Systems that help small businesses scale

Joining me today is a Mixergy listener who has built a company so big that I’m lucky to have him on here.

Matt Symes is the founder of Simplicity, a service business that helps organizations get out of their own way and scale.

If you’re listening to me and you’re running a company, we’re going to talk about a lot of tactics you can use for your business.

Matt Symes

Matt Symes


Matt Symes is the founder of Simplicity, a service business that helps organizations get out of their own way and scale.


Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. And as I’ve said all along, my goal is to do these interviews for an audience of people who are building companies, who will then come back here and do interviews themselves. And joining me today is someone who was listening to my interviews, and he actually did more than that. He followed up with at least one of my guests, used a lot of what he heard in these interviews, and just has built a company that is now so big that I’m lucky that I get to have him on here to talk about how he did it. His name is Matt Symes. He is the founder of Symplicity Designs. It’s a service business that helps organizations get out of their own way and scale.

He intentionally doesn’t want me to call it a consulting company, I’m going to find out why, and there’s a lot that they do that I think that companies like, frankly, ours, and if you’re listening to me and you’re running a company, maybe you can use. We’re going to find out how he built up this service business, what happened when he realized that just charging people was not enough, how he’s getting clients, how he’s working with them, and so much more thanks to two phenomenal companies. The first, if you need a website hosted, go check them out. It’s called HostGator. And the second, if you’re trying to get strangers to understand what your company is and then lead them into the sales process, there’s no better process, no better software than ClickFunnels, but I’ll tell you about both those later. First, Matt, good to have you here.

Matt: Thanks. Thanks for having me.

Andrew: What’s the revenue?

Matt: 4.5.

Andrew: $4.5 million?

Matt: Yes.

Andrew: Canadian?

Matt: Yes.

Andrew: Okay. How much of that is cash versus equity in businesses?

Matt: No. So, I’m only talking about the cash part of the business, like the revenue part of the business. I’m not talking about the balance sheet here at all.

Andrew: Wow.

Matt: That’s different. Yeah.

Andrew: Before we talked, I asked you if you had an example of a company that we hear to understand what you do, and you told me about one that I didn’t even realize was a thing. Do you remember which one?

Matt: Yeah, the chimney sweeping company. It’s great fun. I didn’t know there was still a chimney . . .

Andrew: I had no idea.

Matt: Yeah, they still exist. It’s great fun.

Andrew: So, tell me, what did they come to you with and what happened?

Matt: So, they came as a small family business in a rural part of Nova Scotia, just the type of companies that we love to help when we can. And, you know, a little bit of background on me, I’m the grandson of a first generation entrepreneur roofer. And so whenever we get these wonderful rural entrepreneurs, blue collar, roll your sleeves up, go to work family businesses, they just kind of melt your heart. And so they came to us, and basically with the classic problem of running around in circles, working very, very, very hard, but not feeling like they’re getting much of a benefit, and really not sure they wanted any of their children to take over the business because it’s just a lot of hard work and a lot of headaches.

Andrew: And that space, that’s one of the things that you do, you help people figure out why they’re not making as much money as they should, what they could do to adjust their businesses, even to help them figure out their business model, and then you help them systemized it so that they can continue to grow it without having to figure out every day brand new what to do.

Matt: I’m going to clip that and put that as our new marketing line right there. That’s exactly it. Yeah.

Andrew: So then, what was the problem when you analyzed their business? What did you find was going on?

Matt: Well, it’s a classic problem of scale that most organizations face. They quote jobs, and they do this cost plus margin, which is a terrible way to price jobs, but we’ll get to that later I’m sure. But they have a theory of how much they’re going to make off of each job, and then they go to work hard, and it doesn’t work out because you never can get as many jobs done in a week as you’d like to.

Andrew: They were making money on each job because they said, “Here’s the cleaning equipment, here’s the hours, the price for each hour of our people’s time. Let’s add all those expenses up, add a little bit on top of it for profit,” and that’s what they were charging. The problem was they didn’t have enough jobs so that even if each one of these jobs is profitable, they still overall were losing money.

Matt: But the classic case here is that they had customers dying for them to come to them, but couldn’t get them all scheduled in. And so constantly falling behind on planning and scheduling meant they were running the milk run all over the place, getting four cleans in a day. And so, as soon as we work with them a bit to help them understand the scheduling process and that being the number one constraint in their business, we got to help . . .

Andrew: You understood that they had more people who wanted to work with them than they could handle, and the limitation wasn’t that they didn’t have enough time to do it, it was just they weren’t booking these people properly.

Matt: You got it.

Andrew: Got it. And so if they booked more people properly, each booking is profitable on its own, so a combination of more bookings with their existing profitability per booking means that they were going to do well, they’re going to make a profit [inaudible 00:04:55].

Matt: And think about it, you got the same 8 to 12 hours in a day that you’re going to go at this, but no customer wants to pay for you to drive. And so if you’re spending half or three quarters of your day driving and the other chunk doing work, or if you can set it up properly with a little bit more foresight and you can get more cleans in because of the geography that you’re putting, mapping them, then, you know, it works out really well. And that’s a simple process thing. That’s just a matter of understanding an eight-week schedule on how to get people in.

Andrew: And so, is that you just knowing that there’s a software out there that will help them schedule based on locations, or is it something more than that?

Matt: Well, this is fun. I mean, the software is a Google Calendar and a spreadsheet. So software is a huge mistake for most companies to be quite blunt because software doesn’t . . .

Andrew: So then how are you helping them figure out that at 1:00 in the morning they’re going to one part of town, in the afternoon they’re going way clear across town, what happens if they just book everyone within the same area on the same day? How did you help systemize that?

Matt: So, first, you got a backup to understand the business and go, “Okay, where’s the number one constraint?” And so you find out the constraint is they have more jobs than they can possibly do, and they can’t get enough in. So we land on scheduling. When you get to scheduling, there’s a methodology, a time honored methodology, Lean Six Sigma, it dives in, it uses the DMAIC framework, define, measure, analyze, improve, control. It walks you through a series of models to help you build a better process for doing something. So, most people fumble their way through a better way of doing it, there is rigor in a series of models that asks a better question.

And people don’t understand the difference between in and on work. So in the business, I’m going as fast as I can, doing it the way I know how, run, run, run, run, run, and then eventually, there’s always one constraint that’s driving it. So then I’ve got to figure out what is the one constraint I got to work on the business. This is when I got to slow way down, and I got to ask a whole different set of questions. You know, the brain that allows you to operate so quickly with habits, it lies to you when you try to change those habits. So, you need a different framework for asking questions. I mean, let me ask you a simple question. Let me ask you a quick one.

Andrew: Sure. Yeah.

Matt: What color is the yield sign?

Andrew: Yellow.

Matt: Yeah. Okay. It’s been white with red trim since 1984. We asked the Department of Transportation what color is a yield sign, they said yellow as well. You know, it’s in Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow.” The reality is I need you to slow down and realize that a yield sign is not yellow. And the reason you said yellow is this, you went yield, caution, yellow. It’s the pictures in your head. That’s how we’re driven. If we solve problems using yellow yield signs, we’ll screw it up all the time.

Andrew: Meaning what we’re doing is coming up with the instinctive right answer that’s completely correct, even though there is every reason for it to be correct. So there’s every reason for the yield sign to be yellow, we’re used to yellow being the warning sign even on a traffic light, and so of course, got it. I get a sense of how you work. Let’s get a sense of how you got here. You were starting to mention your parents. You told our producer that you watched your dad work for Procter and Gamble growing up. What did he do for Procter and Gamble, and how’d you get to see him?

Matt: Well, this is a fascinating story. And I didn’t really watch him work. There’s a bit of a misnomer there. I was, you know, nothing when we went out there. I was one when we moved to Grande Prairie, Alberta. But, Grande Prairie, Alberta, you know, out of the original Fortune 500 companies, only 11% remain. Okay, so only 65 of the original Fortune 500 remain, one of them is Procter and Gamble. The reason Procter and Gamble is still there is they are one of these high-performing organizations that continues to reinvent itself. They stuck a mill in the middle of nowhere Grande Prairie, Alberta. So Grande Prairie, Alberta is north of Edmonton. I mean, in 1980, that was north of civilization, so pretty much at the Arctic. I’m exaggerating a bit, but pretty much there.

So they did that so that they could open a mill and hire only women, farmers, students and the bare necessity of technical knowledge. And the reason that is they didn’t want anybody saying it’s not my job. And so what my dad didn’t realize is he picks this job at a university as a graduate of chemical engineering, and he stumbles into Procter and Gamble’s beta test facility for high performing organizations. It’s just pure luck, gets there, we go there, and he starts learning all about modern management systems as a 22-year-old, fresh out of university. You know, you couple that with the background of my grandfather and being the roofer, my dad understanding entrepreneurial, entrepreneurialism and entrepreneurial thought, and what you end up with is just an amazing combination of knowledge that he then takes with him for the rest of his career before we started our company.

Andrew: And what did he do after working for Procter and Gamble?

Matt: So he goes to every stinky mill town across Canada, we go to three or four more stops along the way, and then he lands at JDI. JDI is JD Irving. For most listening to your podcast, they’ll have no clue who that is but . . .

Andrew: I’m googling it right now. I have no idea.

Matt: Yeah. If you look them up, they’re one of the richest families in Canada, one of the richest families in the world. And they basically grew on vertical integration. So, for obvious reasons, I can’t share a whole lot of what he did inside there, but suffice to say, I can say that he was instrumental in part of the team that brought modern management systems first to a mill, and then to all 60 some odd small and medium-sized businesses that the Irving family owns.

Andrew: Okay. So he learns modern management in this experimental place at Procter and Gamble.

Matt: Correct.

Andrew: He then takes it to other businesses, he sees how it works, and then at some point, he says, “You know what, it’s time for me to start my own company.” Why did it take him so long to do that?

Matt: Well, I think, you know, listen, starting your own company is a risky venture, and it’s not for the faint of heart. And I don’t suggest anybody do it alone because it will expose everybody. I think that he was really enjoying the climb to the corporate ladder, and he had a father . . . let’s be honest, he grew up in a house with a father who ran his own business, and it’s damn hard, and he watched my grandfather grow the business and then blow it up and bring it right back down to two trucks. And, you know, my grandfather has passed away now, but I’ll share something extremely personal on this. My grandfather once told me, he said, “Listen, I lost ten years of my life to stress, booze, and pills.” He goes, “If you’re going on this adventure, don’t do that as well. Don’t do that. Like, it killed me.” And I don’t remember some of those years.

So my father watched that as a very young man. And with my grandfather’s encouraging and with my grandfather’s support, went and got an education and got the corporate job. And my grandfather always said, “Listen, that’s a better place to be. Don’t start your own business.”

Andrew: And still, you did talk to our producer. And one of the things that he noticed was that you said that your dad worked for “the man,” and you knew he didn’t want to do this. Talk about that.

Matt: Well, I think what you get to is I mentioned the 60 some odd businesses that were within the Irving family. So he was getting to a point on year eight in his position as Vice President of Organizational Change, where he’s headed back to the same businesses. And there comes a point where in your 50s, you start asking questions about your legacy and you start going [inaudible 00:12:40] behind. And we had been going on trips for the previous five, six years, my brother, myself and my father, and talking about the state of Atlantic Canada, the state of economy, the economy and going, you know, I wish that organizations just understood how easy and simple running a business can be, or at least how easy finding the problems can be. And it doesn’t have to be as hard. It doesn’t have to be as hard.

And so we schemed, and talked, and all that kind of fun stuff. But my brother and I were both, you know, in retrospect, probably too young to do anything meaningful with him at that point. And so it just got to a point where he called me one day out of the blue and said, “I’m thinking about a change. If I started this, would you start it with me at the same time, and would you leave your PhD and come do this and come home?” I was in the middle of the country, he was on the East Coast, and I said, “You know what? Yeah. Let’s do this. Let’s do this.”

Andrew: What were you thinking you were going to do with your life?

Matt: Well, that changed about every 18 minutes before I landed in this one.

Andrew: Really? What were some of the things you were considering because you were going to a PhD? That’s pretty intense.

Matt: It is, but I was doing everything I could through those seven years not to finish it, just doing everything else that was interesting. But, you know, I’ve got 70, 80 pages of the dissertation finished, but it’s been seven years, and I don’t think I’ll go back. But let’s see. I have an education degree. I taught high school. I taught in Korea. I did professional photography, if you can imagine this smiling face photographing your wedding, probably not. But I did that. I did wedding photography. I did graphic design. Then, I ended up running research centers and writing books and that kind of fun stuff. And I always found myself in positions of organizing people common goal. And I figured that anybody who’s going to run a business should go run a volunteer center first because if they’ll show up and work for free, it’ll probably convince them when you’re paying them a salary.

Andrew: And that kind of connects in with . . . I guess your PhD was in social military history. Is that right?

Matt: Yes, it is. Yeah.

Andrew: What’s the social part? I understand military history, and I could see how that comes into play here. What’s the social part?

Matt: Well, it’s funny, the social part actually comes in a lot more because I looked at . . . it’s a long title because all PhDs are . . . you know, PhD is just understanding more and more about less and less right on the edges of knowledge. So what I was really driving at is the role of sport, and gender, and nationality, and the First World War Canadian soldier, so looking at how that all comes together. I never really looked at military doctrine, etc., but I have looked at command and control and military and peace versus war and stuff.

Andrew: That is very specific, though. By the way, I’m looking up the Irving family. I guess, was K.C. Irving the . . .

Matt: You got it.

Andrew: The patriarch? He was.

Matt: Yeah.

Andrew: So there is a biography about him. I thought, “All right, this guy looks really interesting. The whole family is fascinating. Let’s go find the biography on Amazon.” It’s not on Amazon. It is on Amazon Canada. It’s so weird when you can’t get a book in a country because it’s limited to another country. I’ve had that happen as I’ve travel the world doing marathons. I want to read books about the people who are significant in each country. I can’t get the books here. I have to, you know . . .

Matt: You got to buy them there. Yeah.

Andrew: You got to buy them there. It’s so strange.

Matt: Yeah. That’s what happens with all the . . . Yeah. And there’s all kinds of business tycoons in Canada that are fascinating to research.

Andrew: It’s not like we’re so far away that we can’t get it shipped here or at least in . . . even the Kindle version sometimes is not available.

Matt: But we can get you a copy of it. That books not terribly fascinating to read, but we can get you a copy if you want a real . . .

Andrew: But you’ve heard of that book?

Matt: Yes, of course.

Andrew: Wow. Okay. Is there one that you think that I should read to get to know Canadian entrepreneurs, Canadian business people? What should I be looking for?

Matt: Well, if you want to get to know entrepreneurs on the East Coast, there’s a great book called “The Codfathers,” C-O-D.

Andrew: “The Codfathers.”

Matt: Yeah, “The Codfathers.” And it’ll tell you about all of the major business tycoons on the East Coast of Canada, everything from the Irvings, to the McCains, to Moosehead beer, the Sobey empire, those ones.

Andrew: I can’t find it. Oh, yes, I can. There we go. “The Codfathers: Lessons From the Atlantic Business Elite.” Oh, that one’s so hard to get even in Amazon, Canada. It’s a $45 book because . . .

Matt: Oh, yeah, no. It’s an expensive one. Absolutely. But it’s a fascinating book. It’s wonderful. One of my favorite lines in there goes something along the lines of this, “Those from the East Coast are absolutely fed up with the bullshit of Bay Street, and most East Coast businesswomen, men can’t get through a sentence without cursing.” So I’ve done well so far.

Andrew: Yeah, impressive. Man, I love it. I love getting exposed to different entrepreneurs, different forms of business. I feel we’re really narrowing down on all of us reading the same books, studying the same people, and no wonder our ideas aren’t that diverse. Okay, so your dad comes to you and says, “Do you want to come in?” you say, “Okay. I’m great. I mean, I’m in. Let’s do it.” It’s you, your dad, and who else? Who decided to join this company?

Matt: My brother. My brother joins us as well, and a good friend of mine from very, very long time, Jason Freake, who ends . . . I mean, basically part of the family. So, four of us start the company. Jason’s got the IT background. He was an enterprise architect before he joined us. And then I had the teaching background. My brother had the Lean Six Sigma background, and my father had the management systems and helping make choice in the largest of companies to the smallest of companies.

Andrew: Okay, so now you’re ready to go out there and get customers. The first customers came from? Let’s talk about the very first one.

Matt: Very first one. Okay, so the very first one end up being the government of New Brunswick, and actually ended up being the education system in New Brunswick. And that remains my favorite client. And now, you’re going, “What the heck does a business that scales companies do with the education system?” I’m sure. But what we teach works even better in the social sector and the not-for-profit because any high performing organization is a purpose-driven organization. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Southwest, it doesn’t matter whether it’s Southwest Airlines, whether it’s P&G, the ones that really get this basically run with a social mission. And so the education system is pretty easy to get a social mission statement out of.

Andrew: Well, what’s the big issue then that they have, and how do you help them solve it?

Matt: Well, this is a very, very, very complicated system. You got to think about one head office in Fredericton. You got to think about three districts. Those superintendents don’t report to the Deputy Minister. They report to an outside counsel, and then you’re thinking about 97 schools that they administer across a bilingual province. This is only the Francophone side. So here you have a Scottish-Anglophone family with us using our broken French working to help the Francophone education system improve, and they were one of the worst performing . . .

Andrew: Improve how?

Matt: What’s that?

Andrew: Improve how? What were they trying to do? Improve test scores?

Matt: You only get the real improvement when you get two kids doing better in school.

Andrew: Got it. All right. And so, that’s the first job that you took on, and it’s because of your dad’s connections that you got it.

Matt: Well, it’s because of, yeah, my dad’s connections with both teaching a class at the University of New Brunswick on Technology, Management, and Entrepreneurship, and helping architect the management system that is still in place at the government of New Brunswick today.

Andrew: Okay. Let me take a moment and talk about my first sponsor. And I actually want it . . . I know that you are curious about ClickFunnels.

Matt: I am. Yeah.

Andrew: What is it that you’re thinking about using ClickFunnels for?

Matt: Well, I’m very curious on how it can help me understand what kind of impact we’re having with our non-existent marketing today, but hopefully our marketing in the future.

Andrew: Before I even suggest how you could use ClickFunnels, what’s the lowest price product that you sell?

Matt: We have a five-day introduction to performance excellence, which is a $10,000 course.

Andrew: Wow. Okay. So you’re not at a place where you can do this on the cheap. Here’s what I’ll suggest though . . .

Matt: Not yet.

Andrew: So here’s what I’ll suggest. One of the things that I’ve noticed is I remember talking to a few of my friends who’ve written books, who got them at the airport, and I said, “So is that revenue meaningful?” I said, “Not really.” But the person who works for the person who hires our consulting company is going through an airport, picking up the book, reading it, and then going to the boss and saying, “We need this. We need this in our company. Bring their consultant in, or bring this author in as a speaker, and do it.”

So what I would suggest for you is there are people like me who are curious about your process, we could come read your website and then disappear on your website completely. The problem with that is that we’ll attribute the lessons that we got to a Google search and we’ll say, “You know what, Google teaches you a lot.” What would be better is for someone like me who says, “You know, I heard this guy, Matt. I heard that he’s got a process for me figuring out why I’m spending so much time on my business and not getting any results. I’m going to go look them up.” I go look them up, instead of a page that will give me a quick overview and let me disappear and thank Google for finding it, I suggest you go to ClickFunnels and you create a page that it gets my email address in exchange for you giving me a simple guide.

Now at first, you may not have a long PDF, you may not have a long ebook, but if it’s just like the ten core principles, that will be enough. If it’s an audio thing, especially since you’re here, if it’s something that anyone who’s listening to us can follow up and just hear your best presentation, that’s enough to get into your world. And when you go to ClickFunnels, they’ll make it really easy for you to create a page that looks good on both desktop and mobile and that gets people to subscribe because they test these pages across lots of different platforms. Now, that’s the first step, Matt.

The second step though is to see if the person will buy something. And with ClickFunnels, as soon as you get their email address, you could have a confirmation page and move on. But one of the things that I like to do is to say, “Let’s see if we can find something to sell to this person to just get a sense that they are really committed.” And it might be maybe a recording of a more intense program that you did. It might be maybe I know that one of the things you guys do is you offer a consultant column on a page here with April MacLeod?

Matt: MacLeod, yeah.

Andrew: MacLeod. It’s not even like an unpopular name. I always had to screw up that name. April MacLeod, where it might be for $20, for $50, you can do a coaching call to see how this will work in your business. And now you’re starting to collect email addresses and you have a way of identifying who is really interested and who is not, who has the budget and who doesn’t. And the thing that I like about ClickFunnels is you get to keep tweaking these things. And maybe what you end up discovering is that there are enough people go through this that you’re making enough money that maybe you start buying ads on LinkedIn offering your guide.

Anyway, all this stuff takes a lot of work, we could code it up ourselves, but we’ve discovered that if we go to ClickFunnels, they give us pages that they’ve tested across their platforms that are really well designed, and when we have a quick idea or they have a quick idea for what works, we just drag and drop it on our page.

All right, I should close this ad out by saying if you’re interested in them, if anyone out there is interested in them, you should go to When you do, you’ll be supporting me, which is nice, thank you from me, but also you’ll be getting the funnels that we have used ourselves. And I’ve done over a million dollars with one of their funnel, go figure, and so you’ll get our funnel. And they’ll also give you a free use of their software if you use it, a lot of benefits for you and a big benefit for me if you use

All right. How long did it take you to work with that one client, to work with the education department?

Matt: It was a four-year, five-year engagement. We’re still there in some degrees as they mature the management system. Long-term sustainable improvement is not an overnight fix, which is sometimes difficult for people to swallow in this world of instant gratification.

Andrew: Do you give them any quick results, anything that lets them know we’re on . . . ?

Matt: Absolutely. Yeah.

Andrew: You’ll work that into your system.

Matt: Absolutely. I mean, you got to come way out, decide where the constraint is, go deep and fix that constraint and show tangible results either with the student, with the client, and then come back out and go, “Okay, are we still picking that?” And, you know, one of the most important things that we do with a client is make sure that we understand where they’re headed. And by that, I mean, you know, when we talk about the strategic process, a lot of people do strategic plans, and what they end up being are spots, strategic plan is on the top shelf gathering dust, you get excited about them over a weekend, and then you put them up there, and then you may check on them a year from there, blow the dust off, find out whether they worked or not. It’s such a waste of time because it gets people excited for nothing because then they jump right back into the same habits over and over again.

So we help people do is go, “Okay, where do I want to be in the long-term? As a result of that, where do I need to be in the short-term, and as a result of that, what’s the 90-day sprint of work in the business, on the business, and from a resource standpoint?” and then the hard work of scheduling that work ahead of all the other stuff so that you actually make the changes and go there. And the reason why 90 days, people can’t remember more than 90 days.

Andrew: So wait . . .

Matt: If you give somebody 180, you can’t do it.

Andrew: That part I get. And also it means within 90 days, I’ll get a result. When I’m tired, when it doesn’t feel, I could at least wait for the end of the 90 days before passing judgment versus 180 in a year. It’s a long time.

Matt: Exactly.

Andrew: The thing that I’m wondering though is when . . . well, I forgot what I was going to say because I was so, like, affirming what you just said. Oh, I know what it is. You work with them to get those results?

Matt: Yes, absolutely.

Andrew: [inaudible 00:26:23] calling you guys a consulting company, and you said, “I hate consulting companies.” Why do you hate that name, consulting?

Matt: Well, a couple of reasons. Number one, with all due respect to those who do it well, there are many who are terrible, who offer you reports, not results, and many have a bad name, and they’ve earned it because they don’t stick around and ensure the habit that you’ve changed in the organization sticks and continues to get results and continues to improve. And so, we purposely said immediately from the beginning, we will not use the name because it’s a disservice to what we do with client.

Andrew: Because as a consulting company, consult with you.

Matt: Correct.

Andrew: It’s obviously not true, but the knock against McKinsey is that companies will spend tens of thousands of dollars on them to get a report that just justifies what they want to do anyway.

Matt: Correct. Yeah.

Andrew: It’s getting that report that either just justifies and affirms what you want to do anyway, or that then gives you a whole bunch of work internally to do and when you’re already struggling, which is why you called in a consulting company to also have another list of things to do, it’s overwhelming. And so you intentionally said, “We’re not just going to tell you what to do, advise you what to do, we’re going to work with you to do it.” And so when you’re working with your first clients, what kind of work do you do to make sure that they get the results that you’re advising them on?

Matt: Well, I mean, so you heard a little bit of it, we get into the choice process, and we choose the 90-day sprint together. We both make sure that makes sense. Then once we get to the 90-day sprint, there’s a bunch of things that need to be done. And there’s one thing, just like I went to the yellow yield sign, you need to pick one thing you’re working on the business. Once you get that one thing, we’re going to roll up and systemically improve that for the business you want to be.

So if you’re a $1 million business, but you want to become a $10 million business, you need to build a sales funnel that supports a $10 million business. You don’t want to fix the sales funnel 12 times on your way to the $10 million. So you got to systemically fix that process. And so we will work with you to define the problem, measure how you’re currently doing, analyze all the possible solutions, we’ll use Pareto’s principle to pick the 20% that gives you 80% of the results, and then we’ll put that into place, and then we’ll put really good . . . I hate the word control, but you really put good plan-do-check-act around it, so that as you find better ways to do it, we can update the process and make it better continuously. And we’ll see there . . .

Andrew: And it’s you guys are doing it from the beginning, talking to your clients over and over, what is it weekly calls, daily calls?

Matt: No. So these ones are five full days over five weeks, and then you get two to three days of execution where we literally rebuild reports whatever it happens to be. Like, we’re in there, sleeves rolled up. I’ve seen some of our people sweeping floors to be able to put tape down. It depends if we’re in a manufacturing facility. If we’re with a knowledge firm, then we’re sitting in there building the templates, etc. It’s real work. It’s not the “Hey, you should go do this, and you should look over here, and Bob’s your uncle, you’ll be fine. Work harder.”

Andrew: So the first company, the first client we understand, were the first set of customers coming in because of your dad’s connections? Is that where they came from?

Matt: I say this often, every business should start with a Merv, but then we immediately went and measured . . .

Andrew: Merv is your dad?

Matt: Yeah, exactly. My dad’s Merv, yeah.

Andrew: Meaning somebody who comes in with connections.

Matt: I think with connections and a Rolodex and with some pedigree in what you’re doing so you can start to build the business off of that reputation.

Andrew: Okay. So you know what, I’ve noticed in enterprise, that is especially true, that every enterprise company that I’ve interviewed or let’s just say the majority, they have a guy who worked at a department where he was doing sales to a group of people, he had an idea for a better product for them, he’d go off and start his own company and called back the people who he worked with or the people who he wanted to work with, who he didn’t have a product for back in the old company, and now they’re up and running. So that’s what you’re suggesting here too, but you’re also saying, “Look, if you’re selling consulting services,” to also have a pedigree also say “we have done this before, now I’m just doing it in this business.” Got it.

Matt: Yeah. You’re exactly right. And the other side to this is I think we from the beginning, like you mentioned earlier, we put skin in the game, so we want results-based pay. We don’t want time-based pay.

Andrew: Well, how long did that take you to get to? It seems like for a while, you were charging per hour or per engagement.

Matt: Well, with certain organizations you have to charge per day. Like, there’s the mega corps that have no interest in you finding them half a million dollars of savings and sharing that with you. They would prefer to pay your rate. And then you have the government organizations that, well, there’s not much to share in the gains when you increased literacy rate except for 50 years later, so they would pay for that as well.

But when you get to the small and micro businesses, the one thing they have not enough is cash. So you now start to go, “Well, I know you can’t afford this today, but you can’t afford not to do it. So let’s work together on a longer-term arrangement where you pay a small amount to show you’re interested because I want your skin in the game too and then let’s share in the results.” And so if it’s a small enough business, we’ll share on the net profit line, if it’s a little bit larger, we’ll share at the KPI line.

Andrew: Matt, at what point did you discover smaller businesses because it feels like you were going after the bigger companies that your dad might have worked for or on before and at some point he said or you said, “This is working here, why don’t we go to smaller businesses?”

Matt: So the order is a bit out of whack there because one of the things I started doing before we started Symplicity was I was doing this with smaller businesses in Ontario. So my first client was a gym. And so I understood how this could work with smaller companies and that was part of . . . ?

Andrew: You went out and got gyms?

Matt: A gym, yeah.

Andrew: How did you get a gym, Matt?

Matt: Well, I talked to the guy, and we hit it off and he talked through the [problem 00:32:10] . . .

Andrew: Your personal gym, you’re talking to the guy who runs a gym, you’re asking him about his business, that’s it. It’s just like a friendly conversation. It wasn’t you making phone calls saying, “I think I can help gyms.”

Matt: No. No, no, no. I mean, the stuff that we do is industry agnostic. So if you ask people what the biggest problem they’re facing, there’s nothing more they love to do than talk about the problems they’re facing.

Andrew: What I mean is I’m trying to get a sense of how you got your early customers, and it seems like it was a lot of just talking to people and seeing who could use your services with maybe going through your dad’s Rolodex. The part that’s you getting clients, it wasn’t super systematic, it wasn’t you saying who could use this, let’s target them? No.

Matt: No. We benefited off of Merv’s reputation, but it’s also the outlay of him being available. So the more research you do on the Irving family, the more you’re going to see that they’re super private. So the fact that one of their VPs became available in an organizational design capacity, coupled with the fact that he had been teaching at UMB and been doing some outside speaking meant we had a lot of early interest. Now, we had to translate that early interest into results, and then we had to translate those results into stories we could talk to other small and medium and micro sized business is about.

You know, our first year, we did 1.3 million. Okay, so it was a good, really great first year. But most of that was on the back of early clients being interested, and selling the stories of success, and having honest, authentic conversation, business owner to business owner, about what’s really going on because everybody’s got this, you know, that surface level, it’s going great, but if you ask them more questions, you realize that most of it’s barely held together, and they’re stressed as hell about something.

Andrew: Like what? What kind of questions can you ask business people especially to get at what’s worrying them?

Matt: Yeah, I mean, what are the last 10 complaints you’ve had?

Andrew: You mean internally? You asked a business owner what are the last 10 complaints you’ve had?

Matt: What’s the last 10 complaints that you’ve had from your customers? What are the things that are keeping you up at night? What do you wish was better? What’s the one thing that if I remove that problem for you would make life better? These are, you know, big talk, deep conversations quick. And, you know, a lot of people don’t take the time to listen and allow other people to reflect. And if you just ask honest, authentic questions, and you come at it from you know . . . listen, this is a tough enough world, right? It’s a tough enough world and everybody’s struggling with their own journey. If you give a little bit of space and ask them authentic questions about their problems, they’re going to open up.

Andrew: So what about you? What was difficult about your first year? It feels like the first year was just happy go lucky. You ended up with over a million in sales, you ended up with good . . . What was it?

Matt: Yeah. I mean, we’re not immune to the problems that face scale . . . just because we teach others to scale doesn’t mean you can do it easily. And I can tell you . . .

Andrew: So, it was scaling the problem for you? What about getting . . . ?

Matt: Absolutely it is.

Andrew: Getting to that first million-plus was not hard.

Matt: That’s not hard. That wasn’t hard.

Andrew: Because you already had people who are interested in working with you based on your dad’s reputation.

Matt: Yeah.

Andrew: Got it. Okay. Then scaling was hard for you. Talk about the difficulty in scaling what you did to overcome it.

Matt: More is not more. More is different. And that’s not a throwaway line. Scale is not linear. And so, you know, having two times the people doesn’t mean you have two times the complication. And it is very difficult to find the right talent to align . . . one of the biggest lessons we learned in the last five years is the difference between rock stars and superstars. I don’t know if you’ve read Kim Scott’s book on HR, but it’s one of the best books by a mile. And she lays out this in a way that I didn’t understand it until I read it and thought back, but superstars are the ones that are really, really attractive, but they’re always the up and out. They’re the A players, but they’re also the A personalities. And so you’re really attracted to what they can do for your business, but they always have something else that they want to do. Whereas, the rock stars build the foundation of your organization. And for us, I would say that when you try and scale a service organization, you’re scaling talent and knowledge. That’s extremely hard to do. It takes us about two years to develop someone.

Andrew: Okay. So that’s the problem. It wasn’t bringing in more business, it was how do we get the people who can deliver what we’re promising.

Matt: Correct.

Andrew: That was the hardest part.

Matt: Absolutely. By a mile.

Andrew: Did you make a mistake in the beginning with hiring or bringing . . . ?

Matt: Oh, man, all kinds of mistakes.

Andrew: What are some of the mistakes that you made?

Matt: We weren’t firm enough in the way in which we were going to onboard and train people. So our own onboarding and training process, not solid enough. So alignment on the methodology meant we had variants in delivery. And the customer doesn’t experience your average delivery, they experience their experience. So if they had a great day with you, or they had a not so great day with you, it doesn’t really matter if on average you’re hitting 90%, they experience the 1 in 10. So we had a real tough time training and onboarding people. We had a very difficult time figuring out with a bunch of people that teach other companies how to do this, how are we going to get in the room and choose one way to do it for us. That was hard.

Andrew: Oh, right, because now you’re looking at lots of different . . . if they’re good enough to do that work, they’ve had enough experience having done it before, but they’ve done it a different way, so . . .

Matt: And when we’re selling a language, you got to all say the same thing. When you say blue, you all have to mean blue, and it has to be the same shade of blue.

Andrew: And there is a clear methodology that you’re employing.

Matt: Very, very clear methodology.

Andrew: So why can’t you just bring brand new people and say, “You’re going to learn our methodology and that’s it.”

Matt: You know what, whole part whole. That’s a really good question, and the only reason it stumps me is because if you’re going to do this, you have to have a solid understanding of business and business acumen and how it connects to financial acumen and process acumen, and then how people are motivated. There are so many diverse skillsets. And I think in the beginning, we didn’t give enough credit to how long . . . I mean, my brother and I were indoctrinated in this, whether we liked it or not, because of my father’s experience. And I don’t think we gave enough credit to how long it takes to learn all of the different skills, but then to be able to put them together.

And, I mean, can you look at any business and go, “Hey, there’s only really three types of businesses in this world. Can you identify which one it is? Can you identify the five or seven levers of that business? Do you know how they’re performing? And can you do that in your head while somebody else is telling you their problems so you have three conversations going on? And can you get them to the right business constraint? And then when you get them there, can you fix that so that it doesn’t have to be fixed again.”

Andrew: When you’re not getting it right, do you ever get the imposter syndrome saying how am I going to help other people scale? We’re struggling here ourselves.

Matt: Oh, absolutely.

Andrew: You do.

Matt: You know what, the reality is scale is tough, and we’re not immune to that. And I say that, you know, we’re not on the other side of that five-million journey. So there’s three distinct phases in a business, between zero and a million you’re deciding whether you want to be a real business. You got a nice lifestyle, income coming in, it can be run by a technician, doesn’t require a management layer.

Between a million and five million, you have all the problems and overhead needs of a $5 million company but you can’t afford it so you’re stretching someone somewhere. And the golden number we’ve landed on so far is about 1.6 million. It becomes real after that. You need HR, you need proper IT systems. There’s all kinds of stuff you need that you don’t need before that. The back of a napkin doesn’t work. Then there’s the 5 million-plus.

Greg Crabtree writes a wonderful book called “Simple Numbers,” especially for your viewers in the U.S. It’s a must read. It really is because it talks about labor effectiveness ratio, it talks about making sure you don’t violate the salary cap, it talks about why 80 plus percent of the businesses die between one and five million, and why the black hole is between 2.5 and 3.5 million. It’s the toughest part of the journey. So just because we can help others who are in different parts of that journey doesn’t mean that we are immune to the problems we’re going to face, and we faced all of them. And when I sit in front of an audience, I say exactly that. So folks, I’m in the arena too. One of my favorite short videos is Brené Brown’s retake on Teddy Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena.

Andrew: YouTube video.

Matt: Yes, a three-minute YouTube video. It is absolutely brilliant.

Andrew: Who was it?

Matt: Brené Brown. She’s the wonderful author on vulnerability. And there’s a three-minute clip of her talking about Teddy Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena. Every single founder should listen to that three minutes.

Andrew: It’s called “Daring Greatly – Teddy Roosevelt as read by Brené Brown.”

Matt: Yeah. Listen, the only . . .

Andrew: That Teddy Roosevelt speech is about how he said it’s not the man who’s the critic who’s watching the game that counts, it’s the man in the arena.

Matt: Correct.

Andrew: And they’re two different people even though the person on the outside feels like he knows it all. And so you’re saying, “I’m in the arena.” By the way, we mentioned another book, Kim Scott, the book that you mentioned was “Radical Candor,” right?

Matt: That’s correct. Kim Scott’s “Radical Candor.” Yeah. And, you know, I’m a voracious reader, probably read about 50 to 60 books a year pretty conservatively, probably more. And one of the things I’ll say is that it has helped me understand some things and get my head around things that I know I wouldn’t have been able to without reading. Bismarck, his name was Bismarck, said, “Anybody can learn from their own experience, any fool can learn from their own experience, but the truly wise try to learn from other people’s experience so they don’t have to go through it.” It doesn’t mean I haven’t had my own journey, but . . .

Andrew: I’m guessing that’s why you also were a member of Mixergy.

Matt: Yes.

Andrew: To listen.

Matt: It helps me hear other’s experiences and a few real journeys. Have you read Phil Knight’s book, the founding of Nike?

Andrew: Yes. What did you get out of that book? “Shoe Dog” is the name of the book we’re talking about.

Matt: Yeah, “Shoe Dog.” You know what I got out of that book, everybody is trying to hold it together, even the best.

Andrew: That he look like he was doing so well, but there was a lot of holding it together.

Matt: Absolutely. What I love about that book is it’s 90% about the journey, the pain of trying to get to the other side. And then I love how he says, “You know, if you can line it up again, would I do it all again? Yeah. What do I miss? I missed that journey.” But I love that he took you through the real thing.

And then the other one that’s great is Ben Horowitz on “The Hard Thing About Hard Things.” And he’s got a two-page little part in there where he . . . basically you’re reading it, and I’m reading it going in and he’s saying, “You know, this is hard, and you might not make it and all that kind of fun stuff,” and you’re waiting for him to come through the other end and go, “You know, but you can do it,” and he doesn’t end that way. It just ends with, “And you’re probably not going to make it.” And it’s like, “Oh, well, that’s uplifting. That’s fantastic.”

Andrew: I liked his style a lot. I actually listened to that book as an audio book, which was unusual for me, but boy did I enjoy it. It was really good.

Matt: Unbelievable.

Andrew: I’ll talk about my second sponsor.

Matt: Sure.

Andrew: It’s a company called HostGator. And I’ve got to tell you, I remember one of the things that I discovered was my friend, Chris Luck, he had these pages that just look freaking beautiful. And I said, “Chris, how are you constantly throwing these pages up?” And he said, “Well, go check out this thing called ThemeForest.” Now, ThemeForest is not a sponsor, but I took a look, and I realized they’re these beautiful themes for WordPress, and there are tons of people in the marketplace. I interviewed the founder of ThemeForest about how we built up that marketplace. And I realized all these different designs that I admire could be mine, the same thing for somebody who’s listening to me.

WordPress is such a robust platform that if you go to . . . let me say that clearly,, you go and set up a WordPress site, then you go to a site like ThemeForest, and you just start going through all the different themes that you have, that they have and look for the one that you like, or you say, “You know what, I just want a one-pager.” You go do a Google search, one page WordPress site, one page WordPress theme, excuse me, is even better, and you even add the word free to [inaudible 00:44:20], a bunch of themes so that if you have a website that you need, maybe it’s one just saying what you do, maybe it’s one for a new company that you’re going to launch, just go and find the theme that’s beautiful, implement it on a WordPress site that’s hosted by HostGator, inexpensive, very quick, just works on all these different devices, desktop, phone, etc., iPad is my favorite, and you’re ready to go.

And so if you’re looking to start a website for anything, whether it’s a new business, a new product category, just new random idea, a hobby even, the fact that you create a page for it makes it more significant. There’s so many people by the way, Matt, now that I’m running marathons all over the world, so many people who said, “I run marathons, I do this.” It’s the people who have a website for their journey that for some reason feel like they have done something bigger. Like, the guy who did an ultramarathon on every continent, I just met him, Joel Runyon, the fact that he’s got a website where I can go and see all this makes it feel like he really did an epic thing, not just something in his memory.

Anyway, so whatever it is, take it to, go find that beautiful theme online, there are tons of them for free. And if you go to, you’ll get unmetered bandwidth, unlimited email addresses, you’ll get great tech support from them. And if you don’t like them, you can always take your site and move on somewhere else. But frankly, you’re going to like them because their price is right, and WordPress with themes that are available everywhere. It’s just an easy way to get going.

Matt: How are you enjoying the marathons?

Andrew: I do love them. I love them to the point where when I sold my first company, all I did all day was ride my bike. Like, it would be hours and hours of riding my bike and going out at night. Now, I’m thinking maybe this is all I want to do. No, there is one other thing that I’m really enjoying. The guy from LIFT99, he’s one of the founders of Pipedrive, he invited me to Estonia. He said, “Come on out. I’m going to introduce you to entrepreneurs here.”

I sat down at LIFT99’s office . . . first of all, it’s a beautiful office because it’s a little bit messy. They’ve got mugs from all these Estonian companies that made it big, but who knew they were Estonian companies, who even knew how big they were? They’ve got plaques for all these companies that hit certain financial milestones. They’ve got random robot, random, like, mobility devices, just all around this co-working space, and they invited me to talk to different entrepreneurs.

And I got to talk to this guy who created a company called Bolt. They’re competing with Uber. I say, “How are you competing with Uber? They have a lot of money.” He goes, “Because I have no money, it’s my advantage.” He goes look, [inaudible 00:46:45] bunch of people over to South Africa to launch their thing. I think it was a couple of hundred people. And all this money that went in, he said, “We just sent a PowerPoint. We found somebody in South Africa. We sent him a PowerPoint. Here’s our process. Now, our app is working, go and find drivers, as soon as you find drivers, the passengers will follow. If you keep the price low, then they’ll start talking about.” Anyway, he’s competing. It was brilliant.

And what I realized, Matt, was, I still love talking to entrepreneurs, hearing those stories, pushing them to a point where they’re a little uncomfortable at times, but getting something that’s useful for my audience and also for me. Give me that plus running, I don’t need anything else in my life. That’s the big thing that I’ve discovered.

Matt: We have similarities there. I’ve got two marathons down, five to go on the other five continents . .

Andrew: You’re going to do every marathon, every continent I mean.

Matt: Yeah.

Andrew: Wow.

Matt: [Another 00:47:32] four, yeah.

Andrew: Which ones have you done?

Matt: I did the original one in Athens and then I’ve done LA, and now I’m waiting to find which continent I’m going to go to next, but I’m hoping to get it done here in the next four years, the official one.

Andrew: And while you’re going around, are you looking to have some kind of experience?

Matt: Yeah, absolutely. I’m looking right now at the one on the Japanese island of Okinawa where, you know, the mental model of Ikigai comes from which is that North Star because they have the most amount of people who lived to be 100 per 1,000, 26 per 1,000. So I want to go see what is it that’s going on that island that has people sort of purpose driven and keep active and enjoying life.

Andrew: So how are you going to get to do that? How do you get to understand that? I know I get to go and do interviews, and in those interviews I get to find things out. What’s the process that lets you get these people to be open?

Matt: We’ll, I’ve got a couple of different networks and a couple of different interests. So I’m part of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with that organization, you must be.

Andrew: Yeah, absolutely, EO.

Matt: Right. And that is a wonderful global network where you can pretty much open up any chapter and get an authentic conversation. And that’s not meant for business development for me, that’s when I want to understand new culture in a new place and what it’s like to do business there, and what it’s like to live there . . .

Andrew: So you’re going to get introductions to people who know what you’re curious about and know that you’ve got some substance to you, and then . . .

Matt: Exactly.

Andrew: . . . you’ll just have dinner with them, drinks with them, pop into their office, got it, and get to ask those questions.

Matt: Exactly.

Andrew: Yeah.

Matt: So it gets to be pretty quick when you have that network. And, you know, I firmly believe that every entrepreneur needs a network that isn’t friends, family, and fools. You need a bunch of other business owners that you can have real discussion with. You know, it’s a tough enough journey, and it will expose every one of your flat sides.

Andrew: So how do you get those conversations to be meaningful and not just be hangout sessions where you’re talking about life, and it’s interesting but useful?

Matt: So EO has a pretty good, a pretty . . .

Andrew: A forum.

Matt: Yeah, the forum, but also even when you’re with non-forum members, you generally keep it to what they call or what we call shit that matters. And that’s basically the 2.5% of stuff that’s so good and the 2.5% of stuff that’s so bad that you really couldn’t share it in any other [arena 00:49:45] but fit in 2.5 on either side doesn’t really belong in the conversation.

Andrew: So, Matt, what you’re saying is the fact that at EO, the only reason people get together with EO is to have conversations about their real problems, the stuff that matters with other entrepreneurs who are also going through this. It sets up a context of it, right?

Matt: Absolutely.

Andrew: Got it. Got it. Okay, let’s talk about . . . by the way, the hardest one is Antarctica. I needed to get this all done within a year. It took me forever to get to Antarctica. I think I’ve got it all nailed down. I found this group that’s got a chartered plane going there for some adventure. I’m going on the plane with them. I’m running a marathon there on my own. I highly recommend going and putting yourself on a waitlist for one . . . have you done this for an Antarctic trip?

Matt: Not yet. No, no, no.

Andrew: If I would have done it before, it would have been maybe $15,000. Now, I’m paying $26,000 just to get to Antarctica and then all these other costs.

Matt: Yeah. It’s the most absurd one. I’m saving it for the end. But now you’re telling me that I’m going to have to wait two years, so I’m probably going to have to get on that later.

Andrew: That’s why you should just put yourself on a waitlist.

Matt: Yeah. That makes sense.

Andrew: Three hundred bucks to hold on to the spot, nothing significant.

Matt: Yeah, no, that’s worth it for sure.

Andrew: No amount of negotiation, let me make that work. All right. Talk to me about the woman who came to you who wanted to grow her company and because of what happened there you guys changed and decided to go after equity. Can you say a little bit about what she did and what you guys did for her?

Matt: Yeah, so she ran a health services company, a lot like physiotherapists. And, basically, she tells her story pretty openly. She was 15 years of struggling through running a services company. She tells the classic story of every second Thursday having a crappy bottle of wine open, checking the bank account to make sure she could afford payroll. And she heard Merv at one of the sessions and then came to one of our early sessions. And this is where we built a model on how to work with small and micro companies. And it takes a lot more coaching at the strategic level.

But what we did is we went in there, and the same thing over and over again, quite frankly, we helped them with the scheduling process. Then we help them make more gross margin per file, and we connect it at all to their purpose, which is getting people back to living. You know, the quicker time that they’re off on disability and go from disability to back to work, they’re happier, etc.

And so we helped her do that. And, you know, the consulting model, you get paid while you talk. You get paid to yak. And it’s a good living, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t build long-term equity and long-term wealth. And we looked at it and went, “This model is flawed. This model relies on building people and selling your time.” And so that’s when we started to look deeply into equity acquisitions.

Andrew: As I understand it, she got an offer for $5 million for a business, you said to her . . . Am I saying something I shouldn’t be?

Matt: No. It’s not 5 million, but she got an offer for an undisclosed amount.

Andrew: Okay, so she got an offer for some significant amount of money. You guys said, “Hey, you know what, you should reconsider this. It’s is like you can continue to grow the business.” She said, “I think I’m done.” She ended up selling her business. And you look and said, “Well, she sold it too soon, but actually, we are the ones who made the bigger mistake because we helped her go from a few million to a few million more, and we got nothing from that beyond, you know, just . . . ”

Matt: The fee.

Andrew: A fee. And that’s when you decided we’re going to start to take equity from these smaller businesses.

Matt: Yeah, we started to look and say, “We’re going to get into the equity game.” And we have a couple positions right now, and we’re at the final . . . due diligence takes forever, so we’re at the final . . . it’s one thing to agree to a contract to help one another, it’s another thing to agree to get married. And that’s what a shareholder’s agreement is. And so we’re at the final end of two of them. One looks like it’s going to go through and another one, I don’t know. If you had asked me two months ago, I would have said it was a 90% chance, and now maybe I’ll give you a 30% chance because it keeps slipping to the right.

Andrew: What type of businesses are you taking equity in versus just a cut of profits?

Matt: So it really is opportunity-based. And what I mean by that is if the owners want to get out and we have two of them that wants to sell, one’s old, then we look at how do buy. And if the owner wants to stay in for a long time, we look at how do we share in the gains long enough that it makes it worth our while to go through the initial pain because it’s difficult.

Andrew: What’s your relationship with Warren Rustin?

Matt: So he’s great talker at EO, one of the best people they bring in. And Warren Rustin . . .

Andrew: He’s from ModernAd, is that right? ModernAd Media.

Matt: That’s on there now. I mean, he was the chief scheduler for President Gerald Ford. He then went on to flip multiple companies. The last company he took from several hundred million to several billion and then he flipped it. So I mean, you’re talking about a . . . and you look at this guy, he’s probably one of the most influential individuals that really made me re-examine what I found to be important in life.

Andrew: And so what’s your connection with him? I’m looking him up right now, and now I’m on his Wikipedia page . . .

Matt: The only connection is that I’ve spent some time with him and his talks have deeply impacted me. We spent an afternoon in his house, and I’ve heard him speak a number of times. And he’s coming back to Halifax to speak again later on. So it’s not a deep personal connection, but it’s a connection through EO.

Andrew: Got it. Okay.

Matt: His stuff has been . . . you know, some people affect you because of long-term and deep relationships and some affect you because of what they say in the moment you need to hear it.

Andrew: Be specific, what did you need to hear that he told you?

Matt: Yeah. So you know what, he said, “Why don’t you take a look and define success for yourself? Why do you exist?”

Andrew: Personally.

Matt: Personally. And, you know what, I’m glad that you hit on that because too many business owners don’t ask this question. And then they drive everybody else crazy because it changes every day, and so they change their business with it. And it’s not different than the strategic process except it’s deeply personal. Have you actually sat down and said, “Why do I exist?” and I use that Ikigai model that I told you about earlier, and then I use the four burners of life, personal, professional, family, and community.

Andrew: So why do you exist, you personally?

Matt: Yeah, I mean, I could that Ikigai with you. But, essentially, what do I love to do? I love to solve and be part of solving complex problems. And, you know, what does the world need? The world needs sustainable businesses. What can I get paid for? I can get paid for solving those problems and being part of the gains. So that’s an upper end one. And then I’ve taken the time, which would be much longer than we have left in the show, but to write my obituary from the four perspectives that I just laid out, community, family and friends, personal, and professional. And literally from those four perspectives, what do you want to be able to say about it? What do you want people to say about it?

Andrew: And that’s enough for you now, get enough meaning to care about more than you would have cared before, to get more out of yourself and then to say no to more things.

Matt: That’s the short way, but let me just go one step further, driving the bucket list conversation, so between those three models, the Ikigai, the four perspectives, and the bucket list, it drives the type of focus in my life that I did not have when we started this company. So, you know, being in the process of constantly reflecting on that, I carry this lovely little coin. I’m not sure if people can see it, but it’s got a mountain on it. Basically, it says it’s one of Ray Dalio’s classic quotes, it is pain plus reflection equals progress. People don’t reflect enough especially business owners.

Andrew: Be more specific about your life. When you weren’t as focused, what did you do that now because you are focused you don’t do anymore?

Matt: Well, I don’t drink anymore at all.

Andrew: Okay. How much were you drinking before?

Matt: It was on and off. Call it binge alcoholism, call it . . .

Andrew: Enough just to party, but not enough to cause damage in your life or did it?

Matt: Not any significant damage, but enough that I didn’t enjoy that part of me.

Andrew: Okay, until you gave that up and as a result, what happened?

Matt: Just change that habit in for marathons. But, you know, I use that as one example. The other example is where are you spending your time? Where am I spending my time? If you want to drive at . . .

Andrew: Where were you spending your time before, and where are you spending your time now? Give me, like, a specific.

Matt: I’m spending my time saying yes to absolutely everything that I thought could maybe benefit at some point.

Andrew: What’s the thing that you look back and, “Why did I say yes to that?”

Matt: I know where you want to go specific with this. It’s probably better if I talk about what I’m focused on now as a result, I mean, because I was literally saying yes to everything and burning myself out. But if you get to one of my . . .

Andrew: I do that too, someone who was really nice to me, to dinner, said, “Hey, can you talk to this person I work with?” I said, “Yeah, of course. Let’s do it.” This morning, I got up and I talked to somebody for half an hour that I could have used for something really productive because he saw me somewhere and he said, “Hey, can you help me out with this thing?” And I said, “Yeah, of course, I could do it.” And then I found myself in that case saying at the end of the call, “Why don’t we schedule another one?” Why am I saying yes to it? And so you don’t do that anymore because you’re so clear on your focus.

Matt: Very, very clear. I’ve got three main focus in my life. I got a young daughter, and you’re taking my only night this week that I won’t be home to her. But I give one night up a week, that’s it.

Andrew: Thanks.

Matt: I don’t get four up anymore. I give one. And I get home, and I see her for that two-hour window, chuck the phone aside, put on some music. She’s 16 months. It’s awesome, and that is one crystal clear focus. The other crystal clear focus for me, is family beyond that. My father has been diagnosed with a rare illness. My grandfather died six months ago in a head-on collision, the roofer.

Andrew: Wow.

Matt: And I’ll tell you that I started doing this two years ago, and here’s what I’ll tell you, I went and did things in the last two years that I wouldn’t have done, like going to spend time with him in Zephyrhills, Florida. So you know where Zephyrhills is, I can see that smile.

Andrew: I don’t. I just happened to look them up, like, “What does this have to do with . . . ? It just as I’m googling I came up with just now in this interview, what is Zephyrhills? What does it mean?

Matt: It’s a place. It’s known for water, but really it is 45 minutes outside of Tampa, and it’s where my grandparents love to go for their winters. And, you know, there’s nothing there for someone like me, but they were there.

Andrew: Got it.

Matt: And so we made a concerted effort. We bought a trailer beside their trailer so my father could go down. And I have this wonderful video of my daughter in a . . . you know, everybody has a bouncy swing when they’re younger because you need 15 minutes of peace, so you put them in the bouncy swing and they jump up and down. My grandfather is jumping beside her. And that moment, quite frankly, wouldn’t have happened had I not got my shit squared away and said, “What’s important, and how do I schedule my time to do it?”

So, you know, running that marathon in Athens would not have happened, doing the training would not have happened. So here it is. I help grow businesses and help solve complex problems and take equity, that’s fun. I have a family focus and it gets calendared and scheduled, and I have a personal focus, which is the marathons. And that’s basically my life right now. And that’ll change. I re-examine it, and re-look at it every 90 days, and do the same thing, so.

Andrew: I appreciate you coming on here. And I’ve got to say one of the things that I noticed about you immediately was you sounded good, and I looked and I realized why. You had a lapel mic, a lavalier in your shirt. You thought that through. Before we officially started, like in the first couple of seconds, I noticed you were zooming your camera and just right, you’ve got the thing over your shoulder, which is a poster that talks about the ability to simplify. And the ability to simplify means eliminate unnecessary . . . like, maybe you can read it.

Matt: The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.

Andrew: Yeah, and I thought, “This is a person who cares about the details right to that level.” Your jacket looks nice, but there’s also something underneath it that makes an impression that I hadn’t seen before. But it’s these little touches that I noticed about you instantly. And I said, “I know this is going to be great.” And I appreciate you putting in all the effort for all the little details and giving up a night with your daughter to be here. For anyone who wants to go check out your site, see, this is the thing, I’m going to send them over to, it’s spelled S-Y-M . . . sorry?

Matt: Yeah, you can send them over to with an I too, it’ll get there mercifully.

Andrew: So they’ll get there, but I would like for them to get more of what we just got here. There isn’t an extension of you on that site.

Matt: You’re right.

Andrew: There is no way to say, “I did this guy’s worldview. I love the books that he reads. I love the way that he thinks about these books. I want more of Matt,” and on the site, there’s a little bit but it’s not really more of Matt. It’s not really more of your system. I would love to some more of that.

Matt: Here’s the easiest way, the still go straight to my inbox.

Andrew: Perfect.

Matt: There’s the easiest way. That’ll skip the queue everywhere.

Andrew: If somebody wants to connect with Matt, do it. And I’m so happy to have had time to spend with you. I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen. Guys, if you liked this program and you want to say thank you to the people who made this possible, go check out and check out Thanks, Matt.

Matt: Cheers.

Who should we feature on Mixergy? Let us know who you think would make a great interviewee.