Founder Stories: Mark Barlow

Blog article | By Beth Cooper, April 25, 2017

Selling technology is a lot easier than achieving high levels of user adoption which in turn drive business results. Yet without this, business transformation will not happen. And that’s where AppLearn come in; focused purely on helping organisations achieve business success from their technology investment.

High User Adoption = Business Success

What did you do when you first left school?

I was a professional footballer with Blackpool FC. I did a 2-year apprenticeship, then moved to Stockport County but unfortunately broke my foot whilst playing which ended my professional career.

What is your story?

I then got a job working as an Electronics Engineer installing vacuum capital plant mainly in the US and was spending 7 months a year working away. When my first child was born, I wanted to spend less time away so managed to get a UK based job in the IT sector selling LAN/WAN solutions to large corporations. I wanted to eventually run my own business so in 1993 I set up an IT consultancy with a Technical colleague called IT Counsel . 6 years later we had grown the company to 100 employees and 250 contractors and went on to successfully sell the business to a FTSE 200 company. I stayed for just over a year but then left and went into “retirement”.

I soon realised I was too young to retire so in 2001 I started my next company called Qikker. We started off developing a cloud-based recruitment application but quickly realised we did not have the financial capital to build a software product so became an HR systems integrator working with vendors such as Success Factors, Brassring, Taleo etc. This gave us an insight into user adoption of large systems and we realised then that getting users to actually use a new system was the biggest struggle for an IT project to deliver an ROI. Which is why we set-up AppLearn to focus purely on addressing the user adoption challenge.  I believe we are the thought-leaders in this specialist area and are 2–3 years ahead of any of our competitors. Many companies claim to be solving the problem, but they are only offering a partial solution, whereas our product ADOPT, is the only total solution. It works across multiple systems and is designed to support and measure user adoption, across all cloud-based applications anywhere in the world.

What is your proudest moment as a business founder?

In 2014 I was invited to Buckingham Palace to celebrate British Technology organisations and had the pleasure of meeting the Queen, Prince Philip and many other members of the Royal Family. In 2014, I was invited to 10 Downing Street to contribute and participate in brain storming sessions around the challenges that UK tech companies faced.

What do your team least like you doing and why?

As a start-up business, you have to learn how to be tolerant, work with your people to help them develop, which in turn helps the company grow. In a bigger business where you have people queuing up to join the company, you can afford to be harder and less tolerant. You have to learn how to be tolerant. On occasions, some of my team would have preferred that I was not quite so patient whereas I like to give people a fair chance to do a good job.

What do the next 5 years look like for your company?

We will keep on growing but with more focus on the US market. It’s a big land mass, one language and only needs one website whereas Europe is a lot more complicated. Selling into the US market is like a 100-metre sprint whereas selling in Europe is more like the 100-metre hurdles.

What tips would you give to anyone starting their own business?

Don’t underestimate how hard it will be as it will take every ounce of your resilience and effort. Always be prepared for it taking longer to get a result than you had hoped for. You have to marry yourself to the task and never stop. Life is not about how fast you run, how high you jump or how much you lift, it’s all about how well you bounce back up again. You need to be able to get up with the same strength and enthusiasm that you had before but if this is not one of your strengths, then maybe it’s not for you.

Life is all about how well you bounce back up. Also, don’t underestimate the need for the right amount of finance, and if you don’t have it, then you need to get it. But be careful where you get it from as you need to get the right kind of cash.

What are you passionate about outside of work?

My family but I still follow football which is great as my three sons are keen footballers. My hobby is boating, I’m a qualified skipper and love getting onto the sea.

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Adoption is the key to unlocking Digital Transformation ROI

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