‘Find your passion and get started right away’: Peterborough businessman Michael Santos advises young entrepreneurs

Youth can have its advantages when it comes to business, according to Michael Santos.

Santos was just 23 when he took over as chief executive of Mercedes-Benz Peterborough in 2011. At the time, the business was located on Ashburnham Road and had half a dozen employees. For over a decade, the business has grown significantly, including building a brand new location on Crawford Drive.

“We are currently just over 40 (employees),” he said.

“We went from selling around seven cars a year to over 500.”

Santos grew up in the automotive industry, learning the ropes in his family business from age 10, then served as director of World Fine Cars in Toronto after earning his business degree from McMaster University. Even with his accumulated experience in the industry, moving to Peterborough and going on his own was a leap of faith.

Now 35, he thinks starting out on his own when he was young helped him a lot. He had the flexibility that comes with not having so many responsibilities outside of work and could adapt easily as he tackled the new challenge.

“I think that would be my advice to young people: don’t wait. Just find your passion and get started right away,” Santos said, noting that a willingness to take risks has been key to his success.

“Face challenges and learn what you need along the way.”

Having the right employees in the right roles also makes all the difference when growing a business. Santos says he dislikes micromanagement, but instead trusts his talented staff to build on his own strengths.

“For us, it’s really all about the employees; they are the ones who drive our business forward every day,” he said.

“I rely on my team a lot and I know that in the future camaraderie within a team means everything.”

The company places great emphasis on building a strong relationship with its customers and the community.

“It’s all about the customer experience. We hardly consider ourselves a retail store; we see ourselves as a customer service company,” he noted, adding that he wanted customers to feel like they were entering a five-star hotel when they entered the showroom. and know that they will receive support throughout the life of their vehicle.

As for being among those inducted into Junior Achievement’s Business Hall of Fame, Santos says it’s a humbling experience.

“I am very proud of course, very overwhelmed by the recognition. I think it’s not just a prize for me, but also a prize for the store staff who put in all the work.

The Northern and Eastern Ontario Business Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will recognize outstanding business leaders at its seventh annual ceremony on May 26 at the Loomex Group Hangar at Peterborough Airport . In addition to Santos, inductees include Vanessa Oake Hogan of Century 21 United Realty Inc., Eric and Marlaine Bennett of Bennett’s Home Furniture and Mattresses, Ken Blow and John and Glenda Lavery of KADEX Aero Supply, Ray Kapoor formerly of The Black Horse Pub , Peter McLean of Simon & Associates Inc., David and Kimberly Morello of Morello’s Your Independent Grocer, Peter Norris formerly of Holiday Ford, Bill Lockington of LLF Lawyers LLP, Mary LaRocque of Marlin Travel and Ian Scates of Central Smith.