Ben Clark | Episode 931
Ben Clark is the co-owner of Queen City Clay in Cincinnati, Ohio. Ben isn’t the founder of Queen City, but he is the buyer. In this conversation we talk about his journey with ceramics, Queen City Clay, and business ownership.
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Do you think you would be willing to start something like this from scratch or did buying the business make it less daunting?
I would absolutely start something from scratch and I think having all of the owners that I could watch beforehand and see what I liked and didn’t like about their process was a huge bonus but I don’t think it’s necessary. I think anyone can do this from scratch as long as they are driven and they are a people person.
You have a partner. Would you be willing to run a business like this without someone who has skin in the game with you?
No. I cannot do the money side and the people side and still be the positive person that I am. I would hate my life dealing with the money side all the time. It would be a soul crushing venture at that point and so I would say 100 percent I need the partner in this process.
Couldn’t you just hire that position out?
I could but the fact that I have 100 percent trust in my partner to have my best interest at heart, that is a hard thing to come by when you are just hiring someone to do that. I know people say don’t go into business with your friends but this scenario worked out so well that I would do it again and again and again. Just have a good contract.
Do you see other teaching studios as competition or as part of the community that you team up with?
I think there’s room especially in a community this size for several teaching studios to all work together and be successful. I think that every time you create an enemy and fight for the ground you are standing on you are failing to see the potential of a partnership. I always go for the partnership before trying to take a business down. It’s not who I am. I don’t like to work that way and I’ve seen it work over and over again where you create a partnership and everyone succeeds.
Do you ever struggle with that, not from your perspective, but people maybe bad-mouthing queen city?
Absolutely. And the way we deal with that is we look internally and we say, Are we succeeding with what we are doing and what we are good at? The answer is yes, so let’s continue to focus on that. It hasn’t hurt us in the past so let’s keep the process going. And that seems to be a great kind of guiding star, is just focus on what you are great at and keep that up and things will keep happening.
Do you look at the books at the end of the month and decide, Oh this is how much I have left over, therefore I get paid, or are you salaried and you get paid every week like everyone else in the company?
So the way we are set up we are salaried but at the end of the year or if it’s necessary, the middle of the year, for some life crisis or something we can take a distribution if needed. But for years we saved everything we could to make sure we had a giant buffer if there were any problems.
I know you have a long way to go before you retire but do you and your partner have an exit strategy planned for whatever reason?
We have hired and kept people that we hope will take over the business in the long term. My education director, our chief operating officer, those people are so invested in the business that we would love to see it go to them. And we would also would love for our kids to be a part of it if they chose that. So we have plans for both of those things and we would like those things to work together if possible.