Always alway always ask for help. Somehow through pop culture this fallacy has been created that successful business people got there alone. That just isn’t true.
Matt Quinn is an engineer, turned accountant, turned startup hawk. He loves data, building relationships and public speaking. At 25 he left the zombie life of a corporate job to build his own company after spending too many days, nights and weekends with a lack of purpose. He took charge of the commercial side, where growth was the most important and energy focussed part of the adventure. As it was a SaaS company he’s biased in his startup views but truly believes that revenue solves all problems. For Matt, customers are king and he thinks there’s nothing like getting to know your customers and the value you create for them. Follow that on with finding new prospects and adding value to them too and you’ve got the eternal joy that he gets from growing a company.
Having had a founder break up, Matt sold his first company, bounced around in different consulting roles and co-founded an online fitness platform – Flex. 80% of adults in both the US and UK don’t do the recommended amount of regular exercise and this is the problem he has committed his future to solving.
Where did the idea for Flex come from?
All the Flex founders have previously spent time at corporates and startups and the one common problem we faced was that we struggled to find the time & motivation for regular exercise. Live streaming technology had just about gotten the point where it was affordable and we thought it could be a great solution to a widely experienced problem. The result of which was the birth of Flex.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Wake up at 7 – Yoga. Then coffee, breakfast and emails. Get in to work at 9. Run a stand up at 9.30. Work through til 8 and head home. I keep my day productive by breaking down every task & todo into small chunks and then planning my day in the stand up like a mini product sprint.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Typically I pace around until I have something I can explain to someone else. Then I’ll take it to another founder if it is related to what they look after i.e. if it involves tech – I’ll bring in the CTO. After that I wireframe everything. Even if it isn’t a web design. I always need to draw out how I think it will work, the flows, the notes, the timeframe. From there, depending on what it is it will usually get discussed or implemented.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Augmented Reality. It really is the stuff of Sci Fi movies but it is going to change everything! I can just imagine it turning all good behaviours into games in real time.
You eat healthy food, well done here’s the leaderboard. Here’s what your diet points look like today.
You’re getting the underground to work? If you get off a stop early you can get extra walking points. Well done you’re leading your family/friends today!
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Exercise. Everyone tells you to exercise as a founder, but it is so easy to say that you have too much work to and put it off. At the first company I founded, I ended up doing little to no exercise at all and it was really damaging. I gained weight, lost clarity of thought and felt like I had a mental, physical and emotional burden at all times.
Second time around with Flex I make exercise a priority. Obviously it helps that we’re a fit-tech company but everyday I make myself find time for yoga or meditation in my kitchen or even a walk/bike ride whilst listening to a podcast. It is so much easier to think clearly and compartmentalise the days!
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I’m constantly torn on this answer but truthfully it was to be my time in public accounting. The training was incredible, the work experience was eye opening and foundational at times but there was also so much bad that came with it. The stringent performance review system tied to rewards was stifling, the office politics and bureaucracy was distasteful, the work was unfulfilling and the lack of recognition was demoralising. Besides learning how to be an incredible accountant, I also learnt much about the environment I never want to create in my own business.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I think I would probably pursue a career in management consulting after university rather than accounting. I think having then left to found my own startup I would have started with a richer and more diverse set of professional skills as well as network.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Ask for help. Always alway always ask for help. Somehow through pop culture this fallacy has been created that successful business people got there alone. That just isn’t true. There’s mentors, advisors, people that chip in and experts.
I see this alot with first time tech founders. They have an idea. They think it’s great. They’re convinced that they can’t share it and that they don’t need to ask for help. It could be part blamed on the internet. The idea that any and every skill can just be “learned” is dangerous. Yes you can learn about inbound marketing, but it will go miles if you ask an inbound expert for a 15 mins of his time.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Talking to members. We have a policy that we need to have spoken to at least 1% of all our members. That seems small, but when we hit 2000 members that equated to 20 hours of meetings.
By relentlessly talking to members, we can repeatedly check that we are providing value and that we really know our customers are. Knowing them allows us to understand where they live (online) and what triggered them to look at us, sign up to us and stay with us. Once you know that, you can repeatedly build it into the product and marketing and grow.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
With my previous business, we got ourselves into a great position to scale and my business partner quit. As the non-technical co-founder, I was left in a position where I was basically frozen as I had no idea how to manage the technology and had to sell the company. While that might not sound like a big failure, having your partner quit is one of the most destructive situations to go through.
It’s like a really messy break up, but you can’t rationalize it as purely emotional. You doubt everything you know, everything you’ve done for the last year, your personality and your skills. Words can’t fully describe the burden of doubt you experience.
I overcame it by reaching out to the closest and most experienced founder I knew. She told me to take some time and meet really interesting people. I then met with 5 different people, from founders to startup hustlers all working on a diverse and fascinating set of problems. It cleanses your soul a bit. Having spent over a year without a life only to see it go to waste, it’s a great exercise to be around other people who put passion before life too.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
In the UK we have a huge price comparison market for insurance, utilities & banking – but in the US I can never seem to find an equivalent. There is huge money in it and I think no one has had the chutzpah to overcome the regulatory barriers as of yet to start one and make it successful (bar nerdwallet). If I wasn’t doing Flex that is 100% what I would be working on. How do you make money? Well here’s a hint, the customer acquisition cost of a typical credit card provider is $200.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
With the stage Flex is at, spending money is pretty taboo and all of us keep setting personal bests when it comes to frugality. But at the end of the day a couple weeks ago I insisted that we go out for some food. I bought us all a tonne of chicken wings and it was the first time in a long time we have all just put work down and laughed. We’ve achieved so much as a team in such a short period of time (relative) that we hadn’t had a chance to pat ourselves on the back and let loose.
That experience was a little bit like a reset button and we all came back to work the next day raring to go like it was day 1 again.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
I am an avid user of Calm (app & web). It makes it so easy to put your stuff down and jump straight into a period of self reflection and headspace. I’ve slotted it in between calls, meetings and at lunch!
Buffer for social media scheduling. Love that they make it simple to do and that they can automatically optimize your posting times.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The membership economy. Understanding what went wrong with airline loyalty programs and what went right with Weight Watchers has been one of the best learnings I’ve had this year and has seriously influenced the direction of Flex. A must read for all business minded people, you’ll be surprised what you can add to your business when you frame it as a membership.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
The “This Week in Startups” podcast by Jason Calacanis is invaluable to keep me up to date on what cool stuff other passionate people are doing.
Justin Spratt (currently head of business @ Uber South Africa) keeps it real on twitter. It’s always refreshing for a reality check. @justinspratt