Mark Drager
Mark Drager. A Brand Strategist, Podcast Host, and a Founder. He founded a marketing agency (phanta.com). For the past 14 years, Mark has grown Phanta from nothing to a multi-million dollar business. Mark has helped launch startups and transformed international brands. He’s been with his wife for 20 years and is blessed with four amazing kids.

In this episode, Pamela and Mark talked about how Mark’s success. The highlights are as follows:

– Who and what inspired Mark’s journey to success?

– Mark’s advice regarding people who aren’t aligned with who they want to be?

– What paths did Mark take that changed his trajectory in life and career-wise?

– How did Mark scale up Phanta without prior experience in sales?

– What would Mark’s older self tell your younger self based on what you know now?

– Mark’s plans for the coming six to 12 months?

Listen to how Mark Drager unfolds his remarkable story. Listen to the full episode here:

– Apple iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/underdog/id1534385651

– Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/6FbSDu0aNtuxAEiderUAfB

– Website: https://theunderdogshow.com/

If you found this story worth your time and made changes in your life, we’d love to hear from you! Subscribe and leave a review.

Catch up with Mark on his social links here:

– Website: https://www.markdrager.com/

– Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mark.drager/

– YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/markdrageryt

– LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/markdrager/

– Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/id1534172618

The Underdog Podcast host is none other than Pamela Bardhi. She’s rocking the Real Estate Realm and has dedicated her life as a Life Coach. She is also Forbes Real Estate Council. To know more about this amazing woman, check out the following:

– Website: https://pamelabardhi.com

– Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pamela_bardhi

– TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@pamela_bardhi

Click To Read The Transcript

Founder Of a Marketing Agency, Mark Drager Shares His Ambitious Story To Success

Kevin Harrington
Hi, I’m Kevin Harrington, an original shark from the hit television show Shark Tank and you’re listening to the underdog podcast.

Pamela Bardhi
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of underdog. Today I have an incredible guest here with me, Mark, how are you, my friend?

Mark Drager
I am awesome because I’m here right now.

Pamela Bardhi
You are so awesome. Now today, I have the pleasure of hearing your story in detail. So what’s more awesome than that? I don’t know.

Mark Drager
Well, I have to say for all of your listeners, so may be used to hearing your voice. But back in March in Tampa, the first time I get a chance to hear you and meet you is on stage amongst I have to say a lot of men. And my goodness did you break through I was like, I reached out to you afterward. I was like, I love your vibe. The energy you put out is amazing. So thank you so much for having me here today.

Pamela Bardhi
Oh my god, you’re fabulous. I love your vibe, too. And that’s why we’re here today, my friend. So I’m gonna start off with my favorite question, which is one of my favorites. I have quite a few favorites. But what inspired you on your journey to where you are today? My friend?

Mark Drager
That’s a huge question that inspired me. So a lot of its fear of failure. A lot of it is that on one side, I know that I’m built for greatness. I know that I’m super ambitious. I know, just deep within me that I will live an extraordinary life. So that kind of pulls me. The thing that pushes me though is this fear of failure, this fear of not living up to my hopes and dreams? what if things are never as big as what they are in my imagination. And so I don’t know if that inspires me the way that maybe you’re looking for the like, well, you know, this happened.

And I wanted to know, it’s just deep down within me and I think many of us entrepreneurs. Many of us leaders have this feeling this pole this calling. I just want more, but then the thing that really drives me that like what if it doesn’t happen, I need to go make it happen. So that’s my inspiration.

Pamela Bardhi
That’s your type A personality starting to come out like okay. I’m ahead of it, I need to make sure it’s there. Which I love, which I love, the same way I’m always about like. Alright, how do we go out there and go get it, I want more. And I want to make sure that this life manifest. So let’s go out there and get it for sure. I’m like 100% that mindset of like you want things?

Mark Drager
Yeah, I spent. I probably spent a good 10 years, maybe even longer, wanting things but feeling guilty for wanting the things I wanted. Knowing that I liked nice things or money or material things and then judging myself for wanting those things. Because shouldn’t I focus on the things that matter most. And a lot of these things I realized especially over the last year. Are all stories that you know other people’s stories in my life that they’ve kind of imprinted on me over this time. Right before we met back in Tampa, in March, I was out for a run the morning before we met actually. And it hit me that I’m a super ambitious person.

And my ambition is what most people admire and like about me. Yet somewhere along the way, I was taught or told that ambition is wrong. Like it leads to greed. It leads to ego it leads to narcissism or being self-centered or all those things. I had to unpack that. And I mean, I don’t know how you feel about your ambition, but I’ve always struggled with it. Now it’s like no, I want to own it. I am an ambitious dude who wants to do big things. So how do we make them happen?

Pamela Bardhi
Amen. you’re speaking with big time because it was four words that changed my life in college. I did this internship that I literally saw throughout college. I thought I was gonna be an entrepreneur when I was like 40. Or something like that’s like what was that was my game plan. And I was in college and I was doing this internship and I was still like focused on wanting to do like big events. Like sports arenas or like hotels or do like these massive things and then eventually down the line do my thing. Well, it just so happens that I had this internship at this place that I thought I was gonna work out when I graduated college.

So I basically positioned it that I did this internship it was my spring semester of junior year so right before senior year. And I had this internship I crushed it I was there every day I thought I was networking with everybody. Because I was like this is where I want to be when I graduate and this is where I want to start and blah blah blah. And I walked into like my semester end review with my supervisor where they give you the grade which I was expecting A. Because I worked my tail off and I was there all the time. Like you don’t expect anything less as a college kid like doing these internships when you’re doing the right thing. She gave me a b minus and she literally said to me, you were just too ambitious.

So when you said that That replayed in my head again. And I was like, Oh my God, yes people imprint you and will tell you that it’s just too much. Are you sure you want all of that really, that sounds like a lot? But like you were just too ambitious. I remember that I had this like rage in the beginning. This is I’m a Scorpio who reacts to everything. Then after that, like I remember leaving the room, I passed the threshold when I left the office. And I felt this sense of calm and as I heard in like a voice in my head being like him, you’re meant to do greater.

You’re just meant to do greater. So I remember walking out of the office. And then I was totally caught and called my parents and I was like Mom, Dad, like, I hope that you understand this. But I’m not working for anybody when I graduate. I don’t know what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna start a business have no clue what it’s gonna be. I’m just letting you know right now. Of course, they had a meltdown. But like, you were just too ambitious, like ambition in this society is viewed so negatively. And I don’t understand it like why can’t we be more? Why can’t we do more?

Mark Drager
I think that a lot of times. The advice that we’re listening to comes from people who can’t pull it off themselves. So for example, if I went through a health transformation over the last number of years, I’ve lost a lot of weight, I got super healthy, I lost 70 pounds. I never used to do strength training, I never used to work out, I never dieted and I would constantly hear from people in my life. Mark, you’re like, You’re too black and white. You’re too all in on this. It’s about moderation. You have to live a little. And I was like, I guess I do. Yeah, I’m not sure I’m that. And I was like, and I’m like rolling around all these things in my head.

Then it took me six months, nine months a year to realize, like, I’m hearing this from people that I’m not modeling. It’s not as if I was modeling an athlete, which is what I wanted to be. If I was modeling someone who has done it before, I should be listening to that advice. Not the advice of the people who are not in peak physical health, who are not dieting the way that I want to write. They’re the ones telling me to moderate because they’re doing that and not getting the results I want. If I’m in business, and I’m listening to an entrepreneur who says, you know, in startup, and I’ve told people this advice. Like in startup, you got to make huge sacrifices, like prepare for 60 7080 hours per week.

Prepare not to make a lot of money, maybe for the first year or two, as you continually reinvest that dollars. Prepare to work harder, prepare to make less so that way, one day, you can be free and make more. And then people say, Well, how is that a work-life balance. I’m hearing that from people who are not trying to build a business. Who are not setting themselves up to make millions of dollars of passive income down the line? Who are who will look at you like you’re crazy. If you say, hey, I want to be able to take nine months off and travel the world or do whatever.

Like we’re living bigger dreams and have higher hopes than most people have. So listening to their advice, I realize is a stupid thing to do. And I’ve been doing that for four years now. So that’s one of my latest unlocks.

Pamela Bardhi
I love that. Thank you so much for sharing that. But that’s the god honest truth. Like if you want to be where others are not. You have to follow those who’ve done it or have done something similar. Because sometimes there’s paths that just haven’t been taken yet. But somebody who’s done something similar could walk you through all of that. That’s you need to be searching for surrounding yourself with those types of people to be able to get those types of results. Like you can’t ask an accountant legal questions. They’re gonna be like, talk to an attorney. Like, you can try. Yeah, you can try though. Don’t advise it. This is not financial advice. Disclaimer.

Mark Drager
And you know, the old, the old saying, you don’t listen to your Uber driver for stock tips and all of that kind of stuff. And yet, when it comes to the softer things in our life, the family, we grew up in the friends that we used to have. Because we used to be in that place, but we’re no longer in that place. The way we used to think we outgrow all of that stuff. Yet we hold on to these things of the past. So that’s the challenge that we all face. We all just have to recognize it. Then once you do, what do you do with that information? Like you have to start reprogramming yourself. It’s uncomfortable, but that’s what we’re all about.

Pamela Bardhi
I was literally just about to ask that question. Because I know that there’s a lot of people listening right now that may not feel like their current environment or group of friends. People all of that aligns with who they want to be. Or what they want to do with their lives. So how do you go about doing it in a way that doesn’t burn bridges?

Mark Drager
Let me start by asking what’s wrong with burning bridges?

Pamela Bardhi
That’s true to know. I’m saying that if you love and respect certain people so much. But like you still want to maintain a relationship with them. But when it comes to like advice and that kind of thing, you kind of just want to keep them that way.

Mark Drager
No, I hear what you’re saying. And the reason why I asked that question though, is because we do not do the things we need to do. So we won’t put ourselves first will quiet our ambitions or we won’t take bold actions. Or We won’t do the things we know we need to do. Because we’re worried about people’s judgment or making a mistake and looking foolish in front of them. Or maybe setting them back, maybe it’s more honorable than that like my wife and my kids count on me to be smart. And to be able to, like, I’m a steward of their future almost. Like, I have to do the right things for them. But getting back to it, it’s like, you don’t want to burn bridges. So you don’t ever force the issue.

So you just live with them being them, and you not grow the way you want to. Maybe you need to be willing to burn a bridge, you know, maybe you need to force the issue. Maybe you need to actually speak up for yourself, maybe you need to say that you’re no longer going to take it. And maybe they’ll come with you on the journey. They’ll see a little spark of what you’re doing, you’ll inspire them and they will step up. They will come with you, or maybe they won’t. And maybe you’ll lose them, you’ll lose that relationship, you’ll lose that time you’ll lose that place. You’ll never be able to recapture it.

But I frame it this way: Would you rather live your days, your life? Have your relationships, have your business? Have your income, have your health, whatever it is that’s important to you? Would you rather live in this kind of artificial fake bubble? For fear of facing the truth? Because it may cost you something, but you may get an amazing reward. Would you rather just live that fake thing? Or would you rather face it? address it, be honest, be truthful, give them the opportunity to come with you? And if they don’t you say well, I am more important than holding on to this fake thing. And every entrepreneur does this with their staff.

You don’t fire the people you know that you need to fire. You don’t hire the people that you know you need to hire. Because you’re just you’re fine with status quo. Or you don’t want to rock the boat or you’re afraid. Well, what if I lose this person, so you just settle for okay? We do this with our health, with our relationships with our finances. We do this in all areas, and what I’ve come to realize after mistake after mistake after mistake and hoping that things would work out. And then a year later realizing they didn’t. And I had to, I hope I don’t have to fire this person a year later, I have to fire them. I hope I don’t have to make this massive investment. That’s going to cost me hundreds of 1000s of dollars.

I want to avoid it, then I have to make that massive investment eventually. I hope that I don’t have to have this hard conversation with my wife. Because what if then eventually have to have that hard conversation? Like, I believe it’s just so much better, just to jump on these things and do these things right away. And put them off hoping that they somehow work out because they never do.

Pamela Bardhi
Right? Your intuition will never lie when it comes to those things. I love that. Stop procrastinating the truth, if you will. Wow. That was profound. Mark, thank you so much for that, though. Seriously. I’m like, these are lessons that you know, we’re constantly learning. We’re constantly learning. It’s one of the most important as we learn and grow. And we shift, especially for entrepreneurs. Especially that thing you mentioned about employees. We hold on like for what you know, this person isn’t meant to be here.

Do what you need to do, immediately stop waiting for it, because then it just gets worse. Those situations usually tend to get worse. They don’t get better, right? Oh, man, thank you so much for that. Now, I want to reel it back a little bit in your world. Because I want to learn all about you today, Mark. So what did you want to be when you grew up? What was your dream?

Mark Drager
Oh, I wanted to be a racecar driver, but maybe every little boy does. And then when I got a little bit older, I wanted to be an architect and an engineer. So I grew up in a construction family developers. And I just loved you know, when I was a kid I used to create, like floor plans, I used to take chart paper. I remember just creating, like residential floor plan after floor plan. Then I would build with LEGO and try and build like these multi-story things with stairs and everything to scale.

So I wanted to be an architect. I wanted to be a civil engineer. And then in high school, I did very well in high school. When I was a kid, I didn’t know how to read. I didn’t know how to write until maybe grade five, I really really struggled in school. And then suddenly something happened like grade seven, grade eight. I don’t know if my memory kicked in. If I started testing better, I don’t know what happened.

But suddenly it’s like straight A’s. I became a straight A student my final year of high school. I hit chemistry and I could not wrap my mind around it. And I started thinking I can’t do chemistry. Can I do algebra geometry? If I can’t do that, will I get into the university I want or the program I want? And will I get my architectural stamp suddenly fear kicked in and I went to film school instead? Big, big change.

Pamela Bardhi
Film School. That’s so cool.

Mark DragerĀ 
Yeah. So I went to film school and I graduated high school. And went to film school to become a documentary filmmaker or an editor I thought. But mostly it was just hey, this seems like more fun. Let’s go do that. And then I worked in television for about a year and then I found myself at an internet marketing franchise in 2005 2006. Back when at the time it seemed like the internet was over. For a long time, but I don’t know if you remember 2005 The internet? Those were the early days now, actually.

Pamela Bardhi
Oh, yeah, I think that’s when I graduated eighth grade. Yeah, I was in middle school.

Mark DragerĀ 
Eighth grade was the first time I ever went on the internet. And I think that was in like, 97. I’m quite a bit older than you, I think was like 97 98. I’m sitting in my library at school. My friend says, Do you want to go on the internet? I said, Sure. What does that mean? Like, what do we do? He’s like, you just go somewhere, like, Give me something. And I only know two websites. Because back then everyone would advertise your AOL keyword. All of the commercials would always be like, you know, use America Online keyword and, you Oprah.

And I knew NASCAR. Those were the only two things I like. So the first site I ever went to was, I think, nascar.com like 97 and 98. And I turned to my friend, I was like, are we on the internet? He’s like, Yeah, it’s what do we do? He’s like, you’re doing it?

Pamela Bardhi
That’s hilarious.

Mark Drager
Yeah,

Pamela Bardhi
I’ll extend to the internet at that point in time was literally AOL. Oprah and NASCAR. That’s all I knew. That’s so funny. It’s so weird to think like, we haven’t had internet or like, all of existence. Like it’s only been around since early 2000s. So it’s a little, I mean, almost two decades, I guess, I suppose. Yeah.

Mark Drager
I mean, I think it started to become public in 9495, and things like that. But yeah, so I ended up working at this internet marketing franchise, in 2005. I worked at the head office, we had 1500 offices in 90 countries and territories. And I was responsible for producing all of the video content for training and for marketing and for advertising, and all that stuff. Even back then, I mean, YouTube hadn’t been purchased by Google yet, Facebook was not a thing. We used to have to take these videos that we would shoot on tape. We shoot on tape, actually, and digitize it and we’d edit everything.
And then we’d have to compress them into these tiny little files for dial-up. There was no way to just drop in, you know, in an embed or take the link and not. We had streaming servers, and we used to have to hard code, all this stuff. And we had to send out all these as X Files or something, I don’t even remember the names like it was a mess back then. The world is so much better. Now.

Pamela Bardhi
Gosh, it sounds like a total mess. You have to code all that I forgot about dial if you just reminded me about dial-up. I used to fight all the time, get off the phone. And now we have Wi-Fi and life is beautiful. But wow, oh my god, we’re going back. You had to do these packages for Internet servers and do these dialogues. Like I can’t even imagine what that was like at that point in time.

Mark Drager
So like we would produce like, let’s say your communication. The CEO of our company would want to release communication to the 1500 franchisees. Yeah, and if you’re in New York, or Atlanta or something, then it’s cool. You’re on broadband. You can watch the talking head video that was 320 pixels. Like, I know, today, like, we don’t need to get too technical, but 4k is like 1000s of pixels. And HD is 1919 20 pixels wide. Standard definition is 720 pixels wide. We’re talking about 300 pixels. So think of like a postage stamp on your big screen television. That’s what we had to get the video down to. We could release it to people on broadband. Now if you’re on dial-up, we could barely get you audio.

Like this was basically like think of like the glitchy highest thing in the world that the most compressed. The most glitchy is the most terrible thing. That’s the best we could do. Because you might be in like New Zealand or something running one of our franchises. And we’d have to be able to send you a 22-minute video and it was just why wasn’t very good.

Pamela Bardhi
That’s so funny. Okay, cool. So after this firm, what was your trajectory? Like, sort of after that as you went from television, and then you shifted into this world. Which is super interesting, though, too. Because I feel like it’s like completely different worlds.

Mark Drager
That’s the thing the path is never straight. So I ended up working there for close to two years. And all along when I was in high school when I was in college. When I was working at this company, I always just imagined me starting my own company. I don’t know why, I don’t know what it was. But I just thought if I could do this full time for this one company. And make $45,000 a year, which is what is making the time? Why can’t I do this for a whole bunch of different companies and make more money? Have more clients do different types of work, make more money? So I actually approached the CEO of that company, and I said it does not make sense for me to be on your staff.

So I’m on payroll, I have an assistant you have all of this equipment, you have all these carrying costs. You have no structure, why don’t I leave? Why don’t you outsource all the work to me and then I’ll get off your books. You won’t have any of these commitments. It’ll bring more structure to the type of work we’re doing. He’s like, that’s a great idea. So they let me leave, they let me take all of the equipment. And I was going to like work in trade to kind of pay it all off. And so I had like a $20,000 line of credit for my mom. I had the $7,000 of equipment that they were going to let me go with. Then they were going to outsource all the work to me.
And that’s how I started my agency phantom media 2006, the end of 2006. Six months later, it turns out, they weren’t that interested in outsourcing. Like, as soon as there was $1 figure for all of the work they had in the pipeline. They’re like, Oh, we don’t want to, we don’t want to pay for that. And so like six months later, it was not going well. It was like, they weren’t giving me any projects. I didn’t know anything about sales.

At the time, I had zero marketing, I did not have a big network. And so that first year, I learned a lot of hard lessons. But my wife and I living in the city, my wife’s not working. My daughter’s three months old, I quit my $ 45,000-year job. And that first year, my take home was like 18 grand it was it was a tough year.

Pamela Bardhi
Wow. Oh my goodness, what I do love is that you approach the CEO. That’s something that a lot of people would never do, like, hey, this would make sense for your business. Like those, try it this way. And I think it’s brilliant, that you did that. Like if that takes a lot. That takes a lot.

Mark Drager
I was super fortunate. So you know, if you’re young, and you’re an entrepreneur, you want to become an entrepreneur. Or hustler or what have you talked about your internship. Put yourself in another company or another environment for six months a year. And then kind of bouncing around is a really good thing. Because the thing I learned many years later is I started this agency. This video production agency became a creative agency. And an advertising agency that I still have, I still run 15 years later. We’ve pivoted four or five times throughout. But a big thing that really hurt us about seven, eight years in.

I’m running this multimillion-dollar agency, I’m hiring all the staff. We’re selling all of this stuff, I’d never worked for another agency before. So that was a good thing. I didn’t have any of the structure or framework to worry about. I invented a brand new business model. We were totally different than everyone else. And that’s awesome. But, you know, I would hire these really smart people, they come in and go. Why don’t you have project numbers? I don’t know, I never thought of that. Or why don’t you have this system or that system? Like, like, why are you reinventing everything from scratch all the time. And it’s just because I started my creative agency at 23.

I had only worked in corporate for, television for two or three years post-college. I just, I don’t know, I’m like, I’m gonna make it up as I go. So that time that I spent at that company that internet marketing franchise was an amazing experience. Because I worked my internal clients were the CEO, the founders, and the C suite. So I didn’t sit even though I was like, technically three or four levels below in the kind of hierarchy. I didn’t sit with my team, I didn’t sit with my direct report. You know, I didn’t sit with my boss, I didn’t sit with anyone I said outside of the CEO’s office.

All day, every day, I only worked with the founders, the CEO, and the executives. And that meant that I was privy to all kinds of ridiculously high-level conversations. I had an open door policy with all of them because they were my clients. My job was to help them look good or sound good. Or say the right things or make sure we’re communicating properly or what have you. And then the other benefit that I didn’t even realize, which was awesome, is if we had to produce sales training. I would work with a sales trainer that they would hire to figure out what they wanted to say.

I would help them put the course together, I would shoot the course I would edit the course we would release the course. Like by the time it was done, I had just spent 90 hours or 100 hours, or 300 hours on sales training. Which is so much better than just showing up at a sales training thing. And so over the course of the two years, I was there executive experience found. Working with founders producing all of this different content, was like the greatest schooling ever. And so if you’re young, and you’re like you want to be a hustler, you want to make money. That’s very, very cool. But spend a year or two years or however long it takes trying a bunch of different things.

Because the stuff that you learn in the mistakes that you make kind of under the safety of someone else’s company. Yeah, we’ll take you for like how much did you learn running restaurants? Right. Like it’s just, there’s something about that time in that age that will serve you forever.

Pamela Bardhi
100% Yeah, no, I definitely learned a lot there. Because I basically started up my parents restaurant when I was about 10. And then so by the time I was 18, I was running the show with them. Then I had two restaurants of my own by the time I was 21. So it was just like the operations and things you learn are just invaluable. So like my time working for my parents.

I learned so much throughout that time and it’s invaluable how those skill sets transfer, especially at a young age. Like it’s such a perfect time to be to test anything and everything. Like just go out there and get it, what’s the worst that can happen? It’s a perfect trial period, right for you like being early 20s, I think is like such a, like you have so much.

Mark Drager
Let’s take this a step further, we think that that time is reserved for your early 20s. I heard a speaker once say that, so if you’re in your 30s if your 40s 50s listening. We almost somehow believe that we are given these like coins. Or these chips, or these tickets for like, risk or for making mistakes. Let’s say, you know, I’m gonna give you you’re 20 years old. I’m gonna give you 20, fuckup tickets. I love and, and so you’re in your 20s, you know, you’re 2425. And you’re like, oh, I fucked up there, I spent for them. And then you’re a little bit later, and you’re in your late 20s. You’re like, I just used another three of my fuckup tickets. You hit your 30s and you got kids or mortgage or married or whatever it is.

You’re down a career path. And suddenly you’re looking and you’re like, oh, shit, I only got four fuckup tickets left. I don’t want to spend these. What if like, what if I need these and you start to go from like. Being pretty risk tolerant to like pretty risk-averse, fast. But the truth is, we just said, in your early 20s is a beautiful time to try things and learn things. But your 30s is also in your 40s, and your 50s. All of these things are also beautiful times to do. So if you’re willing to take the sacrifice or take the hit of the year or two years or three years to set yourself up. For the next five or 10 or 20 years ahead of you.

Right, we though make the mistake of thinking that everything needs to stack. Like every next win is built on a previous when every next breakthrough is on a previous breakthrough. And the thought of burning it all to the ground or taking a huge shift or having to start again scares too many people. And so they stay stuck. If you’re in your 20s experiment. If you’re in your 30s, 40s, or 50s, and you feel trapped or stuck, nothing is stopping you from experimenting again. Like nothing is stopping you, but yourself and whatever.

Again, society or people tell you what you should do but if at 65, you want to be really, really happy and live an extraordinary life and have no regrets. What does it matter if at 43? You take two years to reset everything like like, really? What does it matter? When you’re 43? You’re gonna say, Well, I’m gonna spend all the 43 and all the 44. Starting again, that’s it. But when you’re 65, you’ll love it. So like all of these shifts, in terms of what happens up here in our heads. And how we look at time and how we look at investment. How we look at these things. This is what I’ve had to learn over the last 10 years.

Pamela Bardhi
Yes, amen to that. Mark. I love that. You mentioned that. Because, again, my timeline shouldn’t be a comparison to anybody else’s. So like, for me that those were my trial and error dates. But guess what, there’s still trial and error happening throughout my life. But like, at that point, in particular, I was like everything.

Mark Drager
How old? Are you? You’re 30? gosh, you’re Yeah, so you probably feel super old. Like, you’re like, I’m 30 I’m super old. I’m 39 I’m turning 40 next year. The only reason this makes me feel really old is that when I started dating my wife, her parents were 39. So it’s like one of these like, oh my goodness, I’m now my in-law’s age when we started dating. But you’re 30 you’re gonna feel super old. And when you’re 40 you’re gonna feel old when you’re 50 gonna feel old. Because the thing is, you’ve never been as old as you are. Now, your brain just has nothing to go on. But I look at you and I go 30, 30 is so young.

And the truth is, yeah, you’re gonna fuck up at some point, next 10 or 20 years as well. And you’ll have to use some of those tickets and have an unlimited number of them. That’s the thing. Don’t feel fear, like making the mistake of making the pivot making the change, taking a step back slowing down so you can speed up later.

Pamela Bardhi
100% I always say one decision away from changing your whole life. Truly. Oh, yeah. Just one decision that goes good or bad. And I love that. I love that. You mentioned that. But definitely weigh out the pros and cons, right? Like I’m like that type A like let’s write it all down. Like pros, and cons, what could go wrong?

Mark Drager
Like, do that? Do you do that? Do you actually make the list?

Pamela Bardhi
I do. It helps me so much. Because then I’m like, it’s almost like you face the fear head on? Because it’s like, what are the pros? What are the cons? So you’re always negative versus positive and you kind of like, see where it lies. And then after that, I’m like, okay, then I go ahead. So anyone who’s risk-averse or like always kind of like yeah. I don’t know, it’s it works out really, really well. Like I’m a big risk taker, but I still try to mitigate wherever I can. And I do that and it really helps me make the right decision. Most of the time.

Mark Drager
I think most people would downplay the pros by nature unless you’re really well trained at it. And overcompensate on the cons, which will kind of skew things out. Even the people who say like, what’s the worst thing that can happen? Trust me, my imagination. I can come up with some really great worst-case scenarios. Like I don’t know if you heard Marie Forleo talk About the gut check. Like the physical reaction to these things. So you close your eyes and you take a few breaths, and then you pose the question yourself, like, do I want to spend the next week fasting? And then you just really quickly see what happens? Does your body tighten up? loosen up? Does it get excited? What does it do when you pose that question? Then you just got to do it.

Pamela Bardhi
That’s amazing. So you took that last shot, and you made it happen.

Mark Drager
Yeah, and up until COVID hit, I used to say this on interviews and podcasts all the time. When I would say like, I’m just gonna give it one last kick at the can. I used to say, like, I’m still on that kick. Now, when COVID hit, we had to completely rethink our business. So we are a much different business today than we were two or three years ago. Before COVID, you know, 2 million in revenue 24 full-time staff. Today, we’re 15 20% the revenue, we were only four people on the team. So a very different company than we were then. But yeah, that ride that like, I’m just gonna give it one last kick at the can and see what happens. Took me from 2009 to 2019. growing, growing, growing, growing, growing.

Pamela Bardhi
That’s amazing. And I feel like so I mean, since COVID, hit feel like you’ve gone into a different segue as well, personally. Because I was looking at your Instagram posts, and I’m like, That’s so awesome. Where you became a host.

Mark Drager
Yeah, that was a big shift. So you know, owning a creative agency responsible for strategy. For development, we help with brand strategy. And we help with all this backend stuff to make sure the work we’re producing for people. If we’ve been able to work with national airlines in the NBA, and huge pension plans. But we’ve also worked with startups, pre-revenue, and entrepreneurs in all kinds of industries. So being responsible for strategy, and then the ideas and the creative. And then the delivery meant that I was able to train my muscle. Working on 300 projects per year, year, and year after year. You’re able to get pretty good at clock in those 10,000 hours.

But I would always be, I’d be the guy, the one showing them how to do it. So I’d stand on camera. And I’d say, Well, this is how you read off the teleprompter and blah, blah, blah, and I would show them how to do it. And then I would walk off camera and they’d walk on and secretly think that I’m so much better at this than they are. Or I would listen to talk radio, and people would call in or the host would go. I’d go like I could host this TV show like I could host this thing. Like there was something there’s something within me or it’s like, I’m so good at this.

But some friends, some people in my life, some staff members had me believe it, you know, it’s ego. Or it’s just I want to be the center of attention or whatever it is. And so I would constantly downplay it. And then I had a podcast, I’m doing YouTube videos. I have friends who are in space finally yet, during COVID. I felt like I had enough coverage, I had enough coverage to be able to say, well, Phantom media can’t operate the way it was. The team can’t be what it was, we can’t do the services we want. We were doing for all these years, the world has forced us to change. So why don’t I pursue this thing of becoming a professional host? Is that even a thing?

Like, I know that there are hosts. I know that there MCs, I know people host podcasts. If I go to a conference or someone up on the stage, and if I turn on the television. There’s someone hosting a television show. But I always thought that they would get an actor, not really an actor. Or they would get in the flipping world, or whatever they would get the person who’s amazing at flipping. The general contractor or the real estate person. And they would give them a TV show or you know the person on stage who’s the MC, maybe their comedian. And I’m not a comedian.

So I always thought you had to have this like performance bent. Then someone would give you something, and then it hit me. It’s like one I love. I’m very, very curious. And I love asking people questions, and I love hosting conversations. And I have this strategy, background, creative background as production background. All those memories of listening to talk radio thinking I could do that imagining myself on camera. I’m like, I could do that. Something just clicked and I was like, I am going to I don’t know if this is a career change. Or if this is just a progression.

But I am going to pivot Fanta to media agency to be able to help speakers and coaches and entrepreneurs and consultants. The very people that I come in contact with, through being a host through being at conferences, through being on stage through, connecting with people like we are today. I’m going to help all of those people with all of my skill sets. And at the same time, I’m going to become a professional host, because I love doing that. And so bringing those two worlds together, quite honestly, was one of the scariest. Because it’s kind of like who does this scariest thing for me. But when I embraced it, everything felt more natural.

Everything felt like before I was Building a business so that way one day I could go off and do the things I loved. I was doing the things I had to do you know. The entrepreneur spends 90% of time doing the stuff they have to do so they can spend 10% of their time in their zone of genius. Yeah, that’s really stupid for us to do all this stuff that we hate. Just so that way, one day, or just so that way. In my very busy schedule, I might be able to do the stuff I love. I love what we’re doing now, I love I’m gonna have you on my podcast.

Even I love asking people questions and digging deep and chasing those things down. So I’m going to spend all my time doing that. And I’m actually going to pivot my agency to be able to do the things that we’re greatest at. But to support the people that I connect with through these things. And it’s just so much better.

What Would Mark Older Self Tell His Younger Self

Pamela Bardhi
I love that. Well, you can tell it with the passion in your voice and like just like your emotions around it. You can tell it’s fully in alignment with what you’re doing. And mesh meshing the two worlds actually makes perfect sense. And it flows. It’s an alignment, and that’s why he feels so natural because it’s in alignment with you. So that’s the path that you’re supposed to take, which I find so, so beautiful. Mark, I’ve got to ask you my favorite question, by the way, this is the favorite question. I have a lot of favorites, this is my favorite. What would your older self tell your younger self based on what you know? Now?

Mark Drager
Don’t worry, you’ve got this. So I have anxiety of generalized anxiety disorder. And that is not something that I struggle quite as much with now as I used to. But I like so many of us am afraid of the uncertainty of the future. What if? What if, what if, what if. And like all of the things that can keep you up at night, or that can run through your brain. Or when you’re feeling bold. You come up with something that’s amazing. Then you wait or you take a few steps and then suddenly, reality hits. But that reality hitting isn’t reality. That’s fear.

And that’s doubt, that’s anxiety. And that’s the fact that the future is uncertain. So what I would tell my younger self, and what I have learned is that when you look back, it all makes sense. Every dot, every twist, every turn, every workout that I was worried about I’ve survived every near bankruptcy that I’ve ever had. I’ve gotten through every time I’ve run out of cash, something has worked out. Every time I’ve gotten a huge influx of cash, I figured out how to spend the money. Like everything that I’ve ever done, I’ve been able to get through and it hasn’t killed me. It hasn’t destroyed everything.

The world didn’t crumble around me. Yet, if you asked me about six months, nine months, 12 months in the future, I have so much fear. I have so much doubt I have so much uncertainty, I can tell you everything that could possibly go wrong. Why is that? Why look back? Are there no fears or worries because it was and yet looking forward. I just somehow don’t think that future me is going to figure this out. Don’t worry, you’ve got this future you have got this future you will survive and get through and rebound. And maybe you’re gonna make a mistake, and maybe you’re gonna let people down. And maybe you’re going to embarrass yourself.

But I’ve already done all of those things a lot of times in my life, and people still love me. And people still believe in me. And people still give me a shot. So I don’t know I take comfort now and going okay, past me figured this out. Current means getting is doing the very best that I can future means got this.

Pamela Bardhi
Absolutely love that. I love that. And so Mark, what’s up in your world in the next like six to 12 months? Look, what are you up to what’s exciting what’s coming up. Because I feel like there’s so many shifts and transitions coming in for you just beautiful.

Mark Drager
I am most excited right now. So I’ve talked a little bit about where we were as a creative agency doing all these cool campaigns. And we’ve done some pretty cool things like I’ve had a 737 to myself for the day before. You just walk into a hangar and you’re like, there’s this giant plane here. And we’ve worked with NBA players, and we’ve done all kinds of cool stuff. But what I’m most excited about now is we’ve spent the last six months taking all of our brand strategy process. So we help people, companies that used to be startups. But today we’ve tailored everything specifically for speakers and entrepreneurs, coaches, and consultants. If your business counts on you, then you have got to have a brand that connects.

You got to be able to stand out, you got to be able to understand what to say to your audience. You got to be able to connect with them and engage them. Because that’s going to lead to growth and sales and all these other things. And too many times people just want to be the same or blend into the wallpaper or they don’t stand out. Or they don’t understand what to tell their prospects or their clients or they don’t differentiate themselves or they don’t look the part. So what I’m most excited about now is we have just taken the last 10 years of a lot of companies have paid us a lot of money to do.

And we’ve tailored it for the speakers, the entrepreneurs, the coaches, and the consultants. We call the processing core three. We’ve been doing this for years. So we’re just about to launch an affiliate program and it’s not something that scales. Like we can only work with three-four people at a time. It’s Pretty time intensive, but the results are I don’t think redonkulous is a word, but the results are redonkulous. So that’s what I’m most excited about. Because we already have the next six weeks kind of tied up. And but we’re opening up a few spots for July and for August. But, you know, if you’re someone who just feels like my business is riding on my shoulders, it counts on me.

And I’m not really clear on why marketing works or doesn’t work. I’m not really sure that I’ve nailed my goal. My voice what I need to do and where I’m going. And then on top of that, the customers the audience, we’ve made six-figure investments into the nation’s largest market research firm. So we can access data from 250 million Americans. A billion devices, a trillion touch points a day. Like today we can, what I’m most excited about is like there’s so much data. There’s so much insight we can track. I don’t want to be creepy, but we know what websites people go to which podcasts they listen to. Which magazines that whether they vote, you know.

Right or left, which social issues they back their household incomes, like we can learn so much about people. And so once you know what you want, and once you understand who your audience is and what they care about, then we do competitive Intel. We’re creating some killer, killer personal brands. So you show up you look the part you say the right things. That is what I’m most excited about. Because I love building brands. I love you know, it’s that architecture thing. Like I wanted to be an architect because it’s about space and environment and feeling and tone. That’s why I love hosting live events. It’s about space and environment and feeling and tone. But I also love building brands for that same reason.

Pamela Bardhi
I love that mark, that sounds so amazing. And just the alignment with everything is just mind-blowing. So I’m so happy. That’s what you’re moving into. And you’re gonna help so many brands just out there crush it, which is amazing. Oh my goodness. Now you gotta let everyone know where to find you and your awesomeness. Where can everybody find you?

Mark Drager
Well, if you want to learn more about the branding process I just talked about, you can head over to our website fanta.com. If you want to check out my podcast called we do hard things you can head over to YouTube lookup we do hard things or Mark Drager. Or if you want to connect directly with me head over to Instagram. Look me up Mark Drager, you can send me a DM I don’t have a blog. I don’t have a VA it’s like literally just me responding drop me a note and tell me what you think of this episode.

Pamela Bardhi
You are amazing. Mark, thank you so much for being here today. Just for your inspiration, wisdom, all the things thank you so so much, my friend. So that’s it for today’s episode of underdog. Catch us next week, always dropping on Thursdays. And remember, if you’re interested in real estate or want to learn how to create more money and magic in your life, check out meetwithpamela.com and let’s chat. Sending you so so much love.

Tune in to the episode to hear the rest of my incredible interview with the amazing Mark Drager.