Matt Oddo is a forward-thinking entrepreneur who has played a fundamental role in his company’s success. He holds a business degree from Iowa State University and spent six years working for the Department of Agriculture. Matt’s experience in a wide range of professional settings provided him with the necessary skills and knowledge to establish his own business.
As the CEO and founder of Aegis Environmental Inc., Matt is committed to providing long-term solutions for the extraction of hazardous waste materials. The professionals at Aegis work alongside clients looking to monitor their environmental impact. As a trusted industry leader, they provide the necessary support to keep organizations running efficiently while minimizing their ecological footprint.
- Where did the idea for Aegis Environmental come from?
I went to that old-fashioned book, the Webster’s Dictionary. I started at “A” and arrived at the word Aegis, which means protection. It was a Venus shield in Greek mythology. I thought that kind of fits. We remove asbestos and other hazardous materials from buildings. We shield people from toxins, much like Athena’s shield Aegis. I thought it had a nice ring, so I chose it.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I start my day by checking my inbox email and physical mail. I lay it out and attack each task until they are complete. A key to our success is that every week, we have to make a schedule for the next week or two. That invariably changes and trying to keep everybody happy is not easy. If we meet with staff to discuss a problem, we give them a possible alternative solution to it. Scheduling is a bit stressful and a nuisance. It is important to follow through with what you say you are going to do.
How do you bring ideas to life?
When I first got into the abatement industry Scott Leasure was the head estimator in Chicago for The Brand Companies, where I worked in 1990. He said they were hiring in Chicago. That being said, I moved from Athens, Georgia to Chicago. Scott was already set up. He is my old high school wrestling teammate, and good friend. I flew to Chicago, interviewed, and got the job. Fast forward to 1997. I left Chicago and went to Lang Engineering but had already started my own company in ninety-four. In 1997, Scott called and said he was being given an ultimatum to move to San Diego, without a cost-of-living adjustment, he did not want to do that with his family. Instead of making that move he called me looking for work. I brought him on without hesitation. He is the guy who brought me into the industry. As my lifelong friend, old teammate, and general manager, we have made a great team since 1997.
When any new ideas, problems, or business decisions come across my desk, Scott and I discuss it, we work it out, we produce a plan of execution, and we make it happen.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Politics excites me. I am ultra-conservative, so I do not like the way things are going at this time. However, there is going to be quite an abrupt change after the midterms.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am a total perfectionist. I never put anything off till tomorrow, if there is a problem that needs to be fixed, it needs to be fixed, Now! I do not procrastinate for any reason. In addition, I am extremely persistent.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to relax. You are going to get it done either way. There is no point in getting stressed about it. Just do what you do with a more relaxed attitude and stay calm. Stay calm and execute rather than be frantic and execute. That is my solid advice. It only took me 20 years to figure that out. I would say to do the same things, just keep your blood pressure lower.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I have been doing this for 27 years and we have gone through a lot of business cycles and economic cycle ups and downs and survived all of it. Something I know that is true is, if you stay focused working through it, you are going to come out the other side. It has happened so many times so do not quit. Staying focused is the thing that I know is true. I have a feeling people start seeing the end of a business and get discouraged. I say stay in fight through it and work through it because nothing is going to last forever. My economic friends remember 2008 when everything fell apart.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I recommend that every entrepreneur have good people. You have to have good staff and you have to have people that you trust and have strengths in various positions better than your own.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Our strategy to grow the business is that we have targeted a number and I have never wanted to get bigger than the gross revenue that we have been doing over the past 20 years. I have grown my business as much as I want it to grow. My perspective and strategy are, the bigger the ape, the more bananas you need. If you are a super small contractor, you will get passed over. If you are too big, you have to maintain the same expansion rate with more people, more overhead, bigger numbers.
My strategy has always been to find the middle ground. Find your target gross revenue and then maximize profits on that number and you can keep the same people. I’ve had the same guys working for me for over 20 years. That is my main core people, and we do not have to expand, we do not have to buy more equipment, we do not need more labor, and we do not need more materials. I found a stable revenue we require to meet everyone’s standard of living.
We got to our stride after three years of a little over $2 million gross revenue per year. I could have expanded to ten million if I wanted. But I do not want that growth. We found our niche. It is a whole lot easier to get a little bigger than it is to get a little smaller. I decided a long time ago to maintain two million gross revenues and maintain our niche.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We were the little guy on that Kentucky job. I had bigger companies calling me to ask if I was sure that we wanted to go with a job this size. They asked if I wanted to back out, with the understanding that I would not be penalized for backing out, nor would I forfeit the bid bond. My response was, Yeah, I want the job! We earned it. We want it. I had competitors, such as the brand companies calling me trying to say you can’t manage this job, why don’t you sub some of it out to us? I told them, I will call you if we need you. But thanks. Bye.
As far as failure, this staff sees it and once we recognize the problem, we address it. I have not seen any failure. I have seen a few aggravations or mishaps, but it still falls into the category of a problem that requires a solution. It is all a matter of attitude. We do not have failures, we make solutions. Taking on that perspective, we have a far more productive environment. You have to have that attitude that says okay, there IS a solution, and I am going to find it and execute it. That is how I have always looked at everything.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
First of all, your business needs to be something that you enjoy. Find something that is needed. It is a matter of seeing what is missing, or in demand. Then have the courage to go out and do it. Once you have a good idea, go with it. Fight for it, do it. Looking back with regret is not a good way to go. Be brave, be bold, do it. Try. Try. You will never be disappointed in yourself that you try and fail rather than never tried at all.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I just love my carbon CRBN and pickleball paddle. I purchased three of them.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
We have been using Peach Trees software for production reports. Peach Tree tracks payroll, it has been a fantastic bit of software. We have had it for so long, I am not sure if it is still called Peachtree. But it tracks basically everything such as how much was spent per month in materials, labor costs, and revenue costs.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The one book that has helped me personally, in the beginning, was the One Minute Manager. I do not know the author. One Minute Manager does not relate to business.
What is your favorite quote?
“Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” – Mark Twain.
- There is no such thing as a problem, there are only solutions to any situation.
- Recognize, think, resolve. Perspective is everything.
- If you want it, go out and do it.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.