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SPI 410: How Building a Tribe Took this Man from Rock Bottom to Massive Business Success

In one day, today’s guest Mark Bowness lost his marriage, his job, his community, and his sense of self. He had lost everything and was at rock bottom. Now he’s a leading authority helping coaches, consultants, experts, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs to build purpose-driven tribes.

Mark’s darkest moment became the foundation on which he rebuilt the rest of his life. At that moment, he made a decision not to stay at his low place, in front of the TV, not doing anything productive, wallowing in self-pity. He saw his future “as this blank canvas on which I could paint whatever picture I wanted.” His goal became to decrease the number of people hitting rock bottom in the way that he did.

You may recall that I had a similar awakening, after being let go from my architecture job. I remember when I got laid off, I was sitting in front of the TV watching Back to the Future over and over and over again. I was hoping there was a time machine that could actually be built, and I could start over because I just was not happy with where I was at and how things turned out. It wasn’t until like Mark says, I made a conscious decision. I thought, “This has to stop, and I have so much more to give. I need to find out what else I might be able to do.” And that’s what led me down this path of entrepreneurship.

So Mark Bowness leased an island in Fiji, built an eco island with a bunch of people who paid to be there, and in this way built his very own tribe. Sounds incredible, right? I’ll let him tell you all about it. And, he’s got some amazing insight into leadership, and creating community, to share with us as well. Have a listen.

Today’s Guest

Mark Bowness

Mark Bowness is a tribe builder and has dedicated his life to helping business owners to build purpose-driven tribes that increase their income and their impact. Mark’s work has been featured in 200 media outlets around the world, with his first tribe being filmed for 18 months and became a five-part prime time TV show that aired in three countries. When Mark isn’t tribe building, he is traveling or hanging out with his dog, Evie.

You’ll Learn


SPI 410: How Building a Tribe Took this Man from Rock Bottom to Massive Business Success

PatFlynn: Hey Team Flynn, really quick here before we get started with this episode, we do talk about some pretty heavy topics in this episode. We don’t explicitly mention anything, but it may… I just wanted to give you that warning. I mean, that’s not what this episode was about. However, it starts with an origin story that has some dark moments, and I just wanted to let you know up front that that’s coming and just to warn you a little bit about that. But I promise you it comes out on the other end just amazingly. And I’m just very thankful that you’re here and that my special guest is here.

Pat: Today we’re speaking with Mark Bowness from We Build Tribes, and you can look that up on Facebook if you want to check out his community. But he was just in a deep, dark place at one point and was able to, thanks to Building Tribes, coming out of that. And he now is a motivational speaker. He teaches people how to find and build purposeful tribes and leave a true legacy that helps others. And just a lot of tactical stuff in here as well, but a lot of motivational stuff too. But it does start with a little bit of a dark story, and I just wanted to be up front with you about that. But very thankful that Mark’s on the show today.

Pat: The big lesson here is that sometimes it may take something very difficult for you to see the light on the other end and truly amazing things happen when we often are in the middle of some struggles. Like, I felt like me getting laid off and falling through a little bit of a depression as a result of that led me to the amazing paths in life that I’m on now, and very much the same thing happened to Mark here as well. So, excited to get into that and just to share his story with you because it’s definitely very, very inspiring. But before that, let’s get to the intro. Here we go.

Announcer: Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast where it’s all about working hard now so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now your host, his podcast has been listened to for more minutes than years since the earth was formed, Pat Flynn.

Pat: I realize that little message up front sort of in juxtaposition with my intro, might be a little weird. But you know what, hey, this is SPI, and you’re part of Team Flynn. I’m just so thankful you’re here. Make sure you subscribe to the show if you haven’t already. But yeah, I’m not even going to describe what happens, because you’re about to listen to it. Here he is: Mark Bowness. You can find him at, or also just look up We Build Tribes on Facebook. It’s amazing. Here we go.

Pat: Mark, welcome to the SPI Podcast. Thanks so much for joining us today.

Mark Bowness: Thank you so much for having me. I’ve been such a huge fan of your podcast so it’s awesome to be here, Pat.

Pat: I appreciate that. For people who are now hearing your accent, can you tell everybody where you’re from.

Mark: Well, I’m originally from the UK, and I’ve lived in Australia for about seven years now. So it’s a bit of a mix.

Pat: That’s awesome, man. I know you’ve done so much work helping people all around the world—helping them build tribes, take their expertise and turn them into communities. Something I truly believe in and I know is so important today. I touch on these topics of community in Superfans, as you know, and I’d love to dive into that and strategies. And I also want to dive into a lot of your mindset around sort of expanding outside of our business, thinking much bigger, beyond ourselves. I even need some help in coaching related to that as well because oftentimes we entrepreneurs, we don’t even know what’s possible. But I think a lot of this has been unlocked for you because of things that have happened in your past that are quite traumatic. And I’d love to… I mean, not spend too much time there, but I think it’s important to paint a picture of who you are, Mark, and how you’ve become who you are today. So why don’t you take us kind of back to the beginning of when kind of all this started for you and kind of paint a picture of us on the journey you’ve had so far?

Mark: Yeah. Awesome. Thank you. So I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I’ve always had that mindset, even at school. Like primary school. I used to create these quizzes and literally give them out or charge the students, friends, to take part in this quiz, and the money came together and of course that money would be prize money and the rest would be taken for me. I’ve always had this crazy mindset.

Pat: Wait, that’s cool. So what age are we talking about? How old were you?

Mark: We’re talking like 10.

Pat: What was this quiz? I’m curious.

Mark: I used to create these, it was like, they had to answer these questions, these 20 questions. Obviously there was no internet back then. But it was just random facts about the world, and then they would all hand these quizzes back in. And then I would see who the winner was, and they would win a prize. And I would keep the rest of the money. It’s just always been on my mind. So that kind of formulated a lot of my ideas moving forward, and we’ll get to that in a minute.

Mark: So I was one of six children, brought up in a Christian environment. Heavily Christian environment, which was awesome. And I got married. I studied a degree in theology. So really kind of looking at religion and the Bible, and that was incredible because so much of religion and theology has an impact on communities and how the world has been built, whether it’s the education system, the health system. So that was awesome. But then I had this kind of rock bottom moment, I would call it, where my marriage ended. I realized that my faith was inherited. It was that of my parents. So I was struggling with my identity. And I got to this place of really nearly doing something that I would’ve regretted and would’ve impacted those that loved me in a very desperate and deep way.

Pat: And we don’t need to get into the details of that, but I’m just curious to know a little bit about sort of what goes through a person’s mind because I think the better and more we can understand this, the more we could even potentially help others who might be in a similar situation. So I think that it’s easy for us to go, “Oh, keep your chin up. Everything’s going to be okay.” But truly what might be going through a person’s mind kind of in rock bottom mode, and I’ve had my own experiences with sort of some kinds of rock bottoms in my life related to relationships, related to my job being lost, and those never feel good. But I’m curious to know what goes through a person’s head and how does one come out of that?

Mark: That’s a great question. So for me, it was literally nothing went through my head, Pat. I was really struggling because at this point and time when I had lost my marriage, I’d lost basically my community, my Christian community. I had a business that was a nonprofit organization in the Christian world. So in one day, marriage ended, lost my job, lost my community. I lost everything.

Pat: Geez.

Mark: So I even struggled to look at myself in the mirror. I didn’t care about what I looked like. I wasn’t eating properly. And so I really got to this place of just… It was just the lowest place I’ve ever been. And so there was this one moment where previous to this moment, I’d saw my future as just this dark place that I just didn’t want to enter into. But then I had this moment of awakening, and I began to see this rock bottom as my opportunity to rebuild my foundations. I say that my darkest moment became the foundation on which I rebuilt the rest of my life. It was a stepping stone to success. So whatever difficult situation we find ourselves in, we have a choice in that moment to make a decision about how that moment defines or redefines our life. And we can either stay at our low place and sit in front of the TV and not do anything productive and wallow, or we can make a decision that that moment just changes everything and that’s what I did. I saw my future as this blank canvas on which I could paint whatever picture I wanted. So this rock bottom was the beginning of the revelation of my purpose.

Pat: It’s funny you mentioned sitting in front of the TV doing nothing. I remember when I got laid off, that’s literally what I did. I was watching Back to the Future like over and over and over again. I was hoping there was like a time machine that could actually be built and I could start over because I just was not happy with where I was at and how things turned out. It wasn’t until, like you said, I made a conscious decision. I was like, “This has to stop, and I have so much more to give. I need to find out what else I might be able to do.” And that’s what led me down this path of business.

Pat: And I think oftentimes a lot of people don’t succeed in business in an entrepreneurship because they don’t have that moment where they’re almost kind of forced to make that choice, and they do make that choice. How might one who may not have a rock bottom yet, and I’m not saying that I hope everybody has a rock bottom. That’s not what I’m saying here. But there’s something about a lot of these stories that we hear about successful entrepreneurs like yourself who go through something that changes the way they think and allows for this new person, a rebirth if you will. How might one, because I know you coach and teach a lot of people who are wanting to start a business as well. Where does one find that inspiration if it’s not from a tough moment in a person’s life to go forth and conquer?

Mark: And this is a really important point, Pat. I’m glad you’ve raised it because we do live in this environment where of feeds, of social media feeds are fueled and filled with these inspirational stories of people that literally have been homeless and living on the streets and to multimillionaire. So a lot of people come to me and say, “Mark, I don’t have that experience in my life.” But it’s what I call the catalyst for change moment. It’s this moment in everybody’s life, and you put it so beautifully just now where you talked about you were on the couch watching Back to the Future. And you made a decision that something had to change, and it doesn’t matter what the thing was that caused that, whether it’s a relationship breakup or whether it’s a job or just I’m sick and tired of working in an office every single day and not spending time, quality time with my loved ones or family because I’m working for the boss. There comes a point in our lives where we have to make a decision is the life, the path that I’m on now, is it the one that’s enabling me to live my highest purpose here on planet earth?

Pat: So when you hit rock bottom and you had this choice and you chose the path that you’re on now, what were some of your first steps, and how did you kind of take this newfound energy and actually turn it into something?

Mark: Well, literally I raised the story about when I was younger and bringing people… When I was a kid and this quiz. It was kind of crowdfunding, before crowdfunding was a thing, as a 10-11 year old. And I had that kind of idea again. So it’s important that I set that context. As I said, I lost my job. I had no money. I moved back to this side of the UK to live with my parents at the age of 26 years old. I lost the community that I was living in. I had nothing, literally nothing. But I realized genuinely that I have all the resources in me to achieve anything that I want to achieve in my life. That was the realization that I had. So I don’t know if you remember… You remember A Million Dollar Homepage, Pat?

Pat: I do. There’s like a million pixels, and he was selling each pixel for like a dollar.

Mark: Exactly. So it was at that time, Alex Tew, and it was in the media, everywhere. And this was just making my mind go crazy that this guy was sitting there refreshing his PayPal and all this money was just coming in. Again, this was before the idea of crowdfunding. So I kind of wanted that experience, and I knew that I wanted to create a crazy idea that had this unique pull to it. So I started thinking about islands. I literally was thinking about islands, a part that was escapism because of the situation I was in. But this idea that I can’t own an island on my own. I didn’t have the money to be able to do that. But a number of people together could do. So again this was before crowdfunding. So I created this crazy idea, and I leased a 200 acre island in Fiji. And I literally went over there on a credit card to meet the chief of this island. So we leased this island, 200 acres, and I invited the world to become Tribe members.

Mark: So what that meant was, we set up a website, and I literally said to a friend, “Look, I don’t have the money to pay you for a website, but if you build one for me and this works, I’ll pay you. If it doesn’t, I’m really sorry. Sound like a good deal?” And he went for it. So the idea was that we bring people together from around the world to really build an eco island from scratch. We’re talking about the old… We had a bulletin board—really back in the day. So people come in together with skills and experiences, and we’re talking about accommodation, what power, electricity, the food, and then we had this kind of launch date where people started to come and literally help build on this island from scratch. Now, this was three months after my darkest moment, and I ran with this idea. And it was featured in 200 media outlets around the world. I was in the UK, and I was waking up doing interviews in the UK, then America, then Australia. We’re on the front of the National Geographic. We literally had Good Morning America fly over to the UK to film us.

Mark: I wanted it to be in one specific newspaper in the UK, which is called The Metro, which is on the Underground, because I knew that that was the feeding ground for TV production companies. So those that work in TV development on their way to their work. And I wanted it there because I wanted this to be a TV show. And the day I got it into that newspaper, I was contacted by 80 TV production companies that morning. The best production companies in the world. Ended up working with Liz Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s daughter, and the whole thing was filmed for 18 months. It became a five part primetime TV show that aired in three countries.

Pat: Dude, that is insane. Oh my gosh. What a relatively quick turnaround. So what was going through your mind when all this stuff was taking off? I want to know, first of all, let’s go back to the island and going to the island. On the way to the island, what was your pitch? What would you even say, and how did you know what to say?

Mark: I built this narrative, and this is a really important point, that I believe that we need to have creative narratives around our business. We can no longer just set up a website and hope for the best. That we’ve got to have this engaging story, which is kind of the heart of building a tribe. So I really had this beautiful narrative built out, which was the concept was called Tribe Wanted. And we were bringing together people from all over the world to build this eco island from scratch. There was lots of gamification around the whole thing. So when people joined, the received a certificate, they received a wooden badge that they wore as part of it. They had a t-shirt. They could elect themselves to be a chief for the month of a tribe and the tribe members got to vote for who they wanted. That person stayed on the island for a month, and they had what we call a tribal bounty, an amount of money that was able to live their legacy on the island, and leave on the island.

Mark: So we had this beautiful story mapped out. But the crazy thing was we went to this island, and we scoured the world literally for islands. And I realized that there’s islands you could buy. I couldn’t afford an island, but in Fiji, you can lease islands that seem more affordable. And that Fiji was part of the backpackers’ tourist route, which we thought would be our main audience.

Mark: So we went to this chief of this island in Fiji and explained, shared this vision with him. And he told us, Pat, it’s crazy, a few nights before… The island was called Vorovoro. A few nights before, he had a dream in which in this dream he had this idea that the world would come to Vorovoro. So he was all on board. And we had a handshake. We hadn’t even written a contract, and went home and launched the whole thing. A few months later, when it was in the media everywhere, the creators of the TV show Survivor, they contacted the chief of the island and said, “We seen this island in the media everywhere. We want this island. We’re prepared to give you three times whatever you’ve been offered.” And we were really worried because we had no contract written, and the chief of the island said, “In Fiji, our word is our honor. So no matter how much money that you can give us, we’ve given our promise to Mark. And he’s got this island.”

Pat: Wow.

Mark: Crazy experience.

Pat: That is crazy. I’m imagining a lot of what the audience is thinking right now—beyond that, wow, this is insane and kind of cool, amazingly crazy—I mean, were there any people stepping up going, “This is ridiculous. This is a scam.” Or was there anything in the media that was sort of negative and sort of because this is so different and so out there, was there any pushback?

Mark: Absolutely, and that was the hardest thing. It was so hard, Pat, because we just had this… I had this crazy idea and built a team around it. And one of the biggest mistakes that we made… So again, this was before crowdfunding. So now it might seem okay. So he’s crowdfunded an island. It makes sense now with that knowledge, information of the world that we’re in. But before then, that wasn’t a thing. And so we made a big mistake where, on our blog, we were posting upcoming media that we were going to be on. So we weren’t aware of what was happening behind the scenes. We were posting this media we were going to be on, and we were about to be on I think it was Today Show in the US. It was either the Today Show or Good Morning America, and some guy with an unknown website that nobody was hitting whatsoever saw that we were going to be on this high profile, American TV show and started to write an article that was SEO keyworded up like crazy talking about how it was scam and how we’re just taking people’s money. That no island exists, and they’re going to… anybody that falls for this is crazy.

Mark: So the moment we were on TV in the US, people were turning to Google. He was getting hits like crazy, and of course the internet does what it does best and lots of people started to replicate that information. So I started with this, “This is a great thing. We’re building an eco island. We’re helping these amazing people in Fiji.” And all the most positive intent in the world. And yet that dark side of people doubting and not wanting to see something succeed. And maybe genuinely thinking that we were scamming because there was no such thing as crowdfunding. So it was an incredible experience to be on the high profile TV show, and yet underneath we were paddling like crazy to understand how we kind of handled the damage of what blew up online.

Pat: For those who still aren’t clear. If a person would’ve come to you and go, “Hey Mark, tell me why this isn’t a scam,” what is it that you were actually selling there, and how were you getting people involved—before we move on?

Mark: Yeah. And it may have sounded like a scam to start with. People were paying to have time on the island. So they could stay there for one week, two weeks, three weeks, and we’re talking $200-$300 for a week. And they got to take part in this development of this eco island from scratch. So this is an idea that had never been created before. Nothing else existed like it. In some parts of the media, we were a likened to timeshares. Others said that this could be like Lord of the Flies in real life. Looking back on it, I understand that. But we focused on… We knew what we were seeking to build here, and we were having people were buying. We did have that experience of PayPal was going crazy, and so we knew that all we had to focus on was making it happen. And that day one, where the island was open, we literally had media from around the world on day one on the island, to prove that it was real.

Pat: That’s so cool. Yeah, I just want to make sure in case anybody ever thought that listening to this that this was just some sort of made up thing, and it was nothing actually there. I mean, you were providing some incredible experiences to not only go to the island but almost feel like they’re a part of it and own it. And I love that.

Mark: Just to clarify that, the goal was ultimately we gave $1 million away to the local Fijians. We employed a significant number of Fijians in the north of Fiji that would never have employment whatsoever. And at the end of it, we gave the eco result back to them so that they owned it and had it. So it was so much good that it did do.

Pat: That is so amazing. And so what did that experience unlock for you as a person who had been recently sort of hitting rock bottom, and what was your next move from there?

Mark: Yeah. So for me it was about community. I realized that I had lost something so special to me being in a Christian environment, a Christian community earlier on. And that sense of community and belonging and knowing that you can turn to people and be around people that loved you and cared for you. We replicated that in this Tribe Wanted experience, an amazing global community of like-minded people. But what really fueled me was the fact that I did have this tough moment in my life, and there are many people that do have tough moments and they don’t have a community. They don’t have people around them. So I wanted to apply all of my skills to helping the most amazing people to build their tribes. I realized that no matter what experience that we have in life, whatever it is. Whether we’ve lost weight or whether we’ve quit our job to set up a business, or whatever we’ve done. In a world of a population of 7.5 billion people, it’s my belief that 10,000 people this morning woke up shedding private tears because they need a solution to their problem. I had that solution but they just don’t know that I exist.

Mark: So I had this concept. If I can help coaches, consultants, experts, mentors, thought leaders, subject matter experts that helping people from all walks of life to build communities for these people, then I can live and lead and leave this incredible legacy on planet Earth. So that’s what I’ve turned my experience into and started a community on Facebook called We Build Tribes and started growing that to help people to build their tribes.

Pat: Love that. And I agree, I think tribes are absolutely important, and they are the support system. They are the idea generation system. They’re everything, especially to us business owners. And you had mentioned already a very important tip that I think is important. I love to go into more tips on how we can better build our tribes and support our people, and thus in turn have them support us as well. You had mentioned the idea of a narrative. Can you explain a little bit more about exactly what that means, and how a person can find what that narrative is because I think a lot of people… For some of us, like myself having lost a job and then starting a business online, that’s a very clear narrative and I just lived it. You, Mark, obviously have one of your own as well that you’ve perfected and is a large part of your story and why people come to you. How do we create our narrative, and why is that important?

Mark: So lots of people just set up a business and without understanding the depth of the story behind it, whatever that story is. And I really believe that we each have purpose that we can choose that purpose, and not necessarily saying it’s pre-ordained or anything like that. But we can choose to achieve something here on planet Earth. So I really encourage people to dig deep into that. What is it that I want my legacy to be? Now I mean that as a genuine question without worrying about: is this an idea that people will buy. All those external—how do I market this, where do I kind of reach an audience, and what products do I sell. Before we confuse everything, what is it that I would love to leave as a gift on planet Earth? And once we start digging deep into that, we usually find that it’s based upon the experience that we’ve had.

Mark: As I say, whether it’s to help people to quit a corporate job and to launch a business or whether it’s to build local community and support homeless people or whether we’ve overcome something in our own relationships. For example, we’ve overcome maybe an affair in our own relationship and we want to help other people to do the same. We all have this sense of wanting to contribute to the world in some way. And once we dig into that, that’s where the start to our narrative comes from.

Pat: Love that. Then how might that narrative show up? Obviously if you’re a guest on another person’s podcast, where might it make sense to place that narrative? I know how important that is. I mean, I’ve perfected my narrative over time. I mean, that’s the basis for the culture for the entire brand in and of itself. Where else might that show up so that people can see? How do we get it out there?

Mark: Well, I kind of want to over talk on the narrative first, and let me explain this. So the narrative and the journey. What is the journey that you’re taking people on? I really believe 2020, moving forward, we’ve got to focus on customer experience.

Pat: Amen.

Mark: And I say that because as business owners, we think about numbers, and a lot of people go wide and they think it’s a numbers’ game. Get as many people as we possibly can, and then the conversions make sense, the percentage of numbers in terms of leading to sales. But I believe in going deep. Create that incredible customer experience, that journey, and I know that you’re a big fan of this. But create that journey, and then people will stay with you for life. And obviously that’s the kind of heartbeat of your book Superfans, which I’ve devoured and loved. But I say that importantly because people are making a mistake in thinking that the tribe is the Facebook page. Let’s get everybody to like the page, right? Or even now I focus on Facebook groups, but the Facebook group’s a real prominent thing and we should all have a Facebook group. People are mistaking the social media platform for being a tribe.

Mark: So a Facebook group, a Facebook page, Instagram, YouTube, they are vehicles for the tribe. They’re not the tribe itself. And I think that’s an important distinction when we have amazing people like Gary V saying be everywhere and film and do all this stuff. But if you don’t have an experience to bring people back to, then it’s like having this bucket with a hole in it and you pour in water and it’s just pouring out from the side because there’s no stickability. There’s no reason for them to stay with you. So I really am inspiring people and coach people not to confuse social media platforms and those numbers as the actual brand that you’re building. It’s a huge mistake to make.

Pat: The Facebook group, and I agree, Facebook groups are very powerful. And it’s a great way to connect. But I agree, that’s the platform by which the tribe is able to communicate with each other and you to communicate with them and vice versa. If that’s not the tribe, what exactly is the tribe, and how else might we be able to define that?

Mark: Yeah. So I believe that firstly there’s four key elements to the tribe. One is the purpose and vision. So what is it that I really want to achieve? What is it that I really want to achieve? Number two, having that leader that steers people towards that vision is really important. Number three, multiple ways to kind of connect and communicate. So I talk about tribes being online and offline. So again, what is the experience? And you’re a great example of this. I know you’ve got your Facebook group, you’ve got obviously the podcast, you’ve launched obviously FlynnCon, which I’ve heard has gone amazingly well. And allowing your audience to really engage with each other at deeper levels and creating and crafting that experience. And then obviously a way to monetize that because if we don’t monetize it, then we’re not reaching more people.

Mark: So again, to come back to that question, I’m a big believer again in focusing on building email lists as that primary hub. And again I hear people come to me time and time again that open rates are low. Why would you go to email? And yes, utilizing whichever social media platform your audience sits on as a vehicle to bring people in, but having them on your email database because obviously you own that audience, and whenever I send and email out to my audience, I make money with a launch in a far greater way than I can with Facebook ads, for example, because it’s a warmer audience.

Pat: Agree. So to paint a picture again for everybody, those four things. Purpose and vision, absolutely important. I think there was a quote, it was a Japanese proverb. I might get this wrong, but it was, “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” Actually I did get it right. All that to say, you have to have a vision and a purpose or else the work you’re doing is just for what reason? It’s just a nightmare. You’re going to waste your time. You’re going to waste your money, your energy, your capability to help and serve people in a purposeful way. So thank you for that.

Pat: Number one, purpose and vision. Number two, a leader, and I want to dive a little bit deeper into that in just a minute. Number three, connect and communicate online and offline. I love the fact that you mentioned and dropped email because that’s something that’s so important to my business. I think that’s one of the only sort of platforms we can still have some control over. Even though, yes, open rates, click through rates are things. That’s a struggle and fighting with everybody else’s noise out there. But you still own that list, and it’s up to you to create subject lines that get opened to set that expectation that every email’s going to be worth opening, et cetera. And then number four, monetize. I’m glad you mentioned that. I want to talk about that to finish off today.

Pat: But let’s talk about the leader that’s you listening and you, Mark, of course, and myself for my tribe. What are some of the biggest mistakes that leaders are making that actually suppress the ability for the tribe to feel more connected? I know that there are great leaders and there are not so great leaders, but they’re leaders. What makes a great leader? What are the mistakes that bad leaders are making?

Mark: For me, authenticity and vulnerability are key. It’s easy to look up to people that we deem to be successful in whatever sphere of life we’re in and feel as though I could never be like them. I remember when I first started my business. I was struggling to sell my services, and at $100 an hour I hated sales. I hated selling on the phone, and it seemed to be this great divide between looking at all those people online, the Gary V’s and the Tony Robbins, and all these amazing people are making millions and millions of dollars. And thinking that they’ve got something that I just don’t have. And so it felt like we were miles and miles away, that they were these heroes. They were these gurus. But I didn’t have what they had.

Mark: As I grew my business, I was lucky and fortune enough to focus on mastering skills and generating a million dollars from a Facebook group. But what I realized is I’ve got to be so authentic and sharing my story and vulnerability both in the highs and lows in the moment now. Because otherwise nobody learns, people feel like it’s a distant… It’s just at that distance between the guru and themselves. They’re always successful and they don’t go through what I go through. And they don’t have the problems that I go through. When we create a space of vulnerability, that’s when we’re really serving our tribe.

Pat: Love that. Thank you for that. I think that’s so key and something that a lot of leaders who are listening to this right now may need to be realigned on because sometimes we suppress and keep things in that we don’t think… That might paint us in a picture that might be not so good. I think this is one thing I know I have excelled on and that’s just being open about the failures and owning up to my mistakes. I’m not a perfect person, and I’ve done things in the past before. But when I make those mistakes, I’m always very quick to own up to the fact that, “Hey, that’s my outcome. I own it, and it wasn’t so good. Let me see how I can fix this.” That amongst a lot of people seeing and remembering me for Income Reports and just showing the positive side of things. I think it’s the full package that’s so important. Why do you think a lot of leaders are just afraid to be vulnerable?

Mark: I think there’s kind of an old school mentality, and this could be dodgy ground here. But there’s a old school mentally of enforcing authority through positioning. People have started with that “fake it until you make it” approach and look at me as the leader. And the scarcity approach around spending time with me as a leader and buying my products. All that kind of stuff. That doesn’t work in today’s environment where it is about community. I don’t lead my audience. I serve them. I’m constantly looking for opportunities to serve, and I think there’s a distinction between… And I’m not pointing any fingers. But leading out of ego and serving out of a genuine authenticity. It’s an honor. Every single person… I have a challenge, a paid challenge that people pay for. It’s $47. It’s an honor for somebody to pay money into my account. It’s an honor for me to be able to serve them, and if I have that attitude with whether somebody pays $47 or they pay me $100,000 for mentorship, that’s what keeps my business alive by the way that I treat those that entrust me with their money and their hopes and their dreams.

Pat: Who’s a leader that you look up to and why?

Mark: Oh. That’s a good question. I really like Russell Brunson because I do think he’s really authentic. I love what he’s built. He’s got all the elements of building a tribe, and he’s got some great gamification. He does share when things go wrong, and he’s on an incredible journey. He’s built this audience that really love him and respect him.

Pat: I love that. I have to give a shout out to a leader who I admire, who I’ve been getting a lot of inspiration from recently, and that’s Michael Hyatt. You know Michael Hyatt? I remember, I went to an event that he put on for his Platform book and Platform University when it came out back in 2012 or 2013. And I was invited to speak at this conference, and the conferences that I’d spoken at before, I never got to meet the person behind the conference because they were always behind the scenes or they were the leader and they weren’t supposed to be onstage except for the beginning and the end. But when I saw Michael, he was in the audience learning from everybody who was speaking at his event. And that to me was just so amazing. I was taken aback, and I was like, “Number one, how are you able to run this event from this chair in the audience with us?” And he was like, “Well, I have an amazing team.” And he’s help me sort of realize that you can build a team that helps support you and matches your vision.

Pat: But at the same time, I also saw a person who was a leader who was also there to learn. And to see him in the audience taking notes from all of us on stage and being engaged with us in that way, I was just like, “Wow. A leader doesn’t have to know everything. A leader is a person who can potentially just bring together all the people who know things,” just like we know in history from people who have brought their Knights of the Round Table, kind of their own version of that. The Brain Trusts from FDR or the masterminds behind different groups of people out there who have accomplished tremendous things. And so Michael Hyatt to me is very inspiring.

Mark: That’s awesome. And that’s a great role model of learning leadership authenticity and serving your audience. I love it.

Pat: When it comes to building tribes online, which is really your specialty in helping leaders, let’s say a person’s listening to the show. They have a little bit of an audience. They have a small email list. How might you take that person and amplify their work and their impact through the building of their community? What are some of the specifics that they might be doing?

Mark: Yeah, sure. So aside from the digging deep into the narrative, into the story, the experience, I’m a big believer in Facebook groups. And the reason for that is because if you’ve got this email list, which is awesome, and we know that we need to build that and we own that. But when you bring people together, it’s like I call them the… You call them Superfans, I call them Torch Bearers. When you bring those Torch Bearers together in one place, suddenly it’s not individuals raving about you separately. But that whole thing is magnified by having them in this Facebook group where everybody’s championing your calls with you. That was a distinction, the change of my business. I struggled to sell courses online, but I built my group. And within seven days, I generated $100,000 in sales for the launch of my online program because everybody was raving about me in this one place. And I was teaching them and serving them and building relationship with them.

Mark: So the mistake that we make is because we’re told by one person we should be on YouTube, another that we should be on LinkedIn or TikTok maybe nowadays or whatever it is. But you can’t be everywhere at once. You just can’t. And it’s crazy to do so. Facebook groups have this amazing ability to position your group. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the suggested groups column in Facebook.

Pat: I think I’ve come across it, yeah.

Mark: It’s right there on Facebook on the right-hand side of your feed, and Facebook actively promotes groups to you. And so it’ll push your group out across Facebook to those that have liked a similar interest to the nature of your group. I’m generating leads for free from Facebook every single day.

Pat: That’s really amazing. I like that. And so when you get people into this group, whether it’s by free content, guest podcasting, however, or Facebook helping you out, how might you mobilize that group? What’s your purpose in there?

Mark: So I’m very clear on the purpose that I have, which is to help coaches, consultants, experts, and entrepreneurs to build purpose-driven communities. So I have a goal. So I have this beautiful roadmap. So the goal for me is that I’m helping people to build their tribe of 10,000 people. So anybody that’s ever achieved that, we have this beautiful wooden Tribe of 10,000 Award. It’s a beautiful award. I had a client that hit 20,000 people in his tribe in six months. I’ve got this amazing lady, Naomi Amat, and she works with parents who have children on the autism spectrum and built a tribe of well over 10,000 people. And it’s a daily community that serves and supports one another. It’s incredible. So it’s so humbling to be a part of this.

Mark: But I share this journey in the group. So along the way, there’s various awards. So launching your tribe, they get a certificate for launching their tribe. They get a certificate for their first 100 people or making a first sale or appearing in the media or writing their book or launching a podcast. But there are these goals that we celebrate together because the ultimate goal is to build a purpose-driven community that increases our income and our impact. So I want to create a different experience than just another Facebook group.

Pat: Yeah. Oh man, I’m resonating with that because I know that… I have a good friend, Chris Ducker. He always awards the top sort of Youpreneur of the Year. I know some other people who have awards and certificates for people based on their achievements, and that’s something that I and my team haven’t ever really done other than just the congratulatory remarks here and there, which you can get anywhere kind of if you’re in a part of a group. So that’s inspiring to me. I mean, the fact that you have a very, very clear purpose—Hey, let’s get you to 10,000— and when you get there, you get notified about it. You get spotlighted about it. Your other community members I’m sure are, who aren’t there yet, inspired and motivated to get there. Those how have been there already can congratulate and welcome sort of a new member.

Pat: I know that, for example, Click Funnels has a Two Comma Club, that’s what they call it. It’s like that’s what you kind of try to achieve when you make $1 million using Click Funnels or something like that. Man, I think all of us can do a little bit or benefit a little bit from just brainstorming about those sort of… And it’s not just about giving away rewards, but it’s more about the symbol that that award sort of marks for the purpose within the Facebook group.

Pat: So for a person who might have a Facebook group or is starting to think about one, how might we begin to think about how to better spotlight our audience? This is something I touch on in Superfans, but you’re doing it and you’re crushing it. How might we begin to think about doing that better?

Mark: Yeah. I think firstly I would go into everybody else’s or lots of other groups and have a look at the experience within those groups. What we need to be very aware of right now is that there’s going to be a huge push towards groups, and there always is. So from an end user’s point of view, if I was just to request to join a group, there’s a mentality of, “Oh, it’s just another group,” as I say. So what is that experience that we can craft and we can create from day one? So that we have a beautiful… As soon as they come in, we have an introduction, a beautiful welcome message. They get a free gift. They’re taken onto an onboarding email sequence straight away. But we ask them to introduce who they are and what they want to achieve in the world. From day one, it’s all about them.

Mark: And then I’m not worried about engagement. So we live in right now this kind of click bait world where you see this really stupid, stupid post, which is like, “Post a comment below of the third picture that was on your phone.” And it’s just ridiculous. I’m all about how can I give value to my audience and align with the goal that I’ve shared with them so that they know that the goal is for me to help them build a tribe of 10,000 people, to transform 10,000 lives. They’ve seen the journey, the picture, the roadmap. They actually download the journey to 10,000 roadmap, and they can tick each level off. And they get a certificate at each level.

Mark: So as I say, it’s crafting that experience. And then instantly how can I take this offline too, because I believe it’s so important that we take our communities offline as well so we really embed that experience in a real world way.

Pat: Man, that’s so good. I mean, I just want to unpack so much more because obviously this is just one little snippet of all the kinds of things you teach and offer. I know you have the Facebook group. Is that something that we could potentially invite some of the listeners into to kind of experience firsthand what this might be like?

Mark: Absolutely, yeah. So we’re about to hit 32,000 people now, which is incredible. Yeah. So it’s called We Build Tribes on Facebook. We Build Tribes. If you search that, you’ll certainly find me.

Pat: Cool. Mark, this is amazing. And where else? Maybe just go there and they’ll find out more from you and all the things you have to offer. So We Build Tribes, just look that up on Facebook. You’ll find the community there. Pay very close attention to just how the experiences are there versus other groups that you might be in. I’m going to pull a page out of Mark’s book and learn from him in this regard as well. So Mark, thank you so much for coming on, sharing your story, being vulnerable and encouraging all of us no matter what level we’re at, or even if we’re at rock bottom that things can massively change for us. Just congratulations, and please keep up the great work because you’re doing some amazing stuff out there to create these purposeful driven brands and create these leaders who know how to do it right. So thank you so much.

Mark: Thank you so much for having me, Pat. I love your book Superfans. So if anybody hasn’t read it yet, I encourage them to do so. I devoured it. Loved it.

Pat: Thank you, man. Appreciate it.

Mark: No worries. Thank you.

Pat: All right. I hope you enjoyed that interview with Mark Bowness. Again, We Build Tribes on Facebook if you want to check him out and see what he’s up to and just the amazing and engaged community he’s built as a result of this. And just the authenticness and the idea of leaving a legacy just speaks so much to me. So Mark, thank you so much for coming on and being open and vulnerable. I know it’s difficult in those times early on, but hopefully we all see that you’re doing such amazing, bigger, better, more impactful things now. And we thank you for that. So Mark, you rock.

Pat: If you’re listening to this, you rock too. Thank you so much for being a part of Team Flynn, for listening to this episode, for subscribing to the show. We got a lot more great stuff coming your way this year. I know it’s just the start of the year here, but oh my gosh, the line up is incredible. So please, if you haven’t hit subscribe yet, please do that now. You can even go back and listen to some of the episodes in the archive. And just I want to take a moment just to thank you so much, especially to everybody who has left a review on the podcast on Apple. I appreciate you so much.

Pat: Cheers, take care, and as always, Team Flynn for the win. Peace.

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