Try out several different ways to achieve your goals. Stick with what works, and eliminate the strategies that do not. Mistakes are going to happen, so you just need to learn from them and move on.
Andrew Schrage is the co-owner of Money Crashers, which is a personal finance website dedicated to educating its readers about better ways to save and spend their money. Schrage, a Brown economics graduate, saw a need to fill the financial void in the U.S. education system and subsequently quit his job at the height of the recession to work on the website. Money Crashers covers subjects including how to start a business while working another job, balancing your career with your personal life, what you need to start a business, emergency funds, and tips for career changes. The site also reviews tools and financial instruments, like the best small business credit cards, to help you figure out what you need for your business. Andrew Schrage, originally from Boston, is a long-time ice hockey and tennis player, as well as an avid sports fan.
What are you working on right now?
I worked at a hedge fund after I graduated from college, but I soon became disillusioned with the corporate world and saw a need to fill a financial education void in our country’s education system. I began working on Money Crashers on a shoestring budget in 2008, and it’s been my full-time position for more than two years now. It’s truly been amazing to hear the great feedback from readers who have really gained some real value from the site.
Where did the idea for Money Crashers come from?
I studied economics in college, and my investment experience also contributed to the inspiration. I felt that the average American’s knowledge of personal finance was lacking. Plus, at the time I started my business, the country was mired in a recession. These factors contributed to my decision to launch the site.
What does your typical day look like?
I start my day off by organizing and writing out exactly what I need to get done. I find that this exercise makes me more productive. After that, a large portion of my day surrounds managing the editorial team to ensure that each post that is published on the site is well written, unique and valuable. I also try to check the pulse of our readership to find out what they want to read about and what they’d like to see on the site.
I’m also working on continuing to build out our social media channels. We’re active on both Facebook and Twitter, but I’d love to deepen the relationship with our social media followers and make those two channels even more robust.
How do you bring ideas to life?
The personal finance industry is highly competitive, and it’s hard to come up with topics that have never been covered previously. Therefore, I tend to focus on the basics of personal finance and to provide our readers with unique, relevant and factual content. I’ve found the internet to be rife with misinformation, so whatever idea we present, I first make sure it is factually correct. I think people tend to over-think things when trying to break into the world of entrepreneurship. But when you break it down, it’s as simple as identifying a need in the marketplace, figuring out how to make a solution profitable, and putting in a ton of hard work to make it happen.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The trend I’m most excited about is the amazing expansion of mobile technology. While it would be a huge undertaking, I’d love to design a mobile app for our website. If we do it right, I feel it could boost our growth and community tremendously.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
The worst job I ever had was working at a food commissary. It was a very uncomfortable environment, and the work itself was mundane and repetitive. What I did learn from it, though, is the importance of consistency in an industry. I also learned exactly what a “hard day’s work” really means.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Any small business wishing to succeed needs to understand the tremendous potential of social media marketing, and if I were starting again, I would immediately establish a social media presence. Unfortunately, we waited to start our social networking initiatives. However, we now offer contests and giveaways on Facebook, and we conduct weekly TweetChats on Twitter. It’s become one of the major components of our marketing strategy.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
As an entrepreneur, I constantly look for ways to improve. Competition is high in just about every industry, and complacency can kill your business. Even though we’ve experienced solid growth over the years, I know that if we don’t stay as cutting-edge as possible, then the competition will simply eclipse us and readers will become bored with the site.
What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest problem I overcame initially was the difficulty of bringing on staff without much available capital. My business was at a point where I needed help, but I just didn’t have the money to pay out. However, by outsourcing and hiring part-time employees, I was able to get the help I needed without paying a fortune. I found a few tech freelancers who helped me with a few short-term IT projects I needed to have completed. Then I started hiring writers, but only on a part-time or per-project basis. This strategy worked out perfectly from a financial standpoint, and many part-timers are still with me today in full-time positions.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Try out several different ways to achieve your goals. Stick with what works, and eliminate the strategies that do not. Mistakes are going to happen, so you just need to learn from them and move on. For instance, if you’re marketing your business and just not getting any results from Twitter, forget about it and try something else. If your new product or service just isn’t gaining a foothold, you need to have the courage to scrap it and try something different.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I would change the attitude that many Americans have, which is that credit card debt is a part of life. On the contrary, it most certainly is not. Credit card debt simply kills your finances, and makes it virtually impossible to get ahead. If I had the time, I’d sit down with everyone I could find who has credit card debt, and would explain to them in clear dollar figures how much it costs them on an annual basis. Then I’d create a specific plan for how they can pay off these debts once and for all.
Tell us a secret
The one thing most people don’t know about me is that I’m an avid, lifetime ice hockey player.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
- FreshBooks is the software I currently use for accounting. I’ve used several other accounting software programs in the past, and have found FreshBooks to be most conducive to my current business needs. What I love about it is that it’s affordable and easy to use.
- Google Drive is my preferred file sharing software. It’s the most complete service I’ve come across, and it’s competitively priced.
- LinkedIn can be utilized for many different facets of your small business. You can post business-related questions there and have them answered by industry professionals. Many have started using it as a marketing tool as well. You should build a company page there and try to personally participate in group discussions to network with others in your niche. It’s also a great recruitment tool. In fact, I recently hired one top-notch editor whom I discovered via LinkedIn. I’ve also used it to network with a number of writers.
On a related note, we actually compiled a list of 25 of the best online resources for small businesses and freelancers that you should check out.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The best book I can recommend is Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. It’s simply a must-read for any aspiring entrepreneur. The seven habits are applicable to both your personal and professional lives.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
The last time I laughed out loud was when I was reading about the criticism Gabby Douglas received about her hair style. That was an absolute joke. She should serve as an inspiration to us all.
Who is your hero?
My hero is my father. He taught me at a very young age about the importance of living a financially prudent life, and he was also an inspiration for my small business. I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am now if it weren’t for him.
What is the best advice you can give to entrepreneurs just starting out?
To be successful at having small business, you’re going to need three things. First, you must have the ability to work hard. If you’re willing to put in the effort, you’ll be rewarded handsomely. Second, your best bet is to bootstrap your small business as much as possible. The more ownership you retain, the more control you’ll have over the direction of the company. And third, you must have a sincere passion for your work. During tough times, your passion for what you’re doing may be the only thing you have to fall back on. Being a successful entrepreneur means being able to persevere, and without a true love for what you’re doing, this will be difficult.
What are your favorite sports?
My two favorite sports are ice hockey and tennis. I do my best to stay in shape, and these two sports are the main ways that I do so. I continue to play them both competitively today!
Money Crashers on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/company/money-crashers
Money Crashers on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MoneyCrashers
Money Crashers on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MoneyCrashers
Money Crashers’ website: http://www.moneycrashers.com/