Mark Masters: Firefighter Fights for Multimillion-Dollar Business Idea And Succeeds
The comfort zone is a safe and beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there. Learn from Mark Masters as we talk about his journey to business success after going out of his comfort zone.
Mark Masters is a tribal citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. He is a direct descendent of Principal Chief Richard Fields.
Mark holds a BS in Ecology from Oklahoma State University and a Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship from the renowned Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.
He worked in the Branch of Wildland Fire Management Indian Affairs (BIA-NIFC) as a federal wildland fire and all-hazards incident responder. He held a variety of positions, one of which is an aerially delivered firefighter.
In 2009, he left his position with the Branch of Wildland Fire Management Indian Affairs (BIA-NIFC) and founded Chloeta with extremely humble beginnings.
Chloeta is an international leader in environmental and emergency services, including wildland fire, aviation, natural resources, and incident management.
Chloeta has been recognized by the Inc. Magazine as the fastest-growing privately-held business in the U.S.
Mark started fighting fires since he was 18 years old. He was a wildland firefighter for the federal government doing what he enjoyed most: helicopter rappelling.
When he started settling down, he opted for a less dangerous job, so he took on more of an administrative position with the National Interagency Fire Center in Arkansas.
In 2009, he had a business idea, and he wanted to make that idea come true. With little capital and no business experience, he went for it.
Although that year was the peak of the economic downturn, he bravely quit his job and started his own company.
As expected in any start-up business, things weren’t in his favor the first time. The first of many rejections was when he went to SCORE and was told that he didn’t have a viable business model.
Not long after that, instead of quitting, he sat down with the Small Business Assistance Center with his tribe in Cherokee, and they were the first ones to believe that he might be working something great.
WALKING AWAY FROM COMFORT
If we were to talk about Mark’s life before he ventured out into business, anyone would find his decision intriguing and even surprising.
He was 26 years old at the time, had a great salary, had a lot of stability in working in the government, and to most people, that is considered “the dream.”
This shows that fulfillment comes in different ways, and for Mark, fulfillment was becoming the boss of his own. However, having the courage to decide to start a business didn’t mean that he wasn’t afraid because he was.
“The scariest feeling ever is to walk out of an office one day and know that you’ll never be a federal employee anymore, and that’s the only employer you’ve had since you were 18 years old, and that’s all you know.”
A lot of people told Mark he was crazy for deciding to start a business, especially given the fact that he had no business experience and had little to no capital. Yet, despite all that, he pulled through.
Do you know why he pulled through? It was because he believed he could.
He knew he had a viable business. He knew that the government was looking for high-quality contractors. He knew he could make it work.
OVERCOMING OF BUSINESS DIFFICULTIES
When it comes to government contracting, many people think that winning the contract is the hardest part, but that is entirely false.
“Anybody can win a contract but building a business around it, that’s the hard part.”
The hard part is scaling your business. All business owners want to grow their company. However, not all businesses are capable of growth. Some businesses can’t handle it.
The chances of survival of small businesses in this industry are very low, but some were fortunate enough to persist.
One of the successful ways one can scale their business is by performing the contract well. And when I say performing the contract well, it also includes being able to professionally deal with unavoidable mishaps, such as contract performance issues.
“The first time we had a contract performance issue, and that’s something you know a lot of folks don’t want to talk about, but you know the way that you deal with the contract performance issues, in my opinion, you know you deal with it head-on.”
It’s vital that when things go wrong, you can acknowledge the problem. Then, you deal with the client, fix the problem, and move on.
That’s how you get a good recommendation in the future. You may even have the chance to continue working with that client because people, including business clients, don’t like being fooled.
When you have the courage to communicate issues that need solving and can solve them, that’s a commendable effort.
If you want to hear more about Mark Master’s experiences and what she learned in his journey, then be sure to click the resources below. You can also visit the GovCon Giant website or the new GovCon Edu, where you know everything about government contracting!
39: How this firefighter made millions fighting wildfires – Mark Masters