"Don’t overbuy, in anything": Lessons from Scribendi Founder Chandra Clarke

by Jill Foster on October 9, 2009

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Women Grow Business interviewed Scribendi founder Chandra Clarke via email, and now brings the discussion to you! Thanks Chandra for sharing your insight.

If you are a woman running your own business, learn how you can be featured here at Women Grow Business (think fun, resourceful, and simple!).

What most influenced you to launch your business?

I started my career in the newspaper business, first with my high school paper and then part-time at my hometown newspaper. When I was promoted to managing editor for a small weekly publication, I thought that I would finally have the opportunity to really get my hands dirty and help promote change within the publication. Unfortunately, I was given the responsibilities but not the authority to make things function more smoothly. It was then that I decided to strike out on my own.

While I enjoy being an employee and can work for other people, I much prefer running my own business. I am able to monitor things closely, and make changes that will benefit both my company and my customers.

What decisions have best enabled your company to endure the current economy (and excel)?

In business, there are always fat years and lean years. The trick is to not go crazy and overextend yourself, so that you’ve always got resources to fall back on if things get tough. It also helped that we could see that the US economy was headed for major trouble; the downturn did not come as a surprise.

What key strategic and operational tactics helped your business first get started?

One important lesson is not to overbuy, in anything. I’ve seen a lot of businesses that, for example, need point of sale software. They aren’t clear on what they truly need and what they might need five years down the road, and so when they go shopping, they fall prey to a good sales job. The business owner buys an expensive package that does absolutely everything but fly, and then only uses a fraction of the software’s features. Too much of this poor investment behavior wastes a lot of capital that may be critical to some other aspect of the business.

What failure or missed benchmark proved a good business lesson (and why)?

We recently had a problem with a major software system that wasn’t able to do what it promised. We probably spent too much time trying to make it work, rather than immediately going back to the vendor for a refund and decommissioning. It can be difficult to know where the line between working to salvage an investment and the fallacy of sunk costs is located.

How do you use social media for your business?

Potential customers and long-time clients can follow Scribendi.com on Twitter @Scribendi_Inc, as well as become a fan of our business on Facebook. I personally publish a blog at www.chandrakclarke.com, as well as tweet @ckclarke.

Where do you envision your business in (5) years?

We’ll be about four times as big as we are now, both in terms of revenue and staff.

What’s your preferred question not asked here?

If you had the chance to do it all over again, would you? And the answer would be absolutely, 100% yes!

Chandra Clarke pic

Chandra Clarke is the founder, co-owner, and president of Scribendi.com, an online English-language editing and proofreading company. Clarke founded Scribendi.com in 1997 after encountering error-laden press releases as a newspaper journalist and editor. A pioneer in the male-dominated field of computer programming, Chandra developed and implemented Scribendi’s original proprietary backend workflow system. A self-professed “robot geek,” Chandra loves technology, science, and knowledge acquisition. She graduated with honors from Athabasca University with a double major in English and Psychology and also holds an MSc in Space Exploration Studies from the University of North Dakota.

(Image “Sales, solden soldes….” by antwerpenR, Creative Commons)

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