Sunday, November 29, 2009

Matthew Fenton:
Founder and President of Three Deuce Branding

Bio: Matthew Fenton is the founder and president of Three Deuce Branding, a consultancy that helps brands and businesses make the most of the hand they're dealt. Since 1997, Three Deuce has consulted with and trained over 100 companies, helping them to define clear visions and create bold strategic ideas. Matthew authors "That Branding Thing," a column that appears monthly in the Cincinnati Business Courier. His blog, also called "That Branding Thing," can be viewed at Cincinnati magazine chose Matthew as a member of Cincinnati’s “Creative Class,” and the Business Courier named him to the 2003 Class of “Forty Under 40.” Matthew's other passions include soccer, travel, music, and reading most everything he can get his hands on. He is an avid poker player and has competed in the World Series of Poker.

FCL: How would you define a leader?
Matthew: A leader is someone with a vision for a better tomorrow, and the ability to convince at least one person to help make that vision a reality.

FCL: Who are your biggest influences as a leader?
Matthew: I'm most influenced by people who have touched my life in some way. Many, many people have given me examples to follow; these would include my parents, my friends, and certain clients, teachers, professors and bosses.

FCL: What gives you the greatest joy in being a leader?
Matthew: Helping others grow, and thereby growing myself.

FCL: What is your biggest pet peeve as a leader?
Matthew: That some people would rather impede progress than create something positive.

FCL: What is your biggest challenge as a leader?
Matthew: Time, which is ultimately a matter of prioritization. Sometimes I struggle with the fact that I can't do everything I'd like to do. I have to choose, so I need to choose wisely.

FCL: Who has impacted you the most in your life as a leader?
My parents, without question. My father was a welder and my mother was not working when they had four children between 1966 and 1972. By the time I was 12, my father had risen to the director level at a regional utility company. Somehow, they saved enough money to put all four of us through college, a pledge which I will pass down to my children. From them, I learned that there's no substitute for a good work ethic, and that what matters is not what you own but who you are.

I also remember my parents telling me at a very early age (and many times since) that it didn't matter to them if I grew up to be a garbage collector, as long as I was the best garbage collector I knew how to be. That pointed out to me the importance of both personal responsibility and integrity.

FCL: What are your favorite books and what are you currently reading?
Matthew: Great question! We all need to read more. The most significant book I've read is "Man's Search for Meaning," by Viktor Frankl, which details Frankl's experiences in the Nazi death camps, and his subsequent development of logotherapy, the third Viennese school of psychotherapy. This book came to me at a time I was going through some significant personal change. That was 12 years ago; I've read it at least once a year since then, and have probably given 10 copies away to friends. Frankl: "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

Otherwise, I usually have at least two books open. Today, they are Sidney Poitier's "The Measure of a Man," and "One of a Kind," by Nolan Dalla, a biography of Stu Ungar, who many believe to be the best gin and tournament poker player that ever lived. His is a cautionary tale. Had you asked another day, it might have been some combination of fiction, humor (Steve Martin and James Thurber are favorites), philosophy, biography, history, branding and business books, and poker texts.

FCL: What is your vision for business and community leadership in Cincinnati?
I think the lack of a vision for this city has been the #1 failure of our leadership for the two decades I've lived here. There's no cohesion, no consistency. My hope is that a leader will emerge who can articulate a vision – as well as inspire and unite this city's people and marshal our considerable resources.

FCL: Where do you see yourself five years from today?
Matthew: Some people find this surprising, but I've never had any kind of "five-year plan" for myself. That's not to say I don't have some pretty concrete goals for my business and personal life. But I've always trusted my gut when at a crossroads, and it's served me pretty well. Today, I'm inspired by my work and those around me and I intend for that to be the case in five years.

Closing remarks (from Herman): Absolutely phenomenal, Matthew! I like what your parents said to you: ..."that it didn't matter to them if (you) grew up to be a garbage collector, as long as (you were) the best garbage collector (you) knew how to be". My dad used to tell me, "If you are going to dig trenches, get into that ditch and do an excellent job so that your dirty and dusty handiwork will be recognized as the masterpiece of a genius... Love your work... Never ever perform for the accolades of other men but commit to unleashing your personal potential". I want to pass the same heritage and legacy to my family. I'm currently reading a wonderful book by Mark Sanborn titled, The Fred Factor. In this little book filled with marvelous leadership nuggets, Mark outlines four principles that can enable us to bring our very best to the table - every day. The four principles are 1. Everyone makes a difference. 2. Everything is built on relationships. 3. You must continually create value for others. 4. You can reinvent yourself regularly. Abraham Lincoln said, "Whatever you are, be a good one". As Tom Peters would say, let's continue to pursue the Wow! Thanks Matthew for taking the time for a great interview.