“While I do believe life balance is important and also a measure of success, it is also necessary to sacrifice in order to achieve one’s specific goal.”
Written by MO
May 8, 2013
The Anthem Group is a network of companies in the event, experiential marketing, strategy, entertainment and hospitality industries.
The Anthem Group is the parent organization of all Anthem-related companies and projects. Anthem Entertainment, Anthem Marketing and Production, Anthem Strategy and The New England Dessert Showcase are among the marquee companies included in The Anthem Group.
Headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, Anthem was founded by President Chris Sinclair in 1999. What began as Anthem Entertainment, a specialized events firm, soon grew to encompass business-to-business as well as public-facing programs. This breadth of unique experience has propelled Anthem into activity in over 70 markets across five continents.
MO: What inspired you to launch your business?
Chris: The truth is there was no epiphany that made me jump into action when I first started. But gradually I found many ideas sparkling on the way as I got deeper into the business. I desired to build a platform where the business can set an example in many ways.
1. I follow passion and interest. I strongly believe not enough people do. Nearly all major areas of Anthem touch on something that interests me. The evolution of the company can also be traced to the evolution of my interests. The same goes for Ashley Horton, Anthem’s Vice-President, as she has been the single most marquee person in Anthem for several years. The programs, projects and events (and in some cases whole companies) are reflective of a good business opportunity but also something that was truly engaging at the time. In some cases that never changes. In other cases we do retire certain ideas and concepts when their time is up. Launching Anthem enables me to be in love with what I do on a regular basis and enjoy everything and everyone.
2. Another reason is creativity. At this point I am less shy about my creativity and have become more embracing, and self-aware of it. The types of things we do, from the most subtle detail, are all creative and in some cases extremely unique. For a decade people have copied Anthem’s events. Beyond the event side of the business, the overall structure of Anthem and all its moving parts are near one of a kind. The growth of the business into science and energy (we have a pending 2015 vertical farm), alternative financing options to small businesses, new venture consulting showcases diversity.
When I first started, I needed an outlet and had a desire to do unique things. Not everything is a first as the wheel sometimes does not need to be reinvented. However, everything does have its own Anthem spin on it.
3. I hate bureaucracy. Even at 17 years old when the true very origins of Anthem were developing and at 19 when it took off, I knew I had total disdain for rules for the sake of rules. I never could get on board with people who did things illogically. I felt the pace in those other positions I dabbled with was too slow. I needed no boundaries and the challenge of being able to go as fast as I could.
More so, even at an early age, I saw an opportunity to create a platform to set an example. By most standards, I would not be a manager but rather be a leader. My total hate of needless bureaucracy generated a strong urge to create an environment that freed myself of it but also gave others the opportunity to thrive in a well-managed, logical, fast-paced, and exciting professional environment.
4. More motivation stemmed from a variety of reasons, sources and emotions. Growing up my father was mostly a truck driver and my mother was an administrative assistant. I had no real exposure to business or a deeper understanding of it. When I was in college I studied business because I had no idea of what else to do. Fortunately, not only did I enjoy it, but I also turned out to be excel in this area. I became fascinated at how things worked, how different entities fit together and all of a sudden, I had something of my own to build, engage with clients, other organizations and shapes into the world.
MO: Do you have any recent success stories that you’d like to share with our readers?
Chris: I was recently honored the 2013 FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award (DCLA). The award ceremony in Washington was not even a month ago. The FBI created the award in 1990 as a way to honor individuals and organizations for their efforts in combating crime, terrorism, and drugs and engaging the community in the areas of education and prevention. It covered my personal humanitarian work in Africa, to my teaching urban high school kids to Anthem’s decade of philanthropic work in Boston, domestically and internationally.
MO: Have you had any mentors or role models that have influenced you? Describe the impact.
Chris: For me, and maybe literally the ONLY business person I “follow” is Richard Branson. Without knowing much about him initially, I realized that our attitudes were similar, from risk taking, to interpersonal skills to philanthropic efforts. Not only this but also how we built our businesses and how they have splintered into a wide range of industries, based a lot on interest in addition to business opportunity, and even how we run the businesses, are all remarkably similar.
Branson is such a refreshingly different leader. He creates a wonderful family-like atmosphere and corporate environment for his employees. People are proud to work at Virgin much like how Ashley Horton (Anthem’s Vice President) and I strive for that feeling at Anthem. His companies basically think of details others miss and just offer a better service than other competitors.
MO: Do you consider yourself successful and by what means do you measure success?
Chris: The answer is both yes and no. While I do believe life balance is important and also a measure of success, it is also necessary to sacrifice in order to achieve one’s specific goal. Very commonly Olympians train a lifetime for one chance. Musicians and artists can struggle for decades. The same holds true for business success. There are examples of instant success but they are outliers.
I consider myself a success because, at least up until this point, I have achieved my goal of creating a different type of company. The dynamic of Anthem not only in its policies but also in the variety of industries it covers was an objective. Having sacrificed a lot at times and coming out with a desired outcome is rewarding and also a measure of success. Likewise, having some balance with personal, social, and professional life is important. Finally, being able to utilize my experiences to share and help others be able to have those experiences is what I consider a success.
On the other hand, we are not where I want us to be as a company yet. We are still working really hard to reach the goal together. However, in some instances, there is too much personal sacrifice and the outcome sometimes might turn out to be not the best. There is a lot in front of us but we are making small efforts everyday to make it happen.
MO: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs and business owners? What do you wish someone told you?
Chris: Although this is fairly common advice, it is very true: be prepared to work long hours. It is not the most important single piece of advice but it is relative to everything else. Even when a business explodes early, the workload comes with it. Even when a business is in its mature stages, if the founder is still in a relevant position, the workload is there as well. While there is great flexibility at times there is no flexibility at others.
The other piece of advice is that managing ambiguity is a must. You can’t start or lead a business if you can’t deal with uncertainty, both intermediate and to a degree, long term. This seems to eat most people up. If you are determined to have your own business, you must be able to face uncertainty and the risk you are taking. For me, having my own business has always been the risk worth taking.
You need to be patient and being able to maintain healthy mind and body. Being an entrepreneur is real hard work. It means that you don’t have a schedule of a normal working man. Very often, things might not turn out they way you want. Things will grow slower for you. It may grow slow for a year or a decade. Many factors influence that. But pace will definitely be slower. At the same time, you will also see a lot of great potential ideas not being capitalized on. Thus, patience and good health and balance are what keep you in the game and stay focus on the road to success.
MO: What advice would you give to somebody thinking you need a lot of money to start a business?
Chris: It is all relative. There may be a $20 million dollar business that can really be launched for $10 million. Or there may be a $1,000 idea that requires only $300 if one is more creative.
There are a lot of unnecessary expenses people often do not realize. My advice is to always shop around on vendors, space out purchases and investments, and monitor your cash-flow (even more than gross/net revenue) because the future may be bright. But first of all, you need to be able to survive to get there. One who starts a business with limited resources need to be more resourceful, work harder and cultivate one’s knowledge. Know who you are, set your goals and go from there. There is a solution to every problem and a zillion alternative answers to most things. Do not take the easy road and look for ways to be more cost effective. In other words, I would like to use Robert Frost’s poem for my advice:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
The road not taken is the one worth trying.