I don’t write nearly as much as I used to at one point but I thought it was appropriate to do a blog on the 5th anniversary of me quitting my job and going full time at Eligeo. I figure that I can lend a few suggestions to other aspiring entrepreneurs and provide a few tips as well. I’m pretty fortunate to get to this point as many of you have heard, the numbers are stacked against you. Statistics Canada says that 8 out of 10 businesses will FAIL within the first 3-years.
But guess what? Failure isn’t such a bad thing. I would much prefer people that work for me or partner with me take a chance to make a difference and screw up then to never take that chance. Obviously, a calculated risk is much smarter than doing something for the sake of it but if you never try, you never learn and will never get anywhere. But, with that said, I hate to lose and hate to fail. When I fail at something, I pull up my pants, throw on the hard hat and I go 10x harder than I ever have before.
But now, let’s get into what I’ve learned. Here are my top 5 things:
I have a lot of respect for people who will do things for free to give back. I was extremely fortunate to meet a number of incredible individuals who have had a hand in my success to this day. There are so many to mention but the ones that stick out the most are Brian Milloy, Linda Griffioen, Shayne Dow, Sue Friendship, Lazzaro Mautone and if we really want to go back far, my Dad who is no longer with us. Each of these people has supported me and given me advice that’s helped shaped not only the way Eligeo runs but the way my life runs. All I can say is, find mentors, use them as much as possible and absorb that as much as possible. Ask a lot of questions even if they are stupid, you won’t regret it.
Last note on mentors: don’t forget to pay it forward. My turn to pay it forward is coming pretty quick.
I once had one of my mentors tell me that one of my employees would walk through fire for me. Unfortunately that employee probably wouldn’t do that today due to our struggles early on, but it emphasized how important people are in a company. You can’t just hire any run of the mill people, you need to find people that will walk through fire for you. I’m fortunate enough to have a great staff today that would do just that and I would do the same for them. For me the people in your company are the key ingredient for success. You might not be able to pay them as much as the bigger guys and in some cases might not be able to provide benefits, but give them the best possible working environment, the best opportunity to learn and the best opportunity to grow as an individual and they will pay you back 10 fold.
I hate delegating. I think I can do it all myself. At least I used to think that up until the last couple of years. To grow a business properly you need to delegate tasks that you shouldn’t be doing. I used to do my book keeping for the first 2 years and then I eventually met Gillian who’s done my books since. She is a SUPER STAR and gave me heck several times for thinking it was a good idea to over haul QuickBooks on a regular basis. These days I stick to my accounting reports to stay informed. Learn to delegate and let others make a masterpiece of a process that you might not be interested in or plain shouldn’t be doing. Be the CEO or the President, that’s your job. I’m still working on it 5 years later but I’m getting better every day.
When it comes to doing business with me, I am full of integrity. My word is my word and my hand shake is as strong of a bond as any contract. I still do sign contracts but I stand by everything I say with customers and if they are not happy I make it right. I learned that we picked a few clients over the years that were just not a fit but we took them on for money. Ultimately we shouldn’t have brought them on as we were unable to deliver and the integrity side of me made it right with them but ultimately cost us a lot of money. But my values are extremely important to me and I would never try to screw someone even though I’ve been screwed before several times. You simply learn that you need to deal only with people who have the same level of integrity as you and not to get bogged down by the actions of others.
Treat people the way you want to be treated and trust me, it will come back in a big way.
5. Personal Life
I probably only learned this lesson in the last 8 – 10 months to be honest, but what I really learned is that your personal life is extremely important. Do whatever you need to do to keep a handle on having a personal life, I didn’t do this. I was consumed by my business to the point where my girlfriend (who I thought I would marry) asked me a year into the business the following question:
“Is your business more important than me?”
You can use your imagination, but I can tell you that she wasn’t impressed with the answer. That ruined the relationship forever even though it took several years for it to finally end. That wasn’t the only thing that was impacted but I became non-existent to a lot of friends, didn’t go out as much since I thought it made sense to work. It got to the point where work was work when I was even surfing the web looking at nothing. It wasn’t healthy.
Now I have fun and I want to encourage everyone to realize that you MUST have fun. Go on a vacation, enjoy the people around you and I’m recently finding out that you need to find the right person to even fall in love with again. If you put the right people around you in both personal and business you’ll be set for life and business.
So what’s up for the next 5 years?
Great question! I’m still pushing ahead to grow and build Canada’s greatest CRM consulting company that serves businesses in the friendliest way possible. Everything I’ve mentioned above I am going to keep working on and improving in both my business and life as well. I’m going to emphasize the personal life things a lot more and I already started that this year with a number of trips that have included New York, Amsterdam, Moscow and Montreal this year alone. Although they are business trips, I am always packing in days to explore and learn (although Amsterdam was 100% fun time).
I have a lot to learn still and I will keep learning as I go forward. You might even see that I’ll start doing the pay back thing myself soon as I explore taking on a mentorship role myself so that I can help the next young entrepreneur.
A few big thanks:
Brian – Amazing man, caring father and daredevil. He’s always been there as my key mentor and friend.
Sue – Although I haven’t seen you in a long time, you were key for me to grow into a business person.
Joel – First employee, not on friendliest terms anymore but I owe him more than just a big thanks. Hopefully someday I have that opportunity.
CYBF – All of the staff there that helped fund my first kick at the can.
Sharon & Kevin – You guys were instrumental in getting me into the tech world at 16.
Roger – My first customer and still a current one.
James/Don/Brian – You guys have invested your hard earned money into this business, thank you for your support and friendship.
Doug/Brad A./David/Karim/Ian – Thank you for being great employees and great friends.
Bob – Thanks for showing me how important it is to give back to our communities.
Arthur/Kim/Gillian/Laz – Staff and contractors, you guys rock and help me keep things ticking.
Gena – You kick ass and you know why.
Everybody else – I missed MANY people as there are many who have impacted me greatly. But thank you and feel free to give me heck if I forgot your name.
My Mom – You thought I was crazy for starting this but I know you’ve always been in my corner.
Finally. Never far from my thoughts, my dad, Elmer Major. It’s been 12-years since we lost you and all I know is that you’re looking down and without a doubt smiling proud while guiding me through the messes I create and achieve the successes that I reach. You are always my greatest idol and I wish you were here to share in this journey with me. I miss you more than anything.