Ep. 31 How to Embrace Failure & Trust Your Intuition as a Business Owner

Ep. 31 How to Embrace Failure & Trust Your Intuition as a Business Owner

Ep. 31 How to Embrace Failure & Trust Your Intuition as a Business Owner


On this episode of The Ripcord Moment, host Joe Seetoo welcomes Julia Schieffer, founder of DerivSource. DerivSource is an independent information source on derivatives, post-trade, fintech, risk management and technology that she sold to Markets Media in 2021.

Julia encourages owners and leaders to listen to their gut. If you feel passionate about an idea, be persistent with your vision even if other people shoot it down. If it does not work out, know that trial and error are integral to finding success and creating uniqueness. Julia reframes failures as “experiments” and knows that they are for her ultimate good.

She also urges owners to detach themselves from their business when it’s time to let go. Although the business might feel like it is a part of your identity, many owners ultimately suffocate their company because they do not allow themselves to trust another entity or owner to give it new life.  

Finally, Julia urges owners to know their worth and what they truly want. Write down a couple of your own goals (not what you think people want from you), and never waver from these core aspirations. She also encourages owners to build a strong transition team and surround themselves with a reliable team of lawyers, advisors, and other professionals.

Watch previous episodes here:

How to Create Peace, Mindfulness & Direction in Your Life & Business

Finding My New Identity After Selling My Business

Welcome to The Ripcord Moment. Today we're joined by Julia Schieffer. She's the editor and founder of DerivSource. It's a digital publication magazine that covers OTC derivatives, both for pre and post trade operations, technology, fintech, risk management, etc.. Markets Media Group acquired her company in 2021. She's worked in the publishing arena as a consultant, both offer during the source and wider business strategies for quite some time.

Prior to starting her company over a decade ago, she actually wrote for multiple trade publications, both in the United States and in the UK as a freelance journalist and was a managing editor of Operations Management. Now, this is a publication for Institutional Investor News and Euromoney. P.S. She's also a board member of Women enlisted Derivatives, WIOD group and nonprofit for women, both in London starting in 2001 up until 2021.

Julia, welcome to the podcast. I'm excited about our discussion today. Thank you. You have a really interesting background. What can you tell me a little bit more about your business and why you started your company?

Well, I think you summarized to DerivSource quite well just to give a little bit more information. So DerivSource as you said, is an online community and information source for OTC derivatives professionals globally.

And so as you pointed out, we cover risk regulation, technology, and we also cover crypto derivatives. All the new trends, you know, ESG derivatives, the technology that is underpinning some of the innovation in this space. And also in the past, we've touched on professional developments. And so that's DNI, that's looking at job trends, hybrid working. And we really try to look at our audience members holistically.

So sometimes that includes some professional development in addition to the topics and trends that we would cover. So you're bringing a professional development into something as technical and esoteric as derivatives. That's that covers quite a spectrum for your audience. It is very specific. It's very segmented. So I think when you go narrow and deep and you're very focused on something for us, you know, OTC derivatives and post-trade downwards, you know, it's not we're not speaking to the entire institutional finance space.

So you can really focus holistically on that individual because they have a very unique working experience compared to other finance professions. So I like I mean, I love the fact that you're going so deep and such a specific industry. What what really drew you to the to the space?

Well, why I started DerivSource was really born out of an idea.

And that idea was back when I was working as a journalist, I really noticed a gap in the market. And that gap in the market is is kind of in line with what I just said. You know, a lot of the B2B trade publications covering finance in this space at that time, they were covering all of capital markets. But they weren't covering operations too much except for covering securities operations, which is much more automated than the manual processing, especially when I started which OTC derivatives face, you know, very paper are contract based. Okay. So what happens really, Joe, is that as a young’n, I had this idea and I just wanted to pursue it.

And it changed rather quickly because of the credit crisis. So I launched this idea, it was a blog idea. It's great. You know, I can really focus on what I know. I already have the audience in my Rolodex. But then the credit crisis happened. And of course, you'll recall very chaotic, confusing times. Absolutely. Sure. The world was changing right now very rapidly.

And we all kind of didn't know what was going on. Well, this is more amplified for my particular segment because we work in OTC derivatives and all of a sudden derivatives are all over the news. Right. So suddenly everyone knows about derivatives. And so what that meant for me is I had to pivot quite early on from a blog, essentially to a community.

So I really focused on building a community, building trust amongst this segment where I created an online portal, an information source for them to get information, but also to connect with each other. I wanted to stop you real quick because you brought up the key word here Trust, which I'm thinking back to that time in the financial world.

And like derivatives were like... people, like, ran from them, right? Because of how in many ways people thought that's what was the reason for the crisis we were going through. So I think there's I'm guessing, a lot of misinformation that was going on, there are a lot of finger pointing. And is my generalization somewhat correct?

I think that was it. I agree with you that was definitely kind of the general kind of ethos that was going on in the media and in particular, you know, globally, everyone, you know, they were being called weapons of mass destruction. Absolutely. There was, you know, reputational damage and, you know, there even for OTC derivatives. Absolutely. But my particular segments, you know, there are there are with financial institutions always going to use lots of derivatives, they're told through.

Right. Yeah. So I don't think that they necessarily were so concerned about the backlash. It was more what happened afterwards, which was the regulation. Suddenly global regulatory reform took over, in particular Dodd-Frank in a mirror in the U.S., in the U.K. and UK and Europe. That's what I dealt with. And what was confusing at the time for my audience was there is all this new regulation being introduced, all kind of at different times, and they had to figure out what this meant and translate that into processes, procedures and tech for their businesses.

Right? Because up until that I mean I had not worked OTC derivative market. I understand I studied in textbook but it was kind of like the Wild West prior to some of this regulation. Is that a fair statement? Well, I think if you look at my segment doing the processing, this whole paper based, it's not okay, I used to write that was where I really would say there is a lot of work to be had because the crisis really shone a light on the fact that this needed to be more automated.

There needed to be more controls, there needed to be more transparency. And so because this was a global ask, I had to close that information gap for my audience to make sure that they had all the information they had. Well, maybe we could pivot to you as the owner right at that time. What were some of the challenges you faced in such a chaotic time as the business owner operator at that time?

You know, I don't know if it was necessarily so much challenges at that time. It was more challenges that I had due to my age because of this business in my twenties. And so being young, I had to learn quite early on the challenges of being a small business owner operator. It's peculiarly in this space, and so I had to learn to pivot quite quickly.

Know I already described, you know, I had to move to more of a community building trust with people rather than thinking it was just a blog. So I always give people this analogy of shipping, which I know nothing about, by the way, but I really viewed myself as a small speedboat and I'm, you know, in a vast ocean, choppy waters, market conditions changing, weather conditions changing.

And I had this huge ship liner next to me. That's my competition right then I'm getting the waves off of this huge ship liner. And so it was a very scary time for me because I have this great idea. I truly believed in it. I was passionate about it, but I know nothing about running a business. And so I learned early on that I needed to pivot away from the waves, you know, the risks.

But I also could pivot towards the opportunities much faster moving these other businesses who sure had the resources, the girth, and they knew where they were going. Right. Always necessarily an advantage. You know, I could pivot. And so for me, one of the experiences that really colored the early years was being experimental and being an early adopter and new technology.

I can give you an example if you like. Yeah, no, I love to hear I mean, just to recap, though, I mean, it sounds like you're saying and being nimble, using your size to your advantage, while it is not necessarily looking at as a disadvantage rather than manage. But yeah, share your I loved your story. Yeah, I would say agility was the word that comes to mind.

You know, if you're young, if you're a smaller institution or even if you're a new entrants in this space, you might have a bit more of an open mind to see new opportunities that perhaps someone who's a little bit more established might miss because they're so focused on process, right? So that business as usual mindset you get.

Yeah, absolutely. And you know and it works Why change the ingredients and the special sauce you know recipe when it works, right? But you don't have that luxury when you're a new entrant. So one of the things that I would give an example of is webinars. So back when I started, it was prior pandemic.

Obviously webinars were new, they were not brand new, but they were newest technology, particularly for my segment and my space. And so very early on, within about a year of starting the business, I recognized that I really need to focus on this technology because it was a mode to get people together, you know, actually on like a Zoom call on a webinar.

So we had that connection, we had that community, and we could share different ideas because a lot of the information that we needed was not necessarily clarified. So it was it was these online meetings and sessions was sometimes up to a thousand people. But yeah, and yeah, so we had sometimes small webinars, very specific, some huge. But my point is, is that a lot of people said I was crazy, A lot of people said, don't do a webinar.

You got to do physical events. Everybody wants to meet in person, everybody wants to have lunch. But I didn't have the experience and running events and I didn't have the resources to run a huge conference. So I did it digitally and it worked.

So let's take that because, I mean, you know, one of the things that we've shared in our prior discussions that, you know, your ability to overcome challenges, some of these speak to sort of who you are as an individual, I think. And talk to our audience a little bit about the qualities that an entrepreneur needs to have grit- things like that define who you are and how how you've been able to harness that the those characteristics to help you push through some of the challenges you had to overcome.

A good question. I think the one thing that really comes to mind is, is in line with kind of what I've already said.

And so I think for me early on, I was really driven by this idea, by this passion. I had so much to learn because I was in my twenties and grit is a great word. So basically I had to persevere. I had this idea, and despite the fact that, you know, I had to work very hard to be seen, I didn't look like a typical founder CEO in this space.

Sure, I was new. I didn't have the established network. I'm a journalist straddling business owner, publisher, all these new roles. And it took a lot to get in front of people, get in their diaries, get in their calendars, have meetings. And so I would say for me, I had to persevere and gain that confidence quite early on and also take take the hits.

You know, you get rejected a lot. And so I would have little tools around me that would help me keep on track. What's what are some of those tools? I love this. So one of the biggest challenges for me in general, but also as an owner operator is I get distracted. So many plates at once, too many plates at once, and when you're an owner operator and someone so many people listening will understand this, you know, if you're a parent, if you're an owner operator, if you just have a huge team, the plate spinning can be a lot to handle in terms of mental load.

And so I had two things that I did that were tools. And what they really did is they helped me from getting distracted. And also pulled away from my mission, my goal, and I had a Post-it note, a green bright Post-it note that I had on my screen every day with my mission. And if I ever had a client request or somebody say, You should do this, I would sit back and look at this and go, Do I need to do this?

Is this in line with the values? Is this in line with what I'm aiming to do? Because sometimes it is and sometimes it's not and are saying no. Oftentimes, I think what we find with people who become successful, they say yes to so many things. It opens up so many opportunities and that gets them to a certain level.

But then the problem becomes that asset becomes one of their weaknesses, where then all of a sudden they they're piling on more and more. I think there's... I haven't read it, but people would tell me to read it all the time. What got you here won't get you where you want to go next, right? There's a book on it and saying no at a certain point actually is something we have to embrace.

And it's not always an easy thing to do. Yeah, and I would say I definitely had that. And one of the things I had to do that's very similar to what you just said is I had to learn to be okay with failures. MM When you say okay with failures, what do you mean by that? Well my, early on I was experimenting a lot and I was doing exactly what you said.

I was just trying everything and I wasn't doing in a strategic systematic way. So I started having this Post-it note to say, you know, does this because sometimes you get requests from clients that are not in line with your business. You can't do maybe a little for everybody. Sure. No. So I kept in line looking at the Post-it to note what mine focused on.

I also had testimonials, so I felt good. If I had a bad day, you know, someone would say and they send me an email. I would review that and that inbox, you know, keep me on track. But with the failures, I mean, everybody has failures, right? Yeah. So what I mean, if you're growing, if you're looking to grow.

So I've reframed failures as experiments. And so I tell myself myself every year I'm going to do two new things.

It's a big experiment. So one of the things that I learned quite early on was that I wanted to do at least two experiments a year, try something new. And so that allowed me to be strategic about it rather than, you know, taking on different impacts or different inputs, rather.

So one of the things that I did early on which bear with me again, okay, I love this story. Yeah, you might have actually experienced this, but basically ezines. So going back a while, my industry was very much focused on print publications. When I first started, I was the very first to be 100% digital.

And so I had this idea easy and they, you know, they're basically PDF on your screen and they have the technology that actually you can hear the, the pages turning, which I thought was quite cool. And so it was this hybrid option, hybrid medium between prints. Yeah, the digital, I thought great. So I started playing around with it and launching these ezines on particular topics.

My last ezine was in 2014 on Bitcoin derivatives, and it just, it didn't succeed. I did have some people read it. I don't know who they were. You guys are trendsetters, I got to say. But, you know, it just not it didn't take off. And so I had to learn, okay, this is not the right medium. I thought if people would love it, they didn't love the ezines.

Yeah, I thought Bitcoin derivatives, but I was obviously six or seven years too early. You're just too early. That's all it was. But I had to take the financial hit, you know, and I had to take this idea that I really thought was going to work and just realized it doesn't. But that's the life of an entrepreneur, right?

Well, I guess I want to pivot back real quick. What what was on a sticky note, I have to know, what did your green sticky notes say? Inform, educate and connect.

Okay. So that was your mission and your core values. And if it didn't, those requests didn't align with that. It was probably easier to give yourself permission to say no, to stay focused on really what the mission was of of your business, of who you were and what you wanted to create.

And I think what you bring up is a critical point because so oftentimes I run into owners who they keep it all in their head and they don't memorialize some of these things that you hear about in business school and that you talk about. Right. Which are like missions and, you know, core values and what the company really stands for.

And if owners don't take the time to get that down and documented and then distribute it to their client, to that to their teammates, to their partners, to the employees, very easily. Right. The business is running in so many different directions. And ultimately then you end up with a real big failure, right? Yeah. And I think one of the better businesses will know that it comes down to authenticity, too.

If you're trying to be everything for everybody, every client, whether that's you individually, as a professional or your business and the reputation that that business has, you know, that's never going to succeed. People want to know what you stand for, and not that it's necessarily some grandiose goal or mission, but you need to be clear with what you want your business to be doing for people.

What is its purpose? Yeah, well, there's clear lines in the sand of who who you are as a company, who you are in terms of what the clientele that you serve, what services you provide. Maybe we could pivot a little bit to your ripcord moment, your exit. What allowed for that sort of shift in mindset that I'm ready to have some sort of succession event?

What did that look like? Well, there wasn't an aha moment for me. I didn't have one particular. No big lightbulb just went off. No, because I'm truly passionate about what I do and I enjoyed it. But there were there were two mind shift changes that were contributing factors. So one was, after the birth of my first child, I took a temporary leave and I passed the business on to very capable hands and it worked.

Whatever I had set up worked well, it thrived. And I realized that I could take a step back and not spin every plate, not hold every single rein. I could let go a little bit, and the business did quite well. So that was number one. All right. I'm going to go deeper real quick on that, because you strike me as a very capable individual, very methodical and detail oriented.

And so a lot of us who are wired that way, it's that notion of letting go is kind of scary. And so you talk about mindset shift. What was it that allowed you to move towards a mindset shift that allowed you to let go? Was it was it really the catalyst of having your child that ultimately helped you get to to that point?

That was a contributing factor, but it definitely was not the sole factor. You're absolutely right. It was more of a kind of slow realization and evolution too, that led me to this path. And my second my second kind of factor is kind of answering your question, okay, What it was is that I really saw that the business growth and my personal growth because, I mean, one of the whole reasons why I stuck with running a business despite all of its challenges and headaches and stress is because I was gaining so much as an individual, you know, learning new skills.

You know, I was so scared of public speaking and I had to learn that as a skill that was integral to my business's success. And so when I started to realize that there was a time when I wasn't growing as fast as I had been in the business, growth could be greater if I wasn't holding all the reins.

That was the biggest mind shift change where I was like, okay, maybe it's time for me to pass the baton to another company that has the resources and has the talent and has the vision for the sauce can grow and hopefully allows me more opportunities to grow individually as well.

I mean, I love that you had that much self-awareness to realize that the that your growth was going sort of in a different direction or wasn't at the same pace or previously was that the rhythm had changed and that I mean, when a business is able to really separate itself from the owner and its growth trajectory is on a different it needs different skill sets to continue to evolve it and take it to the next level. That that I mean that that's really admirable that you were able to recognize that and not because so many owners, oftentimes what they do is they can't make that detachment and they ultimately suffocate or kill the business, right? It ends up pivoting over from its arc on growth and going downhill.

And you were actually able to transition into another owner allowed to continue to get to even a higher level- that's beautiful and I love that.

So that's a good challenge to point out though, because it's not that I didn't struggle with it. You know, it's my baby. It's my first baby. I absolutely was very attached to it.

I still am. Yeah. You know, working with markets, media on various different roles, including running the resource. But one of the things that might help other people listening out there that at least helped me was I, I knew where I had retained that value from my time and I could reflect on that and understand that that value would carry me forward as well.

And so that sounds like a wishy washy way, but I'll give you an example. So one of the realizations that I had was and going back to the challenges, you know, I didn't have a ready made network because often you get your network within the four walls of the institution you're working at and then you, the networks and all that.

I had to craft my own network through you know, I just had to do it myself through the women enlisted director's group and through my my own nurturing of relationships. So one of the things that really kept me going afterwards was realizing that all these things I had done this network for now, friends, you know that you meet for lunch and you have drinks with and your women's groups and that sort of thing.

That helped with business, but that also gave me a better foundation to grow into other ways that is outside of my business. So you start to kind of separate yourself and the experiences that you had in that business. Don't miss, I would imagine, when your kids go to college, right? Oh, yeah, but there's so many. Yeah. Now an analogy that you get that I run into in the exit planning world, all that are likening the business to the baby and allowing it to grow.

And so I think you're spot on. And so, you know, I call this The Ripcord Moment because I believe when an owner goes to sell their business transition in some sort of succession event, it's like jumping out of a plane. And so many owners don't have their parachute packed. That ripcord better not fail if they really want to have the kind of landing that they deserve.

And so I always ask our guest for two bold action items that they would impart to other owners to think about doing sooner than later. What would those two action items be? If you could impart some advice?

Well, I would say the two things that I would say. One is, and this is this works for me, I would say the two things that would what I would recommend are one is know you're worse and know what you really want, not what you think you should want, what you really want.

Write that down on a piece of paper or wherever on your phone or something. Keep it there and don't waver from it. And this might just be two things, because ultimately, if you're a business owner operator in particular, the business has to continue to work for you and vice versa. You know, I truly believe that. Otherwise you're not you're not enjoying yourself.

Second thing I would say is get a good lawyer, team agent, whatever, you know. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And get someone who you trust and who knows your list. And it will make you accountable for sticking with what you truly want. I'm going to recap what you said, because I think those are two great pearls of wisdom. One is taking the time to be authentic.

To what? And taking the time to envision your life after the business. Because I find oftentimes owners don't take the time to do that. They may go through the financial planning that we put them through. They may even hire a lawyer, but a lot of them don't take the time to do the self-reflection like you're talking about. Those that do, I find, tend to have more successful transactions psychologically and emotionally.

So I'm 100% on board with you. And yes, building a transition team, which is what we do at Morgan and support our clients in doing for succession plan. Yeah, you know, one person can really do this alone and I think have an optimal outcome. Oh yeah. And you wouldn't want to do it alone. No, don't to absolutely. You need people to bounce ideas off.

And you know, I would give one more one more piece of advice. Yeah. I think your analogy is great for the ripcord. You know, you need to be prepared before you even get on that plane. Yeah, but I would also say for small business owners in particular, or someone who's new to a space is a report moment might not necessarily be an exit.

It might be I'm going to take a year off to do a yeah, traveling or whatever. Sure. And so if you like what you've just said, if you have that opportunity to reflect and you have, you really stick to making the business work for you and all those inevitable, then it doesn't matter the Ripcord moment, You just have to make sure you land where you want to land.

You have more control of your destiny. When you make that jump, you're not being pushed out of the plane yet, but you have to be prepared, right? You have to be prepared as well. Julia, if anyone in the audience wants to get a hold of you, what would be the best way for them maybe to connect with you?

Julia Schieffer on LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today to share your story.