Mark Tomkins

mark tomkins

It was great talking with Mark Tomkins, Founder & Director of award winning website design, development and search company Aubergine. Mark leads on the creative direction of the company and has become the leading expert in accessible websites for town and parish councils in England and Wales. A parish councillor himself, he is dedicated to improving his community as he is his business of 20+ years. A regular guest for Small Business Britain, Mark has been travelling the UK this year promoting good practice in collaboration with Ebay.


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?

Fingerprints of the Gods by Graham Hancock. This book opened my eyes and helped me understand that there are always other ways to look at things beyond conventional wisdom.

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. A classic Victorian old English language book written in such an extremely descriptive and immersive way the story played out in my mind’s eye.


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?) 

12 Titleist ProV1x Left Dash Golf Balls. Introduced to me by a friend to help me hit a straight golf shot!


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

Just before my wife, Bekki and I set up the business in July 2002, we went to a Chinese restaurant. I opened a fortune cookie which said ‘fortune favours the brave’. I’ve been brave and failing ever since. Only through failing can you hear the sound of the doorbell you don’t need to answer, which alludes to me understanding what opportunities to pursue or not.


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?)

Fore riiiiggggghhhhtttt! The left dash golf ball didn’t work!

In all seriousness I would say always try to under promise and over deliver.


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

Spending as much time with my family and friends. Good relationships require love, work, commitment, tolerance, understanding, and negotiation – just like running a business.


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

I design and code NFTs and specialise in animals especially budgies!


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

Seeking out new people to work with who share the same kind of values as we do. This makes work more enjoyable for everyone and the result is a shared positive outcome, a win-win. 


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

You probably don’t know much and that is fine, don’t expect too much of yourself. Focus your early career on listening, having energy and passion for learning and then over time work out what is worth applying. 

When someone says you can’t or won’t be able to do something, ignore it. You can. I have not one, single qualification to my name and I count my self as a being pretty successful. Success is measured in many different ways.


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

Anything that relates to Google and improving search results. Everyday, companies are being misled and mis sold with myths and bullshit about how the internet works. Don’t fall for cheap, quick fixes as they are selling smoke and mirrors which will only lead to you spending money and getting nothing in return. If you want good, trustworthy advice, seek out a professional, small business expert who takes time to listen to what your business goals are. Start with the end in mind and work the search end strategy backwards from there.


What frustrates you the most about your industry and the way companies are run in it?

There is a race to the bottom driven by a focus on the lowest price. A complex thing, like a website needs time and skill applying to it but many people often choose the cheapest option and ultimately end up getting something of poor quality and not what they need. In many cases we see people then having to spend again to get what they need. Buy cheap, buy twice.


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?

I say no to people often because the opportunity is not right for me. I used to get excited by things like shared ownership projects in exchange for free work but they never really worked out. Now I only work where there is mutual and clear benefit.


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?

For me, a balanced life is starting the day early and finishing in good time to be able to exercise and enjoy family and chill out time. Being proactive rather than reactive and staying in front of my workload. And having a week off every few months to relax and recharge my batteries.


When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)

I analyse and prioritise my workload in order of what is most important to the business and double down focus on that. Often the little things gets picked up by our amazing team here at Aubergine or aren’t important anymore.


What does leadership mean to you?

Creating an environment where everyone has the space and resources to do their best at the job they have chosen. When this is aligned with the company’s purpose and goals this creates the platform for success.


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

My wife, Bekki, because she has an almost unlimited capacity for tolerance, understanding and compassion, inspiring me to look at things with a glass half full. When I need her support she helps me overcome the challenges I face and for her I’m forever grateful.


What do the words principles and values mean to you?

From a business point of view it’s doing a good job for a fair price.  Respecting and appreciating each other’s business needs, taking responsibility and being accountable.

Too many people are looking for short-term cuts or quick fixes and they don’t exist.


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? 

How can you make your team environment better, fairer and more productive for everyone?


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?

Personally it would be to go to the gym and start running again. I know physical exercise brings out the best in me.

Professionally it would be to spend more time briefing projects with the team to really draw out the details.


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

Yes, I’ve had 7 years of mentoring with you Mark, having started with the leadership programme you developed at the start with Proactive People, then merging business with my now business partner Matt Willson before growing and developing the business to where it is now.

Mark’s method and mentoring approach helped me understand and find practical ways to introduce new ways to manage my time to better serve the business and team. I’d very much recommend Mark to other business owners and leaders.

For any web design, development and search engine enquiries please check out www.aubergine262,com and for public speaking dates and bookings check out

Topic: 50 in 50