His daughter Lexi is his “little angel” and is a key part of his life – alongside his wife, Nikki, and his two teenage step children, Shannon and Jared.
It’s already clear to us that his drive and passion for his work stems from his love for his family and his desire to help other families. OM has quickly sussed out that Mark is certainly not the stereotypical accountant and we have instantly warmed to him.
OM arrives at his house to be greeted by the other two key family members, Rocky and Tonto, who are Jack Russell dogs (of a sort).
In the kitchen, Mark makes coffee for OM and chats with our photographer, Tom, who is diligently setting up camera equipment for the accompanying photo-shoot. And it’s not just a busy time at home, as Mark and his team are opening new offices on the ground floor of Studio 5/11 in Millbay Road, near Plymouth Pavilions.
But, for the next hour at least, Mark has a bit of downtime as he sits down to chat with OM about his past and his entrepreneurial spirit.
And so, with ITV’s “This Morning” gently playing in the background, OM gently starts to work its way through its list of questions.
To say we are feeling relaxed would be an understatement.
The interview is more of a cosy chat between two friends, and yet, when it comes down to accounting, Mark is razor sharp on any, and all, of the latest news affecting individuals and businesses.
“We are always on the ball,” explains Mark. “We are absolutely focused on the news and watch out for all the changes that are happening in the industry.”
Synergy, which started in 2005, has just moved back into the city, from Yelverton, and it is something that Plymouth born Mark is very pleased about.
“I love the city. Geographically, it has so much, from the Moors to the beaches. It is a large vibrant city which has had lots of inward investment,” says the 43 year old.
A current hobby for him is tracing his family tree and its roots are firmly entrenched in the maritime history of the city.
In the latter part of the nineteenth century and until 1920, they fished from Sutton Harbour. A relative died in World War One during service to the Royal Navy.
His journey has certainly been incredible. Born into “borderline poverty” with just his Mum to bring him up, it was a tough start which was certainly not easy for either of them as his childhood was spent in a 1980s inner city estate.
He started his professional training at the age of 24, when he found he had a real flair for numbers and spreadsheets. He went on to continue his studies with chartered accountancy at 27.
In 2005, having gained several years of experience under his belt, Mark decided to go it alone. Synergy Chartered Accountants was born.
“I went from a good salary to one client at £150 a year and so had a few sleepless nights to start with, but, within a single month, I had my lucky break and picked up 17 companies very quickly,” he recalls.
“The first client came from a recommendation and it has just grown from there,” says Mark.
Synergy is certainly a powerful name and is simply defined as being the act of two agents that, when combined, provide an energy greater than their separate parts.
In short, his business is all about harnessing the power of team work.
“I wanted a brand that people would recognise as it is not about me but it is about the team and our aim, which is to do what we can to help our clients. That means that we want to be approachable so that clients can pop in for a coffee if they want to do so.”
His success isn’t just down to luck and sheer hard work. It’s also his aim to help other people. It’s an honourable goal which includes discounts to service personnel and allows him and his team to help businesses in an advisory capacity.
“We can advise businesses on refinancing, upsizing and cost control. We can take on clients when they are in trouble. We’re not fee focused at that point as we just want to help them out.”
Effectively, looking after clients from ‘cradle to grave’ is central to Mark’s ethos and business plan. In short, it’s not about the money but about helping people as he “just wants people to be happy because I know what it is like not to be.”
During the recession, Mark did not increase his fees and, for those businesses that needed it, he provided free support to help them through the tough economic times.
His down to earth attitude means today he is not wearing a suit, shirt or tie. He isn’t looking for shiny polished shoes but he is providing a product which is, in itself, shiny, polished and focused on the all important detail. His casual approach provides a surprise when he asks people to guess what he does for a living.
He laughs when he says that lots of people imagine that he is a builder and they are simply amazed when he tells them that he is an accountant. For him, it’s not about style but it is about 100% focused professionalism.
His approach, and new premises, is already part of his plan to bring a fresher approach for accountancy that will lead to growth with affordable options on fees and the possibility of the recruitment of more staff.
So, what is Mark’s advice for budding entrepreneurs in the city? “If you really want to succeed then you probably have the right ability to do so.”
“After that, it is down to the right support and advice. Make sure you do your homework. Don’t rush it. Plan it properly and do it right.”
A key ‘secret’ ingredient for him has been to always be available for people.
“Being obtainable is important. It makes me busy but it is the way to be. We have an open honest approach to business – which is vital.”
Perhaps his strongest piece of advice comes from his quoting of Alexander Pope’s poetry from the 18th century where the satirist wrote that “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
“In short,” explains Mark, “listen to advice.” It’s a good tip and an excellent one for OM to finish the interview on.