It was a miserably hot and sticky July afternoon.
Earlier that day, we had discovered that our house, a triplex located in a not-so-good part of town, needed an expensive repair and that one of our tenants upstairs wasn’t going to make her rent payment … again.
We had been putting eighteen-hour days into our business, and our nights were completely given over to the demands of our firstborn son. Just one month old, he wouldn’t sleep for more than forty-five minutes at a time, had a voracious appetite, and was developing a terrible case of colic.
And the house—our office—was a complete mess.
So, of course, it happened.
Just moments after getting him settled—at long, long last—and sitting down at the desk to deal with some desperately urgent customer service issue, our baby started up again. Our sweet, innocent, gorgeous little gift of a boy wailed …
… And Chandra shouted in frustration.
Naturally, Terry then shouted at Chandra. He was short on sleep, was trying to work on some programming bug, and she had just shouted at a baby.
We both stared at each other, aghast, for a very long time.
This was not how things were supposed to be.
The media would have you believe a lot of things about being an entrepreneur.
If you’re under thirty, you have probably come to believe that it involves hoodies and all-night whiteboard scribbling sessions and espresso-fuelled coding marathons. A few months of ramen noodles and then presto-bingo! Growth hacking. Scaling. VC funding. A multi-million dollar acquisition.
If you’re over thirty, well, there’s always the Richard Branson model. Jet planes and private islands. Corporate takeovers and really good scotch. Motorbikes and mansions. Ooh, and government bailouts!
Entrepreneurialism has become a lifestyle. The word freedom gets tossed around a lot.
All the cool kids want to do it.
Parenthood looks pretty shiny and awesome from afar too.
Motherhood is all about being perfectly made up and coiffed, gazing down adoringly at your angelic little tot in the early morning light. And fatherhood is clearly all about having heart-to-heart talks with your preteens, out in the fresh autumn air, while raking the leaves and smiling. There’s usually a sweet dog boinging around in the background too.
Facebook. TikTok. Instagram. Or whatever is currently hot as you’re reading this. These sites don’t help matters much when it comes to perceptions versus real life.
I just had an AMAZING dinner at Rocky’s. The dry-aged steak was out of this world! #grateful #ballin’
Gorgeous celebrity-grade photos of perfect weddings.
So proud of Sarah! A+ on her math exam. Loving life right now!
Yeah man! Just cleared my inbox to ZERO and am OUTTA here for a week in Maui and two weeks in Greece!Sepia-filtered shots of urban tourist attractions. A sidebar filled with ads about banking a million bucks with no effort. Passive income, baby!
Everyone seems to have it all together … while there you sit at a desk littered with bills and Lego® pieces and baby bottles and wondering if you can put in Just. One. More. Hour … before crawling into bed.
The reality is that starting a business and making it a success is one of the most challenging things you can do, career-wise. Meanwhile, having children and raising a family is one of the most difficult things you can do personally. So it would be absolutely insane to try to both at once, right?
But thousands of us do, every single day.
Some of us even do this as single parents, or with special-needs kids, or with ailing parents. Or all of the above! It’s tough; no, wait—it’s exhausting. But—and here’s where it gets really crazy—even with all of the blood, sweat, and tears, the guilt and the doubt, you wouldn’t have it any other way, would you?
No, we didn’t think so. And neither would we.
That’s why we wrote this book. We wrote it for you, the unsung heroes of the business world, who are out there on the front lines, following your dreams and passions. You’re the ones out there trying to get it done and do right by your family.
We want to show you that it is possible to do both and still maintain your sanity.
Who Are We?
We are Terence Johnson and Chandra Clarke, and boy, do we know what it’s like down in the trenches.
We founded Scribendi.com, a company we built from a basement startup up to be the world’s largest and most respected editing and proofreading services firm. When it was acquired, Scribendi had staff in nearly every country worldwide, and had provided English language document revision to customers in more than 100 countries. It was a Profit500 company a number of times, and Chandra was in the Profit W100 for several consecutive years.
After a sabbatical of sorts, we moved on to round two of our entrepreneurial career. We currently own an education platform that provides courses in writing, editing, and proofreading; the small press Tiger Maple Publishing that produced this very book; a board games café and independent bookstore called Turns and Tales; and a number of other ventures and investments.
On the family side, we have four children and two dogs. As we write this, our kids range in age from teenager (uh-oh!) down to third grader. We homeschooled our kids while running Scribendi, and of course we also ferried them to all of the extracurricular stuff you might expect, like soccer practice, swimming lessons, karate, Scouts, and piano class. We still do.
We volunteer, too. Our commitments have changed over the years, but right now, Terry is the president of a national charity pushing to get better public transportation infrastructure in our country, is heavily involved in provincial and federal politics, and sits on a local housing board. Chandra served as chair of her local library board until just recently, found time to complete a PhD, and is currently involved in environmental activism.
Now, if you have been the victim of a few of those stupid clickbait articles promising to tell you how Guru X did Amazing Thing Y!, you’re likely waiting for the other shoe to drop. You know, that throwaway line that reveals that Guru X had some sort of advantage, like a huge inheritance, that you can’t hope to duplicate. So let’s address that concern before we get any further.
We fully acknowledge that we owe a big debt to our respective backgrounds. We both came from aspirational families that had worked their way up to middle-class comfort by the time we were teenagers. Both of us had gotten our undergraduate degrees and had some work experience before starting our business, so we had the comfort of knowing we could probably find employment if things went bad. We definitely recognize that we benefited from our ethnic heritage (white) in a society that still, stupidly and systemically, privileges such a thing. (Terry is an immigrant, but the toughest adjustment he had to make in his new country was learning how to ice skate.) And we should also note that we are fortunate enough to live in a politically stable country with universal health care.
What we didn’t have, unlike those article gurus, is any startup capital or seed funding. No big savings accounts to draw on. No credit cards to max out. Nor did we have any mentors, support networks, or formal business training. Also, cross out government support and bank loans until much, much later in our entrepreneurial journey.
We certainly couldn’t afford babysitters or nannies, and we lived too far away from family members to get much tot-minding. Terry’s family did what they could to help us from afar by sending baby gear and lots of encouragement, while Chandra’s parents mostly thought we were nuts.
We tell you all of this not to brag (well, okay, maybe a little), but let you know where we’re coming from. We know exactly how hard it is to manage staff while you’ve got a teething tot waking you up every few hours.
We’ve faced the same decisions you’ve faced: upgrade the computer or buy the bed you need to replace the crib? Repair the @#$%^! dishwasher that has broken (again!) or crank through the three hundred emails that have piled up in the last half-day?
We’ve seen it all … And we’ve now come to a place where we’re happy, healthy, and we even have time for hobbies. You remember those, right?
So now we want to help you get to that same sweet spot. And with any luck, reading this book will help you get there faster.