"When my business collapsed, I had a breakdown. I considered suicide and went into therapy"

When ClearScore CEO Justin Basini's first business collapsed he hit rock bottom, but looking back, he says it taught him some valuable lessons about resilience.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 27 Sep 2019

Entrepreneurs rarely have a smooth ride, even if at first glance it looks like everything in their career has just fitted neatly into place. 

Take Justin Basini for example. His credit-checking business ClearScore is, in his own words, a rocketship. After being founded in 2014, it now has 10 and a half million users across three markets, 300 staff and is on the verge of launching in Australia. 

He’ll readily admit that up until his late 20s, he’d never really experienced failure. 

The son of Italian and Polish migrants, he was brought up in a household where the mindset was to go to school, get good grades and achieve. First class honours in Biochemistry from the University of Bristol led to an early management career at Procter & Gamble, followed by a stint in advertising, before he left to set up the London office of dot com consultancy company Differ in 2001. 

That’s when things changed. Differ did well for a year, then the market collapsed, taking the firm with it. 

"I essentially had a breakdown. I considered suicide and spent three years in therapy. That really helped me understand my strengths and weaknesses, the way my own brain was programmed, how I thought about things and how to handle the stress.  

"Looking back to how I reacted in that period, there are three things that I learned and that I’ve realised have been crucial for me when it comes to dealing with the ups and downs of business since.  

"At the time I got very into a negative cycle of just focusing on work. I thought that the answer to the problem at that time in my life was to work harder. If you’re already working 12 to 14 hour days, making yourself work 18 hours days is exactly the wrong thing to do because everything goes out of balance. 

"It’s really crucial to have that balance between work and the other things that are important in your life, whether it be your family, friends or a partner. So now I don’t actually believe in a nine to five. 

"It’s not a very wholesome idea that you work between set hours a day, and then your life happens outside of that. So I work on Sunday evenings for a few hours to prepare for the week ahead and sometimes I might work late, but other days I might only work three hours. I say to my staff, there’s no clock watching, you can do your work whenever you want to do it. We measure people on what they deliver. 

"I also learned that staying physically fit is important to me personally, so I spend a lot of time maintaining that. I box twice a week, I run and try to exercise in some shape or form everyday.

"Building businesses and taking the pressure that comes with it is arduous, and if you’re physically fit you’re just much better at handling that. You also get the massive advantage of endorphins, taking your mind off what is happening at work so you make clear decisions. 

"The third biggest lesson I learnt is just mental fitness. I meditate most days now. I’m not saying it’s for everybody but to me it’s about giving myself space to think, to calm down and take a step back. 

"That experience has enabled me to prepare myself to handle the pressure of fast growth and the hurdles that have come over my career."

Image credit: courtesy of ClearScore


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