With a magic touch that has helped turn startups into fast growing companies, Mat’s business acumen and resilience has been evident throughout his career and has made him one of the Unicorns-in-Chief in the Mexia stable!
Mat’s early background spanned financial services and IT, starting in 1999 with Accenture/ Anderson and later with Microsoft on the Visual Studio team in Seattle. Following his then-girlfriend-now-wife to London, Mat first met Dean Robertson whilst working for a small startup Microsoft IT consultancy.
Fast forward to 2011 back in Australia, Mat had reconnected with Dean and hitched a ride on to the Mexia dream where he not only found an opportunity to put his commercial acumen and vast industry experience to work, but most importantly, to really own something and make a difference.
Here’s some more about Mat’s background, his role and a little about Mat behind the scenes!
Background: An insight into how the Mexia journey began
Mathew and Dean first crossed paths at the Microsoft consultancy when Mat was working on integration projects with Barclays/ HSBC and Dean had joined as a contractor/technical specialist in BizTalk. Dean left after 18 months and Mat stayed on with the company going through 3 buyouts and growing to over 500 people by the time he left.
Whilst working as an independent consultant at Barclays Bank – one of the biggest retail banks in the UK, Mat found himself right in the thick of the GFC.
“I started as an independent consultant there working on a massive core banking project with a budget of $270m,” says Mat. “But when they were $90m in, the GFC hit and they cut the whole project and everyone working on it!”
Undaunted by the fallout from the GFC, Mat quickly turned a challenging situation into an opportunity to further consolidate his skills, doing a short stint at the UK regulator at the time, the Financial Services Authority (FSA).
“Looking back now, the GFC was actually a key phase in helping me get to where I am now,” says Mat. “Because of all the financial sector redundancies, there were some amazingly qualified people snapped up by the FSA that I got to work alongside and learn from.”
Eventually in 2009, and now with a young family, Mat felt drawn back to Oz. After arriving with a shipping container full of belongings it was time to settle in and explore new ground. He soon landed a job with NAB where he ran projects on their core banking platform for about a year.
Matt and Dean had kept in touch, even meeting up for a skiing trip in Chamonix whilst ‘Team Coleman’ were doing a season on the slopes! So when Mat got a call in 2011 from Dean, who had started Mexia 2 years earlier, he was naturally interested to hear how Mexia had been progressing.
“The company then was Dean, some contractors and a few other staff including Dan Toomey, who is still with Mexia,” says Mat. “Dean was very clear about what he wanted to achieve – the Mexia dream was to ‘make integration a first class citizen’ in the enterprise.”
“Dean said the technical side of the company was covered but he needed someone to take the business side of things forward, and I was going to help find that person. We spent probably 3 months talking about it before the penny dropped!”
Yes, Mat was the critical missing link! Mexia was indeed fortunate to get Mat on board, the perfect complement to Dean’s skills and a great catch for the business as a whole.
In 2011 Mat quit his job at NAB and has never looked back. He invested his life savings in Mexia and became at the time just their 5th permanent staff member.
At Mexia, Mat is our COO responsible for project delivery and integration
Mat’s talents on the business side were apparent as soon as he joined Mexia. Mat became the Mexia ‘secret sauce’, his proficiency with everything non-technical, such as commercials, projects, quotes, SOWs and outcomes, complimented perfectly Dean’s technical proficiencies to deliver fantastic outcomes for customers.
Dean humbly says: “Mat’s the reason we’re still in business!”
“It was exciting joining a company and being able to make a difference from the very start,” says Mat. “I remember at the beginning, Mexia desperately needed to digitally transform its internal processes – we had a part-time bookkeeper and used to have to email the MYOB file around to each other to work on it! It was incredibly inefficient.”
In that instance, Mat brought the drive to aim for a business run as much as possible off the cloud. Over time his role continued to become less customer facing and more about making sure the business runs at its optimum.
“I like to see my role as to ‘perform’ the business while Dean’s is to ‘transform’ it,” says Mat. “I love all the internal stuff – Dean hates it!”
Or as Dean puts it: “He’s the anchor to my kite. I take us places he would rather not wrap his head around, and he makes sure we are profitable once we’re there!”
Together, the two place a huge emphasis on culture building – hiring for attitude and aptitude rather than skill. It’s certainly paid dividends – as we’re frequently told by our partners, the Mexia culture and style oozes out of every interaction with the Mexia Team and last year we were recognised in the top 10 Best Places to Work in Australia.
It’s an amazing growth story – going from a skeleton start 6 years ago to about 50 people now, but like most successes it all started with a plan and a clear strategy.
“The first thing I did was to write a 100-day plan,” says Mat. “Once we achieved that we built out a 3-year plan – mission, vision, size, valuation and so on. This gave us a line in the sand early on and signified our choice to prioritise growing people over chasing profit.”
As with any service-based business that has built up a fixed cost base, revenue predictability is crucial. As such Mat is focused on the revenue part of the business, working out ways to grow the company.
“Our revenue has traditionally been lumpy,” says Mat. “So the challenge is to keep transforming this into more predictable recurring revenue.”
Beyond Mexia: another side of Mat
There’s no quiet life for Mat outside Mexia, whether it be promoting and taking part in the Team Mexia Tough Mudder challenge or hitting the summer slopes with a mountain bike. In fact we were fortunate to catch him for this interview before he headed up the coast to “do some serious biking”. It sounded dangerous!
During winter it’s snowboarding all the way with some great trips under his belt including heli-skiing in Japan and New Zealand. It’s a family passion with all three children starting to get in on the skiing action well!
Mat’s daredevil passions even extend to motor racing. “I own a small part of the Nurburgring, an (in)famous racetrack in Germany nicknamed ‘The Green Hell’,” says Mat. “Quite a few years ago I rented a race prepped Alfa Romeo and in the process of lapping the 24.4km track I put it into the wall. I now own the replacement piece of Armco barrier that was damaged on impact – not to mention having to pay for a written off race car!”
Fortunately, Mat wasn’t hurt, proclaiming that all he suffered was “a busted ego”! …although you couldn’t tell it from these pictures – if anything he looks pleased with his efforts!!