Lessons from Canada’s Most Powerful Business People

by Beth Rifkin

2 min read

Canada has had its fair share of successful entrepreneurs who are building wealth, changing industries, and making a positive impact on the world. Some notables include Stewart Butterfield of Slack, Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX, and Tonia Jahshan of Steeped Tea. Over the years, they have shared advice and lessons that they accumulated throughout their careers. Entrepreneurs should tap this wisdom to help them overcome obstacles, discover new insights, and achieve more success.

Stewart Butterfield: Take Pride in Your Work

Butterfield started the messaging startup, Slack, in 2013 as a solution to workplace email. It was actually a pivot from a gaming startup that failed. In August 2016, the company was valued at $3.8 billion after experiencing rapid user growth. One constant piece of advice that Butterfield gives out in interviews is, “Every job you do has your signature on it.” This advice was given to him by his father when he was around 10 years old after he made a huge mess while bringing in firewood from outside. This advice stuck with him. He puts 100% into everything he does, whether it’s a workout, a menial task, or a big project. This attitude has certainly been an asset to Butterfield; he has had two successful startups with Slack and Flickr. Additionally, he was quickly able to recover from his failed gaming startup and build something even bigger and more impactful.

Elon Musk: Work Hard

Elon Musk immigrated to Canada at the age of 17. Musk has already had a string of successful endeavors with Zip2, PayPal, SolarCity, Tesla, and SpaceX. Musk thinks big and is not afraid to take on entrenched competitors. For example, SpaceX is sending satellites to space, while Tesla is building electric cars that are competitive on a cost and quality basis. Anyone who works with Musk remarks on his incredible work ethic and ruthless focus. Even with his current success and wealth, he continues to put in 100-hour work weeks. Musk tends to be straightforward, and his advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is, “If you’re lazy, don’t waste your time starting a business.” When discussing entrepreneurship, many focus on the rewards and sidestep the sacrifices. However, it’s also inspiring, because hard work is accessible to anyone and is the means to achieving your goals.

Tonia Jahshan: Trust Your Gut

Tonia Jahshan started Steeped Tea, a company that sells loose leaf tea directly to customers. Within 10 years, her company has over $20 million in annual sales. Her advice is to trust your gut. She certainly embodies this advice; she started her business after enjoying a cup of tea on a vacation. That day, she bought loose leaf tea in bulk from a wholesale supplier and began plotting her direct sales model. Rather than overthinking and doing weeks of research, she followed her instincts, which told her that people were willing to pay a premium for delicious high-quality tea and acted immediately on this hunch. These entrepreneurs have attained immense success in their fields, but the advice they give is universal and relevant to all entrepreneurs. Taking pride in your work, working hard, and trusting your gut are simple pieces of advice, but applying them on a consistent basis will yield extraordinary results for your business.

References & Resources

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