Five questions: Clay Clark

Clay Clark is a self-starter, a growth consultant and part-owner of nine small businesses ranging from medical to roofing to fitness and online education. He got a taste of entrepreneurship as a high school student and started his first business in his college dorm. 

Clark, 33, now spends a lot of his time on his newest endeavor, Thrive 15, which launched this past March. Thrive 15 brings together budding entrepreneurs with successful businesspeople who provide advice and tips online via 15-minute videos. 

1. What originally sparked your interest in entrepreneurship? Poverty. I saw entrepreneurship as a solution. My parents vacillated — they moved from middle class to financially struggling to middle class — but whether we like it or not, money is how we buy health insurance, how we feed ourselves, how we get gifts for people. ... 

I wanted to move from surviving to thriving. I knew there was a better way to do it. 

2. How did you get your start and how did you manage to become involved in so many different businesses? Over the years people have witnessed the success of my core businesses, have heard me speak, read one of my books, or heard about a recent business award I’ve won and they reach out to me for help. Once I help them grow their businesses, they usually tell countless other business owners, who then tell me that they also need help growing their businesses. When a company is really growing and they don’t want me to ever compete with them, I take an equity piece of the business in exchange for a non-compete agreement, which is in force for the geographical area in which the business is located. I also think people are attracted by my extreme lack of pigmentation (just kidding). 

3. How did you come up with the idea for Thrive 15? A lot of people call me and want to pick my brain or hire me and I can’t help them, so I felt bad. ... 

My dad was a college graduate, and there was that fallacy that if you graduate from college you’ll know how to make money. A lot of people don’t have moms or dads or people in the picture to teach them, and this is a way we can do it — on the web. We want to help people thrive and live at their peak.  

4. How involved are you in your companies? I have day-to-day involvement with Elephant in the Room (a membership-based men’s grooming service) and, of course, with Thrive. I’ve also got a great team. 

With each company, to be successful, you have to have three components. First, the owner has to articulate a vision. There has got to be a definite plan coming from the owner. Second, you have to figure out financials ... Third, we need to know what we have to do to achieve that goal — what will make it happen every week. Who’s going to optimize the website, check the mail and drop off the gift cards? Now we have accountability. I call it management metrics.

I work with Thrive 15 and Elephant in the Room 15 hours per week and I have a support staff of copywriters, videographers (and) web developers that help them get to their goal. It’s almost like I’m a general contractor with their business. 

5. With five children and so many business commitments, how do you balance it all? Anything that is not scheduled doesn’t happen. I’m home every night except when I shoot (videos for) Thrive. If I go to speak at different places, I take my wife and one of my kids. 

My wife is just a saint ... (she) is very much the "intrepreneur" — she devotes her time to ... homeschooling our kids. She is so supportive. 

I look at my businesses as a vehicle to let myself go where I want to go. If I want to go to my daughter’s ice-skating or my son’s hockey games, finances are not the end, but they are a means.


Fill in the blanks

The biggest mistake businesses make is ... not knowing their break-even point and the number of customers they have to serve to achieve their financial goals. 

I have my best ideas … in the bath after reading case studies at 3 in the morning.

The last time I pulled an all-nighter ... every week. 

My role model is ... (best-selling author and Clark’s friend) Clifton Taulbert

Success means ... sustainably achieving my goals in the areas of faith, family, finance, relationships and fitness. 

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