Closet Geek Turned Digital Maestro
Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood . . . Make big plans; aim high in hope and work. – Daniel Burnham
Who is Mark Slade in 140 characters?
Mark Slade is a digital marketing & hospitality specialist. MD of RDM Africa and Managing Partner of Lotus Bar-Lounge & Lil Zanzibar Eleko.
How did you come to develop interest in Digital Marketing and Business Development?
I’ve always been creative and a closet geek. I would alleviate teenage boredom doodling on Paintbrush, and would always be thinking about new and creative ways of branding – I love a good pun. I dropped History in school in favour of IT and never looked back. I was always been interested in creating.
I spent my University years learning business management and computer science – I always enjoyed marketing and entrepreneurship modules; they were the ones I happened to do better at. This led to setting up a business in website design, which in turn became RDM – Ringier Digital Marketing.
With your vast experience, what motivates you and keeps you thriving?
Every day there’s a new challenge, a new opportunity – in Nigerian and pan-Africa as a whole. I enjoy supporting small and big brands alike. I like solving problems and creating new spaces, be it a cloud solution under RDM Africa Products, or a place to socialise – Lotus and Lil Zanzibar Eleko being good examples.
What are the lessons you’ve learnt leading RDM Africa?
I’ve learnt a lot! Just two years ago we were three people looking at serving the Nigerian market. Now we’re 60+ across offices in four countries. My single biggest learning would be to trust and empower. Historically I was very hands on with every detail, but when you create an environment for others to be creative you can achieve so much more. We have a great team, with great individuals – but a fantastic collaborative approach which has seen us do notable things.
I always aim to practice what I preach, to lead by example. If you’re in the trenches too, your team have no reason but to knuckle down and put in the same effort.
How is the Nigerian business climate compared to your hometown?
I don’t think I can compare the climate here with anywhere else – certainly not my hometown. Lagos has an energy and buzz unlike any other. The people are driven and determined, there are opportunities everywhere, at least in my business – everyone needs digital assets, and people need to eat, drink and relax. Nigeria’s now firmly my home.
A normal daily routine looks like?
Although I would admit to having the energy of an entrepreneur, that tends not to kick-in until a morning coffee around 10am – then I’m good to go and will have a long day ahead. After a light breakfast and fruit smoothie I may have calls with Swiss HQ or jump straight in to morning meetings in Lekki.
I have a general management responsibility in Lagos, Accra and Nairobi, so first things first is a stable operating environment. A typical day may include client meetings, industry events – this past week I spent a little time at Social Media Week at Landmark, it was excellent. I tend to leave the office in time for dinner, where I’ll be working in the car and often when I get home or to Lotus. I tend to exercise late so will head to the gym and do some lengths in the pool at around 9pm.
I travel a lot so on a weekday night or weekend, I could be packing for an evening flight to Ghana or Kenya to work with our teams on ground, supporting efforts towards our mission of becoming Africa’s Complete Digital Partner
With your exposure to tech and digital innovations, what are the evolving trends you believe youths can leverage on particularly in Africa?
Social undeniably. It’s so easy to get exposure now, regardless of your product or service, you’re almost certain to build a supportive following. Be it on Instagram or Facebook, or maybe Snapchat – be great at what you do and success should follow.
Have you ever failed at any endeavour, and how did you surmount?
No major disasters spring to mind, but many things that perhaps didn’t achieve the success hoped for. A variety of reasons can be stated; sometimes the market wasn’t ready for it, or the consistency required to keep QA at the forefront. Either way you just have to keep pushing, keep trying and even when you’re on the verge of giving up; don’t – if it’s meant to be, success will follow.
Don’t be afraid to try things, find a mentor, and soak up knowledge surrounding everything relevant to your mission.
Your top three most inspiring books would be?
I confess to not being the biggest book reader. I like a good John Grisham novel if I find some downtime, or Bill Brison’s adventures in the UK, but I’m more of a magazine reader; Forbes, The Economist and GQ for example.
Your top three most inspiring quotes would be?
- Barack Obama talked about making a difference/ having an impact and being kind. This is the theme I try to live and manage by.
- Richard Branson said: if someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later
- Mark Zuckerberg: We don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services