As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jewels Clark, How to Be Social CEO and Founder.
Jewels Clark and she is the go-to expert for creatives in the DFW area. She became the founder and CEO of How to Be Social at the humble age of 22, making her one of the youngest creative entrepreneurs in Dallas. How to Be Social is the leading creative consultancy located in downtown Dallas. How to be Social now boasts 30+ creatives in their portfolio varying from photographers, videographers, graphic designers, models, and influencers. Amongst their national and international clients, they boast internationally recognized companies like Virgin Hotels. Jewels is also a career coach, musician, model, and public speaker.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
When I was growing up, I was bullied. Even though most people might look at that and probably feel pity for me, it has helped me to become the resilient person that I am today. The one thing my mother would always tell me is that bullying is like character boot camp, and she was right because the real world is so much tougher. In 2017, I was in college I had a full ride basketball scholarship to play at Texas A&M University, but I always say that 2017 was the worst year of my life. However, it was also the year that I got my power back. Not only did I get fired from 4 jobs, in 2017, I lost my emotional support animal, went to jail, and I also lost my mother to dementia before I ever wrote my first article. She taught me how to read and write because I was dyslexic as a kid. She always believed in me and it broke my heart that she didn’t get to see me use what she taught me to make my life better. At the end of 2017, I looked back and said to myself, “If I can go through all of that I must be invincible”. So, I started to become invincible. I started to learn how to grow every day, how to do inner work, how to really reach for my dreams, I started networking, and pushing myself to be a better person. After my first job after graduating college, I realized that this this can’t be a team culture, this can’t be what the workplace is supposed to be like. I just knew there had to be something more. As a result, I ended up becoming a solo entrepreneur for about a year. I traveled the world I went to Paris, London, France, and Japan for my clients. It was an absolute dream. But in the background, I had been building How to Be Social. How to Be Social is an organization I created to help young creatives learn how to treat themselves like entrepreneurs. I taught them how to take care of their business from forming their first LLC to clarifying contracts and everything in between. By the time I finished my solo entrepreneur journey, I knew that How to Be Social was what I wanted to do. Then, I started brainstorming on how to bring that to life. Today, How to Be Social is a talent agency where we connect young, talented, and innovative creative entrepreneurs like photographers, videographers, graphic designers, models, and influencers to companies and brands like Virgin Hotels.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When I first started trying to book clients for my business, I scheduled a meeting with a potential client and somehow thought it was for a different day. At the time I was so embarrassed, and I felt bad about wasting his time. But his reaction taught me so much. Instead of blowing me off or being upset, he understood. His compassion really taught me that not everybody in the business world is going to treat you like you’re not valuable or not worth anything. People will see your potential and they will believe in you. If you believe in yourself it will all be okay.
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?
When I was starting my inner journey towards personal growth, I started going to this woman’s house. Her name is Suzy Batiz (founder and CEO of Poo-Pouri). At the time, I had no idea that Suzy Batiz with such a spectacular spiritual guru, but I was just going because I wanted to be involved in a network of female entrepreneurs. Little did I know was that that trip to Suzy’s house would change my life.
My really good friend Amanda Sanders taught me that I could manifest and honor myself at the same time while growing my business. I also have to give a shout out to my creative community. Without them I couldn’t even have a business model, I couldn’t even be where I am today so I’m very grateful for them as well. Of course, my How to Be Social team Yoki and Crystal were actually the first interns I ever had and they are still with the company today.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
Our purpose and mission have always been to eliminate the term “starving artist” on a global level. In the age of the internet, it is absolutely ridiculous that there are artists that are still starving just to produce art. We should be making money doing what we love. Our society doesn’t put enough emphasis on happiness, and I think that if we all just try to do things that made us a little bit happier all our lives would improve drastically.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
I think 2020 is a great example of how I’ve had to utilize vulnerability, communication, and high emotional IQ. You also need to have a grand vision, but it needs to be flexible. You need to be able to talk with your team members every day knowing that from one day to the next, emotions may change. You need to make sure that you’re giving them work that fulfills them but also keeping them accountable so that they feel like they’re part of something that cares about them. I’ve had to tell my team before the we don’t have clients and that we can’t make payroll and that was the most difficult time I’ve ever had to go through because as a leader you made a commitment to your team that you’re going to take care of them and to make sure that they’re taking care of. When that trust is broken it can be so hard to earn it, back but I was so pleasantly surprised that every single person on my team said that they were down to build the vision. They were excited because even though this was a hiccup, they wanted to work harder. At the end of the day I just had to give up control to make them happy and I had to give up control of that situation. It’s taught me so much. As a leader you are not in control of anything, all you can do is keep a great attitude and keep moving forward.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
As I previously stated, I was taught that when life is hard it’s just character boot camp. There is no reason that we should give up. Basketball taught me that the only way to give up is to quit and so I refused to quit. I know that this is what I meant to do and that this is my purpose. Right now, I know that I need to be diving deeper and driving this business to where it needs to be. I I give up who else is going to lead this vision to its greatest potential?
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
The most critical role of a leader during challenging times is to be a servant. What can I do for you? How can I help you? When things get difficult most people tend to go into survival mode. Take care of yourself and your needs. Make sure that you’re taken care of. Don’t get me wrong it is very important to make sure that you are in a place where you can help others but usually leaders are taking care of themselves on a daily basis. When it does come down to the wire you can be leader and step up to the plate.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
Being consistent and dependable. I think it is very important that you are consistent and dependable throughout your journey. You can be vulnerable and honest about what’s going on in your life and it shows them that even when you’re going through hard times in your life you are still consistent and dependable. When you communicate make sure you tell them, “Hey guys I’m going to take today off so I can get my mental space right in order to be a better leader for you tomorrow.” Having that level of consistency, dependability, honesty, and communication is so important to inspiring and engaging your team.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
I always like to start with a one on one. Being open, honest, and vulnerable while keeping it simple and having open ears to listen to their emotions. A lot of people tend to over explain themselves on why they’ve done something wrong. You just need to give that person time to react to what you’ve said instead of just filling their head with whatever you want to say. You’re not helping your cause when you’re over explaining another.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
I would say be a chameleon. Never assume it’s a “one size fits all” solution. I’ve helped and seen so many different businesses throughout my journey as a startup. You’ve got to be ready for anything. The events of this is year saw a drop in buyer confidence and that also caused a drop in market confidence. Not everybody knew how to react to the situation. You have to be ready to move in a direction you might have never had to move before. Just make sure that you’re being a chameleon and you’re asking for and help when you don’t know exactly where to go.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
Assumptions. I like to say the death of all good business if you assume you’ve already lost. Never make the assumption that you know what somebody else is thinking or what they want, just ask. A lot of the times it’s easier to assume and do, rather than to ask and be patient. Wait for the answer because I promise if you’re patient and wait for the answer, you’re not going to make your client upset or make your people upset, you’ll come across as thoughtful.
Keep Up Appearance. Keeping up appearances has got me once or twice. When you try to keep up appearances, you’re trying to grow faster than you actually need to, or you’re trying to look good in front of somebody that doesn’t care. We need to be honest with one another and just meet people where they’re at.
Making everyone happy is not realistic so don’t try to put a smile on everybody’s face. Sometimes people are just sad and that’s okay. Emotions on all spectrums should be felt. Know that you can’t control anybody but yourself.
Don’t act like anything is perfect because everything, especially right now, is not perfect. The world is in a vulnerable place. We’re all in a vulnerable place right now and it’s leveled the playing field in a way. We can all relate to each other. Those feelings of loneliness, sadness, having our plans ruined, everybody is in that place right now. There’s no need to act perfect.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
During 2020 a lot of my business was referral based and that business quickly dried up in the midst of everything that was going on. It was crazy I had never seen anything like it before, but it didn’t scare me. I just had to go back to the basics. I reverted back to what used to work for me. I started scouring Facebook groups, I started reaching into my old network, I started offering to do small gigs for free, I made sure to keep business going even when there wasn’t a lot coming in the doors.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
Communication, educate, innovate, celebrate the small victories, and be honest with not only your team but others.
Communication is key. Communication is so important. I remember one time I had an intern that I was having a really hard time working with because they didn’t want to open up and communicate with me. There was a study I read on Google and it really changed the entire way I think about how teams should work together. It was story about a man who had had cancer, but nobody knew. When he told his team members, they were shocked and couldn’t believe that they had been working with a man that had cancer for the last six months. Their productivity instantly shot through the roof because when you sympathize and when you’re vulnerable with other people you realize that we’re all going through some difficulties. I think that’s what build strong teams, communication.
Education is really important. My education is the foundation for a lot of the things that I do today. I got my BA in Communications and Journalism and a Minor in World Studies my education didn’t begin in college. I remember being on the computer late at night editing little characters, doing photoshop, and editing little videos. I used to take songs and make music videos to them in my bathroom when I was just 10 years old. My education journey started with a curiosity. I started with a curiosity that I’ve just never stopped following.
Innovate. The things that have come out of Dallas, TX during the time of Covid-19 are amazing. People are doing art shows in parking garages, drive in movie theaters are back, people are innovating, people are coming up with new ways to make things different. Entire conferences are being put online and I think that it’s a great way to stay connected.
Celebrate the small victories. Our Instagram account doesn’t have 10K followers but what’s really important about our account is that it is growing every single day. in the last week we’ve grown at 138 followers, and I don’t think that we’re slowing down anytime soon. The small victory is in the boost of signal. The fact that we’re reaching more people than we did before is a victory and we should celebrate those.
Being honest. Be honest with not only your team but with others. I used to be a white liar when I was a kid. I would hide ice cream under the bed and then I’d be too scared to go put it back up. I just let it sit on my bed and it would melt. The next day my mother would find it in the freezer and my mom would always know what I did because it looked melted. As we grow up, we cannot lie to one another because people are very intuitive creatures. If you’re not being honest with each other than no doubt they’re going to recognize.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One thing that I learned from Suzy Batiz that I think really helps me stay center is, “Whatever is divinely yours shall be given to me. Everything will come to you in perfect timing.” That helps me stay grounded because anytime I think of those two things, I realize that I am not in control. If I’m not given the things, I think I really want, then that means that they just weren’t mine in the first place. It also gives me hope that those things can come to me when it comes down to it. I don’t never stress when things are “taken” from me I only get thankful. I know that things will come to in ‘perfect timing’. I dislike that we put such a time crunch on ourselves. Everything is meant to happen the way it is supposed to happen. Just be patient with yourself and with others.
How can our readers further follow your work?