He does not remember his father, who was killed in an automobile accident when Wilson was 2 years old.
“It was very humble beginnings,” he said. “I was raised by a single mother during my formative years.”
His childhood pastor helped offer the opportunity for Wilson to attend the nation’s oldest historically African-American college, Wilberforce University in Columbus, Ohio.
“That was my way out of Fort Smith,” said Wilson. “There were not a lot of role models for me to identify with,” he said.
During college, he interned with General Motors and Western Hotels, working to pay his way through. With a degree in business management, Wilson received a job offer as a field manager with Washington, D.C.-based Peoples Drug Stores, which later became CVS.
After two years, he had an opportunity to move back to his hometown in Arkansas to work for Whirlpool in corporate management as materials expeditor. After Wilson married his wife, Shelly, the couple moved so Shelly could finish graduate school at the University of Arizona.
Wilson says it was then that things really took off for him professionally. He landed a job at Dun and Bradstreet. “I had the opportunity to go into management,” he said.
The company moved the couple to Los Angeles, the first of 11 relocations over 15 years with the consulting company.
In 2000, they made their final transfer to Atlanta. Fortuitously, in 2001, while Wilson was serving as vice president of one of Dun & Bradstreet’s call centers, the company decided to outsource the business.
“I asked them about giving me a chance and they gave me a contract,” he said. “It gave me an opportunity to pursue a business and be a partner to them.”
The new company, Kennesaw-based Ryla, was chartered on Sept. 11, 2001. “They were my first customer and remained a customer until we sold the business.”
Wilson built Ryla to employ 3,000 people and earn annual revenues in excess of $150 million. In 2010, he sold the company for $70 million in an all-stock deal to Chino, Calif.-based Alorica Inc.
Wilson then did an academic stint as the entrepreneur in residence at Georgia Tech’s Minority Business Development Center. Shortly after, one of his former investors, Frontier Capital, asked him to look at eVerifile, an employee and contractor screening company owned by the Wijesinghe family.
Wilson, along with partners, Frontier Capital, The Yucaipa Companies, Magic Johnson Enterprises and Plexus Capital purchased eVerifile in 2011. At the time, revenues were $10 million a year and the company had 35 employees.
The new ownership allowed the company to be certified as a Minority Business Enterprise — a classification that gives customers the ability to meet certain regulatory and compliance requirements.
From the start, Wilson believed the company’s contractor background screening services was the key to its growth.
He said his hunch that the market was untapped was correct and the segment has taken off.
The company provides workforce management software for security-sensitive customers from Abbott Labs and U.S. Express to vet vendors and their employees.
EVerifile also developed the eRailsafe program specifically for railroad companies to conduct background checks on contractors with access to its premises. According to the company, for one leading railroad company, the program denied 1,821 people in 2011 alone.
Today, the company has 65 employees. Wilson says he wants to grow to 200 employees quickly. He is projecting $18 million in revenues this year. The home office is off of Circle 75 Parkway and a second office was recently opened in Sacramento, Calif.
Ashok Vairavan, the company’s vice president of business development, says his boss is a “humble, yet confident and determined leader who puts his employees first.”
“Creating a winning culture matters to Mark, which serves as the foundation for building a successful organization,” he said.
“He gets results by putting together an inspired vision and a great team to execute that vision.”
Wilson said, “Our goal is to grow this company to $50 to $100 million in revenues over the next three to five years … We feel like the market is wide open.”