Last week, I sat down for a Zoom call with author, speaker, and advocate Manda Carpenter to talk about how to overcome obstacles in business, how to get started as an entrepreneur, and more! Read on for all the details.
How to Overcome Obstacles in Business with Manda Carpenter
Q: What is your elevator pitch when people ask you what you do?
I say that I am a writer, a speaker, and an advocate. A majority of my days I spend writing, whether that’s content for somewhere online, an online course that I’m creating, or a book that I have a book deal for. I do speaking, whether that’s in the faith realm, about writing, or linked to the advocacy part of my job when I’m speaking about foster care. I’m not employed by our foster care agency, but I partner with them to do a variety of things, like teaching people how to partner with biological parents in a better way. The goal of foster care is reunification, and that’s where my heart is at – I’m not anti-adoption by any means, but I do love to focus on that primary goal.
Q: Describe how you decided to leave your traditional full-time job and jump into entrepreneurship.
There were several years where I was working full time at various jobs, and while I was in those roles, I was hustling on the side (for lack of a better word). I was working for my church in my last full-time job before being self-employed. I self-published a devotional that I was working on outside my job and it really took off.
For me, I always knew I was going to do this full-time – it wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when. The when came down to black and white, on paper, numbers. When it made sense and was going to be sustainable financially, I made an exit plan. I talked with my boss, let them know I was going to be leaving, and worked with them. I am a really big believer in not burning bridges, especially if you’re going out on your own.
Q: For women trying to make a plan to start their own businesses, what advice do you have?
Maybe you’re in a full-time career right now, it’s not what you want to do, but you’re thinking “How do I get from A to Z?”
Some people view it as an “A to Z” jump and it’s not. A lot of times it’s jumping from A to B, then B to C, then C to D. As best you can, consistently be building and working on whatever that thing is while you’re working full time.
Ultimately, it takes hard work and being willing to make sacrifices. I think it’s Jenna Kutcher who says it all the time:
My overnight success is actually seven years of what you didn’t see – waking up early mornings, working on the weekends, and figuring it out.
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Q: You recently had to overcome obstacles in your business. Let’s talk about your recent book contract. You announced pre-orders and then announced that the contract was canceled. What happened?
This is the first thing I’ll say: when you’re going to be a business owner, particularly when you work for yourself, you have to be really cautious and wise with your words. The internet doesn’t forgive. For me, a rule is that I’m not going to share something out of anger. A week went by from when I found out about the cancellation of my book to when I announced it publicly. I wasn’t ready to respond at first – I don’t think my words would’ve been as gracious or mature.
That’s a rule of thumb: when something happens in your business or a client does something crazy – don’t react, respond. There’s a difference and people feel that.
So, I got a book deal with a company that’s part of HarperCollins in July 2019. For six months, you write the book. It goes through the editorial process, and then through marketing. Finally, you get to the point where I was at – everything is done. The forward was written by Morgan Harper Nichols, the book was written by me, the cover was done, and they put the listing out. When the listing goes out, people can start pre-ordering the book for six to eight months before it’s on store shelves.
Per HarperCollins’ direction, I announced the preorders – I was so excited! Then, three days later, I got a call from my agent. She started with, “You might want to sit down.”
She told me that because of COVID and the financial predictions with the pandemic, HarperCollins as a whole is making a lot of cuts. The first round of cuts is going to be all the rookie authors who have books debuting in 2021, and she said that would include me.
I didn’t believe it would include me. They just had me announce and pre-order sales have been great. On the first day, we hit number one on Amazon in its category and my publisher sent me emails saying that they were so stoked about its success.
Q: How did you overcome that obstacle in your business?
Because I have an agent, we fought it first. We asked them to reconsider because of the implications for me as a business owner and with branding. Unfortunately, they said no. It was really disappointing. The biggest thing for me was that I wanted clarity.
My agent helped me see the silver lining really quickly. At that point, my book became available to be picked up by any other publishing company. That means I could get paid another advance even though the work is done. She helped me see that there are possibilities to some double blessings here.
You should think of your dream as an actual journey you’d take in a car. Instead of viewing obstacles as, “we’re parking the car, we’re closing the garage, the journey is over,” think of it as “we’re at a stop sign and we don’t know which way we’re turning yet.”
To be honest with you about where we’re at right now, different publishing agencies have inquired. We’re going to pitch it wide and send it out to a ton of dream publishing companies and see if we can go bigger than HarperCollins. We should have that figured out by early October. It may release on February 9, the day it was projected to, or it may be shifted. I’m not married to a specific release date.
I would rather wait and have something be the best that it can be instead of rushing. I could have self published it tomorrow and had instant gratification, but I knew financially and with the potential that my book would have at places like WalMart or Target, it was worth holding out for.
Q: Let’s dive into what it looked like for you and your agent to push back on the decision. Women have a hesitancy to negotiate. How did you navigate that?
I said to my agent – let’s go into this conversation like we’re not taking no for an answer. It wasn’t like I came in with an “absolutely not” attitude. I was willing to compromise on some number changes – like decreasing my royalties when the book comes out, shifting the strategy, maybe putting some more marketing costs on me personally and using my advance.
They didn’t buy into any of those ideas. At that point, you have to say, “okay, this door is closing – where is the window? Where is the other door?” And that’s what we did.
I think it’s important that we do make an attempt to negotiate when we come up against something because you don’t want to go through your life wondering what if. For me, if we hadn’t tried to negotiate, I’d probably still be sitting here wondering, what if we would have made this offer?
Q: What advice do you have for women who are trying to learn how to overcome obstacles in business?
There’s a quote – “You have to love the effort divorced from the result.” You can’t let everything hinge on the results, the praise, the affirmation, the success. I think consistency and loving the process every day can’t be undervalued.
I would encourage anyone who is in the creative realm and wants to pursue self-employment to read a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s a spiritual path to higher creativity, like Elizabeth Gilbert and other amazing, creative women have endorsed. If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, you have to learn how to pivot, see the bigger picture, and strategize. I found that book to be really helpful.
If you're interested in tips and tricks about how to overcome obstacles that might arise when you're starting your business, grab the Business Builder's Guide below!