Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Chris Morton, owner of Isn't That Write, located in Ashburnham, MA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Having both a strong high-tech and marketing bent, I'm an independent business communications consultant (aka, a freelancer) who works remotely. After years as an employee or captive contractor, today I edit B2B content for global cybersecurity, data science, robotic medical device, and medical imaging firms. But I've also completed assignments in telecom, manufacturing, senior healthcare protection, and other realms. Occasionally I'm tasked with writing new content, such as a user manual or ebook. As a lifelong fan of Captain Nemo and Jacques Cousteau, at the moment I'm documenting an undersea hardware/software communications system.
Tell us about yourself
In sixth grade, my older brother provided me with addresses for the likes of Shelby American and Chaparral Cars, et al. Using a false business name and phony letterhead, in those pre-Wite-Out days I meticulously typed requests for car racing ephemera. The lesson learned was all you have to do is be forward enough and take a bit of time to ask for things you desire.
Having that trait is how, as a teen, I got a one-off assignment to create a psychedelic handbill to promote a B.B. King concert at a Detroit rock emporium. (See: Grande Ballroom). Today the handbill appears in rotation at Cleveland's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. I'm a dedicated music listener, having acquired my first component system as a teen and being an avid reader of Stereo Review (and Popular Science). Thereafter I started my career in radio time sales and ad production, soon switching to newspaper and trade magazine ad sales. I bought my first PC and early CMS after a 4K memory typewriter became too limiting. Ever since the propeller-head, I became hooked on computing after discovering how easy it is to add a new board to give my system enhanced capabilities.
I became enthralled with Microsoft Windows very early on. Soon I was beta testing and, as a result of my reporting, was chosen from over 8,000 others to perform a technical edit of its product user manuals. (Over 150 of my edits appeared in the published guides.)
For a few years, I ran an unsuccessful VAR business that focused on electronic publishing and computer-aided design. While that didn't take off, I learned a tremendous amount about PC software and hardware, down to memory chip and motherboard differences. All the while I had become a Windows expert, contributing paid articles to The Windows Shoppers Guide. I was also writing for CADence, a monthly aimed at AutoCAD enthusiasts.
One day a Windows tips newsletter came in the mail. Its title was pretentious, ala The Robb Report, so I was immediately curious as to the identity of the publisher whose name appeared so prominently on the masthead. I wrote and let him know how I might improve his product. Within a few weeks I was packing the family off to Arizona, where I was installed as the managing editor of that monthly periodical.
Every other week I was in middle America somewhere performing a one-day, "Wizard of Oz"- style Windows tips seminar for IT staffers representing businesses of all sizes. On the side, I tech edited a CorelDRAW! book by Que and had the cover byline in the December '94 edition of Windows Sources magazine.
Lasting several years, I parlayed that high-tech public speaking experience into a highly paid IT instructorship position with the revered Learning Tree International.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
It's a toss-up between 1) running one-week, solo onsite IT classes at Boeing, Dow Chemical, Exxon Mobil, Sprint, and Nortel in addition to numerous public courses across the US (plus one outing in Stockholm) and 2) working on a small development team at Hewlett Packard in NorCal for 4-1/2 years.
Like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Oracle's Larry Ellison, I've achieved everything without a four year degree (and taking related, myopic rejection in stride). Not believing in luck or serendipity, I attribute my success entirely to God's grace. That includes recognizing and responding to opportunities, then going above and beyond what's expected of me.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
It's difficult during short, lean periods to remember that lulls are just that—short. There is always new business right around the corner. Another difficulty is not taking it personally when a client with which I've achieved some success suddenly changes direction for reasons that are rarely made known to me.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run, and grow a business today?
- Always be on the lookout for a possible opportunity that also appeals to you in some way (beyond just a paycheck).
- Collect strong, front-loaded testimonials every step along your journey.
- Work at leveraging your interests, experiences, and ever-growing skill set.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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