Pure SEO Interviews: Ryan Sanders and Mark Pickering

Pure SEO is fortunate to have many connections in business and marketing who are doing interesting and innovative things. Continuing with our interview series, we reached out to two Kiwi entrepreneurs – Ryan Sanders and Mark Pickering – to learn a bit more about their journeys to becoming successful in business.


Ryan Sanders

Ryan Sanders is the founder of Haka Tourism Group, which encompasses Haka Tours, Haka Lodge, Haka Hotels and Haka Educational Tours. He is passionate about the New Zealand tourism industry and providing guests with a world-class experience. Haka recently scooped up four awards at the 2017 New Zealand Tourism Awards (Supreme Award Winner, Business Excellence Winner for Large Businesses, Best Tourism Marketing, Tourism Industry Champion) and was recognised as New Zealand’s Best Emerging Business at the 2016 NZ International Business Awards.


1. What advice would you give to a budding entrepreneur?

Get some external advice either through a Business Mentor or a terrific accelerator programme tailored for new entrepreneurs ran by Entrepreneurs Organisation.

2. Entrepreneurs often have to deal with setbacks or failures. How do you cope with this?

For me, the emotional rollercoaster of being a first-time entrepreneur was full of ups and downs and everything in-between. I really believe you need to be emotional about your business, as your passion for what your doing is the key to your success. So my advice would be to acknowledge that setbacks and failures are all part of the emotional journey and to ensure you celebrate the successes and ride out the lows knowing that things can change real quick!

3. Do you think there’s a recipe for success in business, and if so, what is it?

Make sure you spend equal time, effort and “blue sky thinking” with your customers, financials, internal business processes and staff. This distribution of equal time and effort should underpin the vision and strategy for your businesses and therefore should be the high-level format any of your business administration should take (e.g. your to-do lists, how the business files are categorised, how your goals/strategies are documented for the following year and your continuous improvement strategy). By doing this, you will clearly see if there are any areas of your business that are being neglected.

4. Which entrepreneur, or entrepreneurs, do you admire the most?

I don’t follow any famous or well-known entrepreneurs at all. I admire start-up entrepreneurs who are full of passion and committing all they have to their vision. I really struggle to emotionally connect with entrepreneurs who are already successful – I really connect with the start-up journey.

5. What sets a good business idea apart from a bad business idea?

The person behind the idea and their passion and commitment.

6. What do you think are the top 3 qualities of a good leader?

Passionate, day-dreamer, great communicator.


Mark Pickering

Mark Pickering is the Director & Creative Strategist at Brand Spanking, which he joined as a shareholder and Director in 2016 via a merger with Fluxx, the agency he owned previously. Over the past 20 years, he has worked on some of the world’s biggest brands in both the UK and NZ, creating, planning and delivering award-winning experiential, event and sponsorship leverage campaigns. He is passionate about experiential marketing, is Vice Chair of the CAANZ PRESCom (PR, Experiential and Social Committee) and also regularly judges at the Axis, Beacons and EFFIE Awards.


1. What advice would you give to a budding entrepreneur?

Don’t be afraid to fail. Business is a journey and failure is the best teacher in my experience. The pressure to make every job a success can be really hard on people, when in fact it is just part of the journey.

2. Entrepreneurs often have to deal with setbacks or failures. How do you cope with this?

By accepting it as natural and learning from it – as above. By utilising advisors and your network there is always a solution and the world isn’t going to end. It’s about putting the failure into perspective and taking what you can from it and learning.

3. What are the top 3 challenges you’ve faced as a business owner, and how are you overcoming them?

1) Filling the sales funnel here in NZ – depending on your industry, getting sales and growing are a very hard thing to do in this small market. We utilise our network right through to the junior staff to create leads and then talk to prospects.

2) Finding senior staff who have the experience and talent for the job – still haven’t solved this one. In our industry, the best leave to the UK and OZ to find more money and fame.

3) When I was the sole director, finding people to talk to who could advise – I set up my own advisory board made up of my father, NZ Business Mentor and a couple of people I knew in business. And they did it for free! Helped me to work through the merger I did.

4. What’s the best way for an aspiring entrepreneur to raise capital?

I’ve done everything off the smell of an oily rag and have never had to chase capital. But having a strong relationship with your bank manager always helps!

5. What do you think are the top 3 qualities of a good leader?

Like any relationship: honesty, open and honest communication, trust (and therefore the ability to delegate).

6. How do you attract and retain talent?

As above – this is very hard as staff in our industry head overseas after hitting about 28 years. But I would say it’s all about your vision, values and culture as a business. If you can instil this (and even have the staff contribute) the more they will buy-in and will be more likely to stay.



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Rachel Matela

Rachel is a Filipino Kiwi with a passion for the arts. Having graduated with an Arts Degree in English from UoA, she found writing work at PureSEO as a Junior Copywriter and quickly moved on to the role of Editor. In her spare time, she reads Austen and teaches dance classes in the weekend.

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