Matthew Michalewicz’s résumé is nothing short of staggering. Over his 20-year career Matthew has proven he has what it takes to successfully found, run and sell a global company, then repeat that process over and over again.
He told Bushy Martin on the Get Invested podcast that for him that process is more artistic than one might expect from someone running businesses in the finance and tech industries.
“Building a business is like writing a book or painting a painting or developing a sculpture,” Matthew says.
“It is having something in your head and turning it into reality through some artistic process. There is art in writing and sculpture and painting and so forth, and I think in business it’s the same thing; how you position yourself, what the messages will be, what part of the market you’ll occupy, what customers you’ll go after, and that is enormously rewarding and fulfilling to see your mental vision turn into something concrete on a day-by-day basis.”
Matthew’s entrepreneurial verve was sparked at university, when he founded personal training business Fitness Forever. After university, he co-founded CFG Investments, with $150 million under management. He then co-founded NuTech Solutions in the US, where he raised more than $15 million in venture capital and grew the company to almost 200 employees across six international offices, before selling the business. Matthew then co-founded SolveIT Software, a supply chain optimisation business that serviced customers such as Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Xstrata. SolveIT Software became the third fastest-growing company in Australia in 2012 before Matthew and his partners sold it. Today Matthew runs Complexica, an award-winning provider of artificial intelligence software for optimising sales and marketing activities, while sharing his knowledge and experience through teaching, public speaking and writing books.
But Matthew didn’t always have it all, and he attributes at least some of his drive to grow businesses and create value to his childhood.
“What I can remember from my early childhood is when we escaped Communism (in Europe), we were very poor. We left with two suitcases, so I had a very poor childhood. There was always that kind of desire to have more, to have what my friends had … living below the average instilled some kind of desire later in life, a kind of persistence to achieve, to excel, to have.”
Matthew’s inclination towards business lead him to study finance, but he says he learnt much more running a small personal training business from the age of 18 than he ever did at university.
“It really taught me the foundations of and fundamentals of being a business owner, which is everything from managing money to having partnerships, because I had to have a partnership with a gym to train people … What if I injured someone? I had to have insurance. It taught me marketing – how do you attract leads? It taught me sales – how do you take a lead and convert it into a customer? It taught me customer service and making sure people have a great experience. It taught me management (in terms of) managing other staff.”
It was also the personal training business, rather than his degree, that lead Matthew to his first foray into the world of finance. One of the customers he trained was a money manager with a similar sense of entrepreneurship, so together they launched a financial planning and brokerage firm. And it was managing the wealth of his clients that gave Matthew his lightbulb moment – to launch a tech business at a time when this industry was starting to take off.
In addition to approaching business with a creative, problem-solving mindset, Matthew has been able to build powerful partnerships with influencers in order to help his businesses succeed.
“Entrepreneurship, especially tech entrepreneurship, has become fashionable … You can do things much more cheaply than you could in the past, which means there are more start-ups. There’s more noise through social media and all these digital channels. It’s difficult to stand out.
“You need to rise above the noise, the clutter, and say to the market, ‘we’re special, and we’re going places’ … A shortcut in doing that is to align yourself with some extremely well-known brand, either a company or even better, some individual, that can elevate you to that kind of status.”
Those partnerships have included securing Frank Abagnale, who Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed in Steven Spielberg’s Catch me if you can, as a board member of NuTech, as well as Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa and a former National Security Advisor to the US President.
“All of that allowed us to kind of break through the noise. Time Magazine covered us, Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal. That makes it easier to raise more money and win higher-profile customers … when you’re building a technology company and selling to big companies, you’re trying to create comfort in those big companies. You’re going to be around, you know what you’re doing, you’re going to build a global business, and the more well-known you are and the bigger your brand is, the easier it is to create that comfort.”
Matthew also says that to succeed you have to be willing to sell, continuously.
“As an entrepreneur, you’re always selling. You’re selling a product to a customer. You’re selling your vision to an investor and an employee. You’re pitching your story to the media. If you’re no good at selling, life is very difficult. Most start-ups fail if they can’t sell. They don’t fail because they don’t have a great product or their technology sucks.”
A strong sense of self belief has also been key to what Matthew has been able to achieve. His parents raised him to believe he could achieve absolutely anything he set his mind to, and that has flowed through to Matthew’s approach to business, which he has combined with an incredibly strong work ethic.
“I get up at four o’clock every day. I go through goals, I go through all the things I need to do. I answer emails. I’ve got a gym in my home where I’m there by 6 am at the latest. It’s a very structured schedule, I work a lot, and I really enjoy what I do.”
Listen to the full interview here
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