Brandon Houston is the CEO of Switch Video. Based in Collingwood, Ontario and serving an international client base including several Fortune 500 companies, Switch produces animated explainer videos and motion graphics. Past Switch Video clients include LinkedIn, Amazon, Microsoft, American Express, IBM, HP, Bayer and many more. Previous to Switch, Brandon ran a boutique web development studio for 11 years that specialized in custom web and mobile development and online marketing. Brandon helped to found a small business incubator dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs and sat on a municipal economic development council. Follow him @BrandonHouston.
Who’s your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
My biggest hero is my late grandfather, Casey Maynard. As an entrepreneur, he ran a business that he loved to work in every day. As a person, he was one of the kindest I knew. He taught me the value of hard work and the importance of doing what you love. He instilled the belief in me that success isn’t about being the richest or most well-known. You’re successful in life if you’re following a path that brings you happiness. He wasn’t the richest man in the world in terms of money, but when it comes to happiness he certainly was the wealthiest I knew. Second in line to him is Richard Branson. I admire him for his philanthropy and general outlook on business leadership and entrepreneurship. Those two people exemplify the type of leader and type of person I strive to be.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
Praise your people! Many say the customer is most important, but I disagree. Your team is. It’s easy to go the extra mile for a client, under-promise, and over-deliver. But if you want to really elevate your business, then go the extra mile for your employees. You’ll find building a better business from the inside out through empowering and applauding your team will take you a lot further. After all, you may be the leader, but they’re the real driving force behind your business. Whether it’s through providing days of, recognizing accomplishments, thanking them, or simply having conversations. Treat your team like a family.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
Take time for your family and yourself. If you don’t, your personal life will suffer and in turn your business will feel the effects. In my first business, I spent the first few years all-in, working day and night. My home life suffered. And while initially it helped in building my company, it eventually caused burnout and relationship failures. The stress of a damaged home life bleeds back into your work and becomes toxic. While it’s important for an entrepreneur to work exceptionally hard, make sure you take time out for yourself and your loved ones. Being a successful entrepreneur is lonely when you don’t have anyone to share it with.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I have my coffee, hold a company meeting, and check my email (usually in that order). Every night I always make a list for the next day so I know what I need to accomplish. Three days a week we do a short standing meeting to review our tasks for the day. It’s a quick way to get everyone together and say good morning. One day of the week we do a sales and marketing update and another day we do a trend report. It takes us away from the normal standing and piles us into the boardroom, where we can share latest trends, ads, or other timely events.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Monitor cash flow daily and run as lean as possible. Bootstrap if you’re able to and don’t go into it with the big dream of raising funding. You should always look for ways to fund yourself and build sustainability before even thinking about investors. I see too many startups out the gate talking about securing investors and dishing out equity before they even have a business. It’s completely backward. Build a strong foundation on your own first and only take on an investor if absolutely necessary. The opposite is a surefire way of giving your business away before you even get it going — or worse, burying it before it has legs.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Make yourself uncomfortable. No one has ever built a massively successful business by staying in their comfort zone. The best businesses have come from people willing to stick their necks out and make noise. Be the noisemaker.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Success is an evolving path. What may be seen as successful one day may be just a stepping stone the next. Success is the long game. It’s iterations of small accomplishments throughout the entire life of your business. If I get to a point where I can walk away from my business, look back, and see a thriving organization continuing after me, I’ll have been successful.