Mark Hunn, CEO of Engage Abilities Pty Ltd, is a serial entrepreneur who has embarked on various business ventures throughout his long career. However, he underscores that his primary interest lies not in “business” but in “leadership.” To him, a business is essentially a collective of individuals sharing a common vision and deriving profit from their activities, with the business leader serving as their chosen representative; A position that he has been found himself in numourous times.
Mark’s fascination with leadership dates back to his youth, beginning with his enlistment in the Army at the age of 17, where he rose to become the youngest Seargent in the Australian Defence Force, and ultimately culminating in a Doctorate in Business Leadership from Torrens University Australia, which centered on leadership in the NDIS and the disability sector; The only such Doctoratal research paper in Australia. Presently, he predominantly engages in business mentoring and consultancy endeavors.
Before this pinnacle achievement in his academic journey, Mark had meticulously built a strong educational foundation beginning with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Charles Sturt University. Following this, Mark pursued a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) at The University of Notre Dame Australia, where he excelled, graduating with Distinction.
Moving further, he enriched his legal knowledge with a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice and a subsequent Master of Legal Practice from The Australian National University, both accomplished with Merit. Before his legal pursuits, Mark displayed a multifaceted skill set by obtaining a diploma in Business Administration and Management, also with Distinction, from TAFE NSW. His dedication to learning and diverse academic accomplishments showcase his commitment to personal and professional growth.
Mark’s success is defined by his ability to improve the lives of others, especially those he collaborates with. He measures this success by the reduction of their stress levels, increased happiness, personal and professional growth, and the freedom to savor life more fully. His most significant achievement lies in his capacity to enhance the leadership skills of fellow business leaders, resulting in stronger governance and improved services in the disability sector. It is here that Mark stands out within the Top 10 most influential Australian professionals in Business for 2023.
In a sector where most providers either operate at a loss or barely eke out a two (2%) percent profit, Engage Abilities, under Mark’s guidance, stands out with an impressive 23% profit margin. This achievement is attributed to the prioritization of staff through incentives and training, with a focus on leadership development.
In just seven years, the organization has grown its income to over $15 million, allocating resources to staff rather than traditional advertising or marketing, leading to sustained growth and low staff turnover. Using Engage Abilities as an incubator for leadership skills and business approaches, Mark takes those lessons out into the sector through his most recent venture, ‘Provider Launch’; providing his expertise as consultancy services for other disability companies to helping them increase their profit margins and grow as well.
“I definitely believe that vulnerability is one of the inputs necessary in leadership.”
The Beginning Of A Serial Entrepreneur Focused on Humanitarian Work and Leadership
Starting with his university days, Mark combined his interest in leadership with psychology to create his first successful venture, ‘NightVisions’; a subscription-based program that organised group nightclub outings for university students, offering perks like free entry and drinks.
His second venture, ‘MediSculpt’, focused on mobile beauty services that helped people lose weight for special occasions, like weddings. In between these endeavors, Mark worked in a drug and alcohol rehab, emphasizing the multifaceted nature of leadership. He also pursued a law degree, demonstrating his openness to diverse experiences.
Later, Mark ventured into humanitarian work in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, running welfare and case management teams in a turbulent environment, which prepared him for the challenges of entrepreneurship by teaching him to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. Through these diverse experiences, Mark learned to embrace serendipity and was primed to tackle the unpredictable nature of the business world, building resilience through his varied career path.
Mark’s journey as an entrepreneur was shaped by these diverse experiences, including serving as the Australian Youth Ambassador in Bangladesh in 2009. This experience exposed him to a different mindset, where the emphasis in decisionmaking was on thoroughly analyzing the problem before seeking solutions; contrasting the Western society’s penchant for quick fixes.
Returning to Australia, Mark worked at the Salvation Army’s international development team, overseeing compliance and partnerships for projects worldwide. His role involved upskilling project partners across ten different countries, highlighting the importance of aligning definitions and values across cultures and providing a working space to implement his business methods in an excellerated environment.
Throughout this period, Mark consulted for several organisations in the Australian community services space and identified the continual undermining of ethics and morals within the industry. With a pragmatic leadership style focused on leading front the front, Mark embarked on a journey to disrupt this space and demonstrate that moral and ethical business practices can co-exist with high profit yields.
Mark Hunn business experiences enabled him to manage the exponential growth of Engage Abilities, while emphasizing the importance of controlling quality and maintaining cash flow. He acknowledges that new business owners often struggle with financial management during periods of rapid growth, emphasizing the need for financial acumen in entrepreneurship. Despite specialising in legal compliance and governance, he recognizes the fundamental role of finance in sustaining a successful business and highlights this in the consultancy services he offers to fellow entrepreneurs through his newest venture ‘Provider Launch’.
Within the business consultancy industry, Mark stands out as a pioneer for a number of reasons. As well as having a down-to-Earth demeanour that fosters open communication with his clients, he truly practices what he preaches. Any business strategy or approach he suggests is informed by his strong educational background and has already been implemented through Engage Abilities and actively tested to prove its’ effectiveness. This revolutionary approach to business consultancy places him in the Top 10 most influential Australian professionals in Business for 2023 as it allows him to support the growth of a much needed industry by increasing ethical and moral practices and reducing the risk of failure.
“A business is just a group of like-minded individuals with a joint vision that generates a profit from its operations. The business leader is simply the individual that the group has chosen to represent them.”
Consultancy Empowering People to Become Independent
After almost a decade providing consultancy services in the community services industry, Mark has found the prime issue affecting incoming businesses is a narrow mindset of who they are. While most see themselves as just another ‘NDIS business’, he challenges this and instead suggests that they as a ‘Community Services business’ who currently provides NDIS services. With this fundamental pivot in their mindset, those who receive consultancy services through Provider Launch have seen their business diversify their income streams through engagement with Traineeships, CarerGateway, government tenders and brokerage services. With Mark’s guidance, these business have seen their profits swell to over 20%.
While these are pragmatic examples of increasing and diversifying income streams, Mark’s primary focus is to demonstrate the symbiotic nature of business. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, which significantly reduced the workforce in the community services sector, Mark’s innovative solutions involved partnerships with institutions like the University of Western Sydney and TAFE, along with traineeships, aiming to create mutually beneficial opportunities for both the organization and students, addressing the industry’s staffing shortages and yielding positive outcomes at a time when over 25% of businesses were failing.
Mark Hunn multiple businesses, including Engage Abilities and Provider Launch, stand out by operating ethically and responsibly. For both ventures, the NDIS framework provides clear governance structures, ensuring quality service delivery while allowing clients to choose based on their preferences, and promoting fairness and transparency in the industry.
Their team comprises highly skilled and experienced professionals dedicated to ensuring the well-being, abilities, and independence of those they provide consultancy services for. But in an industry with almost 20,000 registered businesses, there is overwhelming demand for the services of Provider Launch.
In response, Mark has again put his passion where his mouth is and diversified Provider Launch to meet both the increase in demand and the unique needs of his audience resulting in three consultancy pathways for prospective entreaprenaurs dependent on their own circumstances.
Through ‘Provider Pre-Launch’ he guides future business leaders through their journey starting a business and obtaining NDIS Registration. Unlike other such NDIS Registration services available in the industry, Mark’s team walks each person through the process to the point where they guarantee success; A claim that no other consultancy service, or right-minded individual, would make. However, such a guarantee Mark is happy to provide drawing upon his 100% success rate to date.
Next is ‘Provider Countdown’ were he and his team mentor business leaders in the period between launching their business and passing their NDIS audit until the time they receive their NDIS Registration Certificate. With current time periods between 9 – 18 months for receiving the Registration Certificate, it is during this time that most newly audited businesses struggle and ultimately fail. However, it is here where Mark highlights the need to diversity income streams and guides those he mentors towards effective growth avenues.
Finally, after receiving their NDIS Registration Certificate, is ‘Provider Launch’ which supports the business leader towards growing their business and embedding quality, consistency and ethics within their governance systems to support their internal compliance structure. It is here that Mark’s unique education and experiences set him apart as the perfect individual to support any growing community services business towards a high profit and ethical future.
Mark Hunn overarching goal is to nurture holistic leadership skills within the next business generation, recognizing the value of these skills in transcending industry boundaries.
“It doesn’t matter what business sector you are in; the same leadership principles apply.”
Fostering Authentic, Holistic Leadership and a Culture Of Compassion
Mark Hunn assessment of Australia’s current economic growth and the country’s trajectory in terms of development and employment is rooted in the government’s prevailing priorities. He observes a growing emphasis on compliance in various sectors, including the NDIS Fraud Taskforce, ATO Taskforce, and Aged Care Commission.
The government’s strategy seems to revolve around ensuring that businesses adhere to their legal obligations rather than providing additional funding for services. While the primary goal is fraud detection, Mark notes that innocent misinterpretations of NDIS guidelines have led multiple providers to inadvertently violate compliance standards; Something he is actively addressing through Provider Launch.
Mark strongly adheres to the belief that an individual should not compartmentalize their personal and professional selves but should rather embrace the unity of their identity. He views this unity as a means to facilitate genuine communication and the seamless integration of personal skills and values into professional settings, a topic he frequently discusses on numerous podcasts and articles.
As a business leader, Mark’s objectives revolve around fostering a culture of compassion within the business sector and elevating the standard of holistic leadership. His message to fellow business leaders centers on self-belief, self-awareness of one’s strengths, the recruitment of high-caliber individuals to complement areas of weakness, and the unwavering commitment to authenticity in leadership.
“Leadership is the voluntary abdication of an individual’s freedom of purpose or control, in favor of another individual’s purpose or control.”