Derrick’s multi-faceted career has allowed him to understand and excel in understanding business from not only a sales and marketing perspective, but also a finance and operations standpoint. Holding a Finance degree from Indiana University and starting his career in accounting before moving into Financial Planning and Analysis, Derrick was able to cut his teeth on all the moving pieces it takes to run a business. He is able to look at things from an analytical lens, whether trying to solve an issue or assisting in creating a new business unit or product line.
Derrick then was able to move into a sales operations role where he started to meld his operating acumen with understanding the sales process and most importantly, leading people! He is now tasked with growing a large business that controls a significant market share in its respective sector and has global operations with hundreds of employees.
As Chief Revenue Officer, he is tasked with growing revenue in a mature industry while also increasing contribution margin. He prides himself of pushing the envelope and surrounding himself with intelligent individuals with varying perspectives who push the entire team to do their best, day in and day out. He is passionate about creating value both in the customer acquisition process by being on the leading edge of digital marketing as well as creating products and services that create value for customers. Derrick also doesn’t shy away from taking risks and trying new ideas, and he recognizes the importance of always pushing yourself and your company outside of the comfort zone. If there is no growth in a business, there is only decay. His question to himself and his team every day: ‘How do we challenge the status quo?’
In his free time, Derrick loves to spend it with his wonderful wife and four children. He enjoys spending time outdoors, hunting bourbon and attempting to play golf.
Where did the idea for Author Solutions come from?
Before Author Solutions, there were three independent small-sized companies that believed self-publishing was the literary revolution every aspiring author needed. Each enterprise had its own philosophy in providing the best self-publishing experience for its customers.
As the self-publishing industry grew in mid 2000, these smaller companies merged and formed into what is now Author Solutions. With the merger, Author Solutions became a veritable force in self-publishing space, providing custom publishing to fit any budget and the most extensive marketing services to its customers in the US and then, expanding that to authors overseas.
Author Solutions later on partnered with traditional publishers such as Simon and Schuster and Thomas Nelson. These partnerships gave unknown authors an opportunity to be discovered by prominent publishers.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I tend to be an early riser, as the peacefulness of the morning allows me to organize my thoughts and mentally prepare for the day. I like to get into my work for the day early and am most productive before noon each day. I handle meetings and other tasks during the day and also get some form of physical activity in each day, even if it’s taking just 30 minutes for a walk around the office. The evenings are reserved for family time. I like to read for an hour or so prior to bed and like to be asleep by a decent hour at night. For me, sleep is a weapon like none other, but to each their own! To be most productive, I also focus on four to six items at most each day that I can achieve that lead to progress in whatever I am doing. Any more than that is too much to focus on.
How do you bring ideas to life?
An idea usually starts with an informal discussion with a few different viewpoints. If there is excitement and belief, then a project plan of sorts is created (depending on how quick or large scale the idea is). I do not like to get over burdened with project management or “checking boxes,” but like to be organized enough to be as efficient as possible. Everyone involved clearly knows what they are responsible for as well as when their deliverables are due. Clear vision, buy in and communication is key! This allows for speed and accuracy, which are crucial.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Storytelling in Game Design. I find it fascinating that games driven by narratives continue to evolve. From popular board games to indie mobile games, you’ll see titles and franchises that keep on setting the bar high. Some of these awesome games even have their own book adaptations.
As of late, there are developers tapping into virtual reality for story-driven games. In the near future, people will have more options to satisfy their need for entertainment and a good story. This could mean more opportunities for anyone involved in the creative and publishing field!
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Listening to the team around me. I’m so very lucky to work with great people who are very intelligent and so caring. There are so many great ideas that come from people with different perspectives and I never want to stifle anyone’s ideas. It’s my role to prioritize ideas and actions, but I try to always foster an environment of collaboration and feeling appreciated for ideas, hard work and different opinions.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t wait or try to time market conditions. If you are thoughtful, passionate and believe in your idea or product, go for it! Earlier in my career, I was too focused on controlling risk/downside and wanted to wait until conditions were more favorable. Of course, those more “favorable” conditions never occurred so I lost the opportunity to launch these great ideas when someone else went to market first. If you believe in your business plan, then believe in yourself and just go for it!
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
A good leader looks to serve his or her employees. Being in charge doesn’t mean ordering people around and enforcing your will and ideas on them. It means understanding your employees, earning their respect, trust and getting them to a point to maximize their skillset and ideas. This often means investing in them. Getting to know them and growing their skillset while pushing them to grow is essential to a well-rounded team that is successful. Servant leadership is key.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Take time away to think and be creative. I have to block out “free days” for myself where I unplug, get away from the office and allow myself to truly think. It could be going for a hike or driving with nowhere in mind. I need that time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to be able to reflect on what I am doing as well as think of new ideas.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
The consolidation of similar companies was an instrumental strategy that combined organic growth with acquisition growth. This allowed us to take the best traits and practices from each company acquired and implement them into the overall company. This also allows for synergies and opportunities that would have taken an extremely long time to achieve as one smaller company. Truly a game changer.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
The failure to act due to my fear of failure. Failure is taught to so many as a bad thing. An entrepreneur needs to not be afraid of failing. It may have dire consequences, but it is a learning process and can teach life lessons and force evolution and change lives and create success beyond someone’s wildest dreams because of it. I had to take a deep breath and jump in. Once I trusted myself and understood the consequences of being paralyzed, I was able to see much clearer and truly try things.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A tracking app made for writers, bloggers, and aspiring authors. The application might not simply focus on listing word counts and hours of writing session. It may have something that would help them overcome writer’s block. This might involve mini reward-driven tasks such as going for a jog or idea generation. The app might have a social element to it too—friends lists, groups, and even writing competitions.
A platform that houses a network of book clubs. These club will do online book reading sessions that also include indie works in them. Indie and popular authors can join the platform too. They can host talks and even join book discussions too.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
As of writing, the V1CE Business Card might be one of the most useful product I’ve bought. And with the pandemic, it definitely is a timely purchase. With just one tap, I can share my business details directly on a smartphone. No app needed.
Now, I’ll be carrying just one business card with me to a meeting or when I travel. I can see it becoming a norm in the future as people will begin to look for hassle-free and eco-friendly options.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Evernote. Being organized is key to being efficient and prioritizing. It’s often overwhelming everything that an entrepreneur has to do and keep track of. I find Evernote to be easy to use and allows for flexibility in how you want to organize and structure your life (I use for business and personal). The ability to jump across devices makes is very convenient and it’s great to utilize the cloud.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Lean Start Up by Eric Ries. This book is essential for any new entrepreneur. Understanding how to test a new product / idea without building out the product and process to the “nth degree” is an expensive lesson to learn in the real world. This book does a great job of getting the reader to think step by step in the idea / launch process and how to pivot and either prove or disprove your product / idea out while being nimble enough to adjust as you receive feedback to optimize, pivot or abandon an idea.
What is your favorite quote?
“Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well” –John W. Gardner
• Don’t start your day without a plan.
• Even small tasks create monumental achievements.
• Adversity makes us better leaders.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.