One of Quebec's greatest creative leaders spoke with the business community as part of the Bell International Leaders series on Thursday, November 8: Guy Laliberté, entrepreneur and philanthropist, founder of Cirque du Soleil, the One Drop Foundation and Groupe Lune Rouge, his new creative project. Committed to encouraging young talent, he answered two students’ questions and gave them his advice on how to succeed as a creative entrepreneur.
Integrity, a fundamental quality in a creative leader
Guy Laliberté believes that a creative leader achieves his goals through integrity. This quality is essential in the entrepreneurial process so as not to compromise your initial values, especially during challenging times when, for example, you receive a business proposal that is not fully in line with your vision or a situation arises that calls into question your initial plan. The secret to maintaining your integrity? “Be well prepared, know where you're going and have clear goals,” says the businessman.
The search for the perfect balance: 50% creative, 50% business management
"Ideally, your dream should be at least 50% creative"
This balance is a golden rule when working in this sector. “Cirque du Soleil's success is the result of this perfect balance between business and the company’s creative aspect,” explains its founder. It’s also a challenge, especially for any start-up seeking capital and financing, because it’s tempting to change your creative strategy under the pressure of this need and, therefore, lose your integrity. The solution? On the one hand, set your creative achievement goals apart from your financial achievement goals. On the other, concede that at certain times, creative leadership will be more important than the rest, while at other times – for example, at a crucial time for the company's growth – the financial aspect will take precedence, injecting rigour to the way of working on the creative side. This observation remains relevant for the businessman who has been working for three years to set up a new ecosystem, with the resulting emergence of Groupe Lune Rouge: “Lune Rouge is, of course, a big start-up that had some resources from the start; nevertheless, I face essentially the same challenges as any entrepreneur seeking to launch his project.”
Creativity is present in all types of companies
Creativity is not, however, the prerogative of the organizations that have made it their specialty, says the serial entrepreneur. For more traditional companies, creativity must be a pillar of the growth process, this notion referring, in general, to a willingness to achieve things, to find the means to do so and to generate an impact on its customers and community. In short: creativity is found everywhere, whether in the administrative team, the marketing team, etc., and it’s important to allow it to be expressed for the company’s benefit.
Unwavering mental strength
Guy Laliberté's energy comes from the balance he has found between professional life and personal time. “There are people who dedicate their lives to work. I’m not one of them. For me, the time you spend on work has to be balanced with time dedicated to your loved ones, to what makes you happy, brings laughter or allows you to relax. These times are essential to give me energy to then succeed in my projects,” he explains. This recipe for success required organization from the businessman who, from the beginning of his career, learned how to trust people, quickly expanding his talent pool and knowing how to choose a fantastic, supportive team, as is still the case today with Lune Rouge. “This balance has given me much greater mental strength to deal with adversity,” he concludes.
These key messages in some way summarize the four pillars on which Guy Laliberté bases each business decision: first, every project must come with a creative challenge; second, the best people must be selected to work on a project; third, the project must make sense financially; fourth, the project must include a social or philanthropic commitment, the latter being, for Guy, “an obligation for any company.”
Students were able to attend this conference as part of the Leaders of Tomorrow program thanks to the support of Bell, CGI and Power Corporation of Canada.