What we can learn from Mark Bouris

I had a recent encounter with Mark Bouris (for my international friends, he’s the scary boss on the Aussie version of the TV show The Apprentice). I discovered that up close he’s far less scary, and he shared some colourful and valuable lessons about his journey on the way to his considerable business success.

He brought his own take to some fundamental principles; the kind that never go out of style. I’m sure you have your own stories and experiences that reinforce the importance of these points in your own business or organization.

Get clear

Mr Bouris (I feel like I have to call him that, in deference to his on-screen persona!) talked about the critical importance of having a purpose in your business. I call this clarity; being crystal clear on why you’re in business or why you come to work each day. Why do you do what you do? What broader contribution are you making by doing it?

So often we get fixated on the outputs of our work, but that’s just the stuff we produce. What we need to focus on are the outcomes; the actual results, the things that really make a difference.

If we look at our business or organization from an output focus, we start to get a picture of the impact we can have. That higher purpose is our true brand, and needs to be the basis of everything we do.

Own it

Mr Bouris also spoke about the idea of proprietorship. What he meant is that everyone in a business or organization – from the board room to the tea room - needs to act as if they’re the owner, the leader, the boss. Without that culture, there’s inconsistency in the service you deliver. Employees simply won’t care whether clients/customers have their needs met, and that immediately comes across to anyone who interacts with your team.

I walked into a major electronics store recently and asked for a specific product. The staff member literally threw his hands in the air in front of my face and said, “I wouldn’t have a clue. That’s in a different section. You’ll have to find the guy in the yellow T-shirt – he’s around here somewhere.”

We’ve all experienced inferior service at some time, and it’s because people in a business or organization don’t have a strong sense of proprietorship. The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer reinforces that regular employees and ordinary people have a tremendous amount of credibility when talking about a business or organization - even more than the CEO or organizational leader. So, every employee’s behaviour has a strong impact on your business reputation.

Never underestimate the power your team has to influence what clients or customers think of you. Instead, foster a culture where everybody feels like they’re the boss, with the same responsibilities and sense of ownership as the actual leader or owner. That’s how you get a culture of proprietorship.


Another point was about having fortitude. Anyone in business knows it takes perseverance and guts just to keep going. The same applies for not-for-profits and government agencies with internal politics, financial challenges, human resource issues, and all the things that go on in a busy working day.

We need to have courage, as well as endurance to stay the distance and meet of the tough situations that will invariably come our way.

It’s an honour

And the fourth pearl of wisdom I took from Mark Bouris was actually his first point, but I’ve saved it until last because I loved the way he expressed it. It was that we need to work hard not because we have to, but because it’s an honour to do so.

He shared the fact that he grew up watching the very strong work ethic of his Greek father, so he learned to work hard because that’s the way it was done in his home.

But later in life, when a close friend and business associate became ill and passed away, he understood that we come to work because it’s an honour to do so. Because not everybody has that privilege. If we can look at our business or job from a point of view of appreciation and gratitude, we’ll get a whole new perspective on what we do.

Out the front of my house the other day I saw a young dad riding a bicycle along the road. Around my area you often see parents with little carriages behind their bikes and a young child in the carriage. But this dad had a platform on the front of his bike and it carried a little girl in a wheelchair. It looked like he had built it or had the bike custom-made, so his young daughter could experience going riding with him, even though she was in the chair. It was a challenge for him to steer, but they were getting along at a reasonable speed.

That really touched me, and reinforced how precious life is and how wonderful each day’s experience is, and how it really is an honour to be able to get out of bed and do what we do.

So, I hope you’re doing what you love, that you’re doing it with purpose, with fortitude and with a sense of proprietorship.

Thanks, Mr Bouris, for your wise words, I know we can all benefit from them. 

Neryl EastComment