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Crossing the 'fear chasm' with two Ivey entrepreneurs

  • Communications
  • |
  • Nov 18, 2020
Crossing the 'fear chasm' with two Ivey entrepreneurs

Learn how Speaker Labs' co-founders Eric Silverberg, HBA '10 and MBA '14, and Eli Gladstone, HBA '10, navigate friendship and business partnership by disagreeing effectively.

Name and relationship to Ivey

  • Hi folks! You've got Eric Silverberg and Eli Gladstone here! We are both HBA '10s and Eric is also an MBA '14.
  • On top of studying at Ivey, we both taught in the Pre-Business (Business Foundations) department at Western. Eric taught Business 1220E, and Eli taught Business 2257.

What inspired you to start your business? 

  • We were always interested in entrepreneurship. Starting our own business was always something we envisioned ourselves doing, and we had plenty of business ideas over the years. In hindsight, many of them could have actually culminated in something awesome, the problem was that for many years we were too afraid to actually dive in and do it!
  • Once we finally took the leap to start Speaker Labs, it was less about being inspired to start a business and more about crossing the fear chasm. We reached a point where we became far more terrified of not trying the path of entrepreneurship than we were of trying something and screwing it up
  • That's what really pushed us to dive in. We realized that, in the best-case scenario, we'd have a business that we were super passionate about, and, in the worst-case scenario, we'd learn a ton about entrepreneurship and even more about not letting fear dictate our choices and actions.  
  • That shift in perspective inspired us to start a business, but what inspired us to start Speaker Labs was that it was a perfect cross-section between our experiences and our passions – helping people, teaching, and public speaking! 

What was the biggest challenge when starting your business and how did you overcome it? 

  • Many co-founders can probably relate to this, but our biggest challenge wasn't about the business, it was about our relationship. A business can feel like a child and it's easy to have very strong opinions about how to parent it. We are best friends and we had intense doubts around whether or not we'd be effective co-founders, and, more importantly, about how starting a business could impact our friendship. We had some incredibly candid conversations about it (like truth serum level honesty!) and those talks helped us feel more confident about the future.
  • Once we dove in, making sure we worked together effectively was (and still is) our highest priority. In order to overcome the challenges of navigating something as intimate as a business partnership, we've done two things. 
  • The first was establishing a value that disagreeing is cool, but being disagreeable is not. We'd love to agree on every single decision, but that's just not realistic. So instead, we are both very committed to disagreeing effectively. We realized that (over time) being able to disagree effectively would be far more important than the long-term impact of any one decision. 
  • The second is a monthly multi-hour meeting where we bust out the truth serum again! We leave our egos at the door, and we air out every single thought, worry, doubt, and fear that we've had about ourselves, each other, and our business over the past month. It's a safe space for us to reset so that any relationship hiccups don't compound into larger issues. It's fitting that as a communications training company, the biggest tool we have is our ability to communicate in radically open and honest ways. 

Advice to your younger self or entrepreneurs who are just starting out? 

  • Eli would remind young Eli – Indecision is worse than the wrong decision. At least the wrong decision can teach you something, whereas indecision is just purgatory.
  • Eric would scream at young Eric – The universe is unfathomably enormous. You are very, very small in comparison. Remember that the next time you're feeling stressed out about your career.