with greg layton

The Inner Chief is for leaders, professionals and small business owners who want to accelerate their career and growth. Our guest chiefs and gurus share powerful stories and strategies so you can have more purpose, influence and impact in your career.

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In this episode of The Inner Chief podcast, I speak to Mark John, Founder & CEO of frntlne, on partnering with the world’s top performers and business people, what a leader’s natural state is, and feeling lucky every day.

Mark is the CEO of frntlne, an edutech business he founded in 2021 that makes it easy to train frontline staff across a variety of industries, with engaging and memorable TikTok-style content. 

frntlne boasts a number of high-profile global and multinational retail and consumer clients including Coles, L’Oreal, P&G, Swisse and Mumm Champagne.

In May 2023, Mark was successful in securing a consortium of strategic investors, closing a AU$4.6million seed funding round. He has also established an impressive advisory board, including professor Dr Mathew Knowles PhD, who is the architect behind the careers of his daughters Beyoncé and Solange, as well as supergroup Destiny's Child.

Mark, who was born in Singapore, has had careers in entertainment, retail and video technology and now calls country Victoria home.

In this episode we talk about:

  • How he has delivered value to global music superstars 
  • How he has built partnerships that create sustained value for all involved
  • His fascinating career path and early life and how he came to be at the helm of an edtech company 
  • What he means by a leader being in their natural state, and
  • Unlocking your inner creative and why he feels lucky every day.

Connecting with Mark John

You can connect with Mark via LinkedIn.

Books and resources

 

“The big online course providers have got about a 5 to 9% completion rate. Attention spans are really low. No-one's got 20 minutes for a course anymore, but they've probably got 20 seconds.”

 

On his love of chaos

  • I'd always found myself in the music industry, I loved chaos and the problem solving associated with that. And I think one of the biggest things that I learned about myself through that was a sense of adaptability. I thrive on change and challenges. 
  • I've always had a bit of a knack for tuning into people's needs and establishing solutions or delivering solutions.

On what a leader being in their natural state means

  • It’s when you're aligned to your purpose, when you find yourself operating in this zone of clarity, or your own personal genius, and I believe that everyone is a genius in some way. And I think it's where there's an alignment of skills, passion and values and the intersection of those points. And when you hit that, and it's not necessarily easy to hit that, it took me a lot of searching and trying to understand myself to hit that. But I think once you do hit it, you definitely have a deep sense of authenticity and fulfilment from it. And so I think It's this profound connection between someone's inner beliefs and how that affects their external actions. 

On what made him start frntlne

  • There's the big online course providers like Udemy and Coursera have got about a five to 9% completion rate. So there's a problem there. So to solve that problem, we've looked at the market this you know, the population that we generally work with, and saying a couple of things and the attention spans are really low. So I always say, no one's got 20 minutes for a course anymore, but they've probably got 20 seconds. So we've spent a lot of time trying to understand the human mind and how right now in today's world, how it has reacted to short form video.

On curiosity

  • I say that the dumbest people in the room know everything. And the smartest people in the room know they know nothing. So I've always been someone that's essentially curious. I think that's where that's what it boils down to curiosity that can get the better of me. But I think it boils down to that curiosity and wanting to learn more. And there's so much to learn out there to become a better person.
  • I find that the most interesting people are the most interested people.

On unlocking your creativity

  • I believe everyone's got an inner creative and it's not about being an artist. It's about having an open mindset that widens the scope of possibility. It's kind of an expansive way of thinking that would embrace ideas, challenging conventional wisdom and seeking novel solutions.
  • How do you teach that? It's probably having conviction and confidence in yourself, which is not that easy to get to in life. But I think once you are settled in yourself and that you believe in yourself, then I think you can move to a zone of opening creativity. 

On building resilience

  • Resilience and just being able to take a beating just comes from taking beatings and learning how to get thicker skin. Yeah. And kind of understanding as you get more experienced and older, you kind of understand when to sort of realise that it's probably not the right thing to pursue. But when I was younger, I just got up and smashed anything that's in front of me straight away. But you refine that process as you get older. 
  • With chaotic business environments, it gets worse before it gets worse. Awfully pessimistic, but if you've got the lucky side as well, you know that it's gonna get worse and you know that you're gonna provide a solution. Like be ready to be beaten.

On building relationships

  • I've always been big into developing long-term relationships because I always think that, hey, the time to develop a short-term relationship and do something is very similar to the time you're going to start putting in the structural elements of developing a longer term relationship. But primarily, I think it's two things, it's personal side of it, the personal side and then the commercial side of it.
  • The personal side, I think primarily, as you just mentioned, it's based on trust. And trust is admitting when you're wrong. If people know that they can trust you, then there's a whole host of things that can come out of that. But once you have trust, then it’s trying to find areas where values align.
  • On the commercial side, you've just got to find out what makes them tick and what success looks like for them. So it's a sense of empathy. It's a sense of empathy and understanding. And I think once you marry those personal and commercial, that's when you get something that can go long-term.
  • Also internally, it’s a relief for your clients or audience because they know that you're not a know-it-all and that you're human. I think it just boils down to transparency because your wounds are bare.
  • Once I've got that understanding of what makes them tick as a person – it is it trust? Is it transparency? Is it excitement? – and then once you kind of get that baseline, then I try to understand their world as it is now, and the challenges they have in their world. And then I try to think openly about areas that could possibly solve some of those challenges, whether it's directly involving my platform or my business or not. And it's not just about me making a dollar off of them. No way, it's about, hey, I'd love to be able to help someone. That's what drives me.

On feeling lucky every day

  • I think I love gratitude and I've always tried it. be grateful for everything I have. But for me, a feeling of being lucky is a lot more animated and holds a lot more curiosity and a lot more open-mindedness to opportunity and possibility. 
  • It’s having a lack of expectations or less expectations. So anything that comes from that is, is a great bonus. In a business sense, it's kind of tricky to navigate that, but in a personal sense, people are doing their own things and we’re not their priority. So don't have expectations and just feel lucky.
  • But being excited about stuff makes my mind go crazy into thinking about opportunities. Like if we get a great team member I’m thinking he could have gone with the competition. And that's, yeah, most of the team who have joined my business are really skilled people, you know, they're really high performers. And I think every one of them, we were in competition with others during the interview process and we got them. I think, man, we are so lucky to have these people. 
  • There is the thief of joy and the bringer of joy; if you look at the thief side, you kind of miss out on moments, but the bringer of joy is where, I think we should all try and sit, because that's where you get motivation and inspiration, not envy, but more admiration. And then you get to, you know, you definitely learn and grow through that.

Final message of wisdom and hope for future leaders 

  • It's creativity. And in a world, a future world, it's so data and technology driven with the rise of AI. Embrace uncertainty. Creativity is the game changer here. Uncertainty is an opportunity for innovation. But ground those ideas in empathy and integrity. And it's not always about predicting the future through data, but it's about imagining it and shaping it through gravity.

Stay epic,

Greg