Cackle Telecommunications co-director Mark Cooper never intended to helm a telecommunications company, let alone leave England and move to New Zealand.
The 38-year-old from Essex worked for several financial institutions, but meeting his future Kiwi wife in a London pub led to a lifestyle change.
“I actually thought I was going to be a stockbroker, but I went into the workforce at the start of the recession in England [after the 1987 stock market crash]. My career was tied to the banking industry and I went to work for a different bank or finance house every three years or so.”
Working in the dealer rooms led to him feeling cocooned, says Cooper.
“I just woke up one day and decided that this wasn’t going to be my job for life. A lot of people got burnt out because of the long hours.”
The couple moved to Wellington in 1995 and got married, but then returned to England three years later as Cooper still owned a house there.
“We stayed for about five years but decided to return to New Zealand and start a family. This is most definitely home now. It’s always nice to go and see my relatives but I don’t really miss England.”
Cooper went through a transition period in New Zealand where he worked for a broker. “I had to actively hunt business which was a great experience, as we had to do the same thing when we set up Cackle.”
Although he had no experience in IT or telecommunications, Cooper says he was attracted to Cackle because he liked the idea of running a business.
“I was presented with the idea when I returned to New Zealand in 2003 as [Cackle co-director] Brent Mitchell was working for GN [then known as GN Netcom] as the national sales representative. It came to fruition in late 2005. We knew we had to approach GN because we wanted to work with the world’s number-one headset product, Jabra.”
The two decided that the company needed to be different.
“The offering and service levels had to be better along with knowledge and commitment. Obviously I was a bit of a newbie at the time, but today I understand the products I work with and Brent has a better understanding of the finances of running a business.”
The Cackle name was inspired by UK multimillionaire Richard Branson. Cooper and Mitchell wanted a name like Virgin that would stand out.
“Our tagline is ‘a wicked way to communicate’ because cackle could be perceived as evil. The name made people laugh although some get confused and call us Crackle, which makes me laugh. I love correcting people.”
Persistence is the key word to describe Cooper’s approach to business.
“When we started we had zero customers and zero sales and there were some people who put up a lot of resistance to us. In my past career I’ve faced a lot of resistance and you just learn to fight through it.”
Away from work Cooper says his three-year-old twin boys take up much of his time.
“We have another boy on the way in August so there is going to be a lot of testosterone running around. I’m very family focused, as it is great to spend time with them.”
But when he is not engaging in family time his favourite activity is running.
“I just finished the North Shore coastal challenge that involved running over rocks and along a beach which was fun. I’m also looking forward to the next Auckland half marathon.”
Rugby is a big interest and Cooper holds season tickets to Eden Park.
“They’re company season tickets so we do take a customer occasionally. The 2003 Rugby World Cup was a great time for me, but it seems to have fallen apart lately for the men in white.”
And he is not averse to cricket in its shorter forms of one day and 20/20 matches, but says test matches are a bit long.
Looking to the future, Cooper says expansion at the right pace is important for the company.
“At the moment Cackle has five full-time staff and two external consultants. You don’t need to have a huge warehouse to project what you do. It’s how efficiently you use resources. We’re hands-on directors getting out there to help people. I enjoy looking after resellers. I can’t just sit behind my desk in an ivory tower because I want to be out there doing something.”
What is your favourite gadget?
My GN Jabra 9350 headset. It makes me much more productive and I can walk around the office and still communicate over the phone.
What is your favourite website?
Bbc.co.uk because you get an in depth analysis of what is going on around the world.
What is your favourite cocktail recipe?
I’m not much of a cocktail drinker really. It would have to be a gin and tonic.
If you could have coffee with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. She epitomised persistence, determination and courage against numerous foes both internally in parliament and externally. She is a fascinating woman and I’d love to just pick her brains about what she achieved.
What has been the most important technological advance in IT?
The silicon chip because it helped in the development of the PC and other advances.
What book is on your bedside table?
I’m reading Berlin: The Downfall 1945 by Antony Beevor. I’ve already read it once but it’s a fascinating book and quite sobering. I’m also reading Ice Station by Matthew Reilly. I sometimes like to mix it up and a bit of fantasy takes me away from the world of history.
Who is/was your mentor?
David Swaffield from Management 4 Hire. He is Cackle’s external adviser. It’s very important to have someone from the outside looking in as he’s able to give us objective views and opinions about the business. Ross Allan from [marketing company] Paboom is our other external adviser and he has brought so many marketing ideas to the table.