Striking the right balance between good management and good leadership is a daunting but necessary challenge for anyone endeavouring to be a good boss or Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
According to Anuj Somany, civil engineering graduate from NIT, “The best compliment for a man is to be treated like a true leader; one who is real, correct and righteous in his approach, attitude, temperament, behavior and most importantly, character.”
Mr. Mark Redguard is one man who has proven his worth, abilities and capabilities in so many ways. He is one of the founding fathers of Spinlet Nigeria and after attaining a huge level of success with the company; he then established 960 Music Company (an outfit that promotes and projects record companies).
Speaking with Happenings Magazine, Mr. Mark Redguard reveals his motivation, drive and thoughts about the entertainment industry in Nigeria:
Tell us a bit about yourself?
Mark Redguard: My name is Mark Redguard. I was born in Jamaica but I grew up in the States between New Jersey and New York. I did my undergraduate in New Jersey, got a law degree in NBA – then started to practice entertainment law. I did entertainment management with a few notable clients before making my way to South Africa for the Nelson Mandela event. I ended up spending a lot of time in Africa developing music and marketing issues.
When did you realize you had a flair for entertainment and wanted to do it as your career?
Mark Redguard: I’ve always like entertainment, whether is movie, music or sports; I’ve always had interest in it. Then, I decided to go to law school, though I knew I could do it without it but I wanted to have a professional degree that I can fall back on. So, after the law school the natural inclination was to focus on entertainment contracts and with that I started to meet entertainers and started to spend time in the studio. Through this, I realized that the passion was truly there to focus on entertainment.
Why did you decide to join this company, Spinlet?
Mark Redguard: Well, my introduction to the Nigerian market came about 2009/10. I came in as an independent consultant on media and entertainment with Celtel at the time. That was the same year we brought in the MAMAs (MTV Music Awards). So from there I had the opportunity to work in Nigeria, to travel round Nigeria and have a very strong feeling of where the entertainment was and at that point, entertainment seem to be very much in the early stages.
So, I continued with the consulting for about two to three years: shuttling South Africa and the US. Then I got a call, more like a referral saying “there’s a great opportunity. There is a new company called Spinlet that is opening to be like the iTunes of Africa and there is nothing like that within the digital field. So, I think it will be good if you got involve”. So, that is how I got involve as the Chief Marketing Officer.
You mentioned you brought MAMAs, how did that come about?
Mark Redguard: The idea was that CelTel was trying to differentiate themselves in the field and at the same time, looking for ways to get to the youth market. So, music was considered as one of the major brand driver aside sports. So, they decided to do music and brought me in for music and entertainment, mainly because I had history working in Africa, I had contacts in the US and the Caribbean; so they thought, through all of those contacts I had skill set, plus references that can help them expand and kind of allow them to own the lane as related to music and entertainment. Coincidentally, MTV was looking to do their inaugural MTV Africa Music Awards and we were on the music lane, so it made sense to work with one of the biggest properties that is already recognized across Africa and across the world.
What part of your work excites you the most?
Mark Redguard: I think is the passion and the excitement of doing something that I like which is Music. So, I think it is the idea of knowing that someone takes their creativity, goes into the studio and package it. Now, once that is done, it could stay there or you could move it to the next level. That’s where I come in; more in the promotion, advertising and marketing side.
Have you ever failed at anything project? If yes, which project is that?
Mark Redguard: Well, I think there are failures in every project, it’s just the ability to know and decided when you need to go to the left or to the right because we are dealing with a lot of people that has got different self-interest. Again, probably one of the greatest things to do when dealing with anything is to have a great team and then making sure that your team move insync and if they are moving insync, it makes things easier to accomplish but a lot of time you don’t have that.
Every project requires you to define its element and learn from it. So, I can’t say anyone that has been believably devastating but each of them definitely has its own trail and tribulations along the road.
If you could pin point one, which will it be?
Mark Redguard: Okay, let’s talk about Spinlet. When I came into the market, the idea with Spinlet was to create a platform where people can access music digitally. That was the concept and it has not been done in Africa before, which means if we take our goal and lip for that, we would have the competitive advantage.
So, when we came in, we look at Android, BlackBerry and Symbian as been the operative system that we were going to focus on. We focus on those, we rapped up and ready for lunch and just before we did; we realize that all the time and effort we had put into BlackBerry was almost like an exercise in fatality because even though we were ready to go with the most advanced operating system: what we didn’t realized was that almost everyone in Nigeria who was using a BlackBerry had not upgraded their operating system and that created a big gap. So, we had to go back and look at up four or five legacy operating systems which took about six months or so.
So, that was one of the biggest challenges, costliest adjustment and setbacks that we’ve had to make: and a lot of it had to do with not really understanding your local environment.
Did you ever imagine that this business (Spinlet) will grow to where it is today?
Mark Redguard: Yea, we actually thought it will grow a lot faster.
Tell us about the challenges you faced and how you were able to overcome them?
Mark Redguard: Part of the challenge will be as we are in a market place that is free. Everyone expects to access music for free because that is what they have been trained to do. While for the artistes, there have never been a structure where a record company comes in with the promotion, marketing and distribution budget. So, the artistes have had to be creative in the way they go about pushing their music and the creative part is giving it away for free. They try to get it to as many hands as they can – the more people that listen to it, the more opportunity you’ll have to make an emotional connection with them which will subsequently lead to more show and the opportunity of getting endorsements deals. So the mind set has always been free all the way.
So, when we came in with an app that was free but created monitorization for the artiste to be able to make money of the sales – it was a learning stage. The people weren’t accustomed to paying for music and artist weren’t accustomed to asking for payment. Therefore, part of the process was to train them (artist) to know that their intellectual property has value. Everywhere else in the world, people’s intellectual property put them in a position to retire of it and make investment from it. So, we had to sit down with the artist and explain to them that if they give out their music for free, they have closed off one of the revenues income streams from publishing. So that was a learning stage.
The second thing was to convince consumers that artists are professionals: the way you look at a doctor, law, etc – artist should be looked at in that same category because they are using their own tools to come up with something creative and they need to be compensated for it. So, part of it was to say when you take music for free and you share it; its really piracy and if you pirate music; it cut down income streams and it put artist in a position where there will never be any wealth.
So, we are still at that convergence point: one is convincing the artist not to give away their music for free and the second part is convincing the consumers that they need to pay. Then, they need broadband to access it and to get that, they need to pay for data to access digital. Another thing they need is a smart phone and traditionally, smart phones are a little bit more expensive than your feature phones. So in other to operate the business model that we have; it really requires you to make a significant investment.
You are now with 960 Music Group and have used the same strategy to run this company. How about your employees? How have you been able to impact your vision on your employees?
Mark Redguard: imparting our vision has been very easy because: one, it is a new concept and people are excited about it. When you are our employee you’ve got access to almost all the artist that are signing on the platform. So, that excite one itself; people getting access to celebrity talent. Then, they also feel like they are part of the growth process. So, in every position that you are working you feel you are contributing. I think right across the board there is almost value added by every member of the team.
What are your strongest qualities and which would you say keeps pushing you to overcome challenges?
Mark Redguard: I think one of my strongest qualities is the ability to work with everyone and try to find out everyone’s individual strength and weakness; then try to accentuate on their positives and sort of assist with workshops to help them build up on the areas they seem to be weak. So, I think it is inter-personal skills and the ability to manager time, be resourceful based on the resources I have access to and being able to leverage of it.
What qualities strike you about a potential employee?
Mark Redguard: I think it is the ability to find someone who is passionate and enthusiastic about being part of the organization. Then, someone who is creative enough, who wants to take on challenges and not be intimidated by failure because I kind of like people making mistakes. You know we want to encourage an environment where people can make mistakes but the structure should be set in a way that you can catch the mistakes but if they are not making mistakes then they are not doing anything new, they are not doing anything different – so no innovation can come from it. So, the only way you are going to grow is when you make mistakes along the process and someone is there to guild and put you in the right direction. So, I really like people who are bold enough to take the initiative and come up with creative ways of doing things differently even if it doesn’t work out right the first time.
What has been your drive so far?
Mark Redguard: The ability to infatuate change. You kind of know what you do is going to have an impact. Fortunately for me, the kind of thing I do – sometime its short term while some times its long team but it is almost like you are planting the seed and certain thing will be harvested at different times but at the end of the day, you can see exactly what you are doing and the results that are coming in. So, been here in Nigeria, I fell like I’m writing history. Writing history on the music side in Nigeria and if you are doing anything for Nigeria, you are doing it for the rest of Africa.
What do you wish youths of today would imbibe?
Mark Redguard: The youth should take advantage of the amount of energy, vigour and enthusiasm that they have and direct it towards something that they like to do; and almost use an entrepreneurial vantage point to work it out because if you wait and say you are going to get a job; there are so few jobs compared to the amount of openings that there are. So, they should look at want drives them, what motivates them and how to turn it into an income earning opportunity.
They should look at the market’s need and try to find what they can do to meet those needs from an entrepreneurial stand point; that they will still be happy, comfortable, passion and have the enthusiasm for.
Do you think everyone can be an entrepreneur?
Mark Redguard: Yes, I think everyone has the capacity to do it. Some people feel more comfortable when they are in a nine to five environment and life is comfortable; at least they are getting their cheque. On the entrepreneurial side, not everyone is capable of doing it but sometimes the circumstances force you to.
So, if you didn’t think you had an entrepreneurial mind, it may be different if you were in another part of the world. But if there are no jobs available, you then have to say how can I use my natural skill set to look and see where there is supply and demands. If there is a demand for something and there is a lack of supply, you can come in and kind of create an opportunity were even though it may be looked at as entrepreneurial, it is something that you never thought you had the capacity to do. You could find out how quickly you could do it once you start seeing income.
Does one have to own a lot of money to go into entrepreneurship?
Mark Redguard: Sometimes you do need money but I think it all balls down to creativity. How creative can you be in doing something that you want. A lot of times you hear people say they need a million for this, they need half a million for that but it is almost like necessity is the motherhood of invention. If you don’t have it, you have to think of a plan B or plan C; and you may have to do other things and come back around to it but a lot of times; you can do things and probably you’ve got access to certain resources that you don’t think you have which is a lazy man’s mentality. Some times. Some of the things require capital but there are a lot of things you can do without capital.
On a lighter note, tell us what you do for fun?
Mark Redguard: For me, I probably have one of the best jobs because almost my entire day is spent doing things that I like to do relating to music, relating to intellectual property. So, I don’t ever feel like I’m working. So my lifestyle ends up emerging with what I do during the day and what I do at night. I read a lot too.
Would you change anything about yourself if you had the opportunity?
Mark Redguard: No, I don’t think I will change anything.
Which would you consider most valuable to succeed- Talent or skill?
Mark Redguard: I think a lot of it has to do with the skill because at the end of the day, if you practice your skill hard enough; you are going to be talented. A lot of times it appears as if you are talented and many times, your talent may not be as long lived as your skills. So, almost everything balls down to if your technical skills are correct you can almost execute on anything and that helps you develop the talent.