Find A Good Mentor
Devin MillerThe Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Find A Good Mentor
The Inventive Journey
Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.
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just find someone who you admire if you can and have that person be a guide for you [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host evan miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups into seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where he helps startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks if you ever need help with years just go to strategymeeting.com and grab some time with us to chat now today we've got another great guest on the podcast matt may and is a quick introduction to matt so matt went to uh college for theater and arts administration uh went uh went to school in new york and uh did some theater jobs i think he uh did a touring manager for broadway musical and directed uh theater camp and worked at a talent agency and did a temp job at the american express bank um and then after all that decided to move down to florida and uh when i worked at a at performing arts did some work at broadway across america i think uh worked as a teacher in a couple different positions and went back and got a graduate degree bartended and while his bartending got asked to do a uh staffing or help with us doing a staffing event for a bit of time and then from there decided to start his own business so with that much as an introduction welcome on the podcast matt thank you for having me i'm very excited to be here absolutely so i just gave a quick run through to a much longer journey so why don't you take us back in time a bit uh when you were uh when you were in college and you were studying for a theater and arson administration absolutely um so i went to school uh in western new york and i i did i was part of theater and music in high school and it just seemed like the next logical step so i started out with the bfa musical theater program for two years after my sophomore year dropped it because i realized i didn't really want to be an actor so i got a general theater degree and picked up the arts administration degree and that really gave me a foundation for everything that was to follow um and now and for the past uh 10 11 years i've really been focusing heavily on the team building industry and it has allowed me to utilize all of my skills whether i'm whether i'm uh quote unquote on stage facilitating and hosting an event or producing it selling it early on developing it and creating it so it's kind of it took me a while to get here but it kind of was always going to be the end goal i just didn't know it so no and that and that's great now you just stepped over basically gave the very you give the book ends of your journey of hey i went to school and now i'm here so let's jump back so you come out of college and you're um you got the you got the degree and you're working in new york and doing a variety of theater jobs so kind of after you graduate what was the first job and kind of how did you get started well you know i i knew i wanted to go to new york it was it was even though i wasn't going to be an actor i knew i wanted to be in the business there um fortunately while i was in in college some former students came back again with alumni the and uh they did a program for us and i immediately befriended one of them and that summer i stayed on his couch for six weeks doing uh an internship at a theater company uh second stage theater in new york and then the following summer he said yeah come back come back and i did another six or seven weeks as an intern at the gage group talent agency so i was able to get a sampling of it and then my when i moved to new york it was june of well yeah a long time ago and uh i got my first job was in a talent agency and because i had the degree and because i don't doubt for a second that it was because i had the internships to back up i had a little bit of real world experience uh as a 22 year old coming in so did that and then my boss who was a fantastic agent uh and and was a mentor even though i didn't realize it at the time um had twins and left and so i was assigned to another desk and i it wasn't the same and it's not that it was bad it just wasn't the same experience i was having and i kind of fell out of love with the with the job and what i was doing and i said you know what i should be i want to be an actor i should give it a try okay so i got head shots and went on one audition and i said okay i didn't i this is not what i want to do so uh you know i i laugh about it at the time i i guess i was at the time i really didn't put a lot of stock into it because it wasn't really what i wanted to do or should be doing and i think i knew that so um then i i had a temp job theater jobs unless you're in with a um an office if you know their their temp jobs really is what they are uh until the show closes and you move on to the next one so i did a lot of temping in new york which was great because i learned a lot of different business skills everything from american express bank to citibank to a law office i really got a lot of different um now with those temp jobs was it really just uh was that the desire you wanted to just kind of jump from job to job or is that hey this is a means to an end while i'm figuring out what i'm going to be doing as far as theater and getting a gig i'll do these temporary jobs kind of what was the the jump or jumping between each of them what was the end goal it was definitely the latter it was to pay the bills it really was um so after i after i left the talent agency i bartended at a restaurant in times square that was a big theater restaurant that i love but they closed for two weeks to do renovations well two weeks ended up being several months and in the meantime i needed to make money so i had business skills so i could get temp jobs other than you know waiting tables and i did that and i started out for supposed to be again two week job or something at american express bank and i was there for i think 13 or 14 months and i i've always had a passion for florida uh especially living up in the cold and i love new york city don't get me wrong and i'm glad that i did my my youth there my youth young adult life there but it got to a point where i said uh i really like florida so i literally packed up and went on vacation and said i like it here so i didn't pack up i went on vacation and said oh i really like it here went back got a sublet and drove somebody else's car you know when you can can drive an old lady's snowbird's car down that's literally what i did and then unfortunately i had a very difficult time finding a job uh any field i i'm guessing it's because it wasn't season and whatever and and i kind of to be honest with you kind of wanted to be the beach bum bartender life i really did um had a hard time so then it was like okay well i need to find some money so i started throwing things out there and ultimately i was hired to be the tour manager for a five-month tour i think of crazy for you the musical back in 2001 so my stay in florida i was in miami beach was very short-lived um but i went out on tour and then i went back to new york after that and and did kind of think i guess that was i did just attempt throughout the summer i went to florida again in august for vacation and the pole was back and so i said ah the restaurant where i had i had gotten finally a bartending job the first time at a at a hotel a boutique hotel and they said well we need a restaurant manager you want to come down and work with us sure i got nothing why not winter in florida well i packed up again sublet my apartment in new york drove down and started september 10 2001. so now that was it was that kind of again just a hey means to an and i'll go get some money as i'm trying to figure out you know the tapping or the theater and whatnot or just hey this is a fun very exciting opportunity we'll go do that for a period of time it was and it was you know winter in florida why not and i figured yeah we'll i'll do it for the season and we'll see what happens after that because i was kind of trying to figure out what i really you know where i wanted to land and what not geographically as well as career-wise so one question between that because i think it was before that maybe after or during it i can't remember which is you also went back and went to graduate school and got an additional degree is that right grad school wasn't until several years later so this is still this was 2001 and then obviously the world changed um the next day september 11 and the tourism industry you know went to down the toilet and me i was like oh i'm a new yorker i have to go back and be in new york or new york i need to save new york well new york didn't need saving by me i was one of the last people that was going to do anything but i went back with my new york pride and then again it always happens late in the summer so then the summer the following summer i said all right i really am done i really want to be able to have my coffee outside whether it's january or june i'm going back for good i'm going to get rid of my apartment but it took me a year to find a quote-unquote big boy job right so i did that was um with new world school of the arts in miami and so the following summer now i'm into 2003 i moved to florida for good and i didn't know you said okay i toyed around with that new york florida new york new york florida sounds like it's a whole lot better weather most of time so you go to florida for good you move down there and you find you know you as you said your big boy job so then kind of where did the the journey go from there from there i um i was at the assistant of the dean of theater and i was the associate producer for productions which i i really enjoyed but it there was not any growth opportunity so um i reached out and and ultimately after that i was the director of education for florida theatrical association which is the non-profit partner of broadway across america in the time it was i think five or six different cities around the state now it's only uh i think two or three uh so i did a year and that i love because it was i was working in education in florida dealing with broadway tours it was the best of all worlds for me um unfortunately there was some administrative turmoil that ultimately led me it kept me there for only a year and i ended up teaching for two years after that at a private school and it was during the second year that i was teaching drama at a at this private school that i went back and got my master's degree now is a master's degree because you're wanting to stay or be more qualified to do education or what was kind of the motivation to get the master's degree well it's a great question initially it was to to get a raise if i continued to teach um and have that and the the program that i got i got my degree in interdisciplinary arts and it's what do you think it is it's a combination of business and grants and and quantum physics mixed with the arts and art therapy and film therapy so it's ever you know it's very across the board a big mixture and and i the program unfortunately no longer exists where i earned my degree from and during it i was frustrated because i was busting my butt and i did it in a year i also waited tables during it uh but i did it in a year and i was busting my butt and i was frustrated because i was putting everything into it and a lot and i got irritated that other colleagues of mine were not and they were getting season d earning c's and d's but we're still going to wind up with the same piece of paper and it just frustrated me and i don't remember who it was but somebody said hold on let's put some perspective here you're getting out of it what you're putting into it so are they so while the impetus originally was to get some more training and have another credential to hopefully make more money ultimately the organic answer to your question is i didn't realize it at the time but it was for me and i did get a lot out of it to this day and i actually still have a number of the materials there's a book that i use that i just loaned to somebody else and this is 12 years later so it stuck with me um yeah so now so you go get the degree and say okay started out as i just a way to get a pay raise in the end you're saying hey i'll get out of what i put into it let's put more into it and get more out of it and so you come out with the degree um and then i think after that was after you went to bartending or kind of what was that after you got the degree where did you go to next funny i was i i had i was in negotiations to go out on a tour another theatrical tour and while that happened i was asked if i wanted to stage manage this uh dinner theater show that in a private small in a small space and was moving into the major performing arts center to be a partner with them and i said no because i thought i was going out on this tour well those negotiations fell apart because i said no to a number of things i said no i'm not gonna do that by the time i went back to the the dinner theater producers um they had hired somebody else but they said we need a bartender here called the art center so i was bartending there and then it was this funny enough the stage manager who i don't want to say beat me for the job but took the job because i didn't pursue it early on because i thought i was or i was pursuing something else she was doing some staffing for a team building program that fall and asking a number of the people cast members in the show they wanted to do it and ask me i said sure i'll do it and that's kind of literally how i fell in team building per se now my theatrical experiences like i said everything from being on stage to producing as well as i also did a lot of leadership training in college so i took some psychology courses so it was there i just wasn't necessarily working for a team building company i was doing a lot of the things that are now in my career as a team building facilitator just not specifically for that so i had i was building the skill set all along i just didn't realize it no i think that definitely makes sense so now you're going about you're doing that you're you know you're getting into the team building and are you getting into that and one time is your i think as you're getting offered to you know do a staffing event for team building events and doing that there's kind of the genesis for doing your own business well yes so after i started after i did this one event i went up to the facilitator gave him my card said let's stay in touch whatever great turned around started walking away and he said wait hold on actually hold on i got something in in two weeks let's come over here let's talk about it so i ca excuse me i kind of got in with him there and then i was doing assistant work while i was still bartending and i said so i i really like this so i continued to build my skills and then i started training to be a lead facilitator if you will running the program and again it wasn't necessarily the training of because i had already gotten all or already built up all these skills it was just how do you want me to put them together for you for this program of yours type thing so um and and i freelanced for many many well seven years i think and then finally i said i don't really love being on the front lines fixing things that i think should have been handled differently leading up to this not all the time but sometimes and i said hmm i think i can do this myself so i decided to form my own company and and i'm glad i did and i'm staying boutique because one thing that i really like is that if somebody hires me the most they're ever going to be is one removed from me so i'm gonna generate the contract 99 times out of a hundred i'm gonna be the salesperson 99 times out of 100 now that's not to say that your facilitator on site won't be somebody else because i can only be in so many places at once and that would be one place right but with with me one of my company philosophies was you're not going to reach out and have a salesperson and then you're not going to be passed off to a contract administrator and then a production logistics person and then if there's a charity component a charity person and then somebody different on site and then a wrap like who's my contact you don't know so now it works for some companies for me it's not my thing i found it to be challenging for clients because they don't know who to call so now with that you know so now you you've said okay i'm going to do it do it do it my way i'm going to stay boutique i'm going to be the you know provide the better service by not having people pass off so much and you kind of have that as the where you're headed or what you're going to be doing now as you're doing that and building it did it go well did you just start you know start to build build up clientele and get a lot of things going or was it kind of rocky or ups and downs did you keep doing temp jobs you got the business going or kind of now as you started to get into that how did that roll out uh well that's a good question i intentionally and for legal reasons did not go after clients by using any past experience any cold outreach i did to somebody who happened to be well here's the other thing though when i was facilitating i don't know who the actual client was the client was pr 90 well 80 percent of the time it's somebody in sales right if you're talking about an event company or whatever there's a sales person who you're dealing with to get sale but then i'm dealing with a production and logistics person so it's not like i was i knew who the sales people were to go after it was a lot of long long 16 hour days a lot of research i joined an industry um well i guess network organization and was able to do a lot of research of who's who around the country and create a database it was a lot of learning because learning social media which i still stink at and i know that and i can't stand it i'm old i'm old school i get it but it's a necessary evil and i get that but i didn't have five thousand dollars a month to spend on google ads so i had to do a lot of guerrilla marketing and direct outreach and cold calls and whatnot and there were ups and downs and things really started to be seeming to be going well and then the pandemic hit and i went okay well what am i gonna do next because face to face team building is done well early on in that very early i started getting requests for virtual experiences so i don't uh work not dealt with that's terrible i collaborated with a number of my creative colleagues and we created a number of virtual experiences that we've been able to refine we spent a lot of you know we beta tested them and tweaked them and refined them and continued to refine them as they built now we have a nice catalog of virtual to one thing i didn't do though is i said i'm not going to spend 50 grand on an app that somebody has to download why well first of all people are not as computer literate as we might think today i'm generalizing i get it i'm generalizing here um also we learned very early on and it makes sense i.t department said you have a company laptop at home you are not downloading anything don't even think about it oh right so so we really just use two different web-based platforms that we are able to control for the most part so people don't even have to figure out what tab they're supposed to be on for the most part i mean if they're if there's more than one there's two macs and we're able to manipulate so they are seeing what we want them to see and our niche is really interactive talent hosted experiences not playing a video game no i think that uh definitely makes sense so so now as you've kind of figured that out you say okay you know here's where we're at here's what we're doing here's kind of our focus and our niche and here's how we're going to grow it sounds like you know it took a bit of time to kind of ramp that up figure out you know bring on new clientele get people you know people that were going to be on board and now as you kind of reached a bit to where you're at as far as a present now looking at kind of the next 6 to 12 months kind of where do you see things heading you know you've got the whether it's the pandemic and chefs in the marketplace and how events are going and how you're doing staffing and everything else seems to continue to be a bit fluid so kind of where do you guys see or where do you see things headed for you in the next you know six to twelve months uh the the full fully candid honest answer is price increase um and and just really accepted that last week after debating it for a while because our costs are going up you mentioned it talent believe it or not we have one thing that we do is we make sure all of our staff are vaccinated just because so many events in are now saying proof of vaccination or a negative test well i'm not going to hire somebody and plan on having them be able to work for me only to say okay so i took my koga test and it's positive well now i'm up you know up a creek without a paddle so unfortunately we are going to have to increase our prices because inflation is happening shipping services have gone up the ability to get product with the materials that we use like any industry is a challenge so we're definitely going to be facing the challenges that everyone else is facing in a variety of interest industries whether it be materials or labor or shipping or all of the above so i do think it's going to be a challenge but i'm just thrilled that the face-to-face event world is is bouncing back and it is fortunately so no no and i think that definitely makes sense and i think everybody's kind of looking at inflation increase of cost and kind of now how you're going to navigate that and how you're going to navigate covet and you're going to do the vaccines and everything else and so it's definitely a bit of a fluid dynamic and it makes it probably even all the harder to see what's the next six to 12 months but you have to still look forward to the future and see how you can continue to make things prosperous so i think that sounds like a great plan so with that so now as we kind of reach towards the end of the podcast i always wrap up with the two questions so we'll go ahead and jump to those now so the first question i was asked is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what did you learn from it it's hard to pinpoint the worst uh and i don't want to sound negative like oh there's been so many i can't pick just one but i since you are in uh ip law this just happened to me last week well the end result was last week and and this is i have a i had a client who was a middle person and then there was another client and that client was asking my client for detailed detailed detail and i had yet to have a signed contract and there was plenty of information to make a valuable decision on purchasing the experience from the proposal that was originally started in may and now well as of this recording it's early november right do the math even if you have to count down your hands it's a long time and three weeks before i'm being told we have to give details and i said no that's proprietary well to make a very long story short i gave in which i will never do again and my client and or her client somewhere i'm still figuring out where who did what ended up going with one of my proposed experiences and hiring another company three weeks before the event so what did i learn stick to my guns even if it means i'm sorry you're upset i'm sorry you feel you need to go with somebody else but my the the accolades that i have from past clients and the short video montage and the photos and the descriptions that should be enough for you to see that this is a valuable experience no and i think that you know that's one where i think everybody makes a lot of people make the mistake you have a role and you have that you say okay i'm going to stick to the rule and inevitably you make that one exception to the rules saying well you know there's here you know this side and the other here are the reasons and i've done it as well i've done it with clients as well and i said well you know we won't i here's my role i'll never make an exception and then you know they give you the sob story the excuses or you know probably at some points legitimate reasons and say okay i'll make the exception to this one time and there's always that one exception that ends up coming around and biting you because you and you'll learn okay i'm trying to make the exception try to be the nice guy once and you know just doesn't work out and then it reinforces why you have the rule and why you won't break it so i think that that is definitely a mistake that everybody makes at some point because you want to you feel for him or you understand the reason why this exception and on the other hand it just oh inevitably leads to hey i shouldn't make the exception because there's a reason there's the rules so i think that that's a a great thing to reinforce second question i always ask is if you're talking to somebody that's just getting into a startup or a small business what'd be the one piece of advice you'd give them uh oh again only one a piece of what i should give him a piece of advice is find someone who you admire if you can and have that person be a guide for you now i i i uh yeah your podcast is great i've just gotten into podcasts in the past year another one that i listen to is jordan harbinger and he just had i just heard so it's interesting this is in my head now just this past week talked about mentorships and you can't really go and say hey can i have five hours a week will you be my mentor and i'll be in so finding that person is tough but um at least find someone that you trust probably who who is in or out of the same industry as you that you can run ideas by because if you're a sole proprietor it gets tough you can only ask the same question in the mirror four times and then you're like no i really need to run this by somebody else so i have a number of friends that are friends personal some of them who are in and some of them who are out of the industry where i have no problem picking up the phone and saying what do you think and the caveat to that is always be grateful a handwritten thank you note goes a long way no and i think that that i think all those you know finding a mentor definitely can be impactful and to your point you have to find you can't take advantage advantage of the mentor it can't be hey i'm going to want you to spare donate 20 hours of your time every week to help me build this business i'm not going to pay anything for it and you're not getting any compensation it's not really going to make any sense for you to do this but give it to me anyway just because i asked for it and so they're going to say well probably not but i think if you can find someone that you trust that you know you can bounce ideas off with whether it's inside or outside the company and make sure it's worthwhile or beneficial to them and make sure that it's a fair relationship is definitely something that helps you to grow as you're expanding your business because it's you know it's always hard when you're on your own and you're you don't you know you don't have a sounding board or someone to give you that feedback to gauge sometimes whether you're making a good idea a bad bad idea good decision bad decision so i think that's a great piece of advice well as peop as we wrap up if people want to reach out to you they want to be a customer they want to be a client they want to be an employee they want to be investor they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out to you contact you find out more the easiest way is uh the website which is premiereteambuilding.com uh of course social media facebook and instagram are premier team building twitter is premiere team bld and then the good old linkedin which i i i'm using more and more these days i somebody said to me a couple years ago do people still use that yeah they do it's a really great networking tool but the easiest way is premierteambuilding.com and there is a contact form there and i'm very good about getting in touch with people right away well i definitely encourage people to reach out to you contact you find out more hire you use you be an employee of yours or any or all the above if nothing else have make a new best friend so well thank you again that's uh definitely has been a fun it's been a pleasure to have you on now for all of you that are listeners if you have your own journey to tell and you like to be a guest on the podcast we'd love to have you um so just go to inventiveguest.com and apply to be on the show a couple more things as a listener make sure to subscribe make sure to share and make sure to leave us a review so everybody can find out about our awesome episodes and we can make sure to share more journeys and last but not least if you ever need help or help with your patents or trademarks or anything else just go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with us to chat well thank you again for coming on the podcast and wish the next slide of your journey even better than the last thanks you