Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Cary Matthews. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Alright, Cary thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. Have you ever had an amazing boss, mentor or leader leading you? Can you us a story or anecdote that helps illustrate why this person was such a great leader and the impact they had on you or their team?
I’ve been fortunate to have a number of great bosses and managers in my career along with a few that weren’t ones that I would want to emulate.
My career grew the most as an operations professional and leader working for Joseph Ciotti. He took a risk on me as a young manager moving to a new industry. He allowed me to learn and make mistakes, and when I did, he was able to balance giving me guidance with supporting me. As I gained experience, he entrusted more responsibility to me and let me take a larger role in running the business.
Two things stand out during my time working for him. One of the first was an issue where a customer made a mistake and he righted the situation at the business’ expense because he felt it was the right thing to do. The second was allowing me to be part of executive peer group where I learned much about myself and business from colleagues in other industries, guest speakers, and a business coach I am still in contact with today. Both of these required time and financial investments that influenced my growth and development.
Cary, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
Five years ago when I started Opal Partners, many people may not have heard of the concept of a fractional executive, especially an operations executive. But how we work has changed, and the executive-on-demand concept complements today’s business needs.
Small business owners come to Opal Partners when they realize they can’t do it all themselves or they have challenges they don’t know how to solve. I have CEOs ask about driving accountability, improving processes, and working through strategic and organizational issues.
Every client engagement is different. Some are project-based with a defined deliverable and time frame, but most are more open-ended. Sometimes my role is advisory – someone with an outside perspective who offers a safe environment to discuss confidential issues, mentoring less-experience operations leaders, and helping the management team stay focused and on-task. Other engagements are more hands-on, and I run point on special projects, take day-to-day tasks off the CEO’s plate, and assist with all areas of the business including HR, IT, and accounting in addition to operations.
Depending on my client mix, I usually work with between three and five businesses at once. I am a player/coach; I don’t just give advice but I also assume responsibility for some tasks. This is one of the more unique aspects of Opal Partners in contrast to other fractional COOs who focus on advisory or full-time interim roles.
I enjoy the variety and challenges working with multiple clients brings. It isn’t uncommon for me to work on a legal issue with a client’s attorneys, help research and vet vendors for a corporate move or marketing initiative, write business requirements for an IT project, participate in a strategic planning session, and help a manager address an issue with a direct report all in a single day. You can’t get bored as a fractional COO and you have to stay on your toes!
Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and I have a passion for helping them.
What’s been the best source of new clients for you?
Everyone has heard the phrase “location, location, location” but in the world of a fractional executive, it’s “relationships, relationships, relationships”.
Cold calling and counting on a CEO to find your website just when they need your services is unlikely. Like most people, they prefer to work with people they know or people who are introduced to them by a trusted resource. I’ve found that anyone who works has good business or personal relationships with business owners are uniquely positioned to connect them to professional resources who can help them address their business challenges.
I tend to build relationships with other professionals in different industries and stay in contact so we can offer warm leads to each other when our clients and friends need help outside our area of expertise. Sometimes we end up working together with the same client.
Many of my clients use the Entrepreneur Operating System (EOS), have used fractional executives in other areas like finance, or are engaged in CEO peer groups. They have learned the benefit of strategically using outside resources as needed to grow and build their businesses.
Any insights you can share with us about how you built up your social media presence?
Social media allows me to build my brand and reputation as an operations thought leader for small businesses in a way not possible before. Because I exclusively work with small businesses, LinkedIn is the single best way for me to reach my target audience on a wide scale.
I am very intentional about content. I write almost 100% of it myself so people understand how I think and approach business as opposed to many who link to or post content from other sources. I focus on the challenges and issues – professional and personal – other business owners, executives, and managers deal with on a daily basis. I also comment and engage discussion with other professionals’ posts to add a different perspective and build connections with new people.
Other than writing relevant content, the two things I keep in mind when using social media are to make my posts readable and to start with an introduction that makes people want to keep reading. I read a book about those concepts and made a couple of very simple changes to my blogs and my readership tripled from one blog to the next. It has remained higher when I employ those techniques.