Bossing it: Mark Mitchell
Mark Mitchell, chief innovation officer and co-founder at Lively Agency is a groundbreaker in the world of live content experiences and streaming. He's directed brands such as Spotify and Twitter through global live streams; launched podcasts; and created memorable content series. That's why he's one of the industry's most innovative names.
What was your first experience of leadership?
It was a real baptism of fire. I drew up a live streaming business plan as part of my dissertation for my Music Industry Management degree, which challenged the existing business models that sit within the music industry. I believed that if A&R / Physical and Digital teams across management and labels created live interactive content – such as live streams of events and concerts – they could build audiences in entirely new and innovative ways.
I poured my heart and soul into this business model. I started pitching the idea to labels, found a group of investors, and managed to leave Uni with 150 grand in my pocket to start a business that I was incredibly passionate about. I hired a few of my friends, and within 6 months I was leading a 50-person crew in the O2 Arena, live streaming a Chase & Status concert, paid for by our client Beats by Dre & Universal Music Group.
How did you figure out what kind of leader you wanted to be – or what kind of leader you didn’t want to be?
Coming straight out of university with a crew of talented friends around me all the time was awesome. We were young, creative and completely punching above our weight - but we needed to get organised and be financially accountable. I had to have focus and direction, and I quickly realised I had to become disciplined with myself and my own approach.
Despite loving it and having so much passion, I remember feeling this massive sense of FOMO. I was a recent graduate who was working their tail off, worrying about how our capital was going to work and making sure we had enough money to pay for next week’s gig whilst delivering artistic content for some of the biggest artists in the world.
What experience or moment gave you your biggest lesson in leadership?
Massive responsibility, massive challenges. We were thrown into incredibly high pressured situations early doors because we had unique ideas that people wanted. Six months in, we were filming in the 02 Arena for Beats, having never managed anything on that scale before. It was brutal, we had four days notice and were working what felt like 40 hour days. I know that if I hadn't had the right team around me, people who were equally as passionate and who trusted me, then we wouldn't have been able to make it happen.
I was working with my peers, so if I’d gone around rudely barking orders, nothing would’ve got done. I had to build a family that trusted me, so that’s what we did. From my perspective, I’ve learnt that leadership is about being consistent, being supportive, and being considerate.
Did you know you always wanted to take on a leadership role? If so how did you work towards it and if not, when did you start realising that you had it in you?
Hell no! I never for a second saw myself doing that. I was just extremely passionate about filming and broadcasting music and bringing it to a new audience. And I was obviously really good at talking about it, which led to others believing in me and investing in me, so I had the means to go out and do it.
When it comes to 'leadership' as a skill, how much do you think is a natural part of personality, how much can be taught and learned?
I think that 80% of it is personality, and 20% is experience that then goes on to shape your leadership personality.
What are the aspects of leadership that you find most personally challenging? And how do you work through them?
For me, the biggest challenge is finding the balance between being authoritative and remaining supportive, especially when in high pressured situations - I’d call this authenticity.
Have you ever felt like you've failed whilst in charge? How did you address the issue and what did you learn from it?
The answer is yes, almost consistently. I’ve embarrassed myself more times than I’d like to admit, had technology fail on me and made mistakes on set - but that's what maintains my drive to do better. I think there’s a persistence that's required in leadership, a force you have to have within you that means that no matter what happens, you are willing to pick yourself up and carry on.
In terms of leadership and openness, what’s your approach there?
Really, the route to leadership is openness. It’s corny but true. If someone can’t talk to the person that’s supposed to be leading them, then are they really leading them?
As you developed your leadership skills did you have a mentor, if so who were/are they and what have you learned?
I don’t think I’ve ever had a definitive ‘mentor’, but what I have had is the opportunity to work with people who bring something very different to the table from me. And I’ve always valued the challenge that that brings. I’ve learnt a hell of a lot from my business partner, team and clients throughout my career.
And on the flip side, do you mentor any aspiring leaders and how do you approach that relationship?
I’d like to think that everyone’s a mentor if you’re paying attention. In the same way that I learn from the people I work with, hopefully, I challenge others and push them to be better. I guess the lesson is to listen up, or you’ll miss it.
It's been a really challenging year - and that's an understatement. How do you cope with the responsibility of leading a team through such difficult waters?
Tears and beers. But seriously though…it’s about communication, allowing yourself to be vulnerable and supporting your team.
This year has seen the industry confronted with its lack of action/progress on diversity and inclusion. As a leader how have you dealt with this?
It’s 2021, diversity in the workplace shouldn’t be a debate. Every time anyone is inclusive, good things happen. It’s as simple as that. It's a fact that when it comes to race, sex and orientation, the more inputs we have as a company, the more creative, innovative and better we are. And that’s the basis of all our decision making on the matter.
How important is your company culture to the success of your business? And how have you managed to keep it alive with staff working remotely in 2020?
Company culture is the business, it’s incredibly important. As a company, we’ve made sure to have regular team parties, virtual activities and send out champagne bottles and plants to thank them. As part of our initiative to prioritise employee well being, we’re also collectively running, walking and dancing the distance from our LA team to our London team - planting seedlings with The Jane Goodall Institute along the way.
But there’s more to it than that. It’s been a shocker of a year and we’ve been extremely privileged to have been able to provide employment during lockdown. If I’m honest, that’s what I’m most proud of, that I’ve been able to properly support my team through this.
What are the most useful resources you’ve found to help you along your leadership journey?
I do as much research as I can through books, classes, courses or exams but that’s not it. The most useful resource is the people you surround yourself with, and everything you learn from the wins, the losses, and the experiences along the way.
Category: Media and Entertainment , Streaming Services