[quote style=”boxed”]My workspace is an open room. My team members are together, actively communicating out loud. Brainstorming and open conversations are encouraged. In my opinion, this approach fosters the most productive environment. The art of multitasking: Get good at it or die.[/quote]
Hellen Barbara is the founder and president of Pubslush, a global crowdfunding and analytics platform for the literary world. An educator and a philanthropist, Hellen has a master’s degree in education from Hofstra University and a BBA in international management from Pace University. She is the founder and former president of For the Kids Foundation, a nonprofit focused on education improvement in New York. She presently serves on the board of directors for the Gavin’s Got Heart Foundation and is a member of the Exceptional Women in Publishing organization.
Pubslush enables authors and literary trendsetters to raise funds and gauge audience response for books and other literary-based projects while supporters make financial pledges, bringing projects to life. The Pubslush Foundation was established to promote social good and aids in the fight against illiteracy by providing books to children with limited access to literature.
Where did the idea for Pubslush come from?
The idea for Pubslush came from the depressing amount of “slush,” or manuscripts that went into publishing purgatory and almost never had a chance of being discovered or published. It was my hope that just as “American Idol” provided an opportunity for singers across America to be showcased, Pubslush would provide an opportunity for great writing talent. I was impressed with the idea of crowdfunding, and I thought it could be a good fit for the publishing arena.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
First, I check the status of all the Pubslush authors presently campaigning, then I begin my social media interaction and email correspondence. It’s my personal goal to connect with at least 10 new people a day. I enjoy reading articles and catching up on the latest happenings and trends.
My workspace is an open room. My team members are together, actively communicating out loud. Brainstorming and open conversations are encouraged. In my opinion, this approach fosters the most productive environment. The art of multitasking: Get good at it or die.
How do you bring ideas to life?
There’s no idea that I consider too far-fetched or crazy. Any idea that’s presented is discussed. Typically, the team will talk about it and discuss whether it’s a good fit. If we all think it can work, then we conceptualize how to make it happen. We use all of our networks and resources to promote our idea and try to get as much support as possible so it will succeed.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
My passion is photography, so I am really excited about all of the social media platforms that utilize photography. Photos are such an amazing way to keep in touch and share visually. They allow for much more creativity in communication, and they’re a fun and effective way to interact, both personally and professionally.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I have a form of work ADD. I jump from task to task, from idea to idea, and from one social media platform to another, juggling different assignments and projects at the same time. This work style rubs off on my team and makes for a very flexible, productive environment. Troubleshooting and multitasking are common and natural practices.
I also have a habit of thinking out loud, very often blurting out the craziest of thoughts and ideas. I love it when my daughter, the vice president of Pubslush, or one of my team members jumps on the idea, takes it seriously, and makes it happen. Gratification at its finest!
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Right out of college, I was an assistant buyer at Macy’s, and one of my responsibilities was to go into the dark basement with my colleague and sort through boxes of damaged and returned items. At the time, I felt that being an assistant was the equivalent of doing the dirty work for everyone above me. All of the tedious, awful jobs were delegated to the assistants and, although I loved my job otherwise, I disliked being the bottom man on the totem pole.
I learned very quickly that if I did well with the tasks everyone hated, I would be recognized and rewarded. I also learned that when I was in the buyer’s seat, I didn’t want my assistants to feel the way I felt. I would tackle the tedious tasks as well and get my hands dirty alongside them. When we went through the tasks together, listening to music and laughing, we found that it went by quickly because we were more productive.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
If I were to start again, I would certainly avoid many of my first-time mistakes. The tendency to hire bigger corporate companies to start up a business is very costly and often not the best route. The attention and service you receive are dictated by bureaucratic rules.
If I were to begin again, I would choose smaller companies to help me with processes and approach my decisions in a more organic, grassroots way. Bigger is not always better, and I learned this the hard way. I’m now smarter in my approach and savvy enough to advise others.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
My personality in my personal life translates to the workplace. My free-spirited, laid-back attitude does not concern itself with competition. Although I feel it’s important to read and be aware of what’s happening in the industry and the world around us, I don’t spend much time concerning myself with that.
I remind myself to constantly stay focused and generate out-of-the-box thinking that helps keep things light and real. I’m always thinking about how I can genuinely be a better person and make a difference. My team is an extension of me. I consider them family, and I value their voices and encourage them to be proactive in their approach to positively impact the lives of others.
Most importantly, we have fun. We laugh and laugh, and then we do it over again.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
As an entrepreneur, it’s very easy to allow my passion and excitement for the future of the company step in front of my direct mission. It is very important for me to stay focused on the immediate goals and work toward them. The long-range plans are important to know and strategize.
However, I try to never lose sight of my business model and everything I must do to achieve success with that plan before I move on to plans B, C, or D. It’s important that I consistently remind my team of this because, as their excitement for other ideas and projects escalates, it’s vital that we never stray too far from our main focus.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When I first launched Pubslush, our platform was focused on a different mission, in which Pubslush acted as the publisher. We found this model wasn’t ideal for our authors.
My failure to realize this from the outset was a tremendous learning experience that cost me a lot of time and money. I realized that the only way to move forward was to regroup, evaluate, and put the mistakes behind me. We restructured our business model so it was efficient, purposeful, and inclusive of all players in the publishing world.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
It would be ideal to have a company create a type of business card that contained all the business information found on standard business cards, but could also be scanned by a cell phone. Possible clients could take the card’s information and transfer it to their phones’ contacts automatically. This would alleviate the need to carry around hundreds of business cards at any given time, and it would eliminate carrying around stacks of other people’s cards at an event.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I’m a golfer. I am crazy passionate about golfing, and I’m actually pretty good. In my free time, you can find me on the range or golf course. I travel to golf destinations and play alone, with a caddy, or with random people.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Pubslush uses Skype on a daily basis; regardless of where we’re working, we are able to communicate at any moment. Pubslush also uses Google Docs to organize our projects, and we love this program because anyone on our team can go through the documents to edit them. We each use a different color in our collaborative effort to achieve the final draft. Google Docs also tracks our outreach efforts. Each team member can add to this list, and we can see who’s already been contacted and check the status at any time.
I am very active on LinkedIn and use this regularly for outreach and connecting with various industry professionals. On the financial end, Pubslush uses QuickBooks for accounting purposes. We use Microsoft products, such as Excel for tracking data and PowerPoint for presentations.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
For a writer who wants to publish a book, I highly recommend “Sell Your Book Like Wildfire: The Writer’s Guide to Marketing and Publicity” by Rob Eagar. It is a writer’s guide to marketing and branding to be successful. His advice is on-point with what I preach to our Pubslush readers, and I believe reading it is extremely beneficial before you approach the publishing process.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Osho, the author of many spiritual books and blogs, has been a great inspiration to me in understanding people, relationships, and human behavior. The calming effect of his words has not only affected my personal life, but it has also had a direct impact on me as a business leader.
One of my personal inspirations is Eleanor Roosevelt, such a dynamic woman of energy and vision. She was ahead of her time in terms of her feminist ideals. Ironically, she died the year I was born. I am certain that, if she were alive today, she would be proud of the advances that women have made in America and would continue to be a huge advocate for empowerment. She was actively involved in the politics of our country at a time when men dominated, and she was dedicated to helping the poor. I believe everyone, especially women, should read her biography and all the books wrote in her lifetime. One of my favorites is “You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life.”
One of my favorite quotes is: “Your ambition should be to get as much life out of living as you possibly can, as much enjoyment, as much interest, as much experience, as much understanding. Not simply be what is generally called a success.”
Hellen Barbara on LinkedIn:
Hellen Barbara on Twitter: @hbarbara27
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.