“When things go belly-up, we can turn things around and we can climb every mountain. Never, ever give up. There is always another way.” This is the advice from Mark Elsing, who faced seemingly insurmountable challenges in his immigration journey, but has emerged determined to assist others. I am in awe of this man's energy and inner motivation. It is inconceivable that only nine months ago he could not see the path ahead and was willing to end his life. “I am no longer embarrassed to tell people what happened because of the positive outcome. Sometimes you just have to get out there and show you can overcome obstacles,” he says.
Mark's story was first published in Sabona last year (‘I am about to end my life', Issue 10). His desperate phone call to CEO Philip Scott, and the campaign that followed, led to an outpouring of support from the South African community, as well as a number of Australians. As word about Mark's plight spread, he was employed by Sign-A-Rama in Burswood, Perth. Visiting recently I found the offices abuzz. Director David Read, who originally hails from the eastern side of Australia, says about his willingness to employ Mark: “It was too easy. While I was interviewing Mark, I knew that this man who was sitting in front of me had all the credentials and experience I was lacking.”
David's gut feel proved to be correct. Since Mark joined the team as sales and marketing manager, Sign-A-Rama Burswood has consistently figured in the top three performing stores in Western Australia in terms of gross monthly sales and the franchise ranked in the top 10 for overall sales across thecountry for the second quarter of 2009. It also ranked fifth worldwide in terms of most overall growth. It is especially significant when one takes into account that Sign-A-Rama has more than 800 franchised stores worldwide, including more than 80 in Australia. “Since November last year we have doubled our employees. We've attracted business from large clients and we take pride in our level of service. We are a motivated and aggressive team,” Mark boasts proudly.
It is not only the numbers that satisfy David. “Mark is not just an employee. I don't think he could ever be ‘just an employee' in anything he chose to pursue. His drive and passion are so evident and contagious that his presence alone has had a direct impact on staff morale and definitely on my own confidence as a small business owner,” says David.
After going through such an ordeal, Mark now wants to give back to people in similar situations. “Over the last six months I've seen many people facing similar circumstances. People contact me because they have learnt about our awful experience. They are experiencing the same feelings of desperation as I did. I always advise them to try and keep their levels of motivation up,” says Mark.
There are a huge number of ex-pats in Western Australia and some are in desperate need of concrete support, according to Mark. “For instance, when you are new in a country, where do you go for funds and assistance?” Mark is planning to arrange a South Africa day, where all proceeds are to be handed over to Sabona for the magazine's discretional use. “We need to top up the coffers for we, as members of a community in a foreign country, need funds for curve balls. Things do happen,” he says. So how does Mark see his future? “I want to give something back and contribute to the success of Sign-A-Rama Burswood. My future is with this operation. This is my second family. I am passionately seeking success. This experience has opened my eyes to a whole different kind of loyalty,” he says. “I still can't believe what has happened to us. This is a success story so hard to explain in words. It is heart warming to think where we are today.”