Matt Cronin – Head of Social Media for House of Kaizen

So rather than looking for little time-savers, I’m really trying to focus on applying myself where I can contribute in a way that others generally can’t.

Matt Cronin, Head of Social Media for House of Kaizen, is a pioneer in digital performance marketing and brand management, having joined the movement more than 15 years ago.

Before House of Kaizen, Matt developed techniques to create online word of mouth and social media solutions to more effectively understand and engage clients’ constituencies. Matt is also an advisor to nonprofits and startups and a featured speaker at online marketing forums. Matt has developed innovative digital strategies for the likes of Tiffany & Co., MGM, JPMorgan Chase & Co., British Airways PLC, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, and Columbia House.

House of Kaizen’s founders have come together to refocus the industry on what makes digital a unique marketing arena: continuous optimization. House of Kaizen has rebuilt its business across offices in London, New York, and Lagos, Nigeria, to challenge the norms and demand more of digital media on behalf of its prestigious roster of clients.

Where did the idea for House of Kaizen come from?

Our team members are, at their core, focused on having a personal impact and making things better through volunteering, travel, personal development, and community involvement. I believe that’s why they’ve become digital marketers — for the opportunity to improve the performance of marketing investments. So when we recognized this core characteristic of our people and our culture, it was clear that this actually is the House of Kaizen.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

Like any company founder, my typical days are usually not so typical. I have responsibilities across a variety of business areas, so I try to stay focused by letting the experts on our team point me to where I’m needed most. If I can help them take big steps in the right direction, overcome specific hurdles, or plot a way forward when one isn’t clear, then I’m doing my job.

As a matter of practicality, I really try not to discuss things via email. Although it might be “faster” for one member of the conversation, it’s often not the most productive way to align team members. As an alternative, I’m trying hard to have more face-to-face meetings and phone calls.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I’m a strong proponent of the “why/how/what” approach ) to communication outlined by Simon Sinek. I’ve found that I’m most capable of rallying a team around a common goal when I start with “why.”

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Self-driving cars. I live in Brooklyn without a car. I rent from Avis or Zipcar (House of Kaizen clients) a couple times a month, or I use Uber to get around locally. When I get outside of the city, I’m always struck by the inefficiency of cars and traffic. Self-driving cars have so much potential to give us back vast amounts of lost time. It’s really exciting. For now, I use Waze.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Though there are probably lots of little things that add to my productivity, right now I’m focused on getting better where it matters most. So rather than looking for little time-savers, I’m really trying to focus on applying myself where I can contribute in a way that others generally can’t. That way, productivity is measured by the impact of my actions, not by the number of things done.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

In college, I waited tables at a mid-range, high-turnover restaurant. I learned a lot about managing time and stress. I also learned about customer service and consumer behavior. These skills are critical in the agency business, so I actually make it a point to ask people I interview if they’ve ever worked in a restaurant (even though they might not want to admit it).

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would get smart and capable people to do critical functions that are outside my areas of expertise rather than try to do everything myself.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I actively manage meetings to be productive and as short as possible. Many people complain about meetings, yet they truly can be an incredibly productive part of the day if planned, executed, and recapped properly. I encourage people to master meeting management and own meetings.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

It’s no secret: long-term relationships. People generally don’t stay at companies for very long in our business, so whether they’re clients or colleagues, maintaining relationships that span career moves is hugely beneficial to our business growth.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Taking my eye off profit management. There was a point in time when a very fun and complicated client required a lot of me and drew my time away from aggressive reinvestment of profits. When I eventually picked my head up, we had many urgent needs threatening the business that could have easily been dealt with earlier.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I’m certified in wilderness first aid.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I use Asana (it’s simple and fast), Evernote (though I have some quibbles), and Stitcher (the podcast is back).

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Start With Why” by Simon Sinek. As I mentioned before, I’ve found success using the principles outlined in the book.


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