the reward for our job well done is the opportunity to do more. And so if you continue to do great work, you're going to continue to get opportunities. And that's why I'm not trying to be conceited, and say, I believe I'm going to be successful. Because I'm constantly going out there trying to build networks, trying to build relationships, trying to better the community, not because it's better than me, because it's benefit to me, it's because it's benefit to all of us, right? I talked about we're a global community of entrepreneurs. And so that's why it's really important that we do kind of highlight or wins in what we're doing, and really have a dialogue of like, hey, how do we how do I also do that? Right? I've, I've had so many conversations with entrepreneurs after the shows, hey, give me some free, give me some free advice, give me some free game and tell me tell me how I can continue to improve and get better? How do I continue to do you know what you guys are doing? Now mark, as a small business owner, we go through a lot, right? We have these you pitfalls, we have these grand ideas, what keeps you up at night, as a small business owner.


Mark Drager  43:27  

So one of my deepest fears is that I think like many of us, that we just won't be good enough. And you know, ultimately, almost, if you look at psychology, every single fear comes back to, you know, I won't be enough of whatever version that Therefore I can't be loved. Right, everything comes back to well, then I won't be loved. And so my my, my biggest fear, and I don't know where this comes from, but it still keeps me up at night. And it keeps me small. And it keeps me thinking small. And it keeps me from taking risks we talked about risks earlier is that I, I won't have people who can help me do what we need to do, and we'll be able to find them. Or if I can find them, when it comes time to do the project or do the work, they won't be there for me, or it just won't be good enough. And then when that happens, it's going to be all on my shoulders. And it's such a heavy burden to carry everything on your shoulders. And what if I can't figure it out? What if I'm not good enough? What if it won't work? And if that's the case, then the project or the or the initiative will fall apart? And if it falls apart, I'm gonna let people down and I'm going to ruin my name and it's going to be terrible. And if that's the case, then dot dot dot, you know, I won't be loved or whatever it is. So even today, the thing that keeps me up at night is the is the what if I can't find people who can help me What if people who say they will help Mi won't be there for me when I need the most. And I'm sure this is something that has to do with my childhood in some way. But but this this idea of being left on your own or being abandoned or just not living up to the expectations, I have to imagine it's one of the most universal fears, but but it's not, can I get financing cuz I'm deep enough in my business now and my network is strong enough. And I've, I've, I've grown my company, the wrong way enough times that No, and I've learned what the right way is that I have a lot of confidence in certain things that that maybe if you're starting, you don't have, but the thing that keeps me up at night is still the like, gosh, so hard to find good people. And that's a terrible thing to put out there. Because it's not true. There are amazing people everywhere, it's easy to find great people, when you treat them with respect. And when you pay them well. And when there's exciting work and good projects. So like, I know that the stuff that keeps me up at night, is just total bullshit. And yet, it's still the thing that keeps me up at night. If I circle back around one year from now, I can guarantee you that I will have broken through this because now that I'm aware of it. Now that I know that that's the case. And I get really uncomfortable, that I lean into that discomfort because I know I know that that's just my, my body, my anxiety, my my fight or flight mode trying to protect me, but protect me, it's not going to help me drive forward, it's going to keep me exactly where I am. So I know within a year, I will have crushed this. But right now this is what bothers me still,


Gabriel Flores  46:34  

you know, maybe maybe in a year, we'll do a we'll do a recap. In fact, that's what I'm going to do. I'm gonna start reaching out to some of our former guests and like, Hey, where are you at from a year from go? Like, let's let's reach out. In fact, you know, one of the things you mentioned, you know, things that keep you up at night, I realized that worrying works, you know, just just worried about it, because everything I worry about never happens, it seems.


Mark Drager  46:55  

I always say don't worry about stuff because and this is something I've learned, like, like we worry and worry and worry. And we're a worry society, you know, in an anxiety nation, I have God I have generalized anxiety disorder. So it goes beyond just worrying. But But here's here's the biggest truth of it all, what you are worrying about is not the thing that's going to mess you up. The things that mess you up are the things that you could never see coming, you would never see it coming. And it's the thing that really messes you up, it's out of your control, you would have never seen it coming. And so so like, quite honestly, the stuff that you're worrying about, go fix those things. Sure. You know, don't ignore them, don't let your business burn down to the ground. Don't do bad work or bad delivery or ignore, you know, operations or processes, but fix that. But really, those are not the things that are going to knock you down, you know, this side of the pandemic, I think it's pretty obvious to say like, you know, other than maybe the CDC and some weird scientists in Sweden or something, no one really saw that one coming. And you know, it when a recession comes recessions are cyclical. And when inflation goes up, inflation is cyclical. And when you know, geopolitical things happen, that's the same thing. And like, there's certain things that you can just count on will happen every seven or eight or 10, or 15 or 20 years, right, you know, every 30 years, things will happen over and over and over again. So these, those surprises aren't really even surprises, the things that are really gonna mess you up. You'd never have seen coming. Yeah,


Gabriel Flores  48:22  

that's very true. In fact, folks, if you're looking at the market, in your scene, it's red. That's a great day to buy some stocks. I'm looking at the market, like cash on hand, if you have cash on hand, of course, yes.


Mark Drager  48:32  

Let's always remember that when people say like, buy, buy, buy, it's like for some of us, you know, like, if you're starting a business or whatever, don't buy, don't buy, don't buy, invest in yourself,


Gabriel Flores  48:42  

especially within inflation rates do not buy, especially on credit. So let's let's drop some knowledge to the listeners. Let's give them some advice. How do even myself, how do you continue to grow the brand? How do you continue to make sure that folks are aware of what you're doing?


Mark Drager  49:00  

Yeah, so there's a few things. First of all, and I ignored so many of these rules early on, and I embracing them, I am embracing them so hardcore right now. So So you need to be able to differentiate yourself from the crowd. So the thought of looking at what everyone else is doing and kind of copying them or even being inspired by them. If you're lucky, you will be as good as them. But if you're as good as them. Let's let's take a mechanic for example. I'm a brand new mechanic, I start my auto body shop or I start my mechanic shop or whatever, and I want to go ahead and be just as good as the guy down the street. I'm just as good as that guy down the street. There's no reason to pick me. Like there's no compelling reason to pick me. And so what what you want to do whenever you're starting is you want to niche you want to niche down, it feels so limiting, right? If I'm going to be the mechanic who starts maybe I'm only gonna focus on European cars, maybe only focus on BMWs. Maybe I'm only going to focus on convertibles. Right like maybe maybe I'm going to be the the only the European convertible rear end Jin mechanic. Now that seems so limited, right? Like it's like, but but there's all of these other people out there. And that's cool. But that is the fastest way to be just like everyone else. You don't want to be like everyone else, you want to be different. You want to, you want to stand out in some way. So be whatever version of you like really let that spill out or pick the thing that you can niche down on if you want to become the world's greatest photographer, awesome. But it'd be easier to become like, if you're really into bowling, you know, like to become the world's greatest bowling photographer. Because in that bowling community, you are going to go to very selective events, and you're going to meet a very selective group of people, and it's going to help you grow so much quicker. So niche down, be different. The next thing that you need to do is, is you cannot underestimate the importance of social proof. So getting on to podcasts or starting your own podcast is amazing. Because Because you there's a spillover effect, you know, I, I'm the host of we do hard things, this podcast, and for about a year and a half now. I think we're 80 episodes in about a year and a half now, we've been putting out episodes, but we're laddering up our guests. You know, the the first few guests we had were amazing people. But we have more famous guests now. And you know, like a year ago, I got Les Brown on the podcast because I was working with him and doing some stuff with our team. And we had him on the podcast, great conversation. People still today still today go like you had Les Brown on the podcasts. That's great. He's awesome. But we but if someone's gonna say yes or no to coming onto my podcast, they're gonna look at my guest list, they're gonna see the names and they're gonna Oh, come on. They're so so the spillover effect of being around people of being seen at events or around people having testimonials are social proof having PR having an end. And it might be totally overwhelming to you to think how do I do all of these things and invest in all of these things? And what have you just pick something that you love that you're really good at? And just start laddering? Up? And some of this stuff isn't even that challenging? You know, if if I'm like, like, I'm on your podcast, I might take your podcast logo, and say that I was featured on your podcast. Now, that's really important for people who listen to your podcast, but even the 10s of 1000s, or maybe even millions of people who don't listen to the podcast, it's still super valuable because it proves that I'm capable of being on the podcast. And I think so many people underestimate the need for for those we work with or those we're trying to connect with to have that social proof. You know, traveling. I'm totally do it. Do it. Do it right away. Right, like so you. You talked about being on the stages and only sharing things to LinkedIn. If you want to be a speaker, I better see some photos of you on stages. No matter how big or small the room is. I better see that though. Like, you better show that to me. And so you know, I'm going to an event next week. This is a perfect example. I would never have done this before. But if you'll give me two minutes, yeah, through my network, I have a really good friend who owns an event space in Raleigh, North Carolina. And he and I are really, really, really good friends. We become good friends, because he has a podcast. I have a podcast over the last two years. And over the last few years, I've just helped him and helped him and he's helped me last October, he knows that I want to host more events. He was hosting a three day event, Tom and Lisa Bill, you are there. And all of these people are there. And he put me on stage, he gave me the opportunity. Well, he's hosting this event for a book launch for really big names in the self help space. So we're talking Ed my lat and Marie Forleo and Mel Robbins, and Jim quick. And, gosh, there's gonna be a whole bunch of people there. I know that this event is happening. So I reached out to my friend I say, I say, can I come and help? Can I come and help? Right? I will fly myself down. I will put myself up. You don't have to pay me. I don't care if I'm sweeping the floors. Can I come and help? And he's like, I don't want her on a security? I'm not sure. Well, he said yeah. Okay, Mark, you can come and help me. Now. The ego side of me goes like, I should be hosting this thing. I should be on stage. Like, I'm gonna be down there. Like literally maybe even just passing out pamphlets or something like I'm volunteering my time. But I want to serve them. I want to help out. But more than that, here's what I know. I'm gonna be able to tell this story forever. You know, people who were on Oprah, in 1998. Like 15 years later, they were still selling the product saying as seen on Oprah. They were answering the phone saying, Oh, you probably saw us on Oprah. Right? Like, like 15 years later. They're like, oh, oh, you were on Oprah. I know that that I am going to be able to spend the day like one on one because I've been put in a position where I get to work. With these people with at my let's and Mel Robbins and and Marie Forleo, and Jim quick and all of these people, and I know that I am going to even earlier I mentioned Les Brown, right? And I slipped in there like, oh, we were working with them. And, you know, August, I went to his one of his events in Queens, and I helped them host this event, like, forever, I will be able to tell that story. And what does that do to my credibility or perceived credibility? I'm not saying we're best friends, I'm not saying that, you know, that, like I changed their world, I'm saying, I will be able to say forever, you know, when I was at at my last book launch, I was hanging out in the room with and then fill in the blank of whatever is going to happen, I don't know what's going to happen. But up until quite recently, I would not have taken the risk of asking, I would not have taken the risk of spending all of this money to and all of this time that I'm pulling out of my business to go to this event with without really any, like, I don't even know what's going to happen, I literally may just be the dude sweeping the floors. And if that's the case, I'm okay with that. But I think I'm going to actually be able to make some great connections, I'm going to be able to network, and I'm gonna have some amazing stories that I will be able to share for a long time that will only just help me build my credibility in this thing that we're doing. And, and yeah, you can call it shallow. But but this is important. You know, people say don't judge a book by a cover. But every single one of us judges every single book by its cover. That's why covers get designed. So that's why movies have movie posters, and they have trailers like, we can all think we've risen above this, but that's not true. This is really important stuff. So sure, that's my advice for anyone starting just, it's so incredibly uncomfortable, but just start doing it. Yeah,


Gabriel Flores  56:45  

in fact, you know, folks at home, you may not know this. But when you go on Netflix, and you log on to Netflix, depending on who it is that logged in what user account, so if I log in, or my wife logs in, the cover of the movie will be different. So I bet you some of you folks may not know this, and you're probably gonna go home and Netflix or log in different accounts and look at the same exact movie, they're gonna be different covers. The reason for its target marketing, one photo for if there might be a male audience, maybe it's a more attractive female, like more action type of thing. And if it's a female, it might be more skewed to a female audience. And it's, it's very true that it, it's marketing is very unique, you know, and you're constantly you're constantly evolving. And then niche down is a very good point, you know, really kind of finding that unique niche that what what can you do in that niche that is the best for, you know, what, how can you be the best that in that niche, essentially, you know, so for the listeners at home, how can they get in contact with Mark, if they want to hear more? How do they contact you? Where's your website? Do you have social channels? How can they how can they find more information about you?


Mark Drager  57:55  

Well, if if you're interested in in learning more about how you can stand out how you can connect with your audience, how you can develop a brand that really stands out, we have this free download called the badass business brand. playbook, and you can go head over to That's spelled pH a en ta but, you can head over there and you can download that free guide. If you're interested in the podcast, we do hard things go over to YouTube look up we do hard things are my name Mark Drager, or if you just want to connect with me one on one, you can head over to my Instagram, I'm at Mark Drager. And just send me a DM you know, if you if you reference this podcast, I'll send you back a voice note because I don't have automation. I don't have a VA of any of that fancy stuff. When it's me responding, it might take a day or two. But when it's me responding, it's me. So I'd love to hear from you.


Gabriel Flores  58:43  

Perfect. And so what I'll do mark is I'll actually put that, I'll put a link to that free brochure that I mentioned in the booklet on the newsletter. So folks, listen, if you're have not signed up for the newsletter yet, please do sign up for the shades of entrepreneurship newsletter, you can do that at the shades of We will have Marc's information on there on next week before his episode launches, and then it will actually be on there for continuous weeks. Because what we do is we do a before, during and after. And so it will showcase the the the guests that was coming before that will be the week after I mean, the current guests than the week before. And so you'll have three opportunities to actually be showcased on the newsletter. And then yeah, Mark, thank you so much. This has been great, great conversation, I'm pretty sure I think I'd have a feeling you and I are gonna probably be connected a little bit more offline at some point in time too. So I would love to kind of get a little bit more of this up, get on this public public speaking train and have a little bit more insight into what that looks like. So I think that's where our worlds might collide a little bit more again.


Mark Drager  59:43  

I love it. Gabe, thank you so much for having me and thank you for everything you do. I mean, you know, there's there's a lot of voices out there but you have built such a unique community. So for all of those who are listening, you know, make sure that you send Gabe A quick note or maybe head over to iTunes and leave him or You know, he may not ask for it, but leave him a review because it means the world for all of us who are doing stuff. You know, just that comment, like I get them every now and again, just that comment, we realize that that we are speaking out to this world. And we're not sure if it matters sometimes we're not sure if it's landing, we question if it's if it's worth it. So, if Gabe has done anything to help you in any way, send him a note. Be nice to him.


Gabriel Flores  1:00:27  

Hello, Mark, I love you. Thank you so much. That is very true, because I truly don't know who's listening. So for the folks that are listening, thank you again, so much. I really do hope that we continue to provide some value to you. And these, these podcasts are informative, but more importantly, I hope you're able to get out and support some of these entrepreneurs because they're doing some amazing work in they have some phenomenal stories. And as Mark was actually saying earlier, learn from our mistakes, you know, take these take these conversations and learn from them and, you know, do what we're doing that better, right or avoid what we did that that maybe got us in a couple of troubles. So Mark, thank you again, so much for taking the time to be on the show. For those at home. You can visit me on the shades of or you can visit us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. Thank you and have a great night.

bottom of page