Chandra K. Clarke holds a BA in English and an MSc in space exploration studies. Her lifelong devotion to the written word started when she joined The Chatham Daily News as a regional stringer. Chandra writes a weekly humor column and has authored two books, dozens of short stories, and newspaper and magazine articles. She is an enthusiastic supporter of space exploration, scientific research, and the quest for knowledge.
Scribendi.com provides professional English language editing and proofreading services on demand. Scribendi was founded in 1997 as one of the world’s first online editing and proofreading companies. The company’s primary goal is to provide clients with fast, reliable, and affordable revision services.
MO: How did you come up with the name Scribendi? Does it have any special meaning?
Chandra: When I first started the business, there were lots of single person shops around that had names like Write It Right or WriteWay. From a branding point of view, I wanted something that was much more distinctive, and I took a word from the Latin phrase cacoethes scribendi, which means the urge to write.
MO: How do you manage a staff of over 200? Is it complicated by the fact that most of them work remotely?
Chandra: There are three main factors that are important for any business in terms of staff management, but particularly as you start scaling. The first is getting the right people in your business in the first place. The second is making sure you communicate well, and often. Finally, you need to keep everyone engaged. We’ve been working hard at doing all of these things for the past few years, and we routinely review our processes to see where we can improve.
I don’t think our management processes have been complicated by the fact that we have a lot of remote staff. These days, there are so many inexpensive communication tools available that it is easy to stay in touch. You just need to pick a method and get on with it.
MO: How did you manage to find international editors who have a high standard of writing in a diverse field of topics? That sounds like a complicated network to create, especially as they represent your brand.
Chandra: Our branding is such that we get hundreds of applications every year, and this allows us to have a very rigorous screening and selection program. We put candidates through several tests before they can work for us, and we also conduct quality assurance checks regularly.
MO: How do you manage an increasingly successful business and find time to home school three children at the same time?
Chandra: Three things have been huge for me: my husband and business partner (Terry Johnson), our ability to be flexible and creative in everything we do, and our staff.
So first, having and being a 100% supportive partner is super important. You can’t be two against the world, as the saying goes, if you’re not working together well. We work at being there for each other every day.
Second, Terry and I never do anything, even mundane things like buying a vehicle, the conventional way without first seeing if there’s a better way of doing it. We optimize for everything! In terms of our business and our kids, we’ve set up our schedule in split-shift fashion. We both get into the office every day, and we both work with the kids, just at different times.
Finally, our staff are very important in making this work. In terms of their tolerance of our quirky way of doing things, they’ve been great; we try to reciprocate by being as flexible as business operations allow for them too. We’ve also gotten smarter at recognizing when we need to put more people in place. Growing a business can be very tough… you hit these plateaus where you have more work than you have people, but you’re not sure you can rationalize the staffing costs. That’s where using concepts like opportunity cost are very important. What are we missing out on by not staffing up?
All of that said, it’s not easy doing both. Our current schedule makes for some very, very long days, but we feel it’s worth it.
MO: You’ve won multiple awards for being a successful business woman, most recently to the Profit W100, an annual ranking of Canada’s top women entrepreneurs. How does it feel to be continually recognized for your efforts and talents in the writing industry? Do you have any advice for any aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Chandra: It’s pretty awesome to get that kind of outside notice, for me personally, but also the awards that recognize the hard work of our team.
As far as advice goes, this applies to all entrepreneurs, but especially women, because we tend to try to do everything ourselves: start taking off all of those hats! The sooner you get out of day-to-day operations, the better off your business will be. Your value proposition is the vision and the strategy. Find good people to actually execute.
Do this at home, too. As soon as you can afford a lawn-mowing service or a housekeeping service, get one. It will allow you more time to be with your family, instead of doing things for your family. Big, big difference.
MO: What new services are you adding to Scribendi in 2012? Are you constantly having to innovate in order to keep up with your customers’ ever-changing needs?
Chandra: We’ve just released a WordPress plugin to allow bloggers to access our services right from their dashboard, so they can have their posts edited before they publish.
We’ve also just released our API, and we’ll be working with a number of organizations to integrate our services in with their website as a value-added option for their clients, or into their document production workflows. It should be a really fun year.
I’m not sure I’d say we have to constantly innovate, but we do anyway. I never was any good at sitting still!
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