ABOUT TODAY’S GUEST | MATT KING
Matt King is a star of stars in the professional world. As a leader in Vector/Cutco, he advanced from District to Division Manager in less than 2 years, then built his Division into a National Champion in another 3 years. A juggernaut competitor during his Vector career, Matt produced a staggering $90 million in Cutco sales and was inducted into the company’s Hall of Fame. Matt left Vector to found his own company, and in less than 3 years, he has already scaled that company to remarkable levels. He understands the concepts for building something big and building it fast. He is also consistently effective at teaching these concepts to others, and he shares his best insights in this podcast.
Q&A WITH MATT KING
Q: So why don’t we get started off with how you were turned onto Cutco/Vector. How did you get connected with the company?
- In the summer of 1998 I was living with my father and after my freshman year of college. In April, my father got into a car accident and I had to move in with my mother. One of her rules was that I had to have a summer job. I tried working at a restaurant, but found that wasn’t for me after 3 days. I saw a sign on the side of the road and I called. As a business major, the opportunity looked like a good proving ground to grow some skills, learn some things, and build my resume.
Q: Let’s hear about some of your early career experiences that created some of the most important lessons for you.
- My first summer as a sales rep, being in a new town that I hadn’t really grown up in, living with my mom, my office was so upbeat and positive and they really showed me how to use my confidence, become a true problem solver, think bigger, and to be and act like a professional.
- The power of positive thinking wasn’t something I had thought much about before that summer, and I was kind of brash as an 18/19 year old. Vector taught me to build rapport and be more skilled in not turning people off by being brash.
- I also learned consistency, persistence, and how to continue to grow. This led me to earn scholarships in two summers.
- Then as an assistant manager and branch manager I learned that people were looking up to me and that I had the power within myself to really make a difference in you people’s lives by instilling that confidence and life lessons that the business had given to me. It was one of my earliest opportunities for me to be a leader to help and coach people.
Q: So as a Division Manager, you quickly built the North Florida Division into a national championship division. What are some of the success factors that allowed you to grow your division so quickly?
- A big part of it was sharing a vision and fueling each other. This led to holding high standards and expectations for ourselves and not running with the crowd. We used to have a saying, “If you run with the crowd, you get what the crowd gets.” We wanted to not be the norm and push the limits of what was possible at the time. Healthy competition was encouraged and we enjoyed seeing each other perform highly.
- We learned that processes and programs are critical so that everyone is speaking the same language. We prided ourselves on taking programs and elevating them to be efficient and effective. We ended up being trailblazers for several major programs that have continued to develop in the company since that point in time.
- Lastly, I tried to use logic and facts as motivation instead of emotions which can sometimes come across as fluff or hype. I focused on numbers and percentages and how they translated into the outcomes we desired.
Q: You did such a great job at developing leaders. One year, one of your managers, Ananth Ganesan, who is also your partner now, was the number one manager in the company. What did he bring to the table that made the North Florida Division so good, so fast?
- At that point in Ananth’s career he was really determined to be the best and he was a great example to point at in with that healthy competition to show what being the best looks like. His work ethic was unmatched, he poured passion into his craft every day, and did things that many people thought were not possible at that time.
Q: After leaving Vector, you built your current company, Blue Chip Maintenance, very quickly. You started small in Tampa and are now in 4 states with 90 technicians and 35 employees. What are some of the commonalities between building great organizations fast that were present in your division and are also present in your current company?
- I think Vector gave me an amazing foundation in two things that are applicable to any business anyone ever opens and those are leadership matters and people matters. You hear everywhere about poor leadership and management and bad bosses, but Vector really instilled in me early on how to treat people the right way. We were able to adjust our style depending on the person we were working with and also creating a key staff or inner group that leads. Most people don’t have a fraction of those skills that we learned in Vector, but we were able to apply those and develop and grow leaders to take the lead.
- Some other skills that Vector has provided us with is the knowledge that change is inevitable and evolution is required, finding solutions and not getting demotivated, recruiting quality people, managing fairly, always seeking growth in people and business opportunities, how to set expectations, and communicating vision. These things have helped us create an almost $7 Million company in two and a half years.
Q: You talked about having a key staff or inner group in your current company where some employees lead their own miniature parts of the company. Can you describe that a little more?
- We have several different departments in our company including finance, dispatch, account management, project management, field technicians, and purchasing. We have experienced leaders from each of these departments that come together weekly to discuss areas of opportunity, how to coach different team members most effectively, and edit our policies and procedures all to bring the best product possible to the table.
Q: You talked about some of these departments directly interfacing with customers and building relationships with them. So you are able to build relationships with customers where they come to you multiple times per year for their needs, right?
- Yes, this year we will complete close to 15,000 jobs and I would say that close to 95% of them were repeat customers. This falls back to the idea that relationships and the way people are treated matters. Coaching employees to give people what they want, how they want it, when they want it is crucial. Vector teaches us to not sit around and wait for things, but to go out and get them. We brainstorm ways to continually communicate with our clients to keep us at the top of their mind when they need something. This includes everything from emails and phone calls, to giving our top customers gifts around Christmas time. We took a page out of John Ruhlin’s book and really gave gifts that connected with our customers and I know for sure that resulted in us getting more business.
Q: You have shared some really great leadership philosophies so far. Are there any more that you personally have that you would like to share with us?
- Circle of Influence/Circle of 5 – We have to be really specific and intentional about who we interact with the most. If you take the average of the 5 people you spend the most with then that is what you will be as far as financially, how much opportunity that they have, and their relationships. One of the great things about Vector is that it allows you to keep some really top notch people in your circle and since leaving there was a void that needed filling. But I have been very fortunate to join a CEO group called Vistage that has had a major impact on keeping my circle of influence in a strong place. I think all leaders need to challenge themselves as they continue to grow to keep a high caliber inner circle.
- Thinking About the Bigger Picture – Every decision I and the company make, I don’t just think about how it benefits me, but I also think about how it impacts all the employees and all the families of the employees. Larry Manley used to say, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I believe the more I try and help them get where they want to go, the more our business will follow.
- Be Easy on People and Tough on Results – Focus on results, be easy on people, form relationships, and be likable.
- Getting the Right People in the Right Seats – Organize key people so they are affecting the right things
- Attitude is Everything – Some skills are very hard to teach, but with the right attitude you will always get them, when I am hiring and interviewing, experience almost doesn’t matter, but it is about what type of heart and attitude the person will bring to the table.
- We have four pillars to our company:
- Constant And Never-ending Improvementv(CANI)
- Evolve or Die
Q: I heard you reference Larry Manley. Who are the people you would say you learned the most from in the business and what you learned?
- Larry Manley – I was really close to Larry and what comes to mind when I think of him is to really put people first. There is a reason that he has developed more division managers than any other division manager has. That is because he embodies the idea of putting people first in getting what they want and you will get what you want. He instilled that in me at a very early age as a developing leader and I have used it in every leadership position I have been in. It’s about looking at people not as they are, but as they could be. How he took me as a lump of coal and carved me up over the years under his tutelage was truly a remarkable gift that I could never repay.
- Scott Dennis – He was an example of setting a standard for excellence and striving for excellence in all you do. And for using facts and logic to motivate, he was the best at pulling up data for people to see a picture and be motivated.
- Amar Dave – He really instilled the idea of not being afraid of being a pioneer and getting your hands dirty, getting in there and figuring things out, and being able to fine tune programs. He was also big on being a big thinker, not settling for the status quo, and holding a high standard for your circle of influence.
- John Kane – “Never underestimate the heart of a champion” He has one of the largest hearts and he has really set the example for hundreds if not thousands that follow him.
Q: Our podcast here is really about changing and influencing lives. So as you look into your future, how do you aspire to change lives through your work and your influence?
- We want to build a team that is built to last and offer security and opportunity to impact hundreds if not thousands of people down the road. It was great to look on our reviews and see how many times we saved peoples’ state of mind. Not all of our jobs are emergencies, but some of them were and we take a lot of pride in bringing relief to people as fast as possible. We want to grow the number of people we impact on the inside and outside of our business and scale it so that their is plenty of opportunity for everyone to take off of the pie.
- Matt’s experience as a branch manager was where he first found he could bring forth his personal power and lead. This branch manager opportunity in the company is often where a lot of people figure out that they can lead without someone else there and it opens up a world of new opportunities.
- A lot of people like Matt talk about when they leave Vector they notice a void of people around them who are ambitious, motivated, inspired, and going places. It is so important to keep ourselves surrounded with people like that in order to keep rising.
- Leadership Matters – often people leave jobs, not because the pay or the job, but because the leaders aren’t helping them grow and elevate them. It is so important to bring the right culture around leading others in the organization that you are in and you are leading now.
- Christopher Lochhead – Follow Your Different Podcast Ep. 071 “How to Design a Company People Are Lining Up to Work For” https://lochhead.com/071-how-to-design-a-company-that-people-are-lining-up-to-work-for/
- Christopher Lochhead – Follow Your Different Podcast Ep. 044 with Dan Casetta “Amazing Culture at Cutco” https://lochhead.com/dan-casetta/
- Branch Manager – An internship opportunity where someone is allowed to open and run their own Cutco/Vector office for a summer.
- Key Staff – An inner group of employees that take charge and lead and teach the rest of the team through their own example.
Show Notes for this episode provided by Jared Moon.
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