Bringing words to life may not be everyone strong suit, but Chandra Clarke and Terry Johnson of Scribendi.com know a thing or two about how to bring the words on paper to life.
After encountering error-filled press releases as a journalist, Clarke felt it was time to branch out on her own. She did just that and Scribendi was born in 1997. The company provides editing and proofreading services to businesses and individuals around the globe.
Communication At Its Best
With an impressive background to complement her successes to date, Chandra Clarke has 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. She has authored two books, dozens of short stories, and numerous newspaper and magazine articles. She is an enthusiastic supporter of space exploration and scientific research. Clarke oversees day-to-day operations, and provides strategic management.
Terence W. Johnson has a degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from the University of Oxford. Before joining Scribendi, he worked for an association of leading European universities developing Internet-based academic exchange programs, organizing international conferences, and editing the association’s journal. He has served on the board of the United Nations Association of the United Kingdom, and held elected positions in a number of other UK community and volunteer organizations. He brings a wealth of technical experience to Scribendi.
Chandra started the business, oversees day-to-day operations, and takes an active role in marketing and sales, while Terry did a web site overhaul in 2009 and leads the IT and financial departments.
With a loyal and dedicated staff, Scribendi continues to imprint the world of communication, despite the floundering economy. While other companies are practicing stiff conservatism in order to ride out the current economic downturn, they stay true to their aggressive marketing plan. With an 82% sales growth rate since 2007 and a growing staff, it is safe to say that they have disrupted the staid, old-fashioned document revision industry. The majority of their market is international with the latter providing 90% of their sales.
How It All Began
Writers have always needed editors, and our idea was simple: marry technology with creativity to create an automated system to quickly and efficiently connect the two.
What makes your services unique?
We offer editing and proofreading services, catering to six main markets:
- English as a Second Language
- Corporate or Government
Innovation has been the foundation of Scribendi.com since day one. We became a “game changer” by being the first online editing and proofreading company to offer immediate, no-surprise quotes. We were the first online editing company to offer same-day service (2003), multicurrency secure payment options (2003), and end-to-end encryption for document transmission (2005). We were also the first to become ISO 9001:2008 certified (2010).
Where did your business’s seed capital come from and how did you go about getting it?
Starting up Scribendi.com required slightly less than a $5,000 personal investment.
How long did it take to build traction behind your business?
We had traction pretty much immediately and were profitable from the beginning.
How did you build your management team?
Our management team at the moment is small—just the two principles and an HR manager.
How were you brought onto the business?
“I was one of several candidates interviewed for the position and had the right blend of personality, skills, and most importantly, a vision of where the company could go.” Samantha Russell, HR Manager
Innovation has been the foundation of Scribendi.com since day one. We became a “game changer” by being the first online editing and proofreading company to offer immediate, no-surprise quotes.
What was it that attracted you to stay?
“The reason I chose Scribendi.com (over another offer) was the entrepreneurial nature of the business. I was really impressed that Chandra had identified a need for this service and successfully carved out a niche offering to meet that need. I admire her determination to succeed and the creativity and ingenuity that have gone into building this business. I see working here as an opportunity for me to stretch my abilities, apply knowledge learned through my MBA program, and make a direct impact on the successful future of the organization, not to mention that I get to interact with intelligent, educated people on a daily basis, and have a view of the river from my office.” – Samantha Russell, HR Manager
How do you keep your staff motivated and engaged?
For our remote staff we have an incentive program, and we work hard to engage our remote staff regularly with our virtual water cooler, social media, and staff forums. While our In-House staff such as our in house editors and support staff receive a generous benefits package, work in a bright and cheerful environment, and are part of a corporate culture that promotes teamwork, wellness, and environmental awareness. To continually foster that culture, in 2010, we implemented a flextime program and bi-monthly social gatherings.
I was really impressed that Chandra had identified a need for this service and successfully carved out a niche offering to meet that need.
Could you give a brief description of your biggest success so far?
We measure our success daily, when we get great feedback from customers, or learn that what we’ve done for a customer has helped him or her achieve important goals.
Other major milestones that we have reached is becoming ISO Certified, hiring additional HR, IT, and Marketing staff, and realizing an 82% sales growth rate in the last three years.
Do you have plans to expand to new markets/products?
Yes, we have aggressive plans in place.
What are your goals as an entrepreneur?
We envision continuing as a leader in the language service industry; however, our goals stretch beyond the company’s bottom line. In the future, we hope to use capital from the business to help fund “green” ideas and new technology-based businesses in Southwestern Ontario.
We measure our success daily, when we get great feedback from customers, or that what we’ve done for a customer has helped him or her achieve important goals.
What is your exit strategy?
We’re having too much fun to worry about exit strategies.
Do you have any insights on Acquisitions and Mergers?
We’re always on the lookout for potential partnerships and joint ventures.
What is the company’s expansion funding strategy?
To put it simply: We intend to use retained earnings.
How do you define success?
We define success by the difference we make in people’s lives—both those of our clients and employees. It’s fun to consider being a “serial entrepreneur,” but at the end of the day, it’s important to realize that real people come to depend on whatever you’re offering as a service or product, and the employment you provide.
To what do you most attribute your success?
No magic formula…good planning and hard work. Focus is key.
What advice would you give to others who want to become entrepreneurs?
Do something you’re going to love, but don’t let it take over your life.
What advice would you give to those seeking to build it up to the next level?
Let go. Find ways to get out of day-to-day operations as soon as possible.
We define success by the difference we make in people’s lives—both those of our clients and employees
If you were to recommend a book or movie to a young entrepreneur, what would it be?
No one book or movie is going to answer all of your questions. Read widely for knowledge; watch movies for a break.
How has being an entrepreneur affected your life?
It has spoiled us for life, I think. We can’t visit a business without looking at their processes and thinking of ways could they could be done better.
What is the best part of owning a business?
Coming to the office every day and knowing that what you see around you is something you’ve built.
No magic formula…good planning and hard work. Focus is key.
If you had the chance to start over again, what would you do differently?
We’d try to get to certain milestones faster, and perhaps make a few decisions sooner than we did. But hindsight is always 20/20.
Following your dreams no matter what position you are in is always attainable. Chandra Clarke and Terry Johnson inspire, motivate and encourage others to find something that they love and pursue it wholeheartedly with handwork and dedication.
Effective communication is beneficial, necessary and is intrinsic for every business. For it is with words, gestures and speech that we understand each other. Connect with Chandra, Terry, and their team by visiting Scribendi.com.