“One day, I decided to become an entrepreneur.” Running your own business is a challenge for some, a means to an end for others… or even a calling. As an autodidact, and founder of 3 companies, Stephane Maloisel knows this path well. After a 30 year career as a businessman, he gives us four pieces of advice to help you to answer your calling.
A serial entrepreneur
“One day, I decided to become an entrepreneur,” Stephane Maloisel recently confided to me. A vocation that was not an obvious one, having left school at 17 to become a musician. Following this first career attempt, Stephane Maloisel passed through several jobs in the food sector and a handful of night classes before finding himself a few years down the track as a manager in the food sector. At that moment, he took an opportunity that beckoned to become the director of a company.
Following these first steps in the world of entrepreneurship, he next became a shareholder of a large company, then the creator of an SME (Les Repas Santé), a partner in a new business (Actimeat), and finally a start-up founder (Baby-Clips). Here is his advice to nascent startuppers.
1 – Identify the motivations for your calling
Why? If we all like a bit of armchair psychology, it is none the less a good means of making sure you are not wasting your time. The world of entrepreneurship offers many possibilities: beyond the role of business owner, you can be employed as a director of a large company, be a shareholder, a management consulting, a business developer for an SME etc. Each role has its own pros and cons.
At the beginning of his career, one strong motivation pushing Stephane Maloisel (as he sees it today) to quit his job as company director was his self-described character as a bit of a loose cannon. “I was stifled in trying to take the initiative, a bit frustrated in terms of my creativity. During my first salaried jobs, I was pretty unimpressed by the slowness and the obstacles that you find in large companies. I am a very independent person so I wanted to make the decisions myself.”
2 – Know your limits
“In the middle of my career, for about 5 years, I looked for a company to buy. After having evaluated nearly 200 of them, I always found some reason to be turned off. And then I got to the heart of the problem.”
“If originally, I found my calling from wanting to be my own boss, I understood that my own limits were going to make the choice for me.” No point, then, becoming a shareholder among many. Stephane Maloisel wanted to found his own business. “I am a builder by nature. I like putting together teams, business plans, knowing every corner of a factory… I need to touch, to be grounded. And in human terms, to be able to put a face to every name on my team.”
3 – Finances: the real decision-maker
“As a manager, you make your own strategy. But you should never underestimate the importance of finances, which are the company’s fuel,” advises Stephane Maloisel to young entrepreneurs.
As the founder and owner of a growing business, when it was necessary to reinvest to support our development, my financial backers preferred to capitalise by selling the company. I was confronted with a difficult decision and I ended up selling Les Repas Santé,” he recalls, “Which I don’t regret today.”
As an self-taught businessman, Stephane Maloisel admits that a lack of financial know-how was costly at the beginning of his career. “I quickly realised that the most important thing was our cash-flow. It’s what gives you the chance to employ a development strategy.” This is why it is important to have the tools to analyse your finances, even if it means calling on outside help. “When I was young, I wanted to go it alone. Today, I am happy to share my experience with startuppers through investors clubs.”
4 – Learn from your failures
“Sometimes, a success lets you think that everything you touch will turn to gold. That’s not always the case.” Stephane Maloisel strongly advises young entrepreneurs to remain clear-headed. “You always need to keep your feet on the ground. We all tend to invest so much belief in a project that we forget to analyse… And that’s when you make a mistake.”
This testimonial echos his adventure within Baby Clips. “It was a mistake,” he admits, “for our product was not a product but an accessory. And you can’t build a company around an accessory.” What lessons has he learned? “You will always make mistakes. But you have to accept them, analyse them, and bounce back to try again.”
“Despite my failures, the life of a business owner is a life of challenges and of satisfaction. Today, I wouldn’t give it up for anything,” he concludes. And he is proud of having passed his taste for entrepreneurship to one of his daughters.
By Christophe Breuillet
Managing director of Vitagora and AcceleRise, Christophe is the big boss! His various areas of expertise cover innovation and food business development, internationalisation and influence strategies… basically Food “Business” with a capital B! You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org