Being a founder, entrepreneur, or a business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur“ we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Chandra Clarke and Terence Johnson.
Chandra Clarke and Terence Johnson are award-winning entrepreneurs who built their basement start-up into a multi-million dollar company that was eventually acquired, all while raising four kids. Their new book, The Entrepreneurial Parent: Run Your Business, Raise Your Business, Raise Your Family, Leep Your Sanity! talks about how they managed it all.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Chandra Clarke: I started out as a reporter for a number of local newspapers, and had worked my way up to managing editor of a community weekly. Terry had recently graduated from Oxford and was working for a university consortium called The Europaeum when we met. I’m from Canada, Terry is from the UK. We met online, and we’ve been living and business partners ever since.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
Terence Johnson: One of the things I found out working in academia was that it’s not just students rushing to get an essay finished at 2 am who make grammatical errors. You can be brilliant in your field of research and still make howlers in English, particularly if you’re under time pressure. That’s why I knew Chandra’s vision of a proofreading service that would be available 24/7, ready to make you look good and communicate your ideas clearly, was worth investing the time and effort in.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What took Scribendi from a basement startup to a global company was our attitude to service, both for our customers and our globally distributed team of editors. We worked really hard to make sure everyone felt engaged and connected, no matter where they were in the world.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
Chandra Clarke: Definitely. You’re often told to diversify, to protect against shifts in your industry or market. This might work when you’re a big company, but when you’re a small or medium venture, that advice can lead you to waste a lot of resources on something you can’t do properly… and meanwhile takes your focus off growing the thing you can already do well. We ventured into translation services at one point, and it was disastrous because we didn’t have enough spare resources to jump into it properly. Lesson learned.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
Terence Johnson: Having clearly defined roles and processes is really important. If your staff is always having to wing it, there’s a really good chance they’re going to do something wrong, which then can have knock-on consequences for their colleagues, the clients they look after, and so on. You don’t want a business where you’re constantly having to ‘put out fires.’ That’s exhausting for you and your employees. You need energy for creativity and mental space to innovate.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Chandra Clarke: Seek out the certifications in your industry. If one doesn’t exist, consider developing one. And don’t forget to hustle for awards. It might take you a while to earn one, but they’re worth it.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
Terence Johnson: The barriers to entry in most industries have fallen considerably. Almost anyone can hang out in their shingle and claim to be in business. So you’ll have to work harder to stand out, and to earn the trust of your potential customers. Of course, that doesn’t stop with getting them in the door. You have to continue to earn their trust every step of the way.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Chandra Clarke: Buying the gold plated equipment when the bronze would do. This is especially true in businesses where cash flow is critical to operations. Definitely give yourself room to grow, but don’t buy the most expensive software with 400 features, the uber executive desk and chair set, or the embossed stationary. Buy just what you need to operate professionally, and level up from there.
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Chandra Clarke: For sure. I think a good example was the first time we got a call, out of the blue, from an investment fund. Some private funds do this, they look at bigger players in certain industries, and they examine these players to see if they’re acquisition targets. We weren’t super big when we got this call, but clearly, we’d made enough noise to get noticed. That was an awesome feeling, as it was outside validation. Plus, it was also very encouraging: it meant we had something interesting enough to sell at some point (as we eventually did).
Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
Chandra Clarke: The number one thing that got us through was not finger-pointing or laying blame. We could have wasted a lot of time arguing, getting angry with our service provider, shouting at people not moving fast enough, and so on. Instead, we got on with fixing the problem. Even afterward, when we were doing a root cause analysis, we made it about doing better in the future.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
Terence Johnson: Absolutely. The leader sets the tone and steers organizational culture. A leader who regards problems as problem-solving and learning opportunities are going to be a much more effective leader and have happier staff to boot.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
How can our readers further follow you online?
Terence Johnson: You can ask for our book at your local indie bookstore, or at Amazon: Entrepreneurial Parent Business Family Sanity or Barnes and Noble: The entrepreneurial parent chandra clarke, and we’re also both on Twitter, @Terence_Johnson, and @chandraclarke respectively. We look forward to talking with you!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with
this. We wish you continued success and good health!