My Mate Mark Barnes

Hello EB… it’s me, Richard, writing on behalf of Renee this week, who’s on hols!

And because she’s left no instructions about what I should cover I thought I would indulge myself, by remembering one of my best friends in business: Mark Barnes.

Now, let me start by saying that Mark was one of the most immediately annoying people in the world, but he was annoying with a huge smile on his face… which made him not annoying, if that makes any kind of sense.

I first got to know Mark when I joined the Virgin One Account in March 1997.  He was my first boss at Virgin and when he became HR Director, he made me Training Manager, just because I said I ‘fancied a go at it’.  So, to a very great extent, I owe my career and my business to Mark.

But before I met him, MB had already had a massively varied career.

He started life as a geologist (that’s not literally true, he started life as a baby, but you get the point) and went to work in Libya, where he got ill.

When he came back to the UK he couldn’t shake off this virus and became one of the first people in the world to be diagnosed with ME (or yuppie flu, as it was known then) and spent three years lying on his sofa… except when he was being a TV pundit: he was Good Morning’s (with Ann and Nick) spokesperson on ME and people used to call in and he would answer their questions live on TV.

When he started feeling better he decided that he needed to ease himself back into work and so, naturally, got a job in McDonalds as a Burger Flipper.  Within six months he was running the whole restaurant.

At this point he applied for a Team Manager’s job at Virgin Direct, which he got.  He rose through the ranks to head up the call centre at the Virgin One Account and went on to become HR Director.

Mark was killed in a car crash just about exactly10 years ago.

I used to warn him about the wrecks he was driving.  One day, on his way to work (he was supposed to be giving me a lift that day, but called me the night before to say he couldn’t) another driver pulled out in front of him and he died.

We’d been talking about setting up our own training and HR business and, although we had no definite plans, we were pretty serious about it.

I did go on to become self-employed, met my wife and have had a fab career…

I still think about Mark, oh, I don’t know, a few times a year.  He’s still immediately annoying… but the most annoying thing about him is that he’s not with us.

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