Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

The SuccessLab Podcast: Where Entrepreneurs Collaborate for Success

Nov 19, 2014

Welcome to the SuccessLab Podcast episode #25. In this episode I talk to Matthew Manos, an amazing entrepreneur out of L.A. I had the pleasure of meeting him when he visited Phoenix to help with Pro Bono Week. During our chat, I ask him how he grew his business based initially on nonprofit work. He now has three offices spread across the country and is a notable author. In the Biz Hack I take off from last week’s tip on maintaining focus and give you a cool tactic some us in the mastermind started implementing.. 

Official bio: Matthew Manos is an neo-philanthropist, creative director, author, and founder of verynice, a global design company that dedicates more than 50% of its work to free services for nonprofits. Matt was also named one of Seven Millennials Changing the World by The Huffington Post. Whew! And I’m leaving quite a bit out. 

  1. Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
    • I’m a graphic designer by trade. I started my freelance career when I was in high school. I took on my first pro-bono project when I was 16 years old, and fell in love with the idea of working with nonprofits. And seeing the power of design in the social sector, and what it could do in terms of creating a message or making a vision clear, or just communicating in general.  I started getting a big enough stream of clients to turn this all into a business, and that’s what verynice is now.
  2. For businesses already working with for-profit clients, can they reverse engineer this and start folding in nonprofit work?
    • Yes. It’s been done both ways. The way we started was 100 percent pro bono and then gradually adding paid work. But the way most people start to integrate this model is to start with 100 percent paid work then integrate pro bono.
  3. How do you manage it all? How do you manage work/life balance?
    • I’m still trying to figure it out. But I do have an incredible team and leadership at verynice. We couldn’t do anything without our team and our volunteers and contractors. We have a vast network of people we collaborate with.
  4. Do you have a staff in place to help?
    • The first time verynice had another staff member aside from myself was when I brought on a business partner, Bora, in 2012. Prior to that we were exclusively working with contractors on a per project basis and volunteers on a per project basis. Pretty rapidly after Bora came on and we had two people running this thing, we started to see a lot of efficiency in our work and our bandwidth growing. The challenge of staffing only came when we absolutely had to.
  5. How do you find quality freelancers and contractors?
    • It’s all about how you position yourself. We slowly started to get featured on design blogs and that started to attract really quality designers looking for a place to give back using their skills. Around that time there really wasn’t a lot of messaging out there around pro bono in the design industry so it was a desire that a lot of people were looking for. We were sort of that place people would land if you Google “volunteer design opportunities.” People found us that way.
  6. How do you manage communications with your team spread across LA, NY and Austin?
    • It’s actually simpler than you might think. We are still small teams. The three office managers will typically connect weekly, and Bora and I (the managing partners) will connect daily.  It’s really just done through keeping a constant stream of communication over Google Hangout or phone or email. Just quick check-ins.
  7. I know for me, and this seems true for number of entrepreneurs, it can be hard to let go of certain projects and delegate. How have you been able to do that?
    • Very often with designers we really like making stuff. So for me, the first time I brought on a freelance designer to work on something with me, it was terribly emotional because I really wanted to have my hands in the project. But over a couple of a years of experience managing designers, I started to see the value in collaboration, and the value in surprise of really just letting people run with what they think is the best fit for  a creative problem. Now I hardly do any design because of that love of collaboration.
    • Just try it. A lot of times when entrepreneurs are afraid to let go of certain tasks it’s really because they haven’t experienced what that feels like. So I would recommend just trying it. Even if you’re still early stage. The point of starting any business isn’t to allow yourself to keep doing the same thing, but to create some sort of legacy where you’re almost not needed any more. That should be the goal of any founder. It’s also a very liberating goal.
  8. Have you been able to automate certain processes in your business?
    • We continue to build upon our questionnaire which is the first place a nonprofit or for-profit will request our services. This has made the on-boarding or vetting process such easier and streamlined.
  9. With your business model at verynice, you give away 50% of your work for free. I know you discuss how to do this in your book, but can provide any tips?
    • What’s important is to treat every project like you would a paid project. In a paid project you always have things like agreements or a set scope or a schedule. And very often with pro bono, people forget to set that kind of stuff in place. As a result projects can go wrong really fast and get really stressful for both parties . My biggest advice is to slowly take on more and more pro bono projects but always remember to utilize the same systems across the board.
  10. Do you have any favorite communication tools you use with your team?
    • We use Google Hangout a lot for the remote teams. Internally we use Slack, which is a chatting platform which is great for sending cat pictures around.
  11. Do you have a tip, tool or even a book you can share? Something you’re loving right now?
  12. Do you have a mentor?
    • Starting a company when you’re 19-years-old is complicated to find mentors. A lot of people wrote off the idea entirely except for my mom and dad. So they were my mentors at first. Overtime people have reached out to offer advisory services.
  13. How can people connect with you?

Last week’s hack was all about maintaining focus. It was a trick Jack Dorsey, CEO and co-founder of Square, implemented when he was simultaneously guiding Square and Twitter. So check that out if you missed it. This week’s hack is also related to maintaining focus. 

Biz Hack: A few months ago a couple of us in the mastermind group buddied up and began emailing each other our daily most important things (MITs). At the end of the day we recap what from the list we accomplished. Initially this was just a form of accountability, but I also discovered it helped me refocus when the day felt it was getting off track. I could quickly refer to that email, zero in on my MITs and regain focus. Also knowing you are submitting your list of accomplishments to someone at the end of the day can light a fire and make you super productive.

Action Items: Find someone you can start this focus exercise with. It doesn’t necessarily have to be email, but it should be some sort of daily check in. Be sure to find someone who is equally as committed to the idea as you are and who isn’t afraid to call you out if they think your list of to-do’s is too long and unrealistic. The goal is not to set yourself up for failure, but to really hone in on what is most important for that day, and be held accountable.

Quote of the week: “There may be people that have more talent than you, but theres no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.” ~ Derek Jeter

Next week we’re in The Lab with Zach Goldstein from a rapidly growing startup out of Silicon Valley called Thanx. We talk about how he took Thanx from idea to the marketplace. It’s a very insightful interview, so don’t miss it. For any other past episodes checkout and if you’re in iTunes, please rate the podcast. I’d love to hear what you think. Until next time, have prosperous week!