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 Ron Stefanski from OneHourProfessor.com
Ron Stefanski is an online entrepreneur and marketing professor who has a passion for helping people create and grow their onw online business. You can learn more from him by visiting his website OneHourprofessor.com , which helps over 100,000 people monthly in understanding what it takes to succeed.
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?
Ron Stefanski: Sure, and thank you for having me! I started my online business journey after being in sales for over 7 years and realizing that isn’t what I wanted to do. So, I transitioned into a career in digital marketing and after five years, I decided I needed to be an entrepreneur, but just wasn’t sure how to make it happen.
Due to this nagging desire to work for myself, I created my first website called OneHourProfessor.com in an effort to teach people how to create successful online businesses. But, after a couple of months I realized it was fundamentally flawed.
Why? At this point in time, I didn’t have any success myself, so how could I teach others?
I then pivoted over and over into four different failed website ideas and then, I finally found some success in a website focused on helping a group of people who had a very specific problem. I grew that site, and then created another website, and another, and another, until I had a full-fledged media company comprised of eight different websites.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Ron Stefanski: The “Aha Moment” for me happened when I discovered Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income. When I first discovered him, I knew a lot about digital marketing but didn’t know how to really make money with an online business. Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income podcast educated me every day while commuting to and from my job until I got tired of listening and decided to take action.
I was driven by competition and decided I was going to compete directly with Pat Flynn. Frankly, that failed miserably because I didn’t understand how difficult it was. But, it did get me to focus on finding a way to make my own business and I’ve never looked back.
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
Ron Stefanski: My dad was an entrepreneur and my whole life I watched him work from home, so I wanted to do the same. In terms of developing into an Entrepreneur, I don’t think anyone is born this way. I established leadership skills at an early age as I was always involved in team sports, which require a level of leadership to have success. I typically was the person on the team who stepped up and tried to motivate my team to win and while it didn’t always work, leadership skills were developed. From there, my years of studying business and management have no doubt influenced my ability to lead others effectively and have success as an entrepreneur.
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?
Ron Stefanski: My dad is undoubtedly the one who inspired me to be an Entrepreneur, but my mom’s support was also essential. I’m blessed in that my parents let me choose my own path and I remember when I was 18 years old I decided I was going to run a franchise painting business after being recruited to do so by a friend.
After a very long interview process, I was able to get hired and although my parents were irritated at me for not telling them previously, they allowed me to go through the experience to learn how it is to run a business. Simply put, It was one of the absolute worst summers of my life as I spent countless hours painting the exteriors of houses with my crew trying to save money because I didn’t book enough business. While this didn’t necessarily help me in my current business, it was my first exposure to understanding just how difficult entrepreneurship was and humbled me at my core.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Ron Stefanski: I feel that my company stands out simply because I’ve been able to hire amazing people to surround me that make up for all of my deficiencies. In my business, the thing that needs to be created is content and I’m confident that my team is one of the best teams out there for executing this mission. Beyond that, I’m blessed in that I’m also a college professor on the side, which allows me to build immediate credibility with my audience simply based on the credentials I have professionally.
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?
Ron Stefanski: The three-character traits that I think stand out to me for success are;
Perseverance: When working for yourself, failure is inevitable. If you’re able to understand this and learn lessons every time that you make a mistake, you’re able to learn from those failures and keep moving forward. Being able to move beyond your failures is a crucial part of being successful as an entrepreneur.
Hard-Working: If you’re starting your own company, working hard just comes with the territory. If you aren’t willing to outwork your competition, you’re not likely to succeed. It’s just as simple as that.
Thirst for Knowledge: Being humble enough to understand that you don’t know everything is a crucial skill to successful entrepreneurs. To this day, I still spend 5-10 hours a week reading or listening to podcasts to better understand my trade and grow as a business owner.
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?
Ron Stefanski: I think the worst advice I received while in business was that I needed to do everything myself to find success. While I think it’s a good idea for founders to learn the ins and outs of their business from all angles, one of the best ways to grow is to get comfortable with outsourcing tasks to others.
So, for me, I wish that I would have outsourced sooner, and it would have helped me grow faster than I did.
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?
Ron Stefanski: My industry is different because it’s exclusively remote. That said, work/life balance is built nicely into the model because everyone gets to work from home and overwork isn’t typically a problem.
In my own organization, I make it clear to all of my employees that I expect them to work hard during their work hours, but their weekends are all their own. I make it a point to tell folks who are working during off hours to take time to rest and I explain to them that the work itself will still bee there the next day.
This approach has served me well. I’ve found that my employees work hard during their work hours and disconnect when they’re off and it’s been able to help me retain key employees for over four years, which is substantial for a fully remote organization.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Ron Stefanski: I’ve found that the best way to build trust, credibility, and authority is to create an excellent product, always deliver on what you promise, and be willing to take interviews (like this one) to tell others about your story. I’ve spent a fair bit of time in 2020/2021 actively pursuing guest posting and podcast interviews to showcase my own story and I’ve found that as you do this, more organizations will seek you out to showcase you in their publications.
Beyond that, I’ve spent much of my time in the last few months creating online courses and I’ve found that when people even discover the fact that you have a course on a particular topic, they’re more likely to see you as an expert than if you didn’t have one. If you’re trying to do this yourself, you may want to consider this list I created that breaks down all of the best course platforms out there.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
Ron Stefanski: I think that with the short attention spans that people have and how much noise there is out in the world, being willing to take on interviews and tell your story is crucial to your organizations success. If you ever get an opportunity to spread the word about what you do, you should take it. Because the more times people hear about your brand, the more likely they are to remember you.
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?
Ron Stefanski: Without a doubt, the biggest problem I see is CEO’s and Founders working on things that don’t matter. People spend so much time on branding, packaging, logo design, business formation, legal worries, etc.
While I’m not saying that these things aren’t important, they don’t contribute to the bottom line in most cases and people spend far too much time trying to make all of these perfect prior to focusing on revenue generating tasks that’ll help the business grow.
To avoid this error, CEO’s and Founders need to understand that they need to be okay with “good enough” in most of their early tasks and instead focus on things that will help the business grow.
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.
Ron Stefanski: For me, the ultimate high that I got was selling my first big website from my portfolio. This was just at the end of 2020 and after working hard on this project for over 6 years, it seemed like a good time to sell as my attention was focused elsewhere.
I really wasn’t’ sure how much the site would go for because up until that point I had sold smaller websites and although this made me around $30,000, it wasn’t anywhere near what this site could potentially get when selling.
So, I listed it and within 20 days I had an offer for $500,000. Which, needless to say, is a life changing amount of money and I was extremely happy and proud at that I was able to do. But, things didn’t go as planned….
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.
Ron Stefanski: While it was amazing to get an offer for $500,000, unfortunately that wasn’t what the site sold for and it still bothers me to this day.
Long story short, the site offer was contingent on all of the site partners continuing to work with the new owner. While I’ll never understand why this happened, and I had no way of avoiding it, when I went to sell my site one of the core partners of the site decided to drop out and cancel the entire partnership.
This ended up costing me $230,000 and it actually made me physically ill for a good 24 hours afterwards.
Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?
Ron Stefanski: At the end of the day, business and life aren’t always fair. While I let myself feel down for about 48 hours after this happened to me, I realized that complaining and pouting about the situation wasn’t going to help anything.
So, I took the time to find a new partner and although the site didn’t sell for what it was once worth, I’m thrilled I was able to get $270,000 for it and it was a humble reminder to me that I’m not in charge of my own destiny.
While I don’t think I’ll ever get over a $230,000 loss through no fault of my own, I have come to terms with the fact that I have to let it go and continue moving forward.
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.
1. Perseverance: The idea that entrepreneurship is a roller coaster is incredibly accurate. There will be amazing days, followed by terrible days. So long as you start your business knowing this, you’ll be able to persevere during the tough time.
A good example of this from me is when I sold my website in 2020. That was a very tough time and while it may have crushed some people, only allowing myself 48 hours of grieving time before moving forward has paid dividends. Now I have a very successful site that’s growing exponentially week over week.
2. Hard-Working: If you’re willing to work hard on your business, whether it’s a good day or bad day, this can lead to a lot of success in the long run. Business is especially difficult when you first start, especially if it’s a side hustle. The ability to work hard and push through the first year in a commonly thankless time where you don’t see much for your efforts is incredibly important.
When I started building my online business on the side, I was working a full-time job, teaching as an adjunct at three different colleges, and working through my doctoral program. But, I refused to let my limited time stop me and worked until 11-12pm every single night to make sure I kept putting in the time to grow what I had started.
3. Mentorship: While I didn’t have a mentor in the traditional sense, I did use people from various podcasts and blogs to motivate me while I went on my entrepreneurial journey. While I think a direct mentor is better because you can ask them questions when they arise, having the ability to even dive into the journey of other people who have done it and learn from the content they share is crucial to continue to grow.
As mentioned previously, I constantly listened to podcasts while I was working on my business and, in a way, those were my mentors when I was getting started. The funny thing is, many of these people don’t even know who I am, but they’ve been able to help me get through tough time and, even more importantly, anticipate that more tough times will happen in the future.
4. Support System: While I didn’t always have someone sitting next to me while I worked on my online business, one of the most important things to me was for someone to be there when I stumbled and turned negative. While I’d love to say everything is always positive, that’s simply not the truth and having someone who you’re close with willing to hear about those bad days is definitely a good way to get through them.
When I was building my business, I can’t tell you how many times I turned to my girlfriend (now my wife!) and explained how difficult things were. I remember when I started my business that I was going to give myself 12 months to succeed, or I would go back to trying to work for someone else. At around month nine, I remember literally bursting into tears out of frustration and thinking about the fact that I was going to fail. Thankfully, my girlfriend was there to comfort me and help me understand that the worst case scenario wasn’t all that bad.
After a day or two of throwing a pity party for myself, I gave up on complaining and kept working hard. Thankfully, it all paid off.
5. Have the discipline to disconnect: When you’re starting a business, or running a successful one, it is extremely easy to overwork yourself. This is usually because when you’re doing anything else, you think about the opportunity cost to your business and you feel guilty for not working on it. But understanding that you absolutely MUST disconnect at times to bring a fresh perspective back to your work is crucial. If you overwork and spend all of your time in the business, you’ll never see it from a birds-eye view and you’ll be less inclined to think about how to really grow what you’re building.
Link many entrepreneurs, burnout is really and it’s something I’ve experienced many times. In addition, my work habit has, at times, landed me in hot water with my wife because she wants to spend time together. Though we’ve had months of arguments for this very reason, we eventually settled on me having work hours during the week and some freedom to work on Saturday. But, over time, I’ve tried to work a little less on Saturday’s and I almost never even turn on computer on Sunday.
This time to recharge has been incredibly helpful and allowed me to think more clearly and grow the business.
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?
Ron Stefanski: To me, resilience is the ability to fight through difficult times even when you’re exhausted. I think this is something that every entrepreneur can resonate with and it’s a requirement in nearly all cases.
In terms of traits:
- Confidence that you can succeed, even if you haven’t yet.
- Self-Awareness and understanding yourself enough to stay motivated.
- Optimism is extremely important as well because if you can’t stay focused on the positives, the negative will eventually defeat you.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
Ron Stefanski: I was never a great student while growing up. Typically, my grades were C’s and D’s and though I always did well in sports, academics were always a challenge. When I was in my junior year of high school I discovered that most colleges weren’t interested in my 2.5 GPA and I was unlikely to get the college experience that most of my friends did.
At the time, this was extremely upsetting to me and I felt really bad about myself for a week or so. But, as I thought more about it and made a plan, I realized that I could still go to college if I went to a community college to raise my GPA.
With that goal in mind, I did exactly that and after 2 semesters, I was able to attend the university I desired.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
Ron Stefanski: Yes, I’m an eternal optimist, almost to a fault. In terms of what helps me do so, I think that it’s my belief in christ, the fact that I’ve been blessed in most things I do, and a willingness to accept the conclusion of a situation regardless of what I try to do to make things happen.
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.
Ron Stefanski: I think that a positive attitude is contagious, as is a negative one. When you portray a positive attitude and have confidence about the direction you’re heading, even if you aren’t sure that it’s the right move, both clients and your team will follow suit. The reason for this is that in both cases, they look at you as the leader and expert, so your demeanor becomes infectious to others.
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?
My favorite quote is: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill
I like this quote because it’s very blunt, but it’s also very true. The idea is that you just need to keep moving forward, even when things ae stacked against you and you’re having very difficult time.
In terms of how this is relevant to me, this is something that I pretty much live by. Every time something gets hard, I take a breath to get ready for things to suck, and I dive in and keep moving forward. Time and time again, this has allowed me to find success.
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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!