James Stephenson was an IT professional for about seven years before he decided to go into business. He previously ran a successful marketing agency before establishing Epic Win Applications —a media company that aims to help businesses with in-depth research and software reviews, news, and articles on technology and small business applications.
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Table of Contents
Let’s start with a brief introduction first. Introduce yourself to our readers.
James Stephenson: I am James Stephenson, co-founder of Epic Win Applications, one of the fastest-growing websites in the SAAS market. Before establishing EpicWin, I ran a successful marketing agency that helped my clients with their SEO issues.
Our audience is interested to know about how you got started in the first place. Did you always want to become a CEO or was it something you were led to? Our readers would love to know your story!
James Stephenson: I never even dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur until I realized that I had the knack for it. I was always an IT professional, but somehow that wasn’t enough to keep me happy. I had different ideas that I wanted to try but never got the opportunity as an employee. And it was only after establishing my marketing agency that I was able to quench that hunger.
“Selfmade” is a myth. We all received help, no doubt you love to show appreciation to those who supported you when the going got tough, who has been your most important professional inspiration?
James Stephenson: It was Alvin Huang, my mentor. He was like a father to me, and I learned a lot about doing business with him as my guide. Chinese people are natural at business, and he passed on all his experiences and words of wisdom before he went back to China.
How did your journey lead you to become a CEO? What difficulties did you face along the way and what did you learn from them?
James Stephenson: Everything I learned came from my mentor. But you had to experience everything first-hand before you could truly learn anything. I knew all the concepts and ideas of managing people and yet, was only able to do it correctly once I had the experience to go along with the concepts.
Tell us about your company. What does your business do and what are your responsibilities as a CEO?
James Stephenson: Epic Win Application is my venture in affiliate marketing. I did everything from scratch. I created my website, and with my knowledge in SEO, I was able to rank it quickly. I hired content writers to ensure that I continuously get traffic. I also hired professionals to teach me how to do accounting and affiliate marketing. Everything runs through me. I now have two managers that handle all the writers and marketing.
What does CEO stand for? Beyond the dictionary definition, how would you define it?
James Stephenson: A CEO is the glue guy that holds everything together. He is the brain behind the ideas and concepts and manages to make things work harmoniously.
When you first became a CEO, how was it different from what you expected? What surprised you?
James Stephenson: I was shocked that you needed to learn a lot of different things to make it run smoothly. I thought it was easy to manage a business, but managing various aspects of a company can be complicated. You have to have a relentless determination to be always perfect and make sure that everyone is on the same page. Without unity in the organization, you’ll end up in the chaos in a matter of minutes.
There are many schools of thought as to what a CEO’s core roles and responsibilities are. Based on your experience, what are the main things a CEO should focus on? Explain and please share examples or stories to illustrate your vision.
James Stephenson: A CEO should focus on concepts and ideas that will get you a share of the market. Each idea must be thought off thoroughly and implemented accurately. You will never have time to do them yourself, that’s why you need to be creative in ensuring that your ideas are completed exactly as planned. You have to keep an eye on things because a single mishap can cost you time and money. For example, you need to write down policies on how to handle customers properly. Make sure to review them periodically and that all your employees follow them. I primarily devote my time to coming up with ideas, letting others create the policy and implement them, and then just reviewing their work.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
James Stephenson: Switching to remote work was the most difficult by far. I never really believed in the idea from the start. It felt like people would do other things and mess up the entire company. But little by little, I started to become a believer. I could see all the positives every week. And it kept on increasing the more I trusted my employees. Productivity was over the roof. And the most important of all, my employees were happy with the changes. Sometimes, you just have to trust that things will eventually work themselves out.
How would you define success? Does it mean generating a certain amount of wealth, gaining a certain level of popularity, or helping a certain number of people?
James Stephenson: I measure success in terms of creating the proper foundation and culture. Even if success is still not apparent, I can already consider it a success if I see it was done correctly. The income and popularity will eventually follow suit once your foundation is laid perfectly. You’ll also be able to help many people afterward. The key is doing all the work at the onset and maintaining it as you go along.
Some leadership skills are innate while others can be learned. What leadership skills do you possess innately and what skills have you cultivated over the years as a CEO?
James Stephenson: I’ve always been organized in my methods. It’s one thing that I’m genuinely proud of. And I was able to use it and make everything run smoothly in a company like Epic Win. In contrast, I was never a communicator. But I needed to cultivate that skill to ensure that my employees understood our goals and aspirations. I can never achieve what I have right now without the help of all my employees. They are the reason for our success.
How did your role as a CEO help your business overcome challenges caused by the pandemic? Explain with practical examples.
James Stephenson: My willingness to change and adapt to the situation helped me transform and grow Epic Win Applications. The pandemic brought remote work upfront and center. I was totally against it, but now I see its value and have adjusted my policies to incorporate it even after the pandemic ends. AT first, I wanted to make sure that I saw what everyone was doing. I used to be a micromanager! But now I realize the value of trusting your employees to do it independently. I’m still far from being perfect, but every day is a learning experience that I plan to capitalize on.
Do you have any advice for aspiring CEOs and future leaders? What advice would you give a CEO that is just starting on their journey?
James Stephenson: Learn to adapt. The world is constantly changing, and if you can’t keep up, you’ll be left behind.
Thank you for sharing some of your knowledge with our readers! They would also like to know, what is one skill that you’ve always wanted to acquire but never really could?
James Stephenson: I’ve read that to be truly successful, an entrepreneur has to be a risk-taker. I’ve been trying so hard to be brave, but I guess I’m still not at that level. Eventually, I will have to let go and risk it all to unlock all my potentials.
Before we finish things off, we have one final question for you. If you wrote a book about your life today, what would the title be?
James Stephenson: “My journey as an entrepreneur“
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank James Stephenson for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
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