Gene Marks
Gene Marks, Founder of The Marks Group

Gene Marks lives and breathes small business. He has an illustrious portfolio of bylines in publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur.com, Inc. Magazine, Fox Business and The Huffington Post. He's authored six books on business management, appeared in broadcast news segments, and offers workshops, seminars and retreats for business owners.

How did Marks gain all of this experience and expertise? He's been successfully running The Marks Group for the last 25 years.

This 10-person, Philadelphia-based firm offers technology and consulting services to small and mid-sized businesses. Marks, a CPA by trade, started the business with his late father in 1994. Their original focus was selling what Marks describes as "the world's worst bookkeeping software," but by the year 2000, that software had become defunct. The father-and-son team then pivoted their business toward its current offerings, and Marks hasn't looked back since.

Growing beyond a family business

In a CO- interview with C-Suite Network's Gregg Greenberg, Marks said that The Marks Group achieved the most growth once they decided to expand the business beyond the family. For several years, it was just Marks and his father, with his mother doing the books. Eventually he decided to take some good advice he'd received about hiring people smarter than himself.

"I found that there are quite a few people in this world who are smarter than me," said Marks. "So I brought on some smart people to do the work that I was doing. That process helped me to develop into more of a business development and sales person."

It was at this point that The Marks Groups really started taking off, and Marks maintains it was "the best decision [he] ever made."

Many entrepreneurs tend to micromanage when they hire their first employees. They often struggle with relinquishing control, but Marks says he's the complete opposite. He jokingly described himself as a "lazy person" who has never had any trouble delegating responsibilities.

"Whenever any task had to happen ... my first thought in my mind was, 'Who can I get to do this for me?'" he said. "That's worked out pretty well as I've added people. Rather than me doing [something], I'd rather supervise somebody else doing it."

The power of word-of-mouth

When you're an unknown startup, it can be tough to get the word out about your company. However, as The Marks Group grew and earned more business in the Philadelphia area, their client base essentially did the marketing for them.

"As you build up a business and start getting good clients ... you start getting some ... word-of-mouth [recommendations]," Marks told CO-. "Most of our business comes from referrals."

With any luck, this word-of-mouth momentum will continue for The Marks Group as they begin their foray into the world of digital service delivery. Marks said his firm has recently launched online training platforms, because "the nature of selling business software is changing."

They've explored some digital marketing tactics to supplement their strong referrals, leaning on channels like Google Ads and Facebook to attract people to subscribe. All of this costs money – something Marks wishes he'd had more of when he started the business.

"People make the decision of not having enough capital when they start up business," he said. "We were able to eke our way through, but ... it takes capital to launch businesses, and rather than having a year's worth of savings, I wish I'd had two years' worth of savings. It would have eased a lot of the stress."

Watch the full video conducted on behalf of CO- by C-Suite Network's Gregg Greenberg for more business tips from Gene Marks.

CO- aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

This interview was conducted on behalf of CO- by C-Suite Network's Gregg Greenberg. 
Published February 25, 2019