Highly Successful Venture Capitalist Gives Sage Advice To His Younger Self And You Could Learn Some Invaluable Lessons

Tom Matlack is a former venture capitalist, who has an extremely impressive resume. By the age of 31-years-old, he was the chief financial officer of The Providence Journal. He was the architect of a $1.4 billion sale of a cable business. He was the CFO of a massive conglomerate that owned 12 major market television stations, a newspaper, and start-ups including the Food Network. In June of 1996, he took the company public at $1 billion market capitalization, then turned around and negotiated the sale of the company for $2 billion a mere 90 days later. Let me reiterate, he did this all by the age of 31. Despite his prodigious accomplishments at such a young age, the now 51-year-old Matlack looks back at his 20-year younger self and has razor-sharp advice. The guidance does not only apply to those who are CFO’s of major corporations, but can also be invaluable to those in the business world even if they are just starting.

In a post on his Linkedin titled “What My 51-Year-Old Self Would Tell my 31-Year-Old Self (And I Try to Keep in Mind When Mentoring Young CEOs),” Matlack provides insight that you may find beneficial in your own field of expertise.

As with any young go-getter you want results 12 minutes ago, Matlack was no exception. “I was in a great rush,” he wrote. “I wanted to make my mark right here, right now. Tomorrow was too late and not soon enough.”

However, he cautions against wanting too much, too soon. “Urgency matters. But if you expect to shoot the moon in the next 24 hours, you are destined to fail. Slow the fuck down and think through what you are trying to accomplish. Build an attack plan that contemplates the long term. Think Warren Buffet, not Mark Cuban.”

Matlack was also short-sighted about the effects that his constant wheeling and dealing would have on his employees, community and even himself. “I was a heat-seeking missile with no intelligence whatsoever built into the navigation device,” he said. “I just knew I was going to destroy whatever happened to be in my path.”

He gives this advice to young moguls. “Take a breath. Step back from the battle and consider the war you are waging. Think for a minute about what happens even if you do ‘win’ quickly. Is that really the best long-term outcome?”

Matlack explains the double-edged sword that is risk:

Courage in the face of adversity is a key attribute of great leaders for sure. And risk plays a big role in success in any field. You have to dream big and be willing to commit where others might shy away. But risk is not something to laugh off or actively pursue for the hell of it. Even at 31, take risks that you have considered carefully because you are convinced are worth taking to advance the goal you have set out to achieve. Don’t go blindly into battle. Study, plan, protect. Then fight the risky war for a cause you are committed to with every fiber of your soul.

Matlack states that all great business leaders that he has worked with have all been amazingly humble. He also advises to “go where everyone else is not” and to “come up with your own plan.”

The successful dealmaker gives this pearl of wisdom to young executives:

My advice to young executives is to find an opportunity to join a company that is sleepy, that has stayed pretty much the same for decades (in my case, things had been run pretty much the same way for 175 years before I showed up). Go in there and start making the place better. Fix shit. Ask questions about why things are done the way they are. Force people to think outside the box. In a small pond, the opportunity for rapid positive change will be staring you directly in the face. It won’t require anything complicated. Just hard work and common sense can make you into a hero pretty darn quick. At least, that has been my experience.

Matlack says it is imperative to balance your work life and your personal life. Balance early in your career is hard if you have big goals, but don’t make the mistake I made where I won professionally and lost pretty much everything else,” he writes. “Try the best you can to keep your profession in perspective. And pay attention to the people in your life that really matter.”

The investor states that it is essential that you do something you love so that you are excited to go to work each and every day. If you’re picking a career based on just making money you will be unsatisfied.

You can read all of the entire article and all of the savvy information on Matlack’s Linkedin page.

Currently, Matlack is an investor and the founder of The Good Men Project, which set out to start an international conversation about what it means to be a good man in the 21st century.