New Horizons and My “Highly Illogical” Road to here

 
 
As a new member of the Compass Point family, I would like to share how my myriad of life experiences landed me on the most perfect seat on the Compass Point bus. And why not have some fun using a classic TV theme you might just recognize.
 
 
“Beam me up, Scotty” - Captain James T. Kirk
 
 
Captain's Blog: February 1, 2021 - Jumped out of an 18-wheeler and back behind a desk.
 
After a few months of Zoom interviews from the sleeper in my truck, I had accepted a position with a wonderful firm of Family Business Consultants in the Lehigh Valley, Compass Point. I was looking forward to opening this new chapter in my career and little did I know I was about to hit the ground as fast as Scotty could beam me there.
 
Just how was I going to tackle this new challenge and how could I help other family business owners? As I sat across the table from some of our clients, they wanted to know where I came from and how I got here, and what I could do to help them.
 
Well… It all started with still trying to figure out what/who I want to be when I grew up.

 
[ Flashback: Nice dissolve… some space music… and warp speed to the past ] 
 

Captain's Blog: August 2003 to August 2011 - The days of wondering, wandering & working.
 
After 2 years of college, I was unsure of why I was there or what I really wanted to do when I grew up. Taking some time off, moving back home and getting a job seemed like the best way to find my calling. Working two and half years at an HVAC business and an industrial electrical company taught me valuable skills, but the biggest lesson was finally being ready to complete my degree.
 
College diploma in hand, I decided entering into the family business was the next step on my career path. While my grandfather had initially started an apparel manufacturing business, times were changing and the second generation, my uncle and my father, made a complete overhaul of the business, moving to IT software. The new company, EXTOL, was founded in 1989.
 
I quickly learned that onboarding at our family enterprise meant the SOB (son of the boss) speech is given to the 3rd generation as it was given to the 2nd gen from the 1st… You need to earn your place. You need to come in earlier, dress nicer, work harder, and get paid half as much. Apparently I must have missed this class in college.
 
My first job at EXTOL was as a document specialist writing and digitizing the manuals for the software that the company wrote. After 2 years, a position opened up in customer support. Following the SOB rules, I applied and interviewed for the job as did anyone else internally that wished to switch jobs. In this role, I learned two of the software packages inside and out while working on the phone with our customers and service providers to resolve communication issues between them.
 
The data we handled for our customers was the lifeblood of their companies. When it stopped flowing, their business essentially stopped as well. When we were on the phone with customers, it was critical. They were having more than a glitch. These were BAD day moments where these issues were extremely time sensitive and kept them from making money.
 
This experience was one that instilled the importance of our customer service people. It also developed my ability to stay cool under pressure, problem solve, coordinating between departments and negotiate resolutions between customers and their customers and vendors. Being a family member working “IN” the business, on the front line, truly helped me grow my business operation and leadership skills.
 
It was through this cumulative experience it became apparent that EXTOL had a new business opportunity: to manage customers installations as technical people became increasingly harder to find. 
 
 
"Things are only impossible until they're not." – Captain Jean-Luc Picard
 
 
EXTOL decided to carefully create a managed services department to take advantage of this new opportunity and I was the first Managed Services Technician. In addition to my duties in support, I started managing customer installations as we began to acquire these service contracts. After a year, we hired a second managed services technician. A short while later we officially formed the Managed Services Department, and I was promoted to Director.
 
Following the SOB rules throughout my career truly set me up for success as the Director of Managed Services. I had worked in the trenches and really understood our customers’ pains, how to respond to them and what it took to do the job well. I served in this Department Director role until our family encountered one of the 5Ds of Life.
 

Captain's Blog: August 2011 to September 2012 - Uncharted territory for us all.
 
In August of 2011, my Uncle Joe, company co-founder and CTO, died unexpectedly. We were devastated as a family, and as a company. While Tony (my dad) was there to lead as always, there was now a void on the leadership team. Uncle Joe was the innovation driver behind the software. His ingenuity and planning gave EXTOL a year-long runway to answer the question, “how do we replace Joe?” My father used that year wisely to determine our direction and goals.
 
It is important to mention here that when my cousin and I joined our fathers in the business, I remember when Tony said to us, "Our plan has always been to grow the company and sell to the right buyer when we reach our valuation goal.”  That seed was already planted by my uncle and father years ago. Life dealt us a reality check and now was the time for us to execute the plan.
 
Just over a year later, in September of 2012, my cousin was promoted to CTO and I to COO. With that, my father stated that “I would like to sell within the next 5 years."
 
At that moment it was sink or swim, so we got to work.
 
 

Next Star Date Entry: 4 years as Captain of the EXTOL and our quest for acquisition. (Coming to a blog near you May 25, 2021)
 
 
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Matthew is a Senior Business Advisor at Compass Point Consulting and provides hands-on consulting & coaching to help family businesses close performance gaps; give owners practical, actionable tools that drive growth; deliver training to develop leaders and position the business for successful ownership transition - all on their terms.

Learn more at: http://www.compasspt.com

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