Picture this. January 2009. In the midst of an unforgiving Canadian winter - the kind of winter that creates goosebumps just by reminiscing about it - Luis Navas, family man with a 5 and 3-year-old at home, decided to take a leap of faith and officially found Global Governance Advisors (GGA). He had spent 10 years consulting at Mercer and Korn Ferry/Hay Group, becoming the firm’s youngest Partner, and finally had enough. He refused to suppress his entrepreneurial spirit any longer. His family and friends weren’t surprised by his hunger to branch out, he was born with vision and a knack for business – after all, he was only 9 years old when he bought paper routes off of his peers and hired his friends to work for him.
After finalizing his decision, Luis mortgaged his home and swiftly generated enough capital to open GGA, on the 18th floor of a brand new 1,000 square foot luxury condo tower in the heart of Toronto. 24 months flew by and GGA outgrew that luxury condo and tripled in size. By 2014, GGA had opened offices in Calgary, Toronto, New York and South Florida, with no intention of slowing down. I had a quick exchange with Luis last week, to commemorate GGA’s 10-year anniversary and reflect on the firm’s continuous success.
LHM: You are both the CEO and founder of GGA. What motivated you to take the risk and start your own company? Was there any significant moment that triggered the decision?
LN: Growing up I was always entrepreneurial – I started my first business when I was 9 years old. I purchased paper routes from kids and hired several of them to deliver the papers for me, under a hybrid franchise model. I did this because McDonald's wouldn’t hire me, since I was too young to work there. Early in my life and career I was motivated by trying to have a better life financially than my parents could provide to my sister and me. My parents were wonderful people and always made sure we had a roof and food, but we were well below middle class and it was tough. I wanted more for myself, my wife and kids, and for my parents. The first thing I bought when I made some good money was a new car for my mom who always had to use the city bus to get around.
LHM: How difficult was it to obtain the financial backing needed to start GGA?
LN: It wasn’t difficult at all. I took a mortgage out on my house. Some might find that risky, but I was extremely confident in my decision. I believed I could build something very special.
LHM: GGA offers both advisory services and technology solutions (the emPower Digital Boardroom). Why did you decide to enter the SaaS space? Were you ever concerned that a boardroom platform would cannibalize the consulting side of the business?
LN: I realized that technology disrupts all industries and that just like PeopleSoft disseminated the broad-based HR consulting industry, eventually the same would happen to GGA and to our industry. I also saw that professional services firms were selling for 1X revenue and that SaaS companies were trading for 10X-20X revenue.
LHM: In the last ten years, what has been the most memorable GGA moment for you?
LN: Definitely the time I flew all of our staff to Las Vegas for an all-inclusive, all expenses paid vacation to celebrate our 5th year anniversary. We experienced phenomenal growth during our first 5 years and I wanted to reward their hard work. I surprised our senior team with Rolex watches, with a special message from me inscribed in each watch. Our clients know that key GGA staff all wear the same Rolex watch. It’s special.
LHM: 10 years in the industry is no small feat. In your opinion, what is the most important characteristic that a CEO needs to have in order to run a successful company, like GGA?
LN: I think it’s about never giving up. No matter what. Things rarely go smoothly in business or in life. There are always roadblocks – success in business is like solving a complex puzzle – not everyone is able to do it. But if you work hard, work smart, and have a little luck, things will work out. I have also learned that one person cannot build a great business alone – you need to surround yourself with a great team.
To learn more about Luis Navas click here.