Mark Nesbitt

Mark Nesbitt

Mark wants to live to 100.  Read on …

It was great to talk to you today. Not the sort of conversation we have enough of! 

You are a very inspiring man. I’ve seen you stick to our principles and values in the toughest of times, and that really is the litmus test of a person’s character. You truly care about other people’s learning and growth and are always looking to learn and grow yourself.

You’re a natural leader who truly embodies the abundance mentality and a paragon of positivity, integrity, humility, wisdom & loyalty.

I’m both proud and lucky to have been your business partner and friend all these years and look forward to working together for many more.


What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

The first series of books I can vividly remember were the Choose Your Own Adventure books. Remember them? Reading them as a teenager, I was inspired by the possibilities that life could bring and for whatever reason I believed back then that I could do anything I set my mind to.

Rather fitting then, the most important book that I’ve ever read is 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I was in my early 30’s when a (now former) mentor introduced this to me and I’ve been mentoring other leaders on the subject pretty much ever since.

In the same period in my career another important book was recommended called Good to Great by Jim Collins. It was more like Okay to Good for a long time as Tom and I tried desperately to be successful, taking years to get to the point where we were genuinely proud of our company.

They’ve all had a profound impact on me so much so that my new business, NewLeaf, is focused on helping other people learn those principles for their life and for their business. Here’s to the highly effective, great adventure!


What purchase of £100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? (Brand and model, where you found it?)

During lockdown I was fortunate enough to have my parents living with me as they were between houses. My Dad decided to build me a garden lodge at the end of my garden which now serves as a spare room, my office and chill out room. Although this cost a lot more than £100, inside he built me a stand up, sit down desk out of pallets (talented man), and together with a giant exercise ball they have kept my back in good shape, having suffered from a neck injury some years ago.


How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favourite failure” of yours?

Most people don’t know this, but when we set up UrbanLeaf 20 years ago, we also set up another company called UrbanChill and up until 2009, just after the financial crash, I was the Managing Director of that company and with the help of Tom as the Finance Director of both companies we grew from 0 to 250 people in just two years. Chillers, as we called them, worked as onsite head and shoulder masseuses and we had lots of corporate clients like O2, EDF Energy and the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, including Coutts. We also went to lots of festivals and exhibitions like the V Festival and Ideal Home Show, pioneering on-site head and shoulder massages in the UK on a mass scale. It was a lot of fun, such a roller coaster ride and we were very successful with it until the financial crash came in 2008. Within a year we’d pretty much lost the whole business.

It seemed like the worst thing that could possibly happen, but it’s a cliche to say I learned the most from the adversity, not just in terms of how to run better businesses, but also to understand myself and my character and how to cope with what was at the time, you know, very very challenging.

Since then the roller coaster ride of running UrbanLeaf was mainly a privilege and we built a great team of people until the pandemic put a sad stop to that at the start of this year. 

Now following my heart, my passion and my strengths, I  hope to put all of that learning into NewLeaf, helping other business leaders grow their businesses, and have the life that they desire.


If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it —metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)

You have so much potential; be the best version of yourself.


What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)

I think the most important investments I will ever make are in my core relationships with my family and my close friends. The older I get the more I appreciate what we have together.


What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

Over the last 10 years I’ve discovered the electronic music scene. My parents and kids think I’m crazy for going to festivals and clubs, dancing all night long at my age! I tell them ‘you’re never too old to dance!’ On most occasions young people come up to me and say they hope to be still dancing when they’re old haaahaaaa.


In the last five years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?

I was recommended to download a meditation app called Waking Up by Sam Harris. I was given a 30-day free trial (which you can do by clicking on the link) which consisted of 10 minutes or so of meditation theory followed by 10 minutes of guided meditation. Now I practise 10 minutes a day and it’s had a powerful impact on my life, enhancing my self awareness, being more mindful, resulting in improved relationships and better decision making. 


What advice would you give to a smart, driven student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?”

Ignore the pressure to jump into a career. 

I was lucky enough to travel the world for six months after University and I found that incredibly valuable for helping me appreciate differences, understand other cultures and the way other people communicate. I would highly recommend if possible to spend some time getting outside of Europe, getting outside of the western world.

When you’re thinking about work, explore different avenues and different jobs, in order to understand your strengths and embrace those different challenges and changes with that in mind because I believe that people are happiest when they are playing to their strengths. But when you’re a student or graduate, it’s very difficult to know what your strengths are. So, rather than focusing on getting a job and getting a promotion and getting more money; focus instead on exploring your strengths and understanding yourself because that will then set you up for a more productive and fulfilling future.


What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

I don’t believe in quick fixes. Even if you learn something new quickly, walking the walk is going to take time.


In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)? What new realisations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips?

As an entrepreneur, meeting new people every week, I come across a lot of opportunities and in the past I’d be excited about most of them. Since working with my former mentor and discovering my personal mission which is to be involved in activities that help people grow and develop, I’ve found it much easier to filter opportunities and focus on what I really want in my life.


What does a balanced life look like to you? Has a work or a project you have been focused on caused you to neglect other areas of your life?

I think a balanced life comes from understanding what motivates me. My core relationships with my children, my partner, my family and my friends are very important to me so if I’m not spending enough time seeing them or communicating with them, then I don’t think that’s a balanced life. From a personal perspective, balance comes from being disciplined around food, exercise and sleep across the week.

I want to be the best version of myself and live until I’m 100 and I think as a human being I don’t always get that right. But knowing when I’ve done too much of one thing and not enough of another is important. I enjoy a balanced lifestyle, but it’s unique to me, as it is for everyone.


When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?

This is interesting because when UrbanLeaf was going through a very difficult period towards the end, probably the last six months, I found the fear of failure paralysing. I closed down and found it difficult to communicate how I was feeling. I think on reflection when times are difficult, I tend to close up and in doing so that is difficult for the people around me to understand. Also it doesn’t really help me cope, so having that awareness now, with daily meditation, I hope in the future when I’m faced with adversity, I can identify that quicker and talk to people to help me and support me through that difficult time.


What does leadership mean to you?

For me leadership is about having a clear mission and goal and being able to develop and communicate that with everyone, supporting individuals to achieve the things they are responsible for. 

Treating people as individuals has been a key principle for my success in my relationships and in business. Sometimes that means identifying that people are not right for the business or aren’t in the right role. So it’s a case of trying to move them into the right role that suits their strengths. I think that’s a key component of leadership and probably the hardest bit.


Which people have most inspired you in your life and why?

I think my parents have been my biggest inspiration. They are incredibly hard working, get things done and are great fun to be around. They love travelling the world and the security that they give me in the good times and the bad, inspires me to be a better person and Dad to my kids.

Although my former mentor Paul Brown was my greatest teacher, it has been Tom who has guided me to actually live a principled life and run a principled business. 

Over the last couple of years my partner Nuvola has helped me communicate and resolve my problems and feelings in our relationship in a way like no other person has.

I’ll be eternally grateful to all of them.


What do the words principles and values mean to you?

Well, NewLeaf’s strapline is a principled approach, so clearly it means a lot to me. Values are the actions that I believe in strongly and can hold myself accountable to. I believe that life and business are hugely rewarding but sometimes are challenging and difficult. My own experience of principles is that they provide a lighthouse and a roadmap particularly in those moments and they help me navigate them.


If you had a forum to speak to 50 leaders, what question would you pose to them, to get them thinking about and being better leaders?

If you lost one of your core team members tomorrow, do you already have it covered in your mind? Can you be more proactive in that regard? 


What one thing could you do that you aren’t doing now, that if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life?  What one thing in your business or professional life would bring similar results?

From a personal perspective it would be to start weekly crossfit classes. I’m in a bit of a rut with my exercise habits, so I’m going to start something new. From a professional perspective it would be great to have more clients now that we’re fully up and running and 100% focussed and energised to help people.


Have you ever engaged with self-help, mentoring or coaching? If so, how?

I hired a personal trainer throughout 2019 with the goal of being as strong and fit as my younger self before sailing the Atlantic with my Dad and his friend in November of that year. I achieved my goal and felt great for it. When I returned a month later I hired a coach to support me to understand what my next career move could be.

I firmly believe that my experience of mentors, coaches and personal trainers have shown me that with the right support I can learn new things, grow and develop in new ways, and be the best version of myself, so that I can inspire others to do the same.


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Topic: Insights