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 Charlene Walters.
Charlene Walters, MBA, Phd is a business and branding mentor and entrepreneurship coach on Entrepreneur Magazine’s “Ask an Expert” platform and through her own consulting business (www.charlenewalters.comm) where she enjoys working one -on-one with a variety of entrepreneurs, businesses and professionals. She is also a frequent media contributor, speaker and corporate trainer, the author of Launch Your Inner Entrepreneur (McGraw Hill), and a TV host on Launch with Charlene Walters (D B & A Network) now streaming on Roku, Amazon Fire and Apple.
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?
Charlene Walters: I started my career in sales and marketing and really enjoyed the hustle of making deals and matching customers with products which led to my growing love of business. I decided to pursue my MBA in management. From there, I went on to earn my PhD in marketing. I continued to move on professionally to other positions in marketing and higher education before eventually creating a digital entrepreneurship MBA program. I loved the energy of it- it was wonderful to be able to work with business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. I also began to do some mentoring and, at the same time, started to present more workshops and corporate training as well before launching into entrepreneurship full time.
From there, I fulfilled a life-long dream and published my first book, Launch Your Inner Entrepreneur and also went on to host my own TV show (Launch with Charlene Walters) which streams on Roku, Amazon Fire and AppleTV (DB&A network). It’s been an extremely rewarding career so far and I hope the best is yet to come.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Charlene Walters: I had been working so much with other entrepreneurs (as a mentor) that I eventually reached a point where I wanted to become a full-time entrepreneur myself. I had a side hustle for quite some time, but at a certain point, I began to get more inspired by the people outside of the corporation that I worked for than those within it. I saw that there was a lot that I could do, and those external opportunities really appealed to me so I decided that it was time to move on. Plus, all of the benefits of owning my own business really spoke to me- control over my schedule, earnings, career and life.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
Charlene Walters: I do not feel that I was a natural born entrepreneur, however, I have always been a really independent thinker and leader (not much of a follower) so entrepreneurship has always been very attractive to me. I believe that people become entrepreneurs when the time is right for them. It’s never a straight line, or the same path, for anyone. For many, it happens early on in their career, but for others like me, it happens at a later stage. Timing is everything.
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?
Charlene Walters: I have pulled inspiration and help from quite a few people along the way. My business is something that I’ve worked on for some time and continue to work on today. I began it as a side hustle and it has grown and evolved from there and I’m sure that this isn’t the last iteration.
I believe that we can absolutely learn something from everyone we come into contact with and in my line of work, I’m fortunate enough to talk to and interact with a lot of people. I’ve also held several wonderful positions over time too, and have leveraged the skills I learned at them in my business.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Charlene Walters: My company stands out for all the reasons that I stand out as a person. As entrepreneurs, I believe that we lean on our strengths and use them to propel our businesses forward. I have always enjoyed helping people and going the extra mile- those two qualities enable me to provide better service and support for my clients. I want them to be as successful as possible. As such, I help them with whatever they need- whether it’s launching a new product or service, assistance with their personal branding, or getting their business off the ground. I’m in it for them. I also share my thought leadership through my writing and book (Launch Your Inner Entrepreneur) as well as through interviews and my show, Launch.
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?
Charlene Walters: The three traits that have enabled me to be successful are 1) tenacity 2) creativity and 3) resilience. I have always been very creative. I love writing, art, research and clever ideas and have since I was a young girl. I consistently think of new ways to market and present things. It is just how my brain is wired. I use it to come up with new ways to market my company and products and to promote offerings.
I am also very driven and tenacious. I set goals and don’t stop until I get to where I want to be or until I achieve what I’ve set out to do. Finally, I am extremely resilient. When I fall down and fail, I hang in there and work on my plan B, C, D, E and F. It’s not that I don’t feel bad about the setbacks, I do, but I don’t dwell on them. I’ve developed strategies along the way to reset my mindset, and to keep plowing forward.
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?
Charlene Walters: I can think of some advice I received early on about pursuing a career that was practical instead of what I really wanted to do. That has always stuck with me throughout the years and as a result, I was less likely to embrace those things that involved risk. Looking back, I realize now that it was very bad advice. Entrepreneurship has everything to do with taking risks- after all, it’s a huge leap to start your own company so you need to get comfortable in order to move ahead. Embracing risks, I’ve come to realize, is more than worth it in your career and life.
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?
Charlene Walters: I would recommend that my colleagues encourage their employees to maintain work-life balance and provide training that enables them to do so- tips for productivity, time management, scheduling and self-care. The more in balance their employees are, the better off their businesses will be. It will also lead to more positive interactions between all stakeholders, both internal and external.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Charlene Walters: I would encourage them to start by working on their personal brands. They should think about their skills, areas of expertise, passions and what they want to be known for. Then, they should start putting content out there related to those areas consistently. They can begin by blogging, podcasting, creating how-to videos on YouTube, putting content on social media and/or contributing to news outlets. Consistency is key. They don’t have to be everywhere initially, but they should start slowly and build. It won’t happen overnight, but their influence will continue to grow over time.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
Charlene Walters: It is essential today because becoming a thought leader helps you get more business as an entrepreneur and more opportunities as a business professional. People will never know about you or your company unless you are putting yourself front and center. It’s important to build those connections and personal branding is an essential part of networking and being in the right place at the right time.
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?
Charlene Walters: Some of the most common mistakes that new entrepreneurs make are to spread themselves too thin, to not concentrate on revenue-generating activities, and to try to tackle too many goals at one time. In order to be successful, all entrepreneurs need to learn how to delegate and outsource, become good at bootstrapping and budgeting, and streamlining their goals while outlining the microsteps that it will take to make them happen.
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”?
Charlene Walters: Fairly dramatic highs and lows are a good way to put it. No matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, there will still be those horrible days when nothing seems to go right or the way that you expected, and then suddenly it will turn around and you’ll have a big win or two. I live this all the time. The best thing you can do is to find a coping method when you experience those lows; a way to reset your mindset. It can be anything from taking the afternoon off to spending some time with your family, joining a few friends for a night out, going for a run, or catching a yoga class. Whatever makes you feel better so that you can figure out your next steps and reframe the situation.
The difference between these highs and lows as an entrepreneur vs. someone with a regular 9 to 5 job is that the success of your business depends on your personal success as a founder. If you have a regular job, you are still getting paid either way so there is less at stake.
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.
Charlene Walters: I’ve had a lot of wins with my business and my career as a solopreneur. Some highs have included getting a book deal, launching a new show, getting some strong endorsements, client successes, and taking control over my own professional trajectory. When something goes really well for me, my confidence soars and I have strong faith that I made the right choice in becoming an entrepreneur.
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.
Charlene Walters: There have been many times when my pitches have been ignored or rejected, business deals didn’t turn out like I’d expected, or I met with some dead ends (in terms of wasted effort). These are my lows, and the times that I struggle most when it comes to my entrepreneurial experience. I believe that no matter how high our level of success, we all still have a tough time with setbacks, but just get better at flipping them around.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
Charlene Walters: In order to bounce back when I feel my mindset start to sink, I take an hour or two off to turn my mood around. I get some fresh air, exercise or spend time with my daughters. I come back to my work when my attitude is better and I can find a way to regroup and tackle obstacles in a fresh manner. Business success and attitude are highly correlated so I do whatever I need to do in order to improve it.
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.
A Plan B, C, D, E and F. You must always have a backup plan or two or three in case your original idea doesn’t work like you expected. It’s not often that we get it right on the first try so approach each goal from multiple angles and don’t get overly disappointed if your initial attempt is not successful. I’ve had to embrace this concept for all aspects of my entrepreneurial endeavor- from pinpointing my target audience, to gaining customers, to refining my pitching- moving on to plan B, C, D etc. as needed along the way.
Resilience. The ability to bounce back from the many setbacks and rejections I’ve encountered has been critical to my ability to thrive as is the case for all entrepreneurs. I pull on this quality whenever I need to regroup and formulate a different approach to get what I want – which is often.
An ups and downs buddy. This is that person that you can turn to no matter what. You can celebrate your successes with them, and talk through your failures with them as well. So, if you have a big pitch or presentation planned, schedule a meeting with this buddy right afterwards so that you have someone to celebrate or commiserate with either way. Embrace both instances (I do).
The ability to find the silver lining. Something good can always come from something bad. It is your job as an entrepreneur to uncover it. Maybe you lost a large client, but now have the opportunity to find 2 or 3 better ones to replace them with as a result. Maybe you didn’t get an opportunity because a bigger one awaits. Do your best to try to reframe the situation in terms of what’s now possible instead of what isn’t. I’ve had to do this many times when I got stuck in the negative of a situation, and it helped me to keep going.
Patience. So often we’re fooled into thinking that there is a quick path to success in entrepreneurship and that’s never the case. There is no such thing as an overnight success story. The truth is that it takes a long time to become successful. Don’t be fooled into telling yourself otherwise. I sometimes think that things are moving too slowly for me. What I find can help is to chronicle all that I’m accomplishing in a journal (even when it often feels like I’m standing still). I am always surprised at how far I’ve come when I flip through the pages.
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?
Charlene Walters: Resilience is the ability to bounce back from obstacles and keep moving forward despite them. It has everything to do with having the right mindset. Resilient people are able to see the big picture and can easily find the silver lining in any failures or rejections. They have patience and understand that anything worth achieving will take a lot of work and a long wait.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
Charlene Walters: Sure- not necessarily growing up, but later on. When my kids were just 2 and 4, my husband passed away unexpectedly. I was grieving, raising two toddlers on my own, and completely forced to reinvent how my life would go. The experience taught be to become more resilient and understand that things don’t always turn out how we planned, but the good news, or silver lining in that situation, is that I’ve gone on to do some incredible things that I hadn’t originally envisioned because my life took a new path.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Charlene Walters: I experience heartache and failure just like anyone else- they bring me down, but I pride myself on doing whatever it takes to turn my mindset around. I find that going kayaking, hanging out with my daughters or spending some time outdoors helps me to clear my head and come back to the situation with a better mindset and a fresh perspective. Taking days off from time to time does wonders too.
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.
Charlene Walters: A leader’s positive attitude is contagious. It rubs off on everyone they’re around. If they embrace failure and learning from their mistakes and setbacks, their team will as well which will enable them to become more innovative and creative and take greater risks which will lead to a higher level of innovation and success. I once led my team in a highly uncertain climate, but I tried my best to remain positive for my team, and it worked as they continued to approach their work with a can-do attitude even amidst the uncertainty.
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?
Charlene Walters: “God helps those who help themselves.” In other words, persistence pays. You have to go for things with all of your energy and all of your heart, otherwise you will never make them happen. One example that comes to mind for me is when I decided to write my book. The publishing process is complex, and there was a lot for me to learn. I had many setbacks before I ultimately got my book published, but my persistence and willingness to keep trying paid off in the end.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Charlene Walters: I want to first thank them for taking the time to learn more about me.
They can find me on social media in the following places:
Read my new book Launch Your Inner Entrepreneur
Set up a mentoring session or free consultation with me on my website: www.charlenewalters.com
Or catch my TV show: Launch with Charlene Walters
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with
this. We wish you continued success and good health!