For 10 years, Sir Sanju Ganglani’s digital marketing agency gang&lani media, AskUsForAnything, has been serving the global business community with a presence in North America, Europe, and Africa. He specializes in serving B2B and B2C clients requiring assistance in marketing: traditional and digital with a primary focus on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Social Media, Design & Branding, Print, and Website Development.
Sir Sanju has worked with companies from single-person entrepreneurs to fortune 500 companies and he tailors packages to meet the needs of every client. All corporations have the challenge of not only worrying about their daily operations but how they will specifically market their products or services to their clients and ensure ROI while retaining a great client experience.
Being an entrepreneur most of his career, Sanju understands what level of dedication and support is necessary to help make a business successful. His wife and partner Saliena, holds both an MBA and MHA, and is an integral resource, providing her expertise in healthcare marketing, finance, and client services.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Sir Sanju Ganglani: Thank you for having me!
To take it all back, I was actually born in Africa in a city called Abidjan which is in Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). We immigrated to Toronto, Canada, when I was 3 and besides a year in India when I was in grade 6, have been in Toronto ever since. I come from a family of generations of entrepreneurs, and after some time of getting settled in a new country where we knew one family and it snowed a lot, my dad decided to go back to owning and operating an import and export business.
Like most new immigrant families, I saw my parents struggle for many years to get settled in this country in the 80s but I learned many lessons at that time in my life about the value of material things, and above all, family. In the 90s my dad found his true passion, Real Estate, and pursued his license. But he refused to work for anyone other than himself. This sunk into my subconscious more than he knew.
While this was going on, and I and my brother were getting our education, my mother was the glue to everything. She taught me the compassion necessary to build bonds and loyalty with people. It was never a dull moment with many life lessons. Learning how to support people and be patient were some of the biggest philosophies I apply today. I have no idea how she did it all.
When I was in my teens, web development was on the rise. I remember using my dad’s massive desktop (which I now call the tank), to teach myself HTML and how web development worked. My parents supported my desire to start a business selling websites to local businesses in Toronto. We saw success for many years and when it came to deciding on my education, we transitioned the business out.
Talking about education, I actually went to school to be a systems analyst. Figured if I liked coding and I understood business, I could create a niche for myself. When I was done, I realized that was not actually something I wanted to do, I wanted to run a business and be the consultant who grew it on the front end versus the back end.
To get the experience I needed, I started my career with NCR, literally selling paper and printers. I moved from cold sales, to account management to managing a team of sales professionals double my age. From there I transitioned into Microsoft where I was doing what I thought was my dream job — consulting with Microsoft Partners to help them grow their sales, technical adoption, marketing, and advocating their presence within Microsoft for funding opportunities.
At Microsoft is where I found my passion — Marketing. The crazy part? I almost didn’t take that job.
While working at Microsoft, I went back to school to learn about Marketing. When I was done, I was brought into Dell to help with the transition of the software business they had just acquired. This was probably my longest corporate job, about 3 years. But then the itch struck.
One morning when at a conference in Orlando, I decided that when I landed back in Toronto, I would leave my comfortable corporate job and get back into starting my own business, this time a full-service digital marketing agency that would service clients across North America, Europe, and Africa.
Oh, and I decided to start this just before I got engaged to my wife, Saliena. But something in me knew that it was then or never. I was fortunate to have her support my dream, as she came from a family of entrepreneurs too, it became her dream too. To date, she is my biggest cheerleader, inspiration, and therapist rolled into one.
Now we work with clients that we can help, and it’s amazing to see them grow, We treat every client’s business as if it were our own business, and because of that, we retain almost all our clients.
With our own two kids, a 7-year-old and 3-year-old, I can only hope and aspire to give them the same patience and support as my family did for me and my brother so they may pursue their dreams, whatever those may be.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your view point, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Sir Sanju Ganglani: I believe that they are a healthy mix of the two. I believe that entrepreneurs are a product of their surroundings and environment. Let me explain.
In support of the argument that entrepreneurs are born, most of us are born with an inherent resilience to be risk-takers and able to pivot with challenges right from when we are children and playing with others. This is what enables us to see things from a different perspective as we go to school and enter the workforce. We are able to do things differently and ultimately with a bigger picture in mind which gets demonstrated as we hit setbacks and how we handle those.
In support of the argument that entrepreneurs are made, I was personally raised in a family of generations of entrepreneurs. I learned a lot of my lessons by watching how my family handled the ups and downs. It’s what ingrained in me my core values and taught me to always take accountability, learn from mistakes, and keep going. It’s what taught me that there is no such thing as failure, just lessons.
Therefore I strongly feel it is a healthy mix of the two, without being born with certain traits and without having certain experiences and people in our lives we would never aspire to own and operate on our own.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Sir Sanju Ganglani: I would go back to my core values and say an Empathetic and Trustworthy Leader that is always open to change and other viewpoints, even if that means I have to change my position on a decision.
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Sir Sanju Ganglani: Not to be cliché, but it has been the unfortunate spread of COVID-19 that created the most change. It changed my life and my business literally overnight. We went from consistent workflow and a full office, to clients being hesitant to pursue their marketing efforts while the whole country was on lockdown and staff that, while they were always welcome to, now had to work from home.
It has taken solid strategizing to ensure that we helped our clients retain their investments thus far and keeping our integrity intact by advising where to cut spending where it was not going to have any effect on sales and to help them retain, if not add to, investments in areas such as SEO to take advantage of competitors dropping their investments. This allowed our clients to gain traction in traditionally very expensive or difficult keywords, and get a head start on the market as businesses reopened.
Interestingly enough, during this time, we gained new clients looking for brand refreshes and websites, as well as aspiring entrepreneurs that either had hit a plateau or were looking to start new ventures to supplement the loss of income via their day jobs. It also allowed us to forge relationships with Bookmark.com, Wix, and HubSpot to give our clients more options when it came to growth and lead generation.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Sir Sanju Ganglani: Here are my top assumptions any entrepreneur must be ready for:
- Your initial vision may not end up being the final product
- You will fail and have to pivot, in some cases, a lot
- Your market may not want what you have to offer, no matter how brilliant
- Bootstrapping it is often the best way to grow
- Many people won’t understand what you are trying to achieve, but that’s ok – stay the course if you believe in it
- It’s not about you, it’s about your customer, use data to make sure you are building something that is of value
- Never, ever, give up, it takes time but it will happen
- You will have to sacrifice some things as you grow
- Scaling is not easy, find a mentor
- A brand story is everything, without a strong one it will take longer and take more effort to gain traction
Entrepreneurship is truly a journey, but staying the course and being open to change while not letting your ego get in the way is key to success.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Sir Sanju Ganglani: Fortunately I was spared any situations where I was put in a bad spot, but I have seen it happen to many others where assumptions are made on emotions and obligations. Always remember business is business, making assumptions must be made on factual data and market information.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain
Sir Sanju Ganglani: Slow down. The perception most of us have is that we will start a business and have a million in revenue in a year. I would have told myself to take my time, build the right relationships so my foundation was solid. If that was done at the start the path to growth would have been quicker and scaling easier.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Sir Sanju Ganglani: The worst advice I received was “Build it how you want, and they will come.” This is the most untrue advice an entrepreneur can receive.
I learned that building it with your audience in mind first and having a solid foundation in your brand story was what was best for my growth. It’s not a race. Do your research, talk to your potential market, and build according to their needs. If it is a net new product or service, ensure you have enough budget and time allocated to educate your audience and demonstrating value.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Sir Sanju Ganglani: I don’t think much has changed, I think the only change would be to be more aware of costs so you can reach more clients and still be an option when it comes to the industry you are in. If you are retaining pricing then focusing on the value of your product or service is key. The post-COVID-19 world demands more content across all mediums.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Sir Sanju Ganglani: A common myth is that it’s easy. It really isn’t. While setting up a business is exciting and fun, and comes with many personal aspirations and dreams it is important to separate emotion and dreams from the real world dynamic.
Another myth is that you have to stick to your idea in its truest form. With the evolution of the economy and what people prioritize, being able to adjust to that is key to your success.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Sir Sanju Ganglani: There are a few in my opinion:
- The ability to get rejected…. a lot and not get dejected
- Taking accountability for mistakes
- The ability to see things from your customer’s viewpoint and provide that empathy
- Being able to not get influenced by other viewpoints, hear your peers out, but do what you know is best for your customer
- Always lead with a customer-first stance
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Sir Sanju Ganglani: There is a whole slew of books and podcasts one can consult, but to me, finding others in your industry and speaking to them first is the most accurate way to understand the journey you are embarking on and prepare yourself for the challenges and success ahead.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Sir Sanju Ganglani: I don’t think there is anything else I’d love to do as much as I do being an entrepreneur. I’ve done the corporate route and it personally doesn’t excite me or motivate me to be answerable to someone in an effort to do what’s best for the company and client.
The ability to have a flexible schedule, spend time with my family, travel and fulfill my passion for building things is priceless to me. The only other piece I would move into more is my contributions from a philanthropic side.
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Sir Sanju Ganglani: It would be my family. Their resilience and support is like Mount Rushmore, rock-solid.
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Sir Sanju Ganglani for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Sir Sanju Ganglani or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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