When we are open to innovation, we shift our focus to new methods in order to achieve our goals more efficiently.

 

Matthew Leebow is the founder and CEO of Affirmed Equities, a vertically integrated private equity holding company that focuses on steel, real estate development and technology, based in Miami, Florida.

Among Affirmed Equities subsidiaries are Majestic Steel USA, a master distributor of prime carbon flat rolled steel products, CenturionLG, a boutique real estate development firm that focuses on Design-build with turnkey solutions and One Enabled, a home automation company that simplifies the process.

Personal and Professional Life

Matthew Leebow was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the third of five children. His parents are Majestic Steel USA founder Dennis Leebow and Barbara Kupps.

Leebow’s brothers Jonathan, Eric and Todd and half-sister, Joni Kupps, are a part of the family business of Majestic Steel.

After attending New Hampton and Orange High School, Leebow pursued a business degree at the University of South Florida.

Following the completion of his studies, Matthew’s first career-track position was an operations and sales role at Majestic Steel USA. In 2001, he opened the company’s Miami office to expand the Southeast territory. In 2008, he returned to Cleveland to assume a senior leadership role focused on refining Majestic’s business strategy and operating plan while implementing processes and procedures to optimize sales, profitability, and growth.

In 2012, Matthew Leebow returned to Miami and founded Affirmed Equities. As his enterprises grew, so did his family: Matthew and Jennifer Leebow welcomed the birth of Isabelle Joy Leebow in October, 2012, and Olivia Grace Leebow in November, 2014.

Where did the idea for Affirmed Equities come from?

I have always been an entrepreneur, wanting to have my own business where I can freely apply my principles, values and morals. The idea of Affirmed Equities came to life to organize my companies to vertical integrate, using the Majestic Steel to manufacture; Centurion LG to build forward; and One Enable to simply automate. The word affirmed has a very powerful meaning, “states as a fact.” I felt it was appropriate to the way we conduct business in the company. I also wanted to keep the family tradition of naming the company after a thoroughbred. Affirmed was a thoroughbred who won the Triple Crown – considered one of the greatest accomplishments in sports – in 1978.

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

I have always been an early riser. I feel like I accomplish more when I get up early, and that my mind works better and more consistently when I get an earlier start. To maintain this momentum, I always try to fit in a workout or meditation session. There is no better way, in my experience at least, to keep the body and mind in the best possible shape. Separately, I like to set goals for the week to keep me focused and organized, and then advance those goals through daily meetings with team members, clients and associates – always with an eye toward maximizing efficiency and minimizing chitchat. Finally, I have non-negotiable family time set aside each day. It’s so valuable to recharge your batteries with the ones you love.

How do you bring ideas to life?

It all begins with assembling the right team. With the right people in the right seats, there is much less resistance to fundamental change. At the same time, it is very important to remain goal-oriented. Teams work best when they work toward shared goals and center mutual priorities. Finally, successful teams must keep every member accountable for their work and tasks in order to meet milestones on time. Everyone must own a process and take ultimate responsibility for that process.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Innovation and Growth. To me, these are fewer trends than states of mind. When we are open to innovation, we shift our focus to new methods in order to achieve our goals more efficiently. The ability to see an idea start from scratch and grow into something that will impact many lives in a positive way creates the ultimate satisfaction.

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

Everything else flows from my personal organization habits. I’m told that I’m a very organized person, and to the extent that that’s true, it allows me to focus on what’s important and clear my mind of what is unimportant. To those who aren’t natural organizers, I would recommend taking cues from those who are. Even small tweaks to your daily routine can have dramatic positive impacts on your efficiency.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Life is a learning journey. Begin each day with an open mind and never take anything for granted. No matter how well you plan, you never know what the day will bring or where you’ll be a year from now. The sooner you realize you don’t know everything there is to know about your business — and never will — the sooner you can start working to control what you can control and become a better leader in the process.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Business meetings should be more open and honest, with everyone around the table working toward the same goal: getting to the point faster without losing our collective train of thought. It sounds so easy, yet it’s so rare to see in practice.

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

Keep it simple. Don’t overthink a winning strategy or try too hard to do things differently — or be “disruptive,” whatever that means. If you find a way to break the mold while keeping things simple, more power to you. But disruption for the sake of disruption often doesn’t work out as intended.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

I firmly believe in trusting people while holding them accountable for their actions. We should have enough faith in our partners, colleagues, and customers not to question their every action’s origins or motivations — while also trusting them to explain how and why they arrived at a decision when we disagree with or don’t understand that decision. I make clear to everyone I work with that my word is my bond and, if I say I’ll do something, I’m going to do it. I expect the same from others.

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

I once let a promising business deal slip out of reach because I failed to trust my intuition. Although I know that intuition isn’t bulletproof, this is one case where my gut was clearly correct. Fortunately, I’ve learned from my mistakes, or “turned my losses into lessons” as I like to say. Today, I give my intuition wide latitude.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Invest in the market. The charts don’t lie: Over time, market investments appreciate. Avoid get-rich-quick schemes or alternative investments that seem too good to be true, as they almost certainly are.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I took my daughters out for a Friday date night — dinner and movie. It was nothing fancy, but the opportunity to take the time for the ones I love (and those who love me) is priceless.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

My smartphone allows me to interact and communicate at a rapid pace. I’m old enough to remember what doing business was like before the advent of the smartphone. It was slower, more tedious, more emotionally taxing, and more prone to miscommunication. I’m grateful every day for the supercomputer in my pocket.

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

“The Secret,” by Rhonda Byrne: Truly believe when everyone’s vision are aligned, positive energy happens that creates the ultimate success. I don’t know if this is really a “secret” or not, but everyone — in business and other areas of life too — would benefit from living by it.

What is your favorite quote?

I have two. The first is “Trust but verify,” popularized in English by President Ronald Reagan during sensitive nuclear disarmament negotiations with the Soviet Union. Fittingly, “trust but verify” is a Russian proverb; Reagan picked it up from one of his Soviet contacts and adopted it as his own. It’s a remarkably adaptable phrase that applies in virtually any adversarial context. Every businessperson should take it to heart. The second is “It’s only a problem if you can’t solve it.” In my experience, people have the tendency to blow minor snafus out of proportion, creating bigger problems than necessary in the process. When you maintain your sense of proportion and approach tasks with a cool head, you’ll realize how few truly intractable problems you actually face.

Key Learnings:

  • When we are open to innovation, we shift our focus to new methods in order to achieve our goals more efficiently.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t overthink a winning strategy or try too hard to do things differently — or be “disruptive,” whatever that means.
  • Life is a learning journey. Begin each day with an open mind and never take anything for granted. No matter how well you plan, you never know what the day will bring or where you’ll be a year from now.