William S. Matthews is a passionate modern-day renaissance man with big dreams and even bigger ambitions. Being a best-selling author, world-recognized public speaker, and successful real estate investor, was never William’s goal. Ever since he was a young boy in his native Houston, Texas, William had one dream – to be successful and enjoy life to the fullest. Even if it meant stepping out of his comfort zone or going the extra mile.
Today, William is still actively pursuing his childhood dream every single day. From project management to workshop facilitation, and from keynote speaking, to fundraising millions, William’s detail-oriented, energetic, and dynamic personality allows him to lead and take part in multiple projects for both nonprofit and corporate entities. But that is not enough.
He is the author of two best-selling books “Everything I Need to Know about Life I Learned from an Event Planner” (On Demand Publishing, 2013), as well as “Everything I Need to Know about Money I Learned from My Broke @$$ Friends” (On Demand Publishing, 2015) that have touched and inspired thousands to change their mindsets.
People who have worked with William will describe him as a charismatic, charming, and energetic change maker with an impeccable sense of style, but in his mind, he is nothing more than a go-getter.
His background in real estate, event planning, and corporate community relations, has shaped his signature approach that combines his entrepreneurial alter-ego with his uncompromising personality and philanthropist mindset.
Global Millionaire magazine recently caught up with William to discuss his journey as an entrepreneur and here’s what went down:
Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?
My name is William Matthews, and I am from Houston. I have spent over ten years working with many of Houston’s top social, corporate, and non-profit institutions, and my work has included community outreach, project management, workshop felicitation, fundraising, and keynote speaking. For the past five years, I have been a public and community affairs professional with a substantial knowledge base in the areas of corporate relations, civic engagement, and real estate development. Additionally, I have written guides to personal finance and event planning, and I just released my third book, “Everything I Needed to Know About Corporate America.”
When did your entrepreneurial flair first reveal itself?
Growing up in Houston with parents who were real estate brokers, I spent many hours surrounded by entrepreneurs of all types, which I think helped inspire me toward my future career. But my mother was always my biggest cheerleader inspiring me to pursue my career, follow my passion, and stay true to who I am. Starting from a very early age, I saw how she maneuvered all of her responsibilities- from managing a business, taking care of her family, to being a member or board member of a variety of organizations. My mom proved to me that as long as you have passion and drive, you can do everything that you aspire to do professionally and still be an amazing parent. One of her favorite quotes is “Quitters never win, and winners never quit,” which I still live by to this day.
How did your life look like before being an entrepreneur?
My background in real estate development, event planning, and fund development has shaped my signature approach that combines my entrepreneurial alter-ego with an uncompromising personality and philanthropist mindset. I strive to resonate with my audience at each speaking engagement with my sense of humor, wit, and descriptions of the challenges that I have faced. Growing up, I had a major chip on my shoulder after being kicked out of five schools and told by many I wouldn’t amount to anything. Since then, I have achieved two degrees, written three books, raised millions of dollars for organizations, and completed a leadership program at Harvard University.
As an entrepreneur, what is it that motivates and drives you?
The freedom to go at your own pace and work with your own team is one of the greatest benefits. I look at it as you are the director of your own movie so you get to select your supporting cast, your budget, your script, you get to do everything. It’s completely different when you are just hired to be an actor or an extra when you work for someone else. It gives you the freedom to be your own director.
In one word, describe your life as an entrepreneur and explain why.
Renaissance. That is the word that I use to describe myself because I think as an entrepreneur you’re not just in one field; I’m an author, public speaker, I’m in real estate, and more so I think it all goes back to my brand of being a renaissance man. I think that one word cultivates and says a lot about being an entrepreneur.
What were your top three motivations for starting your business?
My parents for one, because they were entrepreneurs so it was constantly instilled in me. That was a big motivating factor. Also, going back to a previous question, you get to go at your own pace. You get to decide who you work with, what projects to be a part of, you get to say no to someone, instead of someone just handing you something and saying go and do this. I can choose what I want to be a part of and make sure it aligns with my brand. Another motivating factor is just the freedom and flexibility it gives you, which is something that most entrepreneurs love. Especially this year and being able to work from home. You don’t have to go to the office and put yourself at risk in this pandemic. If I wanted to, I could go work in the Dominican Republic for an entire month and no one would even know.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful business?
Knowing your audience for one, whether you are selling a product or giving a service, or whatever case, you really need to know who your audience is. I think that is the first thing that you need to do. Secondly, you need to make sure that you have a strong sense of community around you to help guide you. One of those could be a financial advisor, another one could be an accountability partner or just a person you vent to when things aren’t going the correct way. They say it takes a village and I truly believe that, so you need to have your village lined up before you decide to embark on your entrepreneurial journey. Lastly, I think it’s important to have a mentor that is in your field, and a mentor that looks like you, as well as a mentor that isn’t in your field and doesn’t look like you to help guide you.
What are the three biggest challenges you have faced growing the business and how did you overcome them?
Getting the word out there is always the difficult part for a lot of entrepreneurs. It is also getting people to give you a chance and an opportunity as you are trying to build your portfolio, your brand, and your client base. Everyone has to start somewhere and what happens to new people is that no one really wants to give them a chance because they want to work with experienced people. Everyone needs a start, so just start with family and friends first, or reduce your price the first few times, or take a free gig until you build your portfolio, your reputation, and your brand. And then you can go out there and charge what you are worth. You know your worth, but competition is tough and for people to want to take a chance on you, sometimes you just have to play the game until you can really write your own rules.
What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?
Utilizing social media is a really great form of marketing. Also using word of mouth, reaching out to family, friends, and any other connections you have, is also extremely important. It really goes back to the old-school marketing methods. Sending out email blasts to family and friends or sending text messages to all of your contacts. It is so important to reach out and catch up with people, especially during this pandemic, and with that, you can also have a way to talk about your business and what you have been working on. They can support you by spreading the word even more. Posting about your services or your product on social media pages, or writing positive reviews is so helpful. It can be time-consuming, but if you just stick to it, it will pay off.
As you grew the business, what have been some of the most important leadership lessons you have learned?
There is nothing worse than a leader who does not listen and claims to know everything. The best leaders surround themselves with people who challenge them and add value to the overall team. I have been the most successful with supervisors who had an open-door policy, and who always greeted me with a warm smile and offered me constructive feedback. While my ideas were not always accepted, they were encouraged, and that is what gave me the confidence to continue sharing my thoughts and made me proud to be a part of the team.
Furthermore, any good leader should be comfortable with being uncomfortable, because that is when they are growing the most. Comfort and growth do not go together!
Finally, another component of great leadership is to refrain from compromising your morals or beliefs to fit into the “status quo.” One of the best pieces of advice a former boss shared with me was: “I’ll give you my opinion, but my beliefs are not up for debate.” In other words, don’t sacrifice who you are to get a seat at the table. Your beliefs and experiences are what make you valuable to a team, and as such, it is critical to retain these in everything that you do. I try to live each day by this quote, as it helps me remember who I am as I lead my team.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
There has been so much advice that has been important to me. There is a quote that my mother had in her office that said “Quitters never win and winners never quit.” For the longest time, I didn’t even know what that meant. It wasn’t until being in high school, I understood what that meant. There was another one that my mom would always tell me and write down in letters and cards which was “Keep your eye on the prize.” Those are the two that I think are really beneficial for entrepreneurs. I also think if you go into anything with money as the motivating factor, you won’t get the results that you want. I know it’s hard to say and hard to do, but don’t go into it with a money mindset. I don’t write books or do speaking engagements or get up every day for money, that’s not a motivating factor for me, that’s not how I live my life. I think that has allowed me to be successful and most importantly, happy.
What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?
I’d recommend a few things! First, don’t let anybody tell you who you are. I always try to live by the phrase, “Know who you are as a person, and don’t do things to fit in.” Whether you’re in the music industry, politics, or the corporate world, these words are essential to live by. Many times, especially for people who are just starting with their first job, everyone around you will try to tell you who you are. While it may be difficult to live by these words at first, ultimately, doing things just to try to fit in does more harm than good. It’s important to find this for yourself and then stick with those values throughout your career. What type of leader are you? What values are important to you? Don’t sacrifice these important qualities for a seat at the table- other great opportunities will come.
Next, surround yourself with people who hold you accountable, and who don’t simply agree with everything you say. My top five friends are what I call my “Board of Directors,” and they make sure to both hold me responsible for my actions and also celebrate my wins!
Finally, make sure that you read a lot of books on entrepreneurship and leadership, and find a mentor in your chosen field. Also, remember comfort and growth do not go together. When you feel uncomfortable, that’s you growing as a person.