I grew up in the eighties. I wore a swatch, hurt myself break dancing and jammed out to The Cure whenever I could. Another thing that preoccupied my time was watching quality entertainment such as: Predator, Commando, Rambo and occasionally, a greased-up Hulk Hogan laying waste to his bad-guy opponents in the wrestling ring. My heroes back then had some very salient commonalities:
- They hated mother Russia
- They loved America and kicking butt
- They had clever one-liners that were endearing to every boy under 16 years of age
- They kicked the most ass when they were showing off their large, well-oiled physiques
Matt in his homemade Devo costume at a client
Halloween party in Nashville, TN
I wanted to emulate my heroes and be just like them. It was effortless to love my homeland and practice the brainbuster, piledriver and other wrestling moves with my classmates at recess. All that was easy but when I looked down at my scrawny biceps, I remember feeling small and inadequate. That desire for strength and size never left me. In my late teens, I started lifting weights. After all, that’s what Arnold did and look where it got him! I progressed slowly but steadily. It was hard work but as I saw progress, my motivation to improve increased as well. As you all know, working out is hard. Seeing changes required strict discipline and sacrifice. Now, three decades later, I still train pretty hard and although my muscles have never allowed me to single-handedly beat bounty-hunting aliens or throngs of enemy communists, I have learned some important lessons about growth, goals and hard work.
The beefcake idols of my youth have now been replaced with the techie behemoths of silicon valley. At this very moment, I find myself sitting on a couch with my laptop. On its bright screen sit spreadsheets, text messages and outstanding tasks that are all vying for my attention. I need to spend time on each one of them so that our small start-up can grow. Most of my waking hours are dedicated to growing our company, WebPunch. When my sister and I started the company three years ago, we were a two-person army. We did everything; from driving our homemade trade show booth across the country to designing our company’s t-shirts. We both wore every hat the company needed to wear in order to grow.
Fast forward three years and you can see that growth has happened. We have 19 people working for us! We have graphic designers (okay, just one), we have accountants (okay, again just one dude) and we can hire burly truckers to haul our still-homemade trade show booth across the country. Like my bodybuilding though, there are costs and sacrifices that are required in order to be like our hero companies. These costs are often most evident when you look at our culture in the beginning vs. our culture today.
In some ways, I miss the days of early WebPunch. We had to be generalist, which meant we had to try and figure out every single problem we encountered on our own. We had to be creative, because rarely could we buy our way out of any conundrum that was thrown our way. It was Ginger and I against the world and our vision and dogged wills (mostly Ginger’s unflappable determination-she’s a Taurus) were the only assets we had. We started to expand. We started to employ specialists. The numbers were getting bigger. Heck, once in while, we could even add an egg to our top ramen (provided they were on sale). Back in the day, everyone in the company had a say in what happened. There was a lot of one-on-one time. Today, we are too busy. I wouldn’t say the pressures are less than when we started, but they are different. When we started, I remember being so excited/nervous for my first business trip. It all seemed so exciting and new. This year, I’ve been on a plane 22 times. I’m less worried about making our day-to-day run and more concerned with how we can turn the reputation industry on its head. Instead of bicep curls to look like John Rambo, I focus on attempting to be more visionary like Steve Jobs.
We are still guppies in an ocean of sharks but gosh darn it, we have carved out a little business that means a lot to our small band of misfits. Every organization and person reacts to new circumstances differently. As we grow, we will need to continue to adapt and modify our culture accordingly. My role in WebPunch will be different In 5 years than it is today. I’m sure I’ll miss aspects of my life that I take for granted right now.
While I never quite morphed myself into looking like Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk, my discipline and focus did help me feel strong and capable. It’s unlikely that WebPunch will rise to level of a tech giant like Microsoft. We will however, continue to grow, have fun and maintain our core values. We might even kick some ass along the way, just like Arnold did.