Many strategies define an organization. None is more critical in the long term than improving your culture. Leaders who understand the power of culture will tell you that creating an environment for supportive and challenging employees is essential. Today’s guest is Matthew Greer, CEO/CTO at Digital Marketing Services. Inc Magazine ranked his company #4374 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list. Digital Marketing Services, Inc. specializes in the deployment of Market Asset Management Systems (MAMS) that automate the tedious tasks found in a marketing department. Matthew and I share the strategies for improving your culture to get your people ready for growth. When you get the right culture, your job as a leader will be so much easier. But let me be direct improving your culture will challenge every part of your leadership capabilities.
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Matthew Greer: The Transcript
About: Matthew Greer, the CEO of Digital Marketing Services, grew his company’s revenue from $3.8 million in 2014 to $6.3 million in 2017, a 66% increase, and to around $7.1 million in 2018. Digital Marketing Services is a technology-enabled print service provider. In this interview with Eversprint’s Malcolm Lui, Matthew shares how he and his team accelerated their high-value sales by Building a sales force starting in 2012 with two new hires to today’s nine-strong team. Developing DigiFLO®, a web platform streamlines the distribution of materials and marketing collateral to the field for their clients. Having a willingness to adopt new technologies early, which in turn allows them to offer new services to their clients.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
Matthew Greer: You can feel anxiety. You can feel anxiety, you can feel unhappiness within your organization. So when I’m walking the halls and I’m talking to people, that’s what I’m looking for. You know what people are happy to be here today. They do. They communicate with me or they look me in the eyes and in production meetings and staff meetings or they, are they seem the reserve? Are they engaged in the meeting, to the level that I’m on, what I’m looking for for someone that’s at and wants to be there? So I think that’s really important to identify as you’re, as you’re leaving the company.
Intro: Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett: I heard someone say the other day, people are your company? Now, what I heard from that was very different than what they may have meant, but your people are the central foundation of the company. They are the ones who are thinking about how to better serve your clients. They’re the ones improving processes. That are selling marketing, and really serving all of the people around this, the partnerships, and everything your people are this. And let’s be honest, if you’re the leader of a company that’s growing fast, you’re no longer on the front lines, you’re in the trenches with them, but you’re no longer on the frontline. So the people have to be taken care of. Today we look at improving your culture. Your culture is much more than just you know how you get work done. It’s how you communicate, how you engage, and how the feelings that people have around the work that we do and how we come together. Your culture is a very important thing. So today we look at improving your culture with a very special guest co-founder of Digital Marketing Services. They’ve been on the Inc list, many. We have Matt Greer, Matt talks about, you know, what does it really mean to create a culture that works for you? And how do you make some changes inside there? What are the keys to hiring and firing along this journey? We also look at what do employees want in their journey of working with you? And you’ll be surprised about some of the things that are inside Matt’s interview. I share this with you because what we are going to talk about will help you become a better leader, help you improve your culture, help you create a company that people don’t want to leave from because you are the person that is intentional about creating a place that people love to come to work to.
Now, I want to pause here for a second. Before we jump into the interview, every leader knows what to do next to grow their business. But I also find that if you ask them the question, what do you need to shift in your own leadership to meet this new challenge in this new phase? They’re not very clear about what that is. I think you should be able to answer that very succinctly and know exactly what you’re working on as a leader, not just your to-do list. What are you doing as a leader? Who are you being as a leader? That allows you to serve your executive team, your frontline managers, your mid-tier, all of that stuff is all about leadership. You must be able to answer the question what’s next for your leadership. And I want to help you figure out what that is. I call it the game plan I’ve been doing this for years. It’s absolutely free. If you’re listening to this, you listen to past episodes. I wanna help you be an extraordinary leader. Being an extraordinary leader is not just about the doing it’s about the being it’s about really being clear about what missing and the blind spots I can help you do those things. All you have to do is reach out to me, just go to GeneHammett.com and schedule your call. When you think about your journey of being the leader that your team deserves, you’ve got to know what’s next. So, you know, to focus on it, this is part of business, but most people don’t do it for their own leadership. Just go to GeneHammett.com. Look forward to you, scheduling your call. Here’s the interview with Matthew.
Matthew, how are you?
Matthew Greer: Doing well, thank you. How about yourself?
Gene Hammett: I am fantastic. Excited to have you here at Growth Think Tank.
Matthew Greer: Good. Thank you.
Gene Hammett: I have already let our audience know a little bit about you and a personal level and how you see the world of leadership and growth. But tell us about the company Digital Marketing Services?
Matthew Greer: Digital Marketing Services, is a tech-enabled service. , so we are a print production facility in the largest web to print production facility that Konica Minolta works. And, and so we build out a web platform for corporations, as well as retail sites, to manage all the print products that are found inside of an organization. And so can you talk about a tech-enabled service? There’s a lot of things that come out of that we are, online e-commerce. We are a three PL so a third-party logistics firm, and we did a lot of fulfillment work for the, for the healthcare industry within our platform.
Gene Hammett: Well, the complexity we have that, means you have to have the right people and the right leadership to keep growing. , it doesn’t sound very simple over there.
Matthew Greer: No, you definitely do., you definitely have to have, you know, the people bought in to, delegation. That’s a big thing, allowing people to learn and make mistakes and identify when someone is not learning from those mistakes as when it’s usually time to part ways with that person.
Gene Hammett: We’re going to dive into some of the details behind that. When we did some research and looking at the brand, looking at what you do is you approach leadership. You felt like culture was a critical part to any success in a company. What do you look at when you’re looking at the culture within your own company?
Matthew Greer: You know I really, it’s, you can feel it right. You can feel anxiety, you can feel anxiety, you can feel unhappiness within your organization. So when I’m walking the halls and I’m talking to people, that’s what I’m looking for. You know, what are people happy to be here today? Do they do, they communicate with me, are they looking at me in the eyes and, and production meetings and staff meetings? Are they, do they seem reserved or are they engaged in the meeting, , to the level that, , that I’m looking for for someone that’s happy and wants to be there. So I think that’s really important to identify as you’re, as you’re leading the company.
Gene Hammett: You know, we hear these things all the time about feeling it, but why do you think culture has such a critical role to the success of your company?
Matthew Greer: I mean, if somebody is not happy to come in with for you are, they’re not, they’re not engaged at the business. Their productivity is going to be extremely low. And the likelihood of them making mistakes is going to be extremely high. And the likelihood of a customer picking up on that is going to be extremely high. So, you know, this day and age with ATNT and all the big companies offshoring all of their customer service apps, and people want to have that Pudge. I mean, it’s amazing. , how many customers come to me and say, Hey, I absolutely love your billing department. And I’m like, wow, like you, you love my billing department that would have never wrecked me a resonated with me that, you know, billing would have such an impact on a customer. Right. So I think it’s important that you have defined that culture of everybody’s a family and everybody’s wanting to come to work because it bleeds all the way through to your culture.
Gene Hammett: Well said, and I, I love the example of the. When you think about, , you know, leading the charge on a business and maybe getting a turnaround of culture, , have you had to turn around your culture at any point in time?
Matthew Greer: Absolutely. I mean, 2020, obviously, you know, with the, with the impact of the, of the coronavirus and seeing what that did to our culture. And then having to lift it back up in that process of lifting it back up, you know, really lamenting the fact of we have to hire fast and fire fast.
Gene Hammett: Let’s go into that a little bit. When we’ll break it up into two pieces hiring fast, what does that look like in your process?
Matthew Greer: You have to be prepared, right? You have to be prepared at all times for whatever position could become available. I think that’s where a lot of midsize companies fail is that they just think that everybody’s going to be with them forever. And then when somebody leaves for a better opportunity or to improve themselves, they’re really kind of left scratching their heads as, okay. Where do I go next? So you really have to be prepared. You have to have your job descriptions written. You have to have open resumes on hand. And you really have to learn to sell your company, , and the culture within your company and the the goals that you have for your company very quick and in a short meeting, because there’s a lot of times that we saw during this process that we just went through. I mean, we’d have 10 interviews set for the day. And only three or four would show up. And so if you’re, if you look at it as the same way as you look at your sales process, right? If I make a hundred cold calls, I get through to 30 people, 30 people actually take a 10-minute meeting with me and one of them closes. So if you look at your recruiting process in that same light, your hire fast mentality is there. It’s done. So you wouldn’t go out to sell your business without some fire and collateral to talk about the business, the same applies over on your recruiting strategy.
Gene Hammett: I’m kind of curious if you’re still involved with the hiring process, given your company’s going fast. And if you have a favorite interview question that you could share with us,
Matthew Greer: I’m not involved in the hiring process much anymore, except for people that you know, would report directly to me, you know, w we’re really good at delegating and want people to the process. But in the question that I always have is tell me my favorite motto is your failure to plan is not my fire. So I always want to know or someone that, or an instance of someone’s life, that that was that applied to you. And how’d you handled it? Are you on the receiving annually on doing it.
Commentator: Matthew, just talking about his favorite interview question? I really love it. I want to give you my favorite interview question. One of the things I love to ask people is about their big goals. What did they do in their past? This can be personal or professional, ideally professional, but what is a big goal that you set out to do, but you didn’t make it. And I am kind of curious about what that is, but really it’s the second part of this question that tells me about the person I asked them, why didn’t they make it? Why didn’t they receive it? Why didn’t they accomplish their goal? If they start blaming others, if they start blaming the world or blaming something else, they’re always going to be blaming someone else inside your company. And we just don’t have room for that in my business. You probably don’t have room in your business for blaming others. You have to take ownership and responsibility for what’s in front of you. And if you didn’t make that goal, you want someone to say, I didn’t commit to it. I did not allocate the resources. I did not make the time for it. My, my family came, decided my family came first. And so I had to put that goal in the back burner. You want them to take ownership of that? I love that question. I just want to share it with you to help you hire the right people for your team. Now back to Matthew.
Gene Hammett: I love the fact that you have a favorite, and it probably comes up quite a bit. Anything else in the hiring process that you think is unique that you’ve learned over the years, that that other company could model from?
Matthew Greer: You really have to end the interview process, especially when you’re in a startup mode. And as you get closer to that mid-size company, you have to really identify, is this person going to be a good fit. Right? Do they have similar beliefs of us as we do? Do they have similar personalities? Sometimes you need the different personality side of things to offset or balance out a, a certain department. So, you know, you really have to take that into consideration. And at the same time, you know, identify is this person the right fit for that position. So as we grew, we have a lot of people that were wearing multiple hats all along the way. And as those hats broke, right? I mean, those hats inevitably get bigger. And when I don’t say, oh, mean by the number of hats, I mean, by the sheer workload of that hat, Right. And so some people can balance that workload better, than others. And some people really, as you get to that midsize level, they want to hold onto those hats for as long as they possibly can. And, and those are usually the people that identify, Hey, this might not be the right person. You know, they’re trying to hold onto so much. And as those hats get bigger, they’re eventually going to get into a place. But they have to lie to us. They have to tell stories to us that aren’t what we want to hear. Or they get into a place where that’s all they want to say is yes. And sometimes it’s better to say nothing. So that was a big learning experience for me in that process. And, and seeing that in recognizing it, yeah. And instead of letting it drag out for a year, two, three years, fire fast.
Gene Hammett: Well, that takes us right into the other side of this culture thing that you talked about firing fast. , I’ve got a lot of things that come up inside my own coaching around this whole firing. And most of the time it’s going to like those relationships that we used to have as kids, they went on for way longer than we should’ve let them go on for. We let employees stay on longer than they should, but you’ve learned about firing fast. Where does that come from?
Matthew Greer: It comes from, you know, seeing problems exacerbate inside the business. Right. , letting that friend or that relationship that is, you know, if you, if you talk about it outside of the business world, right? It’s this theme, this. Right. , codependency things of that nature. So when you find yourself into that type of position with someone, it becomes very hard to fire. And, but the reality is once you do move on from that person, the culture yourself, everything is like this giant lift off your shoulders, so on, and things start to fall back in line. Like you have a complaint
Gene Hammett: I called that the energy shift, Matt.
Matthew Greer: Yes.
Gene Hammett: You’re doing so, you know, you should have done it before and it happens. And there’s something else that we’re actually seeing across my company and others is when you feel like you need to let go of someone, you finally do, you start to uncover some of the things that they were doing that were not standard operating procedures. They were covering up a lot of stuff. , and so usually there’s a lot of stuff that you’re not even seeing, that that person is trying to avoid doing, or you do what I mean when I say that.
Matthew Greer: Absolutely. and you know, but the opposite decided that, you know, you, you, you can have it come back and bite you, right? So not talking specifically about operating procedures, not being followed, but Hey, I’m trying to change the makeup of this position. And ultimately I’m doing it to, to Excel you, but the person receives it as they’re trying, I’m trying to move things away from them. So. 86, that position, right? When in reality. Yeah. I’m trying to set the culture and set the tone and make sure everybody’s happy and feels like they can actually do their job, as they’re being asked. So yeah, I mean, you, you there’s so much around that, that culture piece that, that falls out. When you’re making those types of changes.
Gene Hammett: I get to ask you a question because it comes to my mind. I wrote an article for Inc magazine two years ago, and it, it had something to do about high performers. Every company has high performers. Sometimes those high performers actually are toxic to the culture. When you have you ever had to fire a high performer, that just wasn’t a good fit for the culture?
Matthew Greer: You know, a high-performer can definitely become toxic and a high performer can oftentimes be deemed as someone that is working really hard. Right? So you see somebody working really hard and, and I mean, you know, putting in the hours, you know, trying to stay on top of their jobs, moving things along as best as they can. And a lot of times those high performers are afraid to say no, And you’re at those, a lot of those questions really circle around us having to let go of a key person in that culture shift, because he had become that exact type of person you’re you’re you’re referring to, he, he had really gotten into that position where my hats have grown so much. I don’t want to delegate any of that. I’m just going to say yes to everybody. I’m a high performer. I know I can do it just by act working a little bit longer. And at the end of the day, everybody loved them, but we all recognized this isn’t this isn’t going to work. Continuing this work.
Commentator: Matthew just talked about firing a high performer. Well, I remember a conversation I had with a CEO and a COO one day about where their business was going. They wanted a quick assessment of this. We did a half-day kind of thing. And I remember distinctly asking them about, tell me then about the two. People in your organization that just aren’t a good fit right now. And the first one that came up was this high performer. That was really good in the sales side of the recruiting side of their business, their recruiting company. And this person was incredible at the work she did. But I also asked, you know, what’s the real problem here. It’s like, well, she’s actually very toxic. Now we got into it and it was very colorful around why she’s toxic, but one of the answers was, I know she’s lied to me and she’s liked to others and she will work you know her tail off to make sure that she’s able to back up that lie on Monday morning. And we know this and she’s done this many times before, but she just works so hard. And we, as I probed, I remember asking him, what would it take to replace her? And he goes, I’d have to hire two, if not three people. And I’m just not sure. Now I also asked what impact is this having across the company? He goes well, I know that she has actually caused the last two people to leave early because of her approach to work her toxicity if you will. And his next statement was what really got me. He said, I really know that I’ve got to let her go, like, okay. So what’s, what’s the plan here. He goes, I’m going to work half a day, every day until I find the replacement for her so that I can let her go. Let me let you in on the follow up this whole story. And it’s this, I checked in six months later, a, a conversation with the COO. He said, how are things going? And I remembered her name because it was a very colorful story. And I said, how is she doing? It’s like, oh, she’s still here. We haven’t been able to find a replacement for her. We haven’t made it a priority. What impact does it have to the company? We have a difficult time bringing in people into this team because she drives them away. It’s like, oh, but you still haven’t made that change. Hopefully, you learn a lesson from this. I share it with you because that high performer that is toxic to the workplace, you have to really think hard about keeping them on because you’re setting a precedent for everyone else. You’re tolerating this toxic. And I want to make sure that if you’re intentional about that, that’s your decision it your company. But from my perspective, I wouldn’t put up for it. And I know you probably wouldn’t either thought I’d share that story with you to help you understand how important it is to let people go. Even if they’re high performance back to Matthew.
Gene Hammett: So back to that whole energy shift, usually there’s a whole, there’s a whole big ripple effect in a positive way. When you get rid of that, even as our high performer, but the toxic energy they bring to the workplace.
Matthew Greer: They bring that, that anxiety just that, stress to the workplace. And then you eventually have a bottleneck. People are afraid to voice and opinions. People become afraid to ask questions. , they become afraid to raise their hand when they see that a procedure is not being followed. So I mean that in and of itself if you see that beginning to happen, you’ve really got to have a gut check and, you know, to all want to continue down this for a couple of years and, and really see if this person can, can change the way that their management style is being approached or do I just have the wrong person in the wrong position?
Gene Hammett: I want to switch gears a little bit, Matt, and, and this will probably bring home our interview. The, the whole idea of having a culture that performs and continues to evolve is necessary as we grow our companies. And you know, the nature of your work, you, you probably command a lot of excellence. Otherwise, you have to redo work. You have to, you have angry customers that they’d get the wrong packages and all that stuff. And so, how do you lead excellence across your culture.
Matthew Greer: We push it home all the time. I mean, it’s an art it’s in our valley. It’s in our production needs. It’s an hour, it’s an hour individual staff meetings that our production leaders are having confidence in ourselves support group. It’s in our design team, it’s in our billing team. Every time a new person comes on the first thing that we’re telling them, coaching them. We want you to feel a part of the family and we want you to make our customers feel a part of the family. And it really is about training, right? And especially from a production standpoint and again, from support and find service standpoint, it’s about train. You have to constantly be providing education. , there’s a reason why insurance agents and lawyers and doctors and nurses, they have to continue to go and have continuing education because they’re constantly learning and constantly getting better in their fields. , so we’re, we’re very big on training, cross-training, right?
Seeing moving people around positions. I don’t want to hear about what’s going on in the company. I want to hear about the problems and the successes of the company. And I want to, I want to enable people to be able to solve this problem and, and cherish those successes and celebrate those successes. So, you know, you, you, if you get everybody buying into that and you get everybody buying into, we’re here to function as one unit for the customer and provide an excellent experience for the customer you’re, you’ll see those quality standards be accepted, right? And, and, and then again, have to get rid of this person or these people that are just trying to meet the deadline and do new things that are. , do things that are, not correct and allow the people that want to speak up, actually start to speak up. Right. Cause when you get that bottleneck right there, that’s, it’s tough. It’s tough to tough to overcome, as a subordinate and as, as a leader.
Gene Hammett: Matthew, I want to just stop right here. Thank you for being here at the sharing, your wisdom, sharing the journey you have of leadership and growing the fast growth company and all the details you’ve given us today.
Matthew Greer: Yes, absolutely very well.
Gene Hammett: Matthew is still listening in to this recap because I want to make sure that he understands what I’m taking away from this, but I want you to take away some key points. Culture is something that is going to drive the success of the company. It’s not a touchy-feely thing. It truly is how people engage together, how they treat each other, how they communicate. And those things are always going to be important, especially if you’re trying to, to innovate, you know, improve things and service the client to the next level. You want to make sure that you pay attention to culture and it starts with hiring, but you’ve got to continue that through that continuing education, you’ve got to continue to exit people that just aren’t a fit anymore. Move them into the right places. And you’ve got to have the courage to do that. That’s one of the big pieces. I see people kicking the can down the road, just doesn’t work in the, in the aspects of leadership. I, with big growth companies, a little tongue-tied there, but you probably are thinking about what is your next step as a leader, if you’re really thinking about how to grow and how to create a culture.
Your company has to taking ownership and people feel empowered that it’s going to take a shift in leadership because if you don’t have it right now, it’s not because you’re not doing the right things because you’re not being the leader that they really deserve. You want to know what your game plan is? Just make sure you reach out to me. GeneHammett.com. You can schedule a call absolutely free. I’ll help you figure out the blind spots. Have you really figured out what your next role is? The next project, where to spend your time? All of those things absolutely free. I won’t pitch you. It is just a chance for me to serve you as a guest listening in to this podcast. And I really appreciate you being here today.
And you think of growth. You think of a culture. Think of Growth Think Tank. As always lead with courage.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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