Louis Venter is the CEO of MediaVision, a London based digital marketing agency who work with leading brands including the likes of Aquascutum and Dickies.
Before starting out in business, Louis actually wanted to be an accountant. But after discovering a love for computer programming he started his own web development agency in 1999, which was eventually bought out by a large publishing firm. In 2003 He launched MediaVision, which has grown into the successful agency that it is today.
Louis was kind enough to answer some of our questions about what it's like to start a business, and share some of his advice below.
What are some words of wisdom you can share after 10 years of experience?
It’s difficult to distil it into a few lines, to be honest. I’d say there are two constants at any time which you need to learn to live with. The first is change. You must continually adapt to the market and plan improvement at every level or you will almost certainly lose out to the competition.
The second constant is tenacity. If you don’t have the drive to achieve your goals, you will quickly get knocked back. Remember, you started the business for a reason, so stay true to that and hang onto it, especially during the tough times.
Share some common challenges and pitfalls people make when first starting their own companies.
The one I see over and over again is that people first starting out think that the road to success is going to be quick. Typically, I would advise halving your initial financial projections, as that will be a more realistic approach. If you still come out and survive then great, and if not, then you will need to have a plan B in place from the start.
The second common pitfall is that people think that starting their own business will be easier than having a job with a boss. That’s never the case, as entrepreneurs are usually tougher on themselves than any boss could be. As a business owner, you don’t get to go home and completely switch off as you otherwise would. Additionally, make sure you consider the importance of timing when starting your own business. I started my first business around the same time that I found out I was going to become a dad. That realisation added a whole lot of complexity to an already challenging situation, so be realistic about how much time and energy you need.
What are some things to consider when starting a business?
It’s a given, but you wouldn’t be contemplating a business unless you have a great idea that you are passionate about. The second thing to consider is when and where the money is coming from. I’m not talking about the amount of start-up capital you may have, I’m talking about your sales numbers. If you don’t have a plan, you will most certainly run short on the start-up capital regardless of how much that is. Once you sort out the numbers, you can then plan backwards to team delivery etc. It may be that you work part-time for a while to get that in place before making the break on your own. Have something ready, as inevitable delays will eat into your cash quicker than you can say ‘boo’.
Once you have your timeline, you can then work out the rest of the plan, such as location, brand positioning etc.
Do you have any tips for anyone leading a team?
Firstly, it’s important to communicate well. If someone in your team is missing the mark, first check if you have given them enough briefing to succeed. If you haven’t, then work together to create a plan, as it will empower and help them to be more employable for future positions/projects.
Secondly, it’s O.K to expect a lot from your team. This is your business after all. If your expectations are poorly identified or sloppy, then so too will be the delivery of your vision. Set and communicate your standard to your team and when you feel that it’s slipping, address it before it slips out your grasp. This level of expectation will instil a strong work ethic and serve as a core component that your team will use to set the pace for new team members who may be subpar. All sense of leadership stems from you and leading a team is when your tenacity will be tested most.
What should one look for when recruiting employees?
When recruiting employees, don’t settle for someone in the interview process. Every time we have done that, it’s been a mistake. Recruitment is the toughest thing to get right, but if you hear yourself saying they’re the best that applied, stop and start the interview process again. It never works out if you aren’t happy in the interview.
Between experience and attitude, which quality do you look for in a potential employee and why?
An employee’s attitude needs to be right. I would go with someone who communicates well and is hungry for the position over someone more qualified, but aloof. You can train someone to do the job, but you can’t train personality. In our industry, good communication skills are a must, so there is little value to brilliance, if it cannot be effectively communicated with the team.
What are some tips to stay current during changing times?
To stay current, you first need to view your competitors as rivals and constantly strive to be better than them. If your competitor wins an award that you were nominated for, it hurts not only you, but the morale of your team and should therefore be used as motivation to improve overall results. Challenge your team to set the bar higher. If you develop that culture of permanent improvement, you will never rest on your laurels and get behind the curve. It can be exhausting to go at it alone, so make sure to have a management team that shares your vision, so it can serve as team lead and permeate throughout the entire business.