Multi-award-winning PhD professor of marketing, the OG of YouTube travel content and self-confessed hodophile, Mark Wolters shares his worldly experiences with over three million loyal Wolters World followers every month. With his mischievous sense of fun and bold truths, Mark has made it his mission to share wholesome, honest travel and cultural advice with all who need to hear it. Mark’s witticism has led him to create over 2,000 compelling YouTube episodes since 2009, including Five Things That You Should Never Put In Your Checked Luggage and Six Unwritten Rules of European Train Travel. Seamlessly combining his academic sensibilities with his playful rhetoric for global public speaking engagements, Mark was named a top 50 undergraduate business professor by Poets and Quants in 2020.
Where did the idea for Wolter’s World come from?
I bought a guidebook when I was in Italy years ago, and when I read through the guidebook, I fell in love with this one town I had never heard of. I asked my friends who lived in the area if they had ever been there and they had never even heard of it. I showed them the guidebook entry for the town and they were excited, and told me to go check it out and on the weekend when they were off work we would all go visit together. Well, I went to the town that sounded fantastic in the guidebook, but when I got there, the castle was closed, the museum was nothing special, and the market square was a parking lot. It was a total disappointment and I thought about my friends back in the US who if they would have bought this guidebook, they would have planned a couple of days for this town, and then ended up wasting 20% of their two-week Italian vacation because someone over hyped a town for no reason. This really upset me and after that I vowed only to produce honest and balanced travel advice that would give travelers the good and the bad about visiting a destination so that they would be prepared for their vacation no matter what happened.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I usually wake up around 5am, not to go run, or read a motivational book, but because I have to pee. And then once I am up for that I just start working. I will spend about an hour on my computer either researching new destinations we will visit, or preparing classes I teach, or editing videos. Around 6:30 I make breakfast for myself and my boys and get them up and out the door to school. After that I head to my day job teaching. I really enjoy my day job, and do not want to give it up to be a full-time entrepreneur because I just love teaching and interacting with my students. After my classes I come home and talk with my wife and kids, then I am back in my office working on videos, blogs, and researching for another hour or two. Then we have dinner, watch some SciShow on YouTube and read to my youngest son when he is in bed. After he falls asleep, I head back to my office and work a couple more hours before I go to bed for my five to six hours of sleep, and then repeat that Monday through Friday.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I research the hell out of a location, I ask locals that want to share about their hometowns and home countries and cultures, I explore on my own, and then at the end of my visit I take stock of all the information and experiences I have had and put together my scripts for my videos. What is fun is while I am visiting a city there are usually a few jokes that will come to me from my experiences and I always want to make sure they show up in the videos. Whether it is the dog poop in Paris or the upset tourist having to pay for the bread in Portugal, there is always some funny story that humanizes a location that I want to put in there.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I love that people are getting back into travel again and people want to experience the culture when they travel, not just see the sights. One thing I try to do in all of our travel videos is give people a feel for the culture so that they can be ready for it and enjoy it when they are there. Whether it is a cooking class or an art class, or just spending a day with a local, I love how travel is changing to help us all get to know people more.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Never being able to sleep. Ever since I was a child, I have never been able to sleep more than a few hours a night. It isn’t really a habit, but it is something that gives me extra hours every day to work on my businesses.
What advice would you give your younger self?
It is OK to let other people work on your videos. I used to spend hours every day editing videos for our channels, and I was afraid to let go of the videos and let other people edit them. I look back now and realize that I was wasting so many hours on editing that other people could do much better than me. And it would have given me so much more time to focus on the bigger picture for our businesses.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
You don’t have to quit your day job to be a successful entrepreneur. So many myths are out there saying that you can’t have a day job and be an entrepreneur at the same time. That is just not true. If you love your day job, why give it up? Find a way to manage your time and energy, and you can do both.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Go back and read each and every email you write before hitting send! Even if it’s just a couple of lines!
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Stay true to who you are. I have always maintained that I will be honest with my audience no matter what. That honesty has become the hallmark of all of our channels, projects, and collaborations. This has made it easy for me to say no to projects or brand deals that didn’t match up with our values. It was liberating to know where we stood on all matters and not have to compromise.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When I started out my YouTube channel, I was making so many different types of travel videos. I thought that as an international traveler people would want to know the basics of the language of the country they are going to go to. So, I made dozens of language-learning videos in Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Lithuanian, and no one watched them. I was stumped as I thought for sure this was a topic that people would want to learn before they traveled, and it turned out they didn’t. My big lesson from this was, do not trust your gut, trust your analytics. I started reading my analytics after this and learned that people didn’t care about learning the language. What they wanted to know was what NOT to do when they travel, so they didn’t do any cultural faux pas. Therefore, I started making videos that focused on culture and getting to know the culture when you travel, and that drove a huge amount of traffic to our channel. So always read your analytics.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Start making videos about your area of expertise. It could be in relation to your day job, or it could be in relation to your favorite hobby, but there is definitely something you could talk about. Record yourself, offer advice in that area, and help others to learn about the topic that you love because there are so many people out there that want to learn more about so many topics that you may find your own audience out there. And that audience could turn into a new revenue stream for your life, it could be the revenue stream that takes your family on vacation next year, it could be the revenue stream that pays your mortgage, sometimes its just the revenue stream that gives you enough money to go out on a date with your someone special once a month. But it is something extra that you are sharing with the world, whether that is a YouTube video, a podcast, or just a tiktok, why not share your knowledge with the world.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought my favorite GI Joe action figure from when I was a kid, Flash. I had been working so hard on all of our channels and developing new course materials for the classes I teach, and I never really ever get anything for myself. You will notice in our videos I have the same clothes on in our videos made in 2022 as I had on 2016. But for some reason, one day I said to myself I want to get Flash. He wasn’t anything special, no action chopping arms or light up materials, just a normal everyday army guy. So I bought him on eBay and when he came he brought me such joy. I thought back to when I was a kid and the happiness it brought me getting him when I was maybe six years old. And after two years of pandemic and dreariness, it was just nice to have a silly action figure from my childhood staring back at me.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I use an editing service to edit my videos. It took me almost ten years of making videos before I was comfortable letting other people edit my videos. I still give them the texts to add and which b-roll to put in the videos, but letting go of the editing responsibilities freed so much of my time up to focus on other endeavors that I ended up starting three more YouTube channels, and I have more time to myself now with four channels than I did with one and editing my videos myself. So don’t be afraid to get help. Delegating is tough as an entrepreneur, but once you figure out how to do it and do it right, it can really free you up to do so much more and focus on the bigger picture too.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I wouldn’t say one specific book, I would suggest getting an app like Blinkist, which summarizes popular business books and self-help books into 15-minute segments. This way you can multitask on your daily walk or on your way to work. A lot of motivational books or self-help books can really be summarized in a few minutes instead of a week of reading. It is just a more efficient way to spend your time learning.
What is your favorite quote?
“If you are the smartest person in the room, go to another room.”
· Be OK with letting go and delegating. An entrepreneur is expected to do everything, but they don’t have to. There are people out there who can help you succeed.
· You don’t have to quit your day job to be a successful entrepreneur.
· Don’t always trust your gut, but do always trust your analytics.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.