Matt Murphy is the co-founder of Kids in the Game, a leading provider of youth sports, fitness and music programs in the New York City area. In addition, Matt is the founder and CEO of Global Citizens Travel, a boutique travel provider that designs trips for globally conscious travelers.
Who’s your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
Hero is a strong word! But to me it means more than just someone I look up to; it encompasses doing something bigger than yourself and for the benefit of others around you. In business, I idolize social entrepreneurs like Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard and support brands that have deeper meanings. Growing up in Michigan, I’ve had a recent obsession with Detroit’s Shinola watches.
In life, my hero has always been my dad. My dad owned a business during my entire childhood and showed me over time what it was like to be an entrepreneur, manage people, solve problems, be humble and find balance. As a child, I played a lot of sports. My dad never missed one of my games because he was too busy with work.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
“Building a business is a result of many, many small decisions over the course of a long period of time.” I think that this is an important concept I’ve learned in business, sports and life in general. With this in mind, I try to give attention to small details, be consistent in my approach and make decisions based on my values and my company values.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
During the first few years of building the two companies I currently run (Kids in the Game and Global Citizens Travel), I spent my days working a full-time job at an investment bank in New York City. While I don’t regret working there and gaining that skill set early in my career, at a certain point my businesses reached a stage where they required my full attention. I spent way too long waiting for “just the right moment” or until that next milestone or promotion. Post-corporate world, I realized not only was I happier, but that I should have taken the jump much sooner.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I do three things. First, I review my to-do list from the night before, prioritizing the two or three most important things that I need to get accomplished for the day. Sometimes I’ll add something that I woke up in the middle of the night dreaming about or whatever else comes to mind. Second, I check in with my long-time virtual assistant Abby, who lives in the Philippines. I know it is approaching her bedtime and that in order to get a few things wrapped up it is important to review her emails and questions. Finally, I try to quickly map out my day in my head, including exercise, social events, personal calls that I may need to make, and when I’ll have uninterrupted time for tasks that require a lot of attention.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
It’s OK to not be the low-cost provider. I think it sounds attractive to say a company is the cheapest, but it is very difficult to do so without major economies of scale and tons of other factors that sometimes find their way into the news (politics, wages, quality of goods). Instead, focus on offering an exceptional product or service, providing excellent customer service and growing your brand through loyalty. Consumers have no problem paying for quality.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
For the aspiring entrepreneurs, I would recommend focusing on lean startup concepts: test ideas, fail a lot and don’t spend time with elaborate business plans and planning. Incorporate, build a cheap website and learn from mistakes as quickly as possible until something sticks. Use your lifelong hobbies, skills and passions to solve problems around you.
For current entrepreneurs growing their business, I recommended carving out time to do some international travel. It sounds strange, but being on the move in faraway places seems to give me some of the best idea generation. Not only are you able to understand the world a little better (which may change the way you think about your business), but I find that when I come back from traveling I am motivated, humbled, rebalanced and refocused.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
Success to me is being able to look back at your life someday and feel proud of your accomplishments, relationships you’ve made and experiences you’ve created for yourself and others.
I’ll know I’ve succeeded when I’m able to say I’ve done two things. First, my businesses, employees and brands operate in a way and reflect the values that I care about most — being socially responsible, generous, accountable and progressive. Second, when I have created a lifestyle flexible enough to do things I care about most: staying active, traveling the world and creating experiences with my closest family and friends.
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