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“You should always make plans as a leader for the future.” With Charlie Katz & Leslie Crawford

The most common mistakes I have seen companies do during difficult times are not showing up for their business when things get tough, poor customer service, and lack of communication. I have noticed when things get tough for companies, and they stop showing up. They allow what’s going on to defeat them. It seems as […]

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The most common mistakes I have seen companies do during difficult times are not showing up for their business when things get tough, poor customer service, and lack of communication. I have noticed when things get tough for companies, and they stop showing up. They allow what’s going on to defeat them. It seems as if they quit because things aren’t going their way. Poor customer service is another thing I run into. For example, when COVID-19 occurred, there were a lot of shipping delays, which was no fault of the business shipping the product, but the lack of customer service and empathy to their customers was terrible. A customer shouldn’t have to contact you multiple times to find out where the product is. Communication early on resolves most problems. This goes into my final point, lack of communication. During difficult times a business should be consistently communicating to those involved about what is going on. Don’t keep secrets because they always come out.


As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Leslie Crawford.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Leslie has successfully navigated the pages of her own story right before our eyes. With over ten years of experience, she has self-published six books of her own while also guiding other authors. Leslie began Exposed Books Publishing, LLC, in 2013 to support other authors in need.

In 2018 she was able to turn her passion into her full-time business. In that same year, Leslie also knew that she wanted to do something different with her writing. Instantly an idea came about, and Leslie created When Children Write. When Children Write is a literacy program where Leslie works with young girls and boys, where she teaches them the process of writing and publishing a book. Since officially launching the program in October 2018, Leslie has held several after school programs in various schools throughout the state of Maryland. From 2018 to 2020, Leslie has turned over 200 students in published authors by writing short stories.

As an author herself, Leslie is empathetic to the needs of first-time authors. She understands how nerve-wracking and scary that the literary world can be so her industry knowledge is credible. Exposed Books Publishing LLC also offers editing, mentoring programs, self-publishing services, and self-publishing workbooks that serve as the blueprint for various types of written work templates for interested authors.

Leslie also created The Literacy Shop in 2020. The Literacy Shop was birthed from a couple of conversations Leslie had with a few of her fifth-grade students. Leslie students said, “We don’t like reading because there aren’t any books we can relate to.” In March 2020, as the pandemic ripped across the world, Leslie stopped and started writing again. Leslie created different book series for all ages to promote not only reading but also self-awareness. Leslie set out on a journey to make reading cool again.

Leslie has also been featured in various media platforms such as Sheen Magazine, Digital Journal, and Fox21. She is maneuvering like a boss as she inspires others through literature.


Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Yes, I love sharing my story because it’s simple but powerful. Growing up, I always loved to read. My first set of chapter books in Elementary School was Sweet Valley High and The Babysitters Club. In 1994 I was introduced to my first urban fiction book by my eighth-grade teacher, Fly Girl, by Omar Tyree. I was thirteen years old, and that was when I fell in love with urban fiction. As I got older, I always took the safe route or the route that I thought I had to take. I graduate from high school, go to college, and find a good corporate or government job. I did that until I got tired of doing that, lol. After graduating from college with my bachelor’s, I asked myself if I could write a book. I was still a big fan of urban fiction, and even as a kid, I often made up stories in my head. In 2008, I started writing and finally published my first book, Forbidden Fruit, in 2010. From there, I created more stories and started my own publishing company, Exposed Books Publishing. As time went on, I knew working in corporate America was no longer for me. In 2017 after being asked to help others write their story or give them publishing tips, I started moving forward to running my business full-time. On October 26, 2018, I walked away from the financial industry after 14 years. My ultimate goal with Exposed Books Publishing was to help up and coming authors with their stories. It’s not always easy to be picked up by an agent who will place you with a traditional publisher. I wanted to show them another way, self-publishing. Starting in 2019, I started gaining clients that wanted to tell their story but didn’t know how to get it out there. Even when things were slow, I continued to build. I found areas in this industry that I thought needed improvement. I saw something in my community that needed fixing. During this process in 2018, I saw there was a significant literacy problem within the school systems. I did what I loved and turned it into an after-school program called When Children Write. I created a program that was placed in six different schools, where I taught students how to write and publish a book. The program was doing great until COVID-19 hit. Before the pandemic, I was able to turn over 200 elementary school students into published authors through writing short stories. When the pandemic hit, I knew I had to find alternate ways for people to get their stories out. From March 2020 to June 2020, I was able to create three different businesses/programs that would help out the everyday person that wanted to tell their story. For my program When Children Write, I created a virtual writing camp along with some self-pace virtual courses students could take. If you have a child that would like to write and publish a book, the self-pace course will guide them through the entire process. On June 1, 2020, I launched an online bookstore called The Literacy Shop. The Literacy Shop was initially a new platform for me to place my new children’s books on, but I received a word in my spirit that I needed to offer this platform to other authors. The Literacy Shop offers various books from birth to high school by several authors. I wanted to give these authors a chance to display their books somewhere other than the typical websites. It’s not easy to get your book inside of a bookstore; I wanted to give them a chance. Finally, in June 2020, I also created a mentoring program called Building A Business From The Pen. It’s a mentoring program for adults where I help them not only write a book but build a business from it. Even when the world was filled with chaos, I used that time to develop and expand my business. My overall goal is always to help other authors shine.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Wow! This is a story I always share. Anyone that follows me or has worked with me will tell you that this is my number one story. After I wrote my first book, Forbidden Fruit, I edited it myself. It wasn’t that I couldn’t afford an editor, I wasn’t at that stage in my life where I wanted to invest in myself. I thought because I was good at English and could write an A paper, I could edit a book. That would be a no. The storyline was great, but the editing job was horrible. I missed so many things. Lucky for me, I didn’t sell that many copies. Pretty much people I knew bought it. I did invest in an editor later and had the book reprinted. If you plan to be an author, invest in an editor. Starting on the day you write your first word, create a budget for the editing process. Even if it’s putting money to the side every week, you’ll be prepared. The second set of eyes is always best. After years of training, I am capable of editing books for authors.

None of us are able achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There were a lot of people that played an essential part in my success. Even though I had a lot of supporters throughout this journey, there was one person that pushed me out of my comfort zone. I invested in a business coach. Raevyn Hokett was a lifeline for me. On the days I wanted to quit, she wouldn’t allow me to. When I told her my ideas, she pushed me and pushed me to execute them. I always had a bad habit of creating ideas, but there was no execution behind the idea. A lot of business coaches are about getting money and not building relationships. She genuinely wanted to see me win.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

My vision and purpose changed within the past year. I’ll be honest; when I first started, I only wanted to reap the benefits of my work. I wanted to self-publish my books and keep 100% of the profits. During the past two years, all of that changed for me. It was no longer about me. I wanted to see others win. I saw so many authors struggling with getting consistent book sales. I noticed they weren’t showing up for their business (books). My vision and purpose now are to help those that don’t know how to help themselves. I want to see everyone win, and that’s what I strive for.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

I have a team of one, myself, as I mentioned before I had an after-school program that was going great. Before COVID-19 happened, that program was generating about 90% of my business income. When they were speaking about schools being closed, the administration and I thought it would be for a couple of weeks, and things would be back to business as usual. The day schools were closed here in Maryland, and I wasn’t worried. In my mind, we were going to pick back up soon. Then a month went by that lead to another month, and so on. Around May is when I realized I wasn’t getting that income back. I had to stop playing it safe and level up. I woke up early and went to bed late. I was continually working on different ways to generate income while still providing excellent service. I knew I had a household to take care of, and I wasn’t interested in quitting.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

Early on, I did consider giving up. I took three years off from writing. Between 2013 and 2016, I didn’t write anything, and I wasn’t interested in writing. I was dealing with a lot of personal things, and I felt like a failure. I wanted to quit everything. Even when I tried to stop, I kept receiving different story ideas in my mind. My thoughts wouldn’t allow me to stop, and those that read my previous books kept asking for the next one. I knew deep down I wanted to write full-time, but I had to pull myself out of the funk I was in. It was a funk of depression that was holding me back.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

The most critical role of a leader during challenging times is not to give up so easily. You have others watching you. If they see you’re not strong enough to handle hard times, they may feel defeated or walk away from you.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate, and engage their team?

Being in corporate America for 14 years, I saw all of the wrong ways of boosting morale. It’s not always about giving more money. More money is great, but do your employees know or believe they are valued. Be honest with your employees about what is going on. Don’t attempt to hide things they should know from them. This will cause them to lose faith and trust in you as an employer.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

With a team, I think it’s best to communicate difficult news together before the media finds out. The last thing you want is for your team to hear about something from someone on the outside. As soon as you find out, and have determined the best time, tell your team before you tell anyone else. Ensure your employees they are needed and valued. For your customers, be professional and communicate via email. Let them know what is going and ensure them you appreciate their business.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

You should always make plans as a leader for the future. No one knows what tomorrow will bring, but we should never live and make stuff up along the way because we have others depending on us. Have a backup plan. I have created a plan for the future and a continuity plan as plan B. This is what happens if plan A doesn’t work out. Even though the future is unpredictable, you should always be prepared for the what if’s.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Be prepared! I believe the number one principle for a company is to be prepared for the unknown. You never know what may happen. Next time it may not be a pandemic. The next issue could be a recession. Whatever it may be, now is the time to create a plan on how your company will handle various situations that could negatively impact you.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

The most common mistakes I have seen companies do during difficult times are not showing up for their business when things get tough, poor customer service, and lack of communication. I have noticed when things get tough for companies, and they stop showing up. They allow what’s going on to defeat them. It seems as if they quit because things aren’t going their way. Poor customer service is another thing I run into. For example, when COVID-19 occurred, there were a lot of shipping delays, which was no fault of the business shipping the product, but the lack of customer service and empathy to their customers was terrible. A customer shouldn’t have to contact you multiple times to find out where the product is. Communication early on resolves most problems. This goes into my final point, lack of communication. During difficult times a business should be consistently communicating to those involved about what is going on. Don’t keep secrets because they always come out.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

I always tell my clients to be willing to step out of your comfort zone. What was generating income during good times may no longer be profitable during turbulent times. Many entrepreneurs lose out because they’re too comfortable. At any time during your business, if you notice a portion of your business is slowing down in generating income, make a move. You may not move that particular service or product out, but for the time being, can it be replaced? Has it run its course? Your business model can change at any time to fit your lifestyle, your customer’s lifestyle, and any issues that may be occurring that’s out of your control.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

The five things a leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times are, be honest with everyone that will be affected, have a contingency plan in place, follow through on what you say you will do, for those that are affected by it, allow them to be able to communicate with you without going through red tape and provide resources for employees that may not be able to handle it as well as others.

When I was working in corporate America, there came a time when they had their first major layoffs. The company was laying off over 100 employees in one office. Many positions were being outsourced to the Philippians. The company first communicated to the individuals what was occurring and why. After they were told, everyone else remaining in the office was pulled into a meeting, and everything was relayed to them. This was a form of effective communication. Those that would be impacted the most were told first. They didn’t find out from here say. Management told those that were being laid off and the ones that weren’t, counseling would be provided for everyone. Even for those that weren’t losing their job, the company knew it could still affect them emotionally, which could lead to them not doing their job productively. This was a prime example of dealing with uncertain times.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Conduct a daily mirror check on your mind.” Leslie

This is a quote I created during the first year I was in business full-time. We often do mirror checks of our hair, clothes, makeup, and body. How often do we check on our minds? Your mindset plays an essential role in building and maintaining a successful business. There was a point in my life where my mind was everywhere but on my business. I had so many things going that I allowed it to take my focus away from something I was building. Having the wrong mindset not only cost me money and potential clients, but it cost me time. I can always get money and clients, but I will never be able to get my time back.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Readers can reach me via social media and my websites.

Instagram: @author_leslie, @theliteracyshop, and @when_children_write

Facebook: Author Leslie, The Literacy Shop, and When Children Write

Twitter: @Theliteracyshop

Websites: www.exposedbooks.comwww.theliteracyshop.com, and www.whenchildrenwrite.com

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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