Mark Walsh

North East BIC Business Adviser & Ex Royal Navy

Veterans RV leader Mark is a veteran of the Royal Navy, serving for nine years from the age of 17. Mark is passionate about helping former armed services personnel to flourish either in employment or running their own business. He has supported many veterans suffering mental health issues through his counselling practice and he looks forward to inspiring many more as they carve their niche in civilian life.

When asked what drives him, Mark says: “Settling into civilian life can feel like a battle for veterans and their families, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We can help veterans to overcome obstacles to employment and entrepreneurship, take the initiative and maximise their potential using the unique skills they get from a career in the forces.”

Mark Walsh

Tell us about your military career

I joined the Royal Navy in January 1996 aged 17, following in the footsteps of my dad and granddad, who had both served. Over nine years I travelled the world and got the opportunity to do some great things, including tours of the Middle East, the Far East and the Caribbean.

What did your military career give you in terms of skills and knowledge?

I think the main thing is life experience. I could see what the world was all about. I knew how to deal with challenges, and I recognised the needs of people from very different cultures. I hold that experience dear.

What was it like returning to the civilian world?

It was hard. I drifted from job to job. I was streets ahead of my peers in terms of life experience, but I didn’t know what I was meant to be doing or where I should be. Every time I found something new, it turned out that it wasn’t for me. There was no real meaning or fulfilment in anything for a long time. I fitted luxury bathrooms, I was a truck driver around Europe. I went into pizza delivery and then I managed a pizza shop. I did property maintenance and I was a bus driver.

What was your turning point?

Studying for a degree in counselling. That led to me setting up a counselling practice called Lighthouse Therapy Group. That was successful, but there was still a feeling that something was missing. Then I set up Lighthouse Adventures CIC, which is a social enterprise. I strongly believe that one of the main factors in the current mental health epidemic is that people are increasingly disconnected from important elements of their lives. Lighthouse Adventures CIC helps people to connect or reconnect with meaningful elements of their lives, especially play and adventure. Now, in addition to the counselling practice and the social enterprise, I work part-time for the BIC supporting others to set up and run their own social enterprises.

What about Veterans RV? Why is it needed?

When people join the armed forces, they’re put into a box and not encouraged to explore anything outside it. I joined at 17 and was given a military identity before I’d found my own identity. When the time comes to leave many veterans find it hard to find an identity in the civilian world. I believe that resettlement should start from the day of recruitment, so people leaving just slide into normal life rather than going through this experience which feels like your world has ended and you have to start again from scratch.

What can veterans offer to society?

They have so much to offer – way more than most of them realise. They have life experience, wisdom and alternative thinking. One of the key concepts in the forces is the ability to think outside the box, and that is the true essence of innovation. When you enter the forces, you’re taught problem solving very quickly, which teaches you to use what is at your disposal to solve problems. I don’t think the vast majority of veterans realise that is unusual. Typically, they find jobs rather than a career or a vocation, and our aim at Veterans RV is to help them discover and unleash their potential. It’s a fantastic opportunity for any former service personnel looking for backup in planning their route forward.