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“To develop resilience, say “no” more often” with Ben Mirecki of Carpages.ca

Say “no” more often. It’s usually easier to say “yes” to people because it gives you that feel good feeling you get when you impress people. Saying “no” makes you feel like you’re letting people down. Yet, by saying “no,’’ you’re investing in yourself. Consider this question: if you did the things you wanted to […]

Say “no” more often. It’s usually easier to say “yes” to people because it gives you that feel good feeling you get when you impress people. Saying “no” makes you feel like you’re letting people down. Yet, by saying “no,’’ you’re investing in yourself. Consider this question: if you did the things you wanted to instead of the things you had reluctantly said “yes” to, what could you achieve instead?


In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ben Mirecki. Ben Mirecki is President and Founder of Carpages.ca, a family-run Canadian automotive marketplace founded in 2004. Carpages.ca has evolved over its 15-year history from a local vehicle marketplace to a national marketplace that is used by hundreds of dealers and hundreds of thousands of customers per month.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

Icame up with the idea of CarPages.ca in 2003 while looking online for a new car when I quickly realized that there were no reliable, trust-worthy online car marketplaces within the Canadian market. I knew it was a winning idea, I just had to go through with it — this was the hard part.

While I was developing plans for the launch of CarPages, I was working for a web development company, so I knew that I had the skills and contacts to make the idea concrete. However, it took well over a decade to establish long-standing relationships with dealerships around the country to connect them together under the CarPages platform.

In the end, taking the plunge and going full-steam ahead with CarPages was the best decision I made. After years of intense networking and implementing updates to our eCommerce architecture, we are at a stage where our site receives hundreds of thousands of visitors a month.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Over the years I’ve taken on a lot of staff — including a couple of young people associated with my friends and family. I’d argue taking interns on and watching them develop with the company was a story in itself, entailing my own character development — going from a technology geek to all-round business manager.

Given my background was in tech not business management, developing an understanding of people-management and team-building was a steeper learning curve than for most entrepreneurs. Even today, I’m still learning how to be a better leader and manager.

One of my biggest takeaways from that was not to give up on people (to a reasonable extent). Initially, I looked at staff as I would a selection of programming tools — there to do one function. If they couldn’t perform one function, I would consider swapping them in for someone else. This was no good because not a lot would change because the complex eCommerce systems I was using required deep training to work with. By shipping in new people, I wasn’t getting that development I needed.

I soon came to realise that it was a matter of my leadership. In the same way I had grown into my managerial role, I had to grow my staff.

To sum up my learning process, I like to cite Ken Coleman of the EntreLeadership podcast who said: “A company cannot outgrow its leader.”

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We are the only family-owned business of its kind in Canada. As a family-owned private company, we tend to have more of a long-term focus for success rather than looking for a quick exit. We also have a set of core values that drives everything we do. Our core values help to create a workplace culture that people want to be part of.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My dad, who co-founded the business with me, has always had an entrepreneurial spirit and revelled in hard work. When I was young, he built a house for our family while working a full-time job and raising a family. His ethics had an impact on me and has helped me to persist even when things get tough.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is maintaining a steady mind-set, despite what’s happening in the outside world, such as fluctuating company results or relationship issues. Resilient people see obstacles as short-term challenges to overcome, separating them from those who stop when conditions are unfavourable.

It means keeping a goal in mind and obsessively fighting for it and constantly finding ways to make the process of goal-chasing easier.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

In terms of someone I know: my dad, as I have alluded to before. Taking on the role of father as well as business advisor put a lot of stress on our relationship. However, he stuck with me, even at times when our relationship was antagonistic and he could easily have let go of the project.

Other than him, I’ve always had a fascination of Walt Disney. Like the stories he told in his films, his own story was one that involved a protagonist — him, trying to do the best for himself given a bad situation. For Cinderella it was the ugly stepsisters, for him it was society, telling him that he had “no original ideas”. He was fired by his newspaper job you know. For a man of his time, to take these insults with a pinch of salt and to crack on shows resilience.

He could have easily let go of his ideas. Instead, he built one of the world’s greatest entertainment brands that is still going strong today.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

After graduating from high school and finding myself unsure about my next step in life, a ‘friend’ who was enrolled in a private academy with a military-style bootcamp used to always gloat about his achievements and claim I could never do it; apparently, I didn’t have what it takes to get through bootcamp. I enrolled, finished bootcamp and graduated from a 2-year program in underwater search and recovery.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

When I started my business, I tried to outsource the Car Pages leadership. After bringing someone on board, in a haphazard recruitment process, it became apparent soon after that we were on a trajectory for complete ruin if things were to continue the way they were going.

Thankfully, Car Pages wasn’t for him. He couldn’t stand the way I did things, like my desire to constantly develop employees and occasionally give second chances. Unfortunately, his exit was not without a great deal of pain. In the short-time I had employed him, there were several system-wide changes he made that needed reversing. I quickly figured that outsourcing leadership was not easy.

Good did come out of it though. I think after that dispute, a company culture or ‘bond’ evolved. People respected that I did what was best for the company employees. Conversely, I admired that they didn’t abandon what could have looked like a sinking ship from the bottom-up.

That’s where the resilience came in, I reckon. Nobody was willing to give-up the ship. It’s hard to come by a company culture like that, especially these days.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

In elementary school, I delivered newspapers. Living in Canada, with its long, cold winters made it difficult to do this job without complaining. However, since my dad was working on the house a lot, doing less work hours, I needed my own monthly income. In the most primal way, the canadian winter taught me to work through unpleasant conditions.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

Spend most of your time on high value activities. It’s easy to get distracted and bogged down by unimportant activities that don’t add real value to you or your business. I use a time blocking methodology to prioritize the things that grow me and my team.

Say “no” more often. It’s usually easier to say “yes” to people because it gives you that feel good feeling you get when you impress people. Saying “no” makes you feel like you’re letting people down. Yet, by saying “no,’’ you’re investing in yourself. Consider this question: if you did the things you wanted to instead of the things you had reluctantly said “yes” to, what could you achieve instead?

Continuous learning. Just read more books. Listen to more podcasts and talk to older people. This stuff grows you. There are innumerable perspectives on the world. By reading books and listening to wiser people, you can see how they interpreted life and consider adopting their outlook which you may have never considered prior.

Keep physically active. My morning routine includes a light workout at least 3 times per week. When I let my workout regimen slide for more than a week, I don’t have the same level of energy to persist mentally or physically throughout the day.

Sharpen the saw (from Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). Taking time off to spend with my family, to think and to plan, is essential. One of my favourite saw sharpening activities is hiking in nature because it gives me the space to think and turn off distractions.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Great question. If you’re reading this, you’re in an amazing position. You’re literate, you have a computer and access to the internet. You certainly have a whole deal more than billions of others in the world.

I think, I would love to cherish themselves — to develop themselves and then from that be generous to others. I probably sound like I am mimicking Jesus or someone but it’s true. The world would be a whole lot better if people focused on development — from a micro to macro level.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

I’d love to meet Robert Herjavec, founder of Herjavec Group and one of the Sharks on ABC’s Shark Tank. As a Canadian immigrant, Robert found a way to achieve amazing business success. I’d love to hear more of his story.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m active on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/benmirecki/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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