Brett Serjeantson is the founder of MediaMiser, an SaaS company that developed solutions for marketing and public relation (PR) professionals.
Their analysis software and solutions monitor a variety of different media platforms, both traditional and social, and uses their content to derive business intelligence in the form of analytical reports and media briefings.
Although the company has experienced great success, Brett didn’t always envision becoming the creator of such a large software firm. “I wanted to be a pilot,” he says, “but that never seemed like a reality, so I had to look for the next opportunity.”
Brett attended Western University in 1988 and graduated with a BA in History. Not knowing what to do next, he attended Algonquin College and received a diploma in PR. Around this time Brett started experimenting with multimedia, becoming an early adopter of the Internet and started pursuing a career in technology.
Though he already had an adequate amount of knowledge at programming and software development, Brett went back to school where he attended Algonquin College to bolster his abilities in the discipline. A few years into the program, Brett, and his wife were supporting three children and he knew that continuing to pursue his studies would not be sustainable for his family. As a result, rather than completing his degree, he packed in as many courses that he felt necessary to maximize his abilities in the field, before ultimately leaving school in 2001 to start his own business.
When asked about the importance of going to university and acquiring a degree before starting a company, he said, “It's like as if your trying to get somewhere. You can either get there yourself, or you can use a map which may offer a simpler path. The same can be said about starting a business. You can start it on your own, or you can use the resources that are available such as school, to make getting there a lot easier.”
Brett discovered a niche market, in which he blended the concepts of some already established software with a variety of media platforms to create something that he felt would benefit both people working in marketing, as well as PR. The result was MediaMiser. He built the patented software himself, without any external funding, and brought it right into the market where it ultimately excelled. Some companies that used his software included Labatt Breweries, Home Depot, Virgin Mobile, and many more. MediaMiser was eventually bought out by Innodata in 2014 for $5.78 million.
I asked Brett what he thought were the most important qualities/skills that attributed to his success and that he would advise other up-and-coming entrepreneurs to follow. He responded with:
- Hard worker
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Entrepreneurship is credited as being one of the most challenging career choices, as you must begin with nothing in most cases and grow it into something spectacular. Hard work is reflected in the quality of your business.
Starting a business comes with a lot of barriers, and some will knock you down. The true entrepreneurs are those who can overcome these challenges and continue to succeed. Brett uses the example of Michael Jordan getting cut from his high school basketball team. “Imagine if he had just given up.” Michael Jordan went on to become one of the all-time greats in the sport, and it was his perseverance that ultimately led him there.
- Like what you do
Passion is contagious, and it will show in the product you sell if you truly love what you do. Entrepreneurship allows you to be creative, to be your own boss, and choose the industry best suits your interest. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing it would be strongly advised to get out of the business before you make a significant investment of both your time and money.
- Don't do it just for the money
Unfortunately, money has become a necessity in people's minds and they are getting more hung up on the big bucks rather than perfecting their concept. In entrepreneurship, money should come second to passion. If you aren’t passionate about your business and don’t love what you're doing, then you may be in the wrong field.
- Have some sense of doubt
One way to strive as an entrepreneur is the drive to prove someone or something wrong. Your friends will tell you that your idea is terrible, but there is no better feeling than proving those doubters wrong. Doubt will ultimately drive you towards further success.
I also asked Brett what he thought were the most common mistakes made in today’s entrepreneurial practices. He answered with:
- Getting hung up on mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes, and entrepreneurship is no exception. As Brett states it “there’s no better way to learn than by making mistakes.” There’s always room to bounce back, but you must first and foremost overcome the many missteps and move on.
Some people make insane capital investments when they decide to start up a business and find themselves drowned in huge amounts of debt down the road. Start small, and slowly work your way up. There's no reason to go big right away and risk your business failing.
- Doubt in yourself
People tend to frequently doubt themselves. Your mindset towards a specific task is key to its overall execution, therefore you must have faith in yourself and realize that with enough hard work anything is possible.
- Doing everything yourself
A common misconception is that running your own business means that you are in charge of all the company’s core operations. Play to your strengths and distribute tasks that don’t necessarily meet your core abilities with others who are more qualified in those specific areas. Sharing the work allows you to focus on areas of the company that your more comfortable with, which will, in turn, lead to further success and more freedom within your schedule. This is why partnerships are normally strongly recommended.
- Only doing it for the money
As mentioned earlier, if you’re not passionate about your business, it will reflect poorly on the product or service that you are trying to sell. Money should once again only come second to passion, and should only be viewed only as a reward for all the hard work you put in.