The year was 2011. Justin Smith was the IT manager at a resort management company in Calgary when a lightbulb went off– why are enterprise-level IT services like this not available for small to medium sized businesses? It was during this ‘ah-ha moment’ that was born.
In 2012, along with co-founder Matt Baker, Justin launched Experiant to provide best-in-class IT services to small and mid-sized businesses, and at a reasonable price point. By working ‘smarter, not harder’ Experiant has doubled in size since it began.
Part of their success can be attributed to their approach towards quality over quantity. They will only bring on new clients when they know they can deliver exactly what the client wants and needs. It’s this boutique service that sets them apart and ensures deep client relationships are built from day 1.
What was life like before Experiant and what motivated you to quit your day job and start your own business?
I’ve been living and breathing IT for a very long time. When I had the idea to start Experiant, I was an IT Manager at a resort management company. In that role, I worked with the executive management team to develop IT strategies.
I always knew I wanted to start a business someday and I’d often talk about it with my now-business partner Matt. We’ve known each other for over 16 years and always worked in the IT industry, Even as roommates back in school there was talk about starting a company together–we just never got around to it. Until it happened kind of accidentally within the span of 2-3 weeks.
Matt was switching jobs and his new contract required him to be self-incorporated. Simultaneously, one of my old clients came to me and asked if I was interested in doing their IT. It was this aligning of stars that forced Matt and me to just look at each other and say ‘let’s do this’. We started the business from scratch and it’s been growing ever since.
Justin’ 3 pearls of wisdom for future entrepreneurs:
Ask yourself 3 questions:
- Is this something I truly love doing? You have to love it, especially when you’ve been working for 60 straight hours with no sign of letting up.
- Do you truly believe in the product/service you’re offering to your customer? What separates you from others? If the answer is nothing, then don’t do it.
- Are you ready to focus all of your time and energy for the next 3 full years? Be very aware of the commitment starting your own business takes and be prepared to make sacrifices. Running a business is extremely rewarding but it definitely comes at a cost, and not just to you but to your family as well.
Describe the biggest challenge you’ve experienced as a Small Business Owner and how you dealt with it.
There have been a couple of times where I felt I couldn’t go any further–like I really reached my limit. During these times, I rise above that hopeless feeling by channeling a deep seeded desire to help my clients succeed. Because when they succeed, I succeed.
I just have to keep reminding myself: ‘this is not about you’.
Share a story where you went above and beyond to solve a problem.
We want to be the best. We are not looking to be average. Our normal is above and beyond–That’s just what we do. We don’t want our clients to think ‘exceptional’ is a once-in-a-while thing. We are looking out for their interests from Day 1.
It’s a typical work day. Where can we find you in action?
Office and home.
Inspiration or perspiration?
Both hard work *and* inspiration. You need to have something bigger than yourself that inspires you, that gives you a reason to get up in the morning. But once you’re awake and out of bed, you’re the only one standing in your own way.
Who is your business role model?
The guy is one of the smartest people of our generation–not only talking about big ideas but making those ideas real. He revolutionizes every industry he touches (and some industries he hasn’t even touched yet). He is as close to a modern-day Howard Hughes as we’re going to get.
Do you have a motivational mantra or inspirational quote that helps get you out of bed in the morning?
“Always be better.”
No matter how good you are at something or how well you’ve mastered your material, you can always learn a little more, prepare a little longer, be a little better.
Work-Life balance is *tough* for a small business owner. How do you stay balanced?
I have season tickets to the Calgary Flames (NHL hockey team). When I’m at the game, aside from all-hands-emergencies, I am 100% unavailable. It’s my time to relax and have fun.
What’s next for Experiant?
Continue our upwards growth! Hopefully, reach more clients who are tired of their current IT departments taking too long to respond to requests or nickel and dime’ing them for every minuscule change and phone call.
Learn more about Justin and Experiant:
about the author
Amanda is a content editor at FreshBooks, writing and producing blog content to help small business owners achieve their goals and enjoy (yes, actually enjoy!) running their business. Amanda’s background in education and customer support makes her a natural communicator who loves empowering others to succeed. When she’s not writing and editing content, Amanda takes her dog, Jonny, on adventures searching for the best coleslaw in Toronto.