Surround yourself with five resilient people and you will shift into that mindset. I surround myself with my family and colleagues that I trust with everything I have. I make them better and they make me better. It’s a two-way street. Who you choose to spend your time with matters at every age and stage of life.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris George.
Chris George is the co-founder and chairman of Subscription Trade Association (SUBTA), an organization catered to providing resources and tools to the ever-growing subscription based community, and founder of Certified. Chris is a serial entrepreneur who has successfully launched and managed seven businesses and sold two. As one of the creators of the wildly popular and recently acquired Gentleman’s Box, a high-end subscription box for men, Chris has spoken to aspiring entrepreneurs and established industry professionals at events like Digital Summit, SubSummit and several academic institutions.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
Thanks for having me be involved with this series. My entrepreneurial journey has been an interesting road, for sure, but I am proud everyday to be considered a serial entrepreneur.
I started my first business — a collection agency — right out of college. I knew I wanted to be my own boss and, when I was in college, a friend’s dad had asked me to help him collect past-due rent from his tenants. This experience led me to credit card collection, so it seemed like a natural fit for my first venture.
I learned so much from that first business, more than I could’ve ever imagined. From hiring the right people to becoming a leader for my team to figuring out marketing strategies and client acquisition, it was the best and most challenging on-the-job training I could have asked for. From all that trial and hustle, I still craved even more entrepreneurial experiences and, over the course of many years, launched seven businesses, two of which have been sold successfully.
I have also put a major emphasis on philanthropy, but it wasn’t until I felt established in my career that I realized I could fuse my entrepreneurial drive with giving back. From my professional life, I started leaning into giving back after my partners and I founded the Subscription Trade Association (SUBTA). I gave — and continue to give — free consulting time to mentor the thousands of members who are working to launch or grow their businesses. And most recently, I’ve been doing a campus tour, virtual and in-person, where I donate my team to speak at universities around the country like Arizona State University, Oakland University, Texas State University, New York University and more. I speak on career development, advise on how to identify your passions, marketing strategies and more, and look forward to scaling this initiative in the near future.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
In 2016, the Subscription Trade Association (SUBTA), of which I am a co-founder and the Chairman, hosted our very first conference. As entrepreneurs with no conference planning experience, we did our best to strategically balance securing speakers, sponsors and attendees which created a challenging ecosystem for our first event because attendees wanted big speakers in order to commit to attending and speakers and sponsors wanted a large audience for visibility purposes. We had to have the best of both worlds in order to succeed. Thirty days prior to the conference, we had sold 30 tickets and in all honesty we were beginning to panic. It wasn’t until we landed a “big name” speaker, Katia Beauchamp from Birchbox, that drove the attendance up. The lesson we learned was that we had to provide value first and foremost if we wanted people to gather and attend, and that there was massive power in the speakers we partnered with. Securing well-known names and scheduling far in advance to be as proactive as possible will empower you to entice interested attendees and sponsors earlier on. Lastly, networking and staying true to our word has allowed us to grab the attention of leading brands, and that right there is just good business.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Building a community is how we created a name for ourselves as a company. Businesses that are built around community and delivering value over profit tend to be the most successful. That’s what makes us different. We identified that nobody was creating a community for one of the fastest growing industries so we jumped on it. And now, in just 5 short years, we’ve built the largest subscription conference in the world.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Paul Chambers, SUBTA’s CEO and one of my co-founders, is someone I am incredibly grateful to be on this adventure with. We’ve been in business together since 2014. He’s a critical leader to have in order for us to successfully integrate and execute initiatives as a leading trade organization. If I have a big idea or vision, Paul knows exactly how to execute it and he does it seamlessly. Our events are so immaculate because Paul knows what he’s doing and how to pull it off. None of this would be as fruitful without his expertise and well-honed craft. Like I mentioned before, none of us knew exactly what we were doing with our first SubSummit conference, but Paul dug in and strategized the steps we needed to take to be successful and lead the charge in our industry.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
I’d define “resilience” as never giving up; you get knocked down, yet nothing phases you. SUBTA was severely impacted in 2020 due to our inability to host live conferences. There are qualities that successful entrepreneurs should embody such as being super organized, decisive, and having a curiosity to improve. Ask yourself, “How can I be better and keep going?” “How do I use that knowledge to make better decisions in the future?”
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Demonstrating courage is similar in the sense that being resilient you try new things — it takes courage to try things. However, the difference would be that you have to have courage to do something knowing you may be judged, which is different from resilience. If you are resilient and lead with courage you won’t ever let people dictate what you do for your business.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Gary Veynerchuk! I actually had the pleasure of speaking with him for my video series a while back and he’s phenomenal. He’s running 100 miles per hour at all times. With the right mindset he knows he’s not going to stop until everyone is leading with kindness and empathy. People like Gary have inspired me to make those principles a core pillar in my personal and business values and endeavors
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
Impossible is a term I don’t use. Ever. It does not exist in my life or mind. I don’t ask people’s opinions before I pursue ventures. I’m generally self-aware, so, no, I feel very confident in my pursuits. A lot of people use the phrase “be realistic” but in all honesty I don’t think that is an effective expression. I believe when you’re realistic you may start to lack imagination and to be successful you have to let the creative juices flow and dream big. That’s why I’m a firm believer and advocate for being self-aware — in business, with family and friends, health, etc.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
One of my biggest setbacks is pretty recent, as with a lot of other businesses that felt the pain from this pandemic. The 2020 SUBTA conference was a huge setback, causing us to lose millions of dollars in revenue. Doubling down on content was our guiding light during a dark time. We launched a weekly podcast series, hosted several virtual seminars and focused on retaining our members and internal staff, while also building relationships with vendors and sponsors from 2020 to 2021. This entire experience has shown us that we are dealing with ever changing environments and you have to be ready to pivot at any point. You need to be on your toes and you need to be thinking a few steps ahead as much as possible.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
When nothing is handed to you, you naturally build resilience. When you don’t have a choice but to succeed, resilience is an inherent trait.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Ignore judgment. As I mentioned above, I don’t seek approval from others when I start a new business or have a grand idea. I ignore judgment everyday because I lead with my heart and have courage to take educated risks.
2. Have a glass full mentality and maintain a positive outlook. I wake up everyday with a goal of looking at work and life in a positive way. Whether this be through my emails to vendors, Slack messages with my team or a text to my parents, I think positivity is contagious and I aim to deliver that no matter what every single day.
3. Be self-aware. I am known to come up with big, sometimes crazy, ideas, but I have a team in place that will provide sound advice and we work together to see if the idea will work.
4. Understand the situation and anticipate. Part of being a successful and resilient entrepreneur is understanding your environment and anticipating a potential bad situation. From there, it’s about proactively anticipating what could go right or what could go wrong. Making sure you have plans in place if something doesn’t work out is important to keep moving forward.
5. Surround yourself with five resilient people and you will shift into that mindset. I surround myself with my family and colleagues that I trust with everything I have. I make them better and they make me better. It’s a two-way street. Who you choose to spend your time with matters at every age and stage of life.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
A movement I would be happy to influence and am in the process of leading is inspiring everybody to do good, in some fashion. Even if it’s just as simple as calling someone to thank them for something they did. People that serve others live a happier life. Living a life that serves others creates an ecosystem of paying it forward. My task for your readers is to text/call one person each day and wish them a great day or give them a compliment. Make it a habit. It may be small, but small acts of kindness catch on and compound.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
After reading Matthew McConaughey’s “Greenlights” book, I’d love to sit down with him to discuss his perspective on life. He is a resilient person. The way he persevered and always identified solutions to his problems if he was down on his luck was impressive to say the least. Further, his “The 13 Truths” speech really resonated with me. We get so consumed with social media framing life to be a certain way, and the perception we believe we need to have of ourselves and others. His talk challenges us to be self-aware, to take credit for our hard work and to be more involved.
Jordan Peterson would be another person whose brain I’d be happy to pick. His “12 Rules for Life” inspires me on a daily basis.
A few others would be Joe Rogan, Gary Vaynerchuk and Simon Sinek. They do a phenomenal job at putting life into perspective and I think our world could use a little more of that.
Lastly, I’d like to leave your readers with a famous quote by Charles Cooley that I revisit often, “I am not who you think I am; I am not who I think I am; I am who I think you think I am.”
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!