Paul Chambers always wanted to have his own business, going all the way back to fifth grade where he would sell candy in the back of the classroom. (That endeavor was short-lived as the principal called him down to the office and told him to shut it down.)
After his grandfather inspired him to start a business, Paul's passion for computers and love of the Internet led him to form an IT service and hosting company in 1997.
Since then, Paul has gone on to create several amazing businesses, including Element5 Digital, a digital marketing agency, Subscription Trade Association (SUBTA), a community of entrepreneurs looking to catalyze the subscription industry, and Gentleman's Box, a box subscription service for discerning dudes.
And he's not stopping anytime soon, Mr. Principal.
Read about Paul's journey to serial entrepreneurship, only in this month's Tenacity Tales.
In the rare moments that he isn't working, Paul enjoys playing one of his many full-sized arcade games, including a few pinball varieties.
What’s the obstacle that you’ve overcome that you’re most proud of?
In business, I've been through some of the highest highs and some of the lowest lows but I'll never forget the summer of 2010. My wife and I had twins on the way and I was flying to New York City every month to fight a pretty big legal battle. We were down to our last $1,500 in our bank account and every credit card was maxed out (the only time in my life I have ever done this). My stress level was at an all-time high with my other business struggling as well, posting a $25,000 loss every month.
It would have been easy to go any other direction than I did but I pushed through it with a good level of success in the end. With a successful judgement, I was able to recover from that and pay down all my credit cards and start to chip away at other debts. It was a true business test for me and one I often reflect on to help keep me aligned. And we had two beautiful twin girls!
Paul credits much of his success to his supportive family, including his wife and kids
(Parker, Jennifer, Ali, Morgan, Paul and the newest team member, Logan)
What do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
That list is endless, because I'm still learning something new every day.
I had a successful entrepreneur tell me at the time to look in the mirror and stop BS'ind myself. He was right. I was trying to paint a picture other than one that the numbers clearly showed.
What’s your best advice to other small business owners?
Play to your strengths and surround yourself with really smart people that can help you overcome your weaknesses by allowing you to delegate those tasks to them. Being a small business with a lot of hustle, we only hire critical thinkers that can help make decisions that make sense. Find those people and keep them close.
The other piece of advice I would offer is pay attention to the numbers, your bottom line, and your key metrics. This is especially important as you start to grow and scale. People respect what you inspect.
Current and former team members wish Paul a happy business anniversary.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Every day is completely different but there is some general structure to it. I start off around 7 AM helping my wife get our four kids off in their many directions. She works full time as well so we have a very busy household (she is in fact the world’s most amazing wife).
I will usually head to the office around 8:30 and most days I will have meetings or calls from 9 AM to 5 PM. My main business focus is on our Subscription Trade Association (SUBTA) and its two conferences, SubSummit and Recur, and my digital marketing company, Element5 Digital. Occasionally I will be pulled in to make some decisions at Gentleman’s Box, but I have great business partners that focus on the day-to-day there to give me time to focus on SUBTA.
After 5 PM, I will head home for dinner with the family. I am also a volunteer firefighter in Troy, MI so every so often I will have a department training or the occasional fire alarm in the evening or middle of the night. I try and disconnect in the evening before my kids go to bed to make sure I get time with them. It doesn’t always happen perfectly, but I really try to.
Paul, a volunteer firefighter, and his son Parker, during a Troy Fire Department family event.
What’s next for you and your businesses?
We are really excited about a lot of things happening at SUBTA as our membership continues to grow and the conferences are as well. We are extremely focused on building relationships and fostering growth within the subscription commerce economy and it’s exciting to see how many businesses we have helped so far. It can only get more awesome from here!
At Element5 Digital, we have renewed our attention to helping build and grow businesses that have a focus on recurring revenue. We recently helped launch the Ellen Degeneres box and have a few other fun ones in the works. From time to time we will work with a company in a partner capacity (not billing them hourly, but taking an equity stake) and most recently we did this with a new product that just launched called Capsiva. It’s pretty awesome and we are really excited to roll it out and watch it grow!
Other than that, only time will tell what’s next!
Want more from Paul and his rocking businesses?
Connect with Paul on LinkedIn.