Matt Craig from MindArc Digital Agency was (and to do this day) my first ever client when I started my life again after getting washed up in the GFC. We both started business at about the same time, he is 7 years my junior – and this guy is such an amazing entrepreneur! 6 x Full-Time Staff from nothing (with more coming), with his fine partner Sean Pieres (who I interviewed several weeks ago) – they have build a powerful Digital Agency focusing on E-Commerce, Online Productions, Social Media and SEO.
Matt even makes more money than me and as much as I am super jealous, I am also super stoked that I was able to partner with that on his journey of life. Giving more commentary onto our different lives – when I was 28 I was quite egotistical and thought I was “Unstoppable”. Only 1 year later my life turned to a living hell. From the day my fiance Jillian left me, my life collapsed only to be followed by unemployment, losing all my friends and the horrors to come. I came to Sydney to start my life again and with some years of hard work and taking personal responsibility I am so happy today!
Matt Craig was the opposite of me in some areas – he is quiet, unassuming and so humble it’s amazing the “Quiet Achiever Success” he now enjoys.
Love you to watch the YouTube Video or read the transcript if you more of a word person.
Thank you to Matt Craig and thank you for taking the time to read this! If you love what you see and want to learn more about Awesome Small Business Marketing, then check out the Awesome Marketing Vault!
Edward Zia – Now Humbled Marketing Mentor and Entrepreneur Creator x x
The Transcript of this fine interview is as follows:
Edward: Hello everyone and welcome to our Awesome Entrepreneur series where me, Edward Zia, marketing mentor, Persian man, small business owner and entrepreneur is interviewing some amazingly successful people. Today we have on our show the Matthew Craig from MindArc. Matt Craig say hello to the audience Matt.
Matt: Hello everyone.
Edward: Now Matt Craig – especially in Sydney here is quite known. Matt Craig how old are you now? You’re about what, 22?
Matt: No, I’m 28 now.
Edward: Okay, now Matt Craig is 28. I’ve known Matt Craig for about three years now. Three four years?
Matt: Yeah, almost four.
Edward: When I first met Matt Craig, him and I were just starting out had no money, didn’t we Matt?
Matt: That is correct, yes.
Edward: Now … Matt Craig was in my first class, and now this guy has got more money than I do, don’t you Matt Craig?
Matt: I’m not sure yet.
Edward: Matt Craig is an amazing man. He runs a business called MindArc Digital Agency and I actually interviewed his business partner last week, Sean Perez. What today is about is really just an informal chat and getting to know who Matt really is and asking him some deep questions. I was going to say, enough about me Matt. Why don’t you tell the audience out in the vast internet who you are and what you do.
Matt: Sure. Yes, you probably heard from my business partner last week, but I’m the other half of the business, Director at MindArc Digital Agency. We obviously do ecommerce and website development and marketing as well. The business has been running for about three years now and yeah, it’s been going pretty well.
Edward: I was going to say I asked this to Sean but I’m going to ask this to you for the sake of the interview. How many fulltime staff have you got?
Matt: Right now I’ve got about five fulltime staff plus myself and Sean. The team’s about seven at the moment, growing. We already have got guys coming in for interviews and stuff as well.
Edward: How long have you been in business for?
Matt: Sean and I have teamed up at the beginning of last year. Before that we were both just solo and then beginning of last year we decided to team up and really make something of it. Most of this growth was experienced in the last 12 months.
Edward: What, about three four years in total you’ve been in business?
Matt: Yeah, about three years.
Edward: In three years you’ve got five fulltime staff and your business partner in three years starting with nothing.
Matt: Yeah, that’s correct we started from zero.
Edward: Now I know the story because again you hired me to help you get this so please hire me everyone else , but how did you succeed? I’ll be straight up with you Matt, and you know this, there are very very few people that let alone succeed in business, let alone achieve what you have achieved so quickly, how did you do it? How did you achieve what many don’t? How did you make it?
Matt: Thanks. I think it’s really hard to pinpoint the one thing for me that I think made the difference but obviously I tried to build up a really good network as my initial strategy. That’s really worked out for our business I think. We have a good support network of people who we can trust, that we can talk to about various challenges we come across over the business journey and the development.
Obviously you’ve made a big difference into our business not because you’re interviewing me but because I think you’ve really helped us over the years. I think it was just really down to trying to be honest the whole time, like honest about what services you provide. We initially regarded … A lot of the trouble we got into was thinking we could do something and then having a hard time delivering that.
We found out once we realized, if we pull back a bit and tell the client, “This is actually that is difficult to perform or we’ve never done this before but we’re happy to give it a go for you,” that made the whole relationship a lot of better. I think for us, we’ve never done really much advertising for our business so far and that’s what we really want to do this year. We’re actually getting a lot of referrals from people we’ve worked with or people who know us. I think that’s just testament to the way we work, I think, but that’s only speculation.
Edward: Just for the audience, you do websites, you do SEO, you do pay-per-click and social media campaigns, don’t you?
Matt: That’s right yes. We focus these days on two main areas. It’s usually ecommerce website development, so selling a concept or a product online. Then to complement that we do all the support services which is obviously getting people to your site and target-market using the right channels to get the traffic to your site and leveraging things like Google Adwords and Facebook advertising and stuff like that.
Edward: Your services are … a lot of people offer websites. I can go to the Philippines where I supposed you’re from or I can go to … or are from I should say.
Matt: Yeah, that’s true.
Edward: Or I could go to India or a development world to get a cheap website so … and I know hundreds of people who do websites. How did you rise above the crop? How did you exceed the whole market? I think it’s a fair question there’s got to be … it wasn’t luck.
Matt: No, yeah maybe not. It’s a hard question but I think obviously people … there are certain people that want certain things like business owners who … some people just want to not spend money and they will go for the cheapest option and that’s seen and that’s what they want. There’s people who are looking for something else, someone who maybe has a liberal market like knowledge who can develop a concept without having to be spoon-fed every single detail or intricacy.
I hope that we fill in these blanks for the clients that come to see us. They come to us with maybe a concept or an idea and then we give them a framework that they didn’t expect to have or to … they didn’t really have knowledge of before they met us. That’s given them the confidence to want to work with us to give them a good first step in the right direction I suppose.
Edward: You’re saying that you give people the knowledge compared to everyone else and that is one of the reasons that gives you an edge it’s paramount to your success.
Matt: I think so. I think our experience and the knowledge we have about the industry we’re in helps us definitely get or build this business that we’re working on at the moment. Obviously it’s a little bit easier working with someone local than overseas over email and that’s where a lot of the industry is going. You can be doing a lot of overseas freelancing and stuff like that but you don’t have someone on the ground that you can go visit on a daily basis in case there’s something you want to talk about or discuss an idea or a concept you want to run.
Edward: Wow! Wow! How did you get started? How did you get traction first? I can understand that you’ve got all these great referrals coming which is outstanding, how did you chicken and the egg? How did you actually overcome that issue?
Matt: Yeah definitely. It was a bit … you remember from the first day you met me, this is all about survival mode.
Edward: Yeah survival mode yeah.
Matt: Which I’m sure a lot of people who know you are familiar with. That’s when you first start your business, and if you’re a business that’s starting from scratch with nothing you obviously have a lot to lose. It’s a risk but obviously you’re hoping that the returns will happen one day. In that initial phase you’ll do anything to make sure that you can keep afloat like covered. The costs just bare minimal survival, that kind of stuff. I think that really … obviously that pushed me to work really hard in the initial phases. It wasn’t easy to get out of.
That whole period probably lasted at least six to eight months where you were making just enough to go out and do more marketing next month or make enough just to go to your networking events and fulfill the work and pay your bills and stuff like that. Then one day you just … I don’t know, I really think it was the network just growing and organically getting big and bigger and that leading to …
Obviously our portfolio was growing during that time so buyer confidence was getting higher because they would come to us and they would see what we’ve done, “Okay, yeah you’ve done a lot of jobs here. We’ll work with you,” and it was easier. The first day it was obviously difficult because we’ve never done anything and they were like, “Oh what have you done?” We could only show them so much. I’m sure all those factors played a part.
Edward: I like what you said there buying confidence and it’s funny as a marketing mentor I’ve spoken to thousands of people, I’ve helped thousands of people and I’ve never heard anyone express as buying confidence. Tell me more about what that means. I know it sounds like a ‘Wolf on Wall Street’ sort of term, a little Leonardo DiCaprio reference. At least with the Ponzi schemes!
Matt: No Ponzi schemes and drugs. That’s not me. I suppose it’s about when buyers come to you that they have the confidence that you can deliver what you sell. That’s, I suppose when you’re starting up that’s the hardest thing because you yourself may not have the confidence because you either haven’t sold before or it’s just something really new to you. You’re trying to explore what options you can and cannot offer or talk about to your potential clients because you may not be familiar with dealing with clients yet. There’s a whole range of factors that I’m sure people can read like body language and the way you present yourself, they can tell whether you’re really either really confident in what you offer or the solution. That confidence obviously rubs off and they’ve got the feeling and probably want to work with people who are confidence rather than people who are scared about providing a solution to you.
Edward: Chicken and the egg question, when you started off your business and you had that fear, how did you overcome that fear to get some clients so you can be confident. Which came first?
Matt: It’s all about pretending to be confident.
Edward: Oh pretending!
Matt: No, I’m just kidding. I think when I first started … I think when you start a business you have to have a certain level of confidence if you want to be successful. You obviously started with the plan that you thought you could be able to grow something. It doesn’t always work out in the very beginning but as long you have that drive and you have that vision, then you’re confident that the work you take on you’ll work extra hard to make sure that you will deliver. As you get used to it, you know exactly how to get used to your product, your service, whatever you’re doing, it’s easier for you to communicate that to the right person or the person who wants to buy from you.
Edward: Right, so you’re saying once you overcome it you get some traction then it’s easier to grow and grow from there?
Matt: I think so. I think as every day you learn something new, I think I still learn things today and it’s been three years which doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you’re running a business for three years straight you understand how much work it is.
Edward: Well, I imagine it is. My math isn’t that good [inaudible 10:54] 365 days in a year that’s three years, there’s what, probably 1,200 things that you’ve learned.
Matt: Yeah, I can easily yea-
Edward: 1,200 things. It’s funny, it’s interesting where we’re sort of going here. I just want to ask you to wind the clock back a little bit. What made you wake up one day and say, “I’m going to start a business”? What made you say to your old employer, and who was your old employer too, and say, “I’m out of here. I’m going to start my own business.” Tell us your story. How did that happen?
Matt: I’ve always, I suppose, ever since I was high school I was very interested in the concept of having a business or an empire.
Edward: An empire, yeah okay.
Matt: I thought I was … obviously everyone thinks that’s cool when you’re that age.
Edward: Typical boy thing.
Matt: Exactly, typical boy thing. Over the years I was exposed to different business concepts. I have friends with similar ideas here and there. There was opportunities, nothing that really clicked with me, but I was going through the normal process of finishing high school. A high school counselor recommended me a degree, so I got into an engineering degree. I spent two years trying to make that work and then it didn’t really work for me, I didn’t really enjoy it.
I changed to a business degree because I thought, “Hey, I’ve always thought about business, why not just pursue it and get an education in the area?” Then I switched to business then I realized that, I don’t know, there are a lot of theoretical things to learn about running a business but today if you ask me what I’ve learned when I first started the business it’s completely different to what I was learning theoretically. I don’t know how useful the university degree was, my business degree was, but I completed that and I went on as anyone who finishes a business degree, I became an accountant for a while.
Edward: I didn’t know that you were an accountant.
Matt: Yeah, I was about to start my CA.
Edward: You would have been really bad at that, would you?
Matt: Well, maybe because …
Edward: That was kind of amazing you doing it. You are just like this awesome entrepreneur that does online stuff, I can’t imagine you starting at numbers all day.
Matt: Exactly yeah. I have to say that when I started my business. Just having the general understanding of taxation and all that kind of stuff is very important. I was in it for about a year.
Matt: I was working at a chartered firm in the city called Bell Partners. It was very interesting, it was an interesting company to work for. We did a lot of celebrity accounting, so we did a lot of sports people and we had sports people coming all the time.
Edward: Would you see all their credit card statements?
Matt: Oh yeah, well it’s actually a yes. I remember doing some transfers for some tax returns which were pretty interesting.
Edward: Oh okay, this is being recorded by the way and-
Matt: I know. No names mentioned.
Edward: Yeah, so I guess we’ll leave your address in the call so the Australian Federal Police can knock on your door and lock you up Matt.
Matt: Perfect. It sounds good.
Edward: Yeah, Matthew Craig from MindArc based in …
Matt: Yeah, I’d change my name. That was my first career and I quickly learned. Well what happened is I spent a year doing that and then I went overseas with some friends and it gave me time to think. I was away for about three or four weeks in Europe. It gave me some time to think and then I came back and I realized this wasn’t what I wanted to do. Anything I did I was going to move backwards because if I wasn’t going to be pursuing my accounting then I’d have to start again somewhere.
Edward: Can you tell us what were some experiences that you had that made you think, “This is not the path I want to be pursuing.”
Matt: I think it was just about the type of work I was doing. I didn’t feel like it was something I could for the long-term and it wasn’t fulfilling. I didn’t feel like this was the challenge that I was looking for.
Edward: Were you bored at work?
Matt: Yeah definitely.
Matt: Frustrated by politics definitely, I think politics is one thing that I really dislike sometimes]. I think in terms of frustration anyway, but in terms of boredom definitely. I think the fact that when you’re part of a big company you’re really are just a little tiny module in the whole framework, you know what I mean. You’re just a little, you do something – not say anything bad about big companies – but sometimes you get lost in the whole process and the flare and you get so specialized that your job becomes quite repetitive or very simplified.
You don’t really get that day-to-day creative challenge of trying to solve a problem or that kind of stuff. I think I might not have thought of it in this exact way at the time, but at the time I just had this feeling that I wasn’t doing the right thing. I thought, “Okay, I’m just going to quit my job and do something in the meantime to think things over. To figure out what I want.” I was friends … I did some work experience starting at an agency when I was studying again. I contacted them and I said, “I quit my job, do you have any work I can do just for the meantime. I’m just trying to figure out … I’m in between careers”.
They were like, “Yeah sure. You understand our business a little bit because you’ve worked with us already so come in,” and I did level 1 customer support basically. I was only planning to be there for six months and hopefully make a decision after that, but after three months I was promoted to an account manager. I started dealing with clients for the company and it was to do with digital marketing. My knowledge was slowly growing in this industry. When I was younger I was playing down with the whole website concept. There was a lot of kids in my generation who did just because internet was one of those new things they’re willing to try it.
I had a bit of technical knowledge already. Definitely working there was really great. When I did that I started learning about sales and marketing and managing a team and I worked there for five years. I was basically quite high up in the whole chain. It was only about 15 people. It was … I suppose that was really awesome. I loved my job there. It wasn’t like I was making huge amounts of money because I definitely wasn’t but it was just a really enjoyable work environment.
Then one day I was just … well not one day, probably about the last six months I was constantly talking to my old boss and asking her what opportunities I would have in terms of my career growth. What could I do next for the business? Basically she just suggested that the only other thing I could do was take her job, you know what I mean. Which is like … and she’s not going to give … she owns the business, she can’t give away her job, right? I was like okay. This is outside of work hours we were discussing over dinner and she was suggesting to me that I should think about starting my own business. She may have had a few drinks by this point.
Edward: Did you use your masculine charm on her, get her drunk and Daniel Craig style got the information about the Russians?
Matt: I may have accidentally but I was really happy that she was honest to me about that because I don’t think many people will tell you something like that especially someone who you work for. I’m assuming I was a valuable employee there so it must have been not the easiest thing to say, “You should start a business.” Why would she try to throw away an employee?
Edward: Of course not, in talking personally to, as you know I’ve had some great bosses, but I’ve had some downright piggies of bosses, absolute piggies and that would do the opposite. They’d tell you you’d never make it out there so you’d feel dependent on staying with them for your whole career.
Matt: Yeah, that’s right. I was pretty happy that she gave me her real opinion. I took it literally as in the next day I handed in my resume … oh my resignation Thursday night then Friday morning I came in handed my resignation.
Edward: That wasn’t a smart move on her part.
Matt: Well, probably not. Well, my move was probably not smart. It was not thought through at all. I was basically running on adrenaline in the moment, “I’m going to do this now take the risk. I’m not going to wait because I’m just going to procrastinate.” The next day I was like, “I’m going to do this and I’m going to force myself to do something.”
Edward: What was this burning desire that was making you do this?
Matt: I don’t know. It just felt like if I didn’t … I didn’t want to regret not giving this a go, if that makes sense. I could have easily got caught up in working as an employee forever for the next 20 years.
Edward: You felt that unless I jump off this cliff right now, I’m not going to do this till 20 years later and then you’ll be a burnt-out Persian marketer at the age of 30 doing it.
Matt: Exactly yeah. No no not quite, but yeah that was my big motivation. I thought I had nothing to lose. I didn’t have as many responsibilities as I may have in the next 10 years so why not?
Edward: How did you do that? You woke up that morning, “I’ve had enough. Here’s my resignation.”
Edward: Then I met you what, three months later at a networking event about three-and-a-half years ago.
Matt: Pretty much well yeah. That was August 2010, was it? I think it was 2010.
Matt: Yeah, it was August 2010 and I met you in January of 2011.
Edward: January 2011.
Matt: Yeah that’s three years ago now.
Edward: It was three years ago. We’ve known each other for over three … it’s our three-year anniversary.
Matt: Yes it is.
Edward: Excellent! Excellent! You’ve got to be careful, don’t take Matt Craig out to dinner.
Matt: Yeah it’s dangerous.
Edward: Wow! That’s an amazing story, you know what I mean. To people in your position, to people who are let’s say stuck at work or people who have just started in business and they’re not feeling right about themselves, what would be your advice to them?
Matt: Like I said my move is definitely, it had its risks. If I had a massive mortgage to support and kids to feed, obviously those would play a factor, but all I had to do was protect myself at the time. I could live anywhere if I needed to, as in like I could have paid as much as I could for some dodgy apartment or share accommodation. I could eat stuff like noodles. If you have certain responsibilities it does play a factor, but if you do have an opportunity to take a risk and you’re just making excuses to yourself. I think it’s worth it no matter what happens.
If you fail you’re going to learn so much anyway, like the fast six months of business you learn heaps especially if you start talking to other business owners. Everyone’s happy to share their journeys with you so that you get a bit more perspective. I think taking that risk is definitely worthwhile.
Edward: Wow! Wow! It just sounds like one day you just took the plunge and you did it. It looks like you weren’t afraid of failure.
Matt: Okay well that’s funny. In the beginning, this is one lesson I learnt from you actually, funny you mention this. In the beginning I really hating failing obviously. I think many people do naturally, but then there was a presentation at one of the networking events I think you were there and I think you were part of that presentation. It was talking about how failure was the path to success. Basically something along those lines. That got me thinking and then obviously I think I had a chat with you about it after. It made a lot more sense because the first time you have a big failure, it really hits you hard. Can you remember that?
Matt: I remember you telling me like, “After this the next time it won’t be as bad,” and I was like, “Okay.” Every time after that something happened I just remembered that I’d be like, “Oh yeah it was definitely not as bad as last time for some reason.” You don’t know why, it doesn’t make sense.
Edward: You then just say “here we go again”!
Matt: Yeah yeah it’s like another one of these.
Edward: I think it’s like the first time you get a parking fine it’s devastating. After the 10th time it’s, “Oh well, let’s go to internet banking and pay the stupid government,” right?
Matt: Exactly, that’s right. I think it’s something like that. I definitely think responding to failure is a big part of running a business. Learning to respond to it without eating yourself up too much is very important because it can eat you up when you do something wrong. These days someone makes a mistake I still feel bad like in our business. Obviously we want the client to be happy, we don’t want them to be upset. We do as much as possible to turn it around. That’s just part of running a business – there’s always going to be problems. You’ve just got to know how to deal with them.
Edward: Wow! If you could let’s say go back in … we’ll go in a time machine, we’ll get the DeLorean from back to the future, and we’re going to hop in that DeLorean and we’re going to go back in time. Let’s say you’re going to talk to yourself a day before you met me, what would your advice be? Would you say, “Look, don’t go to that event and don’t meet Edward Zia.” What advice would you give to yourself?
Matt: I think I don’t know any better because I’ve only done it my way, you know what I mean. There’s definitely things I would not do again, but I think networking is definitely a huge bonus. If it doesn’t give you business at least it’s going to give you the ability to talk about what you do. As a business owner that’s very important because when you start off by yourself you’re the only one talking about your business.
Edward: You got most of your business through networking?
Matt: Oh I definitely did yeah so I definitely recommend networking but I’m not saying it’s the solution for everyone and it might not be. It is definitely something that helped our business. We are a cyberspace business, our product is, I suppose, it is very transferrable like every industry could use it. I suppose the main thing is learn to accept failure as soon as possible, if I was to go back and tell myself again.
Edward: Learn to accept failure.
Matt: Yeah, and to accept failure, but at the same time you’ve got to learn from that failure, you know what I mean. Don’t just brush it off, just say, “Okay, we made a mistake. How can we turn this around so we don’t make a mistake again. If it’s something that’s unavoidable, how do we deal with a situation like this?” Yeah I suppose what else? That’s all. Yeah, there’s a lot of things probably.
Edward: That sounds great. I think this great 25 minutes we spent together we’ve really dug deeper on a few key themes. I think you’ve come up with some real compelling points about dealing with failure and moving on with business. You’ve achieved something amazing, very few people do it. My question is, as I sit here in this interview on the fifth of February, 2014, where to from here? What are your big plans? Are you allowed to tell us?
Edward: This is being recorded may I say.
Matt: Yeah true. I’m going to ask my business partner first. We try as much as possible to discuss the direction of the business and it’s one of the hardest things to remember to do. Once you get to a certain point you just get caught up in the daily operations. That’s something that must happen to everyone I’m assuming, but you’ve got to find time to step back and say, “Are we doing what we want to do? Is it heading in the right direction or can we do better?” Just simple questions like that. I think that’s what we want to focus on this year.
Growth is great but are we really leveraging every we can to make that growth sustainable or can we increase our capacity for growth? That’s really where we’re at the moment is preparing for that next step and who know what that might be. We’re basically approaching different options and seeing which one we want to go down. Is it going to be a rapid? Is it going to be organic? What’s going to work for us? Trying to make sure that we’re ready for whatever we’re going to do.
Edward: Wow! Very compelling and very exciting and there you go. You heard it straight from the horse’s mouth or the Filipino’s mouth in the case of Matt. I just want to say thank you Matt for the interview. That was amazing. To learn more about Matt Craig, visit www.mindarc.com.au or type Matt Craig into LinkedIn or Google and see what comes up. Thank you again Matt. Any closing words for the audience?
Matt: You’ve been great listeners. Thank you. Yeah, I suppose a lot of your listening are probably either running a business or interested in starting one. I think there’s always hard times, but you’ve just got to get through those and you’ll see the shiny treasures at the end.
Edward: Absolutely, and at Excellence Above Coaching and Edward Zia, we’re all for shiny treasures. Thank you Matt, you’ve been absolutely amazing. I just want to say that everyone listening out there, have a listen to the interview, read the transcript, really absorb what Matt Craig has been saying and work out how to apply it for yourself to improve your life, yourselves and your small business success. This is Edward Zia saying goodbye and signing out and Matt.
Matt: Yeah, see you later.
Edward: Have a great evening or day everyone. See you, bye!