Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal and business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mark A. Mears, Chief Growth Officer of LEAF Growth Ventures LLC., located in Lenexa, KS, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am a #1 best-selling author, keynote speaker, consultant, and visionary business leader. I have a significant track record of building shareholder value by driving innovation and profitable growth among world-class, high-profile brands such as PepsiCo/Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Frito-Lay, JCPenney, NBCUniversal, and The Cheesecake Factory. Today, I serve as Chief Growth Officer for LEAF Growth Ventures, LLC—a consulting firm helping individuals, teams, and organizations find purpose in fulfilling their true growth potential while making a positive, lasting difference in the world.
I'm also a member of the Senior Leader Network within Conscious Capitalism, Inc., and I am committed to its inspiring mission: "Elevating Humanity Through Business." Building upon this shared mission, I have just released a #1 best-selling new book titled, The Purposeful Growth Revolution: 4 Ways to Grow from Leader to Legacy Builder. The book comes with a Purposeful Growth Self-Assessment to help identify specific growth opportunities as well as ensure alignment between the purpose and values of both an individual and the team or organization they serve. My business is related to my 4 LEAF Growth Ventures—Reading, Speaking, Consulting, and Learning.
Tell us about yourself
It's been quite a journey that has had a lot of twists and turns along the way to lead me to where I am today. My epiphany came to me on the morning after I was unceremoniously let go from an executive leadership role. A new ownership group had just acquired the brand from our parent company and decided to bring in their own team. As dawn was breaking that late February morning while living in the Los Angeles area, there on the end of one branch of a fig tree in our backyard, I saw a tiny green sprig of a new leaf just starting to bud, glistening in the morning dew.
At that moment, I imagined a leaf as a symbol of growth and rebirth—not only within the cycles of nature but in that season of my life as well. In my mind's eye, I also saw LEAF as an acronym that stands for Leadership, Engagement, Accountability, and Fulfillment – 4 integrated processes (think 4-circle Venn diagram) all revolving around Purposeful Growth. I used to subscribe to the "Rule of 3's," but now I believe in the "Higher Power of 4's," representing the 4 seasons, the 4 directions, the 4 chambers to the human heart, and the 4 elements that comprise an atom--the source of life itself.
I began to map out 4 related sub-processes for each of the integrated 4 LEAF GROWTH model processes that I have found vital in helping individuals, teams, and organizations find purpose in fulfilling their true growth potential. And by doing so, “pay it backward” to make a positive, lasting difference in the lives of others and, indeed, the world. I developed a Personal Brand Plan with a simple but powerful Purpose Statement that motivates me each day: "I don't want to just make money and retire. I want to make a difference and inspire!" That means making a positive difference in the lives of others while inspiring them to want to do likewise. Unlike the Simon Sinek "Start with Why" concept, I believe we should actually start with Who — specifically, Who we "Serve" within the integration of our Spiritual, Relational, Personal, and Professional realms.
When I focus on a mental image of those I serve, it helps me stay motivated to persevere through challenging times and recharges my batteries when I grow weary. I highlight the word "serve" on purpose as I believe Servant Leaders are the very best type of leaders—those who build a deep sense of trust that inspires the team to commit its heart, head, hands, and habits in support of an aligned vision for growing the enterprise.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
First, I think making the decision—after over 35 years in "Corporate America" as a team-oriented leader within major brands - to packaging my experiences, observations, talents, and wisdom as now a #1 best-selling author and solopreneur is a huge accomplishment in itself. But I would not be in a position to do so if it were not for the care and support of several mentors in my life and career who helped guide me along the way. One, in particular, is Dr. Tim Bengtson, who was a professor of mine at The University of Kansas, where I earned my undergraduate degree. Tim saw something in me I didn't see in myself as I thought I wanted to become a lawyer, whereas Tim thought I would become more fulfilled as a marketing professional and executive leader.
As a way of "paying it backward," my family and I established an endowed annual award in his name that honors a faculty member within the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communication who best emulates Tim's ability to teach beyond the classroom in helping students fulfill their true growth potential. This accomplishment represents the fruit of my purposeful growth journey while allowing me to stay true to my Purpose Statement as I continue to "scatter my seeds" to help others along their own purposeful growth journeys.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Unfortunately, there is more than one. Rather, I view four key growth obstacles I call FUDD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt, and Delay) as interrelated, self-limiting beliefs. The Fear of failure. The Uncertainty of giving up an unsatisfying status quo to risk following your true calling. The Doubts we often hear in the back of our heads, which are merely lies that can lead to Imposter Syndrome or self-sabotage. And finally, the result of these self-limiting beliefs leads to Delay. Putting off our dreams until "someday." But what if "someday" never comes?
Instead, I've found the antidote to FUDD as Faith is greater than Fear, Hope is greater than Uncertainty, Belief is greater than Doubt, and Action—indeed Purposeful Action—can overcome the painful paralysis of Delay. We will have good days and bad days; however, we must keep putting one step in front of the other every day and move forward in Purposeful Action until we reach our destination.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Simply put, to be successful in starting, running, and growing a business today, you must do the inner work necessary to "TURN over a new leaf" in managing change. In this case, TURN is an acronym that stands for Teachable, Uncomfortable, Responsible, and No return.
One must be Teachable to learn new things, become comfortable being Uncomfortable as one grows and develop new skills and abilities, be Responsible for the actions one takes (or doesn't take) along with the results, and be all-in—fully committed to a "Burn the Boats!" No return mentality.
Finally, I would work with a mentor or business coach who could hold you accountable for living up to your commitments within each of the TURN growth phases. The importance of mentorship and accountability cannot be overstated if we are to achieve our business goals, as no one ever wins alone.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.