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Five years in business – what I’ve learnt

Benoit Simoneau

514 Media celebrated its fifth anniversary earlier this month. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster, and a great learning experience too. Five years in, here are some of the things I’ve learnt on this entrepreneurial journey.

  • Love for a job well done goes a long way toward securing repeat business.
  • Be careful who you trust. This really is self-explanatory, and not just applicable to the business world, of course. That said, an entrepreneurial journey is filled with incredibly rewarding encounters and exchanges. Being on your guard at all times may not be practical, and it might even stifle the very serendipitous encounters one will eventually thrive upon. A good dose of realism will go a long way.
  • Success breeds success. It also breeds envy. Refer to the previous point to ensure you don’t fall prey to those who will try to take you down.
  • Business is a promise. It’s a promise to your clients; it’s a promise to your suppliers; it’s a promise to the taxman; and it’s a promise to society in general. Anyone can make promises; keeping them at all times is the road to excellence.
  • Business is also the intersection of multiple interests. You’ve got to aim for that sweet spot that leaves every stakeholder satisfied. That includes operating in ways that are both sustainable and scalable. If you don’t, not only will you not have a business to speak of – there won’t be a planet left that’s habitable. The stakes are high and they couldn’t be higher.
  • A wife (or a husband, or a partner) is a great sounding board. Before a team can actually take shape, the first team really is one’s own family. It’s incredibly helpful being able to share ideas and worries with someone who genuinely cares.
  • Recruitment is fraught with difficulties. There’s a reason why people make human resources their specialty. It’s difficult to ascertain talent, and when building a business one must surround oneself with the right sort of people. I’ve been fairly lucky so far in this department, and it would be naive to think I’ll continue being this lucky going forward. It is therefore essential to enlist the right sort of help, at the right time.
  • Not counting the hours can be a dangerous thing and it’s an easy trap to fall into. In fact, I would even say working long hours is the normal thing to do at first, when there’s so much at stake. But it’s both undesirable and unsustainable in the long run. A viable business is one that is built in such a way that, in time, it can function without the founder intervening constantly.

This is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination! I’m incredibly excited about what the next five years might bring, and I will no doubt learn a lot more along the way.