Welcome to Series 6 of the Plutus Awards Podcast hosted by Michelle Jackson. Our community is filled with hundreds of stories from creators and entrepreneurs just like you. And through this show we share these stories of challenges and successes from bloggers to podcasters, from writers, speakers, and more.
In this season we talk about a somewhat taboo topic — the deadly sins that personal finance (and other content creators) can make. We share lessons learned, how to avoid these mistakes, and the fact that we’re all human, putting our creative work out there into the world. This season’s conversation is about the inherent risks we’re taking in developing online brands, our own hubris, and the impact that how other people perceive us can make us or break our online brand.
Today’s guest Dr. Derricka Harwell, she shares how success almost became her downfall. Like many entrepreneurs once there’s an opportunity to hire in new team members she embraced it. By removing herself from her business too early her customers had something to say. She shares what she learned, how she figured out what wasn’t working and how the second time building out her team ended up being the best thing for her business and brand.
Dr. Derricka Harwell – The Sin of Haste: How Early Success Can Damage Long-Term Growth
Notes and summary from this episode
Dr. Harwell-I’m Derricka Harwell, the co-CEO of Derricka Harwell Enterprises, BeautifyCredit.com award winning and bestselling author of the book Beautiful Credit.
Michelle-Spill the tea
Dr. Harwell-I have my honorary doctorate’s degree in philosophy. I got into finance because I used to work as an FSC (Financial Service Consultant) for PNC bank and Bank of America dealing with small business and mortgages. That’s kind of how I got my start.
Michelle-Why would you go into entrepreneurship?
Dr. Harwell-Corporate America limited me. I was fed up with not being able to educate people who looked like me. When it came to declination and assisting more. I wanted to get more people to be able to buy a home, a car and help people know how to maintain good credit and what banks are actually looking at. The behind the scenes information but I didn’t want to lose my job.
Michelle-What was it like building out your online brand? Could you walk us through what your business was and who you were serving.
Dr. Harwell-I didn’t start online. I started through word of mouth and positioned myself in a space where my clients. We created fliers and figured out who our demographic was and where they were at. We went to buy here, drag it in, push it in places. We went to laundromats, beauty supply stores, etc. When I started I got started with Periscope.
Michelle-I’m going to be honest I forgot about Periscope. How did you transition all of this free content and community building to getting paid? How did your audience tell you it was time? How long did you do free community building?
Dr. Harwell-I’m still doing free community building and have one of the largest groups on Facebook. I have an over 80% conversion rate and that built up from giving free education. I’ve always offered credit repair and just listened to my audience. I also learned that over 90% of my following wanted to buy homes and in 2015 I taught my first class (addressing this need) that class sold out. I shared the success of other people who had gone through my program and purchased homes. I would do a Facebook live at my client’s closings or from their new homes. Tap into people’s emotions. Pushing what I do as the end result. Steve Jobs shared that Nike never markets the shoe. They sell you on the end result with Olympic champions, NBA champions it results in you being a champion. They sell you on emotion.
Michelle-I’m a huge Target person. You very graciously shared that you would be comfortable sharing a moment in time when there was a lack of connection with your audience and how it impacted communicating with your audience.
Dr. Harwell-This is huge. A lot of very successful businesses don’t talk about this. I received a millionaire reward and I was extremely proud and one of the things that I wanted to do was move away from certain parts of my business. I started hiring people for different parts of the business. I started building some other businesses but the credit repair side of the business began to have a downward slope from the first quarter to the second quarter. There was some frustration with the process and there was a disconnect. In order to work smarter you have to work harder first. Sustaining a multi-millionaire dollar business is hard. I had to go back into the business in order to see why clients weren’t happy.
Michelle-I feel like most entrepreneurs go through some growing pains and the problem is if you don’t recognize that there’s an issue and don’t address them quickly.
Dr. Harwell-I’m in constant communication with my team. I asked how we can make this work better? I started making more money as a result. I went and got an affiliate relationship with an institution and now I have my own credit card and now get paid when people are approved for these cards. I switched to a better credit report company and that system works better for my clientele and now I’m an affiliate for that program as well. Creating phenomenal money.
Michelle-I feel like I’m in a Masterclass. What was it like building your first 6 figure year vs. 7 figures. Could you talk about what that was like.
Dr. Harwell-The first 6 figures was multiple 6 figures and I was petrified. I used to make $50k or $60k a year. It was so much money that I was scared. We hired Candice Stevens to help us keep our books aligned. When she sent over the documents I screamed. We just did this!
Michelle-I’m going to change the question a little bit. What are 3 key actions that you took during that year that grew your business?
Dr. Harwell-Consistency is definitely #1. I got myself out there before the internet was a huge thing for business. I was heavily pregnant, 113 degree heat. Number 2-listening/communications. Listen to your community and listen to yourself most importantly. Number 3-Stay open. You can learn from everyone. I went to a millionaire’s brunch and I was excited and my networth was $30 million and I was speaking with another woman who was well “I made that last year” I took as you’re always in a space where you can learn more or gain more. If you’re in the room where you’re the wealthiest or smartest person in the room it’s to switch the room.
Michelle-What did you decide to sell to people? How did you know what the first product was to sell to your customers?
Dr. Harwell-The initial product was credit repair. I worked as a financial service consultant doing various things (in corporate) . I had a passion to assist people finance their dreams. For a lot of us the largest asset we have is our home. Every once in a while I would get an aircraft loan. So, when I got a declination letter, I couldn’t give anything more because of the rules at work. I wanted to give this knowledge to people. I speak 3 languages (Italian and Spanish) I started taking Spanish speaking clients too. I was able to give off-record information and tidbits and that helped with word of mouth. Credit repair was the solution to the problem I saw every day.
Michelle-This was awesome. People! Go learn some languages.
Dr. Harwell-I’m not self-made because there were a lot of other “selves” that helped make me.
Follow Dr. Harwell
Beautiful Credit (Book)