Starting a business is a big achievement for many entrepreneurs, but maintaining one is the larger challenge. There are many standard challenges that face every business whether they are large or small. It is not easy running a company, especially in a fast-paced, ever-changing business world. Technology advances, new hiring strategies, and now, political changes coming with the new administration, all add to the existing business challenges that entrepreneurs, business owners, and executives have to deal with.

Maximizing profits, minimizing expenses and finding talented staff to keep things moving seem to be top challenges for both SMBs and large corporations. We have been interviewing companies from around the world to discover what challenges they are facing in their businesses. We also asked each company to share business advice they would give to a younger version of themselves.

Below is our interview with Shirley Chen, Founder and CEO at Narrativ:

What does your company do?

Narrativ’s mission is to support an independent and sustainable media ecosystem. We’re building renewable link technology that extends the lifetime of content, and in turn, helps consumers find what they’re looking for at the best price.

Narrativ’s journey begins in transforming “commerce content” - an editorial recommendation category that drives $60B of consumer spend per year. This category includes sites like the New York Times’ Wirecutter, Conde Nast’s GQ and Allure, and Buzzfeed.

Amazon monopolizes this content today, crippling publisher profits to one third of market value while stripping consumer choice. Beyond that, commerce content uses static links - 40% of the time, consumers encounter dead or out-of-stock landing pages or are not always presented with the best price.

Narrativ uses machine learning to rewire publisher content, unlocking its value. Our platform is freeing media from dependence on a single large advertiser, and creating a sustainable revenue model by fixing link decay.

What is your role? What do you enjoy most about your role?

I am the Founder and CEO of Narrativ. My job is to drive the mission, tone, and pace of our team. I also provide a foundation for our company’s values:

- Creativity: Releasing rules defined by how things have been done and reimagining how things could be done
- Disciplined risk taking: Conducting experiments and ruthlessly improving, not taking blind risks
- Diversity: Our team of 17 represent 12 ethnicities and nationalities, 2 are veterans, and 53% are women

My favorite part about my job is when anyone on my team comes up to me and says “I have an idea.” It’s thrilling to see my team’s new ideas accelerate our business and lead to results for our clients.

What are the biggest challenges in your business right now?

Narrativ is leading a sea change in how both marketers and publishers think about content. Shifting long held industry assumptions about how editorial should be monetized is certainly challenging. It’s taken us developing the right product and the right sales pitch over several iterations.

We’ve also been propelled by an industry awakening - sites like Wirecutter, Buzzfeed, and Wired have doubled down on providing consumers valuable advice through commerce content. At the same time they’re self-correcting an unhealthy dependence on Amazon. Narrativ’s mission is to support this independent and sustainable media ecosystem with our technology.

If you could go back in time, what business advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?

There’s a Chinese fable:

There was a farmer whose horse ran away. That evening all of his neighbors came to commiserate, “This is most unfortunate.” The farmer said, “Maybe.”

The next day the horse came back bringing seven wild horses with it. In the evening everybody came back, “Oh, isn’t that lucky. You now have eight horses!” The farmer said, “Maybe.”

The following day his son tried to break one of the horses, but he was thrown and broke his leg. The neighbors lamented, “Oh dear,” and the farmer responded, “Maybe.”

The next day the army conscription officers came, and they rejected his son because of his broken leg. Again all the neighbors said, “Isn’t that great!” The farmer said, “Maybe.”

It’s important to keep a level head through adversity and humility through fortune. Any challenge can become an opportunity.