Growing pains

One of the most important business lessons Steven MacDonald learned could
easily have been learned in elementary school: Don’t be a jerk.

MacDonald, founder and CEO of
myMatrixx, a pharmaceutical company
focusing on pain management, has seen
other executives preen over their gaudy
growth numbers and regret it later when
things took a turn for the worse. That’s
something he doesn’t do.

His humility has served him well, as
myMatrixx has seen three-year growth
of 234 percent, with 2006 revenue of
$13 million; he projects 2007 will soar,
with estimates of $23 million.

Smart Business spoke with
MacDonald about why you should
always make time to visit employees
and how running a business is like
captaining a ship.

Q: How involved should a leader be
in day-to-day operations?

The CEO or leader needs to be as
involved as they should be. It’s like
the captain of a ship. If the captain
of a ship is in calm waters, and they
are just cruising from point A to
point B, it doesn’t take a lot of oversteering the vessel to get from point
A to point B. In fact, oversteering
probably makes the ride more
bumpy and more choppy.

But if you’ve got to pick up speed
or the weather gets a bit rough, the
captain has to be more vigilant. He’s got to control the steering of the vessel that much more.

It’s kind of that way with running a company. There are periods of aggressive or
hyper growth or when new initiatives or
products are being rolled out, where you
need to be more involved. But at the same
time, you need to give the organization
time to catch up.

So in that process of letting the department heads run through the new products,
those are times when the CEO is involved
from the oversight perspective, but they’re
not micromanaging.

Q: How do you motivate or empower your
employees so you don’t have to micromanage?

It’s about having a fun and enjoyable
work experience.

It starts with the CEO. It’s the CEO’s job
to create that culture, that culture in which
people want to come to work, people want
to do a good job, and they want to help our
customers. That’s an important part of
keeping employees motivated and keeping
customers happy.

Empowering our employees is a little
bit different. I’ve heard CEOs say, ‘I don’t
have time to sit with them right now.’
That’s a recipe for disaster. A leader’s
priority is to make them their top priority and make the employee’s job easier.

Removing boundaries, like software
issues or capacity issues. Making sure
that Internet connections are up and
fast. Little things, so when they’re on the
phone with customers, they are not frustrated. If they know they’ve got the latitude to make decisions when they need
to and with us supporting that, that’s

Q: How do you attract people who thrive in
that environment?

It is hard to find good people, so when we
do find them, we have to work extra hard to
keep them motivated and happy. That’s why
the culture the CEO sets is so important.

Just the other day, I saw a headline that
said, ‘Is fun the new core value?’ I think it
is, and I think it should be.

Once you create that culture, the employees are here and happy. Their friends see it,
and their friends want to be a part of it. You
generate this cycle effect where your
employees are referring their friends.

Most of our new hires come from
people we’ve worked with in the past
who know how we live and breathe
and want to be a part of it.

Q: How do you manage business

Planning is the most important part.
Leaders have to have a good knowledge of key business indicators. It’s
possible for CEOs without industry
experience to come in, but it’s important for any senior-level leader to familiarize themselves with the metrics of
that business and that industry.

A leader needs to be able to invest in
growth. A lot of entrepreneurs are afraid
to spend that extra dollar because they
fear they aren’t going to see the return on
it. One thing is certain: If you’re in a growing organization and you’re not continuing to make an investment, then you’ll
never see the really big payoff.

Q: What other advice do you have for
CEOs of high-growth companies?

Part of it is understanding where your
business is heading. You have to understand
cash flow and plan for growth.

Remember, ‘yes’ is never ‘yes’ until the
money’s in the bank. That’s a delicate balancing act between investing for growth
and one of the reasons the CEO has to be
pretty well attuned to moving that ‘yes’
along through the process and knowing
the probability of that happening.

In growing companies, it’s important
for the CEO to be part of closing of the

HOW TO REACH: myMatrixx, or (877)