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 Jarie Bolander.
Jarie Bolander is an engineer by training and an entrepreneur by nature with 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur. He has formed or been part of 6 startups in various management roles. His latest company is JSY PR & Marketing, a firm that helps IoT/Smart Home/Consumer Medical Device companies tell better stories. He is an author and his latest book is The Entrepreneur Ethos, which is also now a podcast of the same name.
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?
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?
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
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?
Jarie Bolander: There are several traits, values, and beliefs that I feel are important for successful business leaders and entrepreneurs. When I wrote my book, The Entrepreneur Ethos, I interviewed over 50 entrepreneurs to answer that exact question. These instrumental traits have also been confirmed by the 90+ interviews I have done for The Entrepreneur Ethos podcast.
What I believe and have confirmed by interviewing over 100 entrepreneurs is the following:
- Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
- Blue-collar work ethic trumps talent every single time.
- Be ready for the luck to find you.
All three of these came into play when I took over JSY PR & Marketing when Jane got sick. To say that I was uncomfortable with taking over my sick wife’s baby was the understatement of the century. I was freaked out beyond freaked out. I soon realized that if we wanted to survive that I had to put my pride aside and do the hard work of learning PR and Marketing.
This was not read a book type of learning but looking up 50 press contacts to pitch and then pitching them. Setting up an event where you have to call vendors and outreach for the client. Honestly, I felt it was beneath me. I was an entrepreneur who had over 10 patents. I create stuff. I build complex systems to solve problems — not call 10 vendors to get the best price on a venue.
That was humbling but it also led to meeting tons of people who recommend us to others.
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?
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?
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Jarie Bolander: Tell the truth. Don’t cover up problems. As we say in the PR game, the coverup is worst than the event. Own the good and the bad. Help others be successful as well. Have an abundance mindset. There is plenty to go around.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
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?
Jarie Bolander: The biggest mistake I see is not doing the blue-collar work to build a business. The unfun stuff. 90% of business is unfun and not that creative. Having the discipline and blue-collar work ethic to chop the wood in front of you is so important. To avoid that, you must do the stuff you dislike until you can pay someone to do it. Even then, it pays off big to do the unfun stuff as well.
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”?
Jarie Bolander: Entrepreneurs are the creatives of the business world. Our job is to create products, services, and new ways of doing things that challenge the status quo. This is inherently risky. Success is highly unlikely and therefore, the highs and lows will be more extreme than someone who has a regular job who accepts the status quo.
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.
Jarie Bolander: The highest of the high is when the company you work for or founded gets bought or goes IPO. That happened to me once and it was an amazing validation of the idea. For my current company, it’s landing a new client.
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.
Jarie Bolander: The lowest of the low for me, other than when your partner dies, is when you have to lay people off because you lost a client or are running out of money. That’s an awful feeling because now, you have impacted someone else’s life. I have had to do this several times with other businesses including the one I run now. It’s a horrible feeling.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
Jarie Bolander: I realized that I had done the best I could to avoid the situation of letting people go. It was really out of my control in one sense and not to be dwelled upon. That does not mean I did not dwell on it to learn but rather I took the time to mourn the loss of not only the people I had to let go of but also of the opportunities that were lost as well.
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.
Jarie Bolander: The five things I think you need to ride the emotional highs and lows of being an entrepreneur are the same five things I wrote about in The Entrepreneur Ethos to build a more ethical, inclusive, and resilient entrepreneur community. Those five things are:
I see failure as learning. When I had to shut down one of my companies, it felt really bad but that shut down led to a key piece of learning — sometimes your timing is off.
You can never go wrong if you have a high level of integrity. This came about during a partially tough negotiation where I felt I could not do what a client wanted me to do. I told them as much but they still wanted to hire me. I ended up passing on it because I knew it would waste their money and my time.
Contrary to popular belief, there is objective truth, and seeking this objective truth is the best way to make decisions. This is particularly true when building a new business. When we were determining if people with EpiPen’s wanted to track them, we got an overwhelming yes response but when we asked them to buy something to track their EpiPen’s, we got crickets. That truth led us to stop wasting our time on something no one wanted.
. By far the most important thing to remember when being an entrepreneur. The emotional highs and lows of being an entrepreneur are usually attributed to the external trappings of success like fame, fortune, and/or prestige. If you’re in it for the journey, then those fleeting external things don’t matter. I learned this one the hard way when one of the companies I worked for got bought. It was a joyous time but also I was wrapped up in how much I would get. That soured the whole experience and taught me that if I only want the external rewards, then I’ll never get enough.
. Success can lead to getting a big head and an even bigger ego. Your past successes, while important and valuable, should never be used as a way to get lazy. What I mean by getting lazy is not earning the honor to do what we do. It’s a tremendous amount of responsibility. You can’t ride on your past successes and expect that you’ll continue to be successful. That happened to me after the exit. I thought whatever I did after would turn to gold. Turns out, success is a lot more luck than skill, and earning the honor daily gets you ready to take advantage of the luck.
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?
Jarie Bolander: To me, resilience is being able to zig and zag around obstacles that are in your way without getting discouraged. The traits of resilient people include discipline, focus, confidence, and grit. All of those traits deal with the ability to handle the inevitable setbacks that will occur in all entrepreneurial endeavors.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
Jarie Bolander: I played a lot of sports as a kid through high school. You can’t be part of a sports team and not learn how to roll with the setbacks and struggles of losing a game. I also started working young — ten years old to be exact. That’s when I got my first job delivering papers. That paper route taught me a lot about dealing with having to get up early on a Sunday morning to deliver a paper that was 10 times as heavy as during the week. Mix that with rain and wind and it tests your resiliency to roll with what life gives you.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Jarie Bolander: Generally, I have a “what do we need to do” attitude during difficult situations. This is sometimes positive but mostly it’s about finding and executing a plan of action. When I’m in that mode, the attitude feels more negative because I’m trying to solve a problem. As a trained engineer, our job is to solve problems. No problems. No job so that tends to put me in a more negative attitude or rather outwardly negative attitude. Inside, I’m positive I can solve the problem.
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.
Jarie Bolander: I don’t believe that a positive attitude is always the way to go. I think it’s more of a realistic attitude about the situation that you’re in that produces the best results. The world or situations you find yourself in might not warrant an “everything will be fine” attitude. This is of the utmost importance during a PR crisis when pragmatic and somber trumps positive every single time.
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?
Jarie Bolander: You can find me at:
- The Entrepreneur Ethos Podcast: (https://theentrepreneurethos.com/)
- Twitter: @TheDailyMBA
- LinkedIn: @jariebolander
- My companies website JSY PR & Marketing: https://jsypr.com/
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with
this. We wish you continued success and good health!