Q & A with Mark Holyoake, Founder of Oakvest Holdings

Within his roles as CEO, founder and operator of various successful business ventures, Mark Holyoake has perfected the skills necessary to garner sustainable growth and business development. With an extensive portfolio within the private food sector, Holyoake has amassed shareholding status through his investment ventures Oakvest Holdings and International Seafood Holdings. At a time of financial uncertainty following a complete economic collapse in Iceland, Holyoake invested in Iceland’s oldest fishing company, Iceland Seafood International. Though this move was considered risky by many investors, Holyoake’s confidence in the prospective long-term success of the company propelled the investment forward. For the next decade, Holyoake sat on the Board and created the infrastructure necessary to grow the company tenfold.

Through forward-thinking collaborative efforts spearheaded by Holyoake, the company was able to combine the efforts of roughly 27% of the country’s quota owners, giving Iceland Seafood International further vertical growth. After a decade at the helm of the Board, for the purpose of allowing further partnerships to occur with industry peers, Holyoake sold a sizable portion of his shares. At the same time, he stepped down from the Board of ISI, for the purpose of allowing new leadership within this stable period of the company’s existence and to pursue further ventures within the niche field of private equity food production.

What initially drew you to invest in a company that other industry peers shied away from, and considered risky?

At the time, Iceland was recovering from an economic crash. The business climate was unstable, the currency was wavering, and conditions were somewhat hostile for foreign investors. However, I viewed these conditions as being somewhat risky, but also, extremely conducive to success. Within uncertainty, long-term success planning can be vastly impactful in bringing people together and providing them with the confidence needed to move forward in all aspects of the business. Iceland’s fishing industry has historically been the pride of the country, but was still somewhat fragmented.

I recognized the vast benefits that could be enjoyed by everyone involved through collaborative efforts. By bringing together individuals involved in every aspects of the business, from fishing to transportation, the many processes involved in such a large-scale business could be streamlined, kept in-house and controlled in a more conducive manner to success.

By following a repeated pattern of acquisition, partnership and collaboration with smaller, local companies, I was able to apply each company’s strengths to further bolster daily operations, creating a strength in numbers. Before long, Iceland Seafood International was comprised of nearly 27% of the entire country’s quota owners, making the company a leader within the industry on a national and global scale.

As a CEO, and entrepreneur, what does a normal day look like for you?

There is no such thing as a normal day! As an individual who is involved in multiple projects simultaneously throughout prolonged periods of time, I find it absolutely necessary to be able to be flexible within my day. Essentially, a day that has been meticulously planned out a week prior may end up looking completely different once the day has finally been completed. I’m constantly ebbing and flowing within my day, based on various factors that predict what tasks take precedence. I maintain an ongoing hierarchy within my schedule and attempt to allow importance to dictate and prioritize my time.

Generally speaking, though, I have found that I am most productive throughout morning hours, and love to take care of projects that require my attention early in the morning. Often, I can be found answering emails at 6:00AM and developing a plan for the remainder of the day.

What technological tools do you utilize to increase productivity?

I truly value all technological advancements that have allowed for the completion of tasks on the go. Gone are the days of spending an entire day at the office. Thus, the office has to be mobile now in order to remain competitive. Business peers are no longer willing to wait all day for a response to an email, or for a confirmation of a delivery, so personal technology has had to keep up with the demand for mobile professional applications. Currently, I conduct most of my daily operations on the move, and find that I can retain a high level of productivity by working in between traveling to different meeting sites etc.

How do you turn your ideas into reality?

I’ve generally found that the best ideas are examined by many different players and then executed in a collaborative manner. I’d dare to say that it is always a good idea to share ideas with a group of trusted peers, colleagues or other individuals who share similar goals. Since you cannot force your will onto others, it is impossible to successfully, swiftly and appropriately execute a goal if the team involved is not standing with you. Thus, involving everyone from the inception process not only makes them feel included but also allows the end result to be tailored in a way that makes sense for all involved. Throughout my time as a CEO, I’ve learned that although my position calls for leadership, a good CEO also involves others in the process of creation.

As a leader and CEO, what do you do to ensure success within your companies?

I find it crucial to build a highly efficient, successful and driven team and to work together with the team to reach goals that benefit everyone involved. In business, it is important to surround oneself with individuals who share your passion, align their goals for the betterment of the company and will work cohesively together to accomplish those goals. Without that strong base, success within a growing company is hard to accomplish. As most businesses have multiple simultaneously moving parts, a single CEO cannot physically manage them all at the same time. Having confidence in the team that will work on each cog of the wheel is crucial toward initial and long-term success.

What is one business strategy that you have implemented to support business growth?

This question piggybacks off of my previous response regarding task delegation. By building a leadership team that will work toward executing each aspect of business for the sake of the bigger picture, business growth can occur on a long-term basis. Additionally, this method allows team members to feel valued and to feel as though their actions create systemic change, progress and growth. When team members feel valued, and integral toward the overall success of the company, they tend to feel fulfilled and act toward the betterment of the company. A strong group morale is one of the best tools for continued business growth.

Do you have any idols, or business people you look up to, and why?

Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, is a shining example of an entrepreneur who has built an empire on perseverance, hard work, dedication and drive. Like any other business person, he has undoubtedly faced failure, but has persevered in the face of adversity, and has exemplified the determination that is necessary to thrive within the business world. He has been quoted as saying, “Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine”. I think this is a wonderful way to look at life and business. Though there will be pitfalls, there will undoubtedly also be highlights. They key is to try to limit the pitfalls as much as possible, to learn from them in a way that makes them occur less frequently and to strive for success throughout the journey.

What trends in the food business excite you?

Over the previous few years, we’ve seen a global shift in the way in which individuals consider their longevity, long-term health and wellness. Increasingly, people are starting to recognize the ways in which the food they ingest affects their physical and mental wellbeing. Individuals are becoming aware of different options available to maintain long-term wellness and are becoming interested in self-care tools, self-education and increasing awareness related to their health.

Within the realm of the food industry, this opens up the doors for many new concepts to be realized, for many new companies to form and for new products to enter the mainstream market. More and more, traditionally labeled “wholesome” products are hitting the shelves of local grocery stores, rather than specialty shops. This creates opportunity for companies to infiltrate the expanding sector of wellness and incorporate biotechnology in the production of wellness-based products that were previously undesired or physically impossible.

What’s next for you professionally?

I have garnered extensive experience within this niche field of food production investment and I am confident that I can parlay the same business structure that I utilized throughout my time with ISI in other applications. I’m very excited to partake in the business development, growth, infrastructure development and long-term success of another private food sector company in the very near future. I’m excited to combine technology with the food sector, and develop ways in which already successful companies can move forth into the future, utilizing technology to their long-term advantage.

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