As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Certo.
Matt Certo serves as CEO & Principal of Findsome & Winmore, an Orlando, Florida-based digital marketing agency. Originally called WebSolvers, the company’s first client was his alma mater, Rollins College. Matt built the college’s first website out of his dorm room in 1995 at the age of 19.
Since then, Matt has grown the company into a fully-integrated digital marketing agency with experienced professionals, a diverse client base, and an ever-increasing suite of services. Apart from the growth of the company, Certo’s work in the industry has been extensive: he co-authored a book in 2001 (Digital Dimensioning: Finding the ebusiness in your Business). He is also the author of Formulaic: How Thriving Companies Market From the Core and Found: Connecting with Customers in the Digital Age. Matt was asked by The White House to speak at a domestic economic forum with President George W. Bush in 2002 and spoke at The White House in 2016 concerning President Barack Obama’s Computer Science for All initiative.
He is a frequent guest speaker on topics on marketing, web strategy and search engine optimization, an area for which he has also served as a testifying expert witness. His clients have included the likes of Arnold Palmer Enterprises, National Retail Properties, Darden Restaurants, Newman’s Own Organics, Fiserv and McGraw-Hill. He is a frequent guest speaker to various marketing, advertising and public relations trade associations and has been widely quoted in publications including Inc. Magazine, Business Insider, The Huffington Post, The San Diego Union Tribune, The Boston Globe and the Orlando Sentinel.
An active community participant, Matt has served as Board Chairman of a number of non-profit organizations including Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Florida, Nemours Florida Board of Managers, Elevate Orlando, and The First Tee of Central Florida, an organization which he founded. He has also served for over a decade on the Board of the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation as well as Chairman of its endowment committee. He has been recognized by the Orlando Business Journal as one of its Most Influential Men to Watch and its 40 Under 40 list three times.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Absolutely. Thanks for your interest in what we’re doing. Like many kids, I grew up wanting to be a professional athlete. As a kid, I was convinced I was the Boston Celtics’ future point guard, but it never came to pass. I still think they missed out, by the way! I did grow up playing competitive basketball and played for a year in college at Rollins College, a small liberal arts school outside of Orlando, Florida. While there, I realized that the NBA wasn’t calling my name, so I looked for other ways to grow outside of the classroom. That year, 1994, happened to be the year that our school got connected to the Internet. I was instantly amazed by it and in awe of the possibilities. Always a bit of entrepreneur, I thought that businesses might need help getting a presence on The Web. That was the birth of my web development company, WebSolvers, which ultimately became our full-service agency, Findsome & Winmore.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
One of the funniest things I remember was having a fax machine in my college dorm room when I was a sophomore. At that time, I used my fax machine to send and receive documents as well as client contracts. It was always funny to have friends in my dorm room ask why I had a fax machine. It was normal to me, but it became a joke. It was also my first taste of understanding that owning a business came with different responsibilities, needs, and equipment.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Honestly, I listen to a variety of podcasts about different strategic topics, but it has been a more spiritual podcast that has equipped me with the endurance, patience, and perspective required for the journey. Tim Keller, a pastor in New York City, is an encourager, intellectual, and beacon to remembering your life’s purpose and developing the wisdom required for leadership. I listen to his talks frequently.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
I was very inspired about “purpose” when I heard Ben and Jerry (of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream) speak at Rollins College when I was a freshman. My purpose was to help business owners make their dreams more visible to the right people; I also wanted to provide a constructive workplace for our team members (which we refer to as ‘Winners’) and pay our civic rent to our community along the way.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
I lean on many, but my number one principle lately is that no matter what happens in life, “keep moving forward.” I heard Los Angeles Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers say this in an interview several years ago and it resonated with me. His story behind that quote was highly moving, but a reminder to keep your head up and eyes looking ahead of you with both determination and perseverance.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The personal challenges for me have been fewer than most, thankfully. I do have two parents that are over 70 and have faced health challenges. I’ve been focused on keeping them safe. I also have a brother who is a restauranteur who has faced real adversity and another brother who has contracted the virus and is dealing with a recovery that’s been tougher than the norm. Like most people, the stress and uncertainty of the situation has been difficult to deal with, but I feel fortunate nonetheless.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Like everyone, we are focused on maintaining the continuity that we used to create in person through virtual tools. We’re working remotely as a firm with the majority of our 20 team members working from home. We’re trying to maintain a supportive environment for our team, including making sure they have all of the tools they need and trying to minimize feelings of isolation and disconnection that WFH tends to create. We are also facing the challenge of supporting a client base that is dealing with a whole new set of marketing challenges and opportunities.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
I try to pace the news I consume and encourage others to do the same. Most of what is on television (especially the cable news networks) is repetitive and/or argumentative. I try to limit news to 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening. I’m also minimizing Twitter usage as I believe that platform can really perpetuate the anxiety that accompanies uncertain times. I think it’s also important to not bury your head in the sand. I have moments when I’ll explore a dimension of the virus or the government/corporate response to learn how to best contend personally and professionally.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
I think many of the early opportunities that exist are already materializing. We’ve had many clients take advantage of opportunities in consumer-packaged goods (CPG), personal protective equipment (PPE), and remote learning. I think the real opportunities exist for those existing brands who clearly study their customers and adapt their offerings (around their mission, vision, and values) toward the changing habit patterns of their customers. We delivered a webinar on this very topic, along with a downloadable exercise on our website.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I think our short-term changes in behavior are forming new relationships, patterns, and habits. Virtualization is here to stay, as is the increased focus on distancing and hygiene. I think our workplaces will forever be more comfortable with more casual appearance and settings. Seeing someone work from home is now the norm, and I expect that to continue. As an employer, we’ve grown much more comfortable with remote work, although we can improve.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
Our ongoing ethos is to stay close to our clients and really help them think through their business challenges in these changing times. We can often introduce learnings from different industries and leverage that experience to their benefit. We added a hyperlocal news platform for our city during the pandemic as we saw a need for local journalism increase. We took advantage of some excess capacity to do this and it’s been a success on many levels.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Change. Be comfortable with trying new things and be OK with failing. We all have to embrace the discomfort of falling down while also understanding that it’s OK to “quit” (a term which we were all mistakenly raised to resist) when an idea doesn’t work. It simply gives you more time to try something new if it’s clear that an idea isn’t feasible.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Mistakes are costly, but you can learn from them. Consider those payments “tuition” that you can capitalize on in the future. Any business owner or leader who takes chances and risks (part of the job’s requirements) will make mistakes. Don’t dwell on them, just learn from them and grow.