Cherokee Office of Economic Development · Cherokee by Choice.

Secrets to Success: Work Backwards and Carry a Big Dictionary

March 27, 2018

Secrets to Success: Work Backwards and Carry a Big Dictionary

“If you’re focusing on personal gain and single transactions, you’re missing the point.” Heath Matiak made it clear to the Lunch Circuit audience – a monthly meet-up of successful Cherokee entrepreneurs – that the family-owned commercial HVAC company, R&D Mechanical Services, is merely a vehicle for the larger picture; to serve the community by providing opportunities for others to grow and prosper within the skilled trades industry.

“It would be short sighted to focus on each single transaction just to do it all over again the next year; we want to have a broader perspective and use the business to make a larger impact.”

Matiak joined Jonathan Chambers, Community Manager of Entrepreneurship for the Cherokee Office of Economic Development, on stage for the Lunch Circuit’s 10th gathering. Matiak’s calm and collected demeanor balanced well with Chambers’ unconventional interview approach. With a mix of discipline and vulnerability, the audience was in for a real treat, complimentary cookies aside.

Matiak is the Co-Owner of R&D Mechanical Services alongside his father Robbie Matiak. After completing his service in the military, Matiak returned home and partnered with his father to transform the small family business into what is now a twenty-person operation located in Canton.

When asked about how Matiak attempts to differentiate his company from the crowd, the simple answer was that they don’t try. “Differentiating yourself from the competition is a never-ending target. You can do it for a time but then everyone else catches up to you and you have to do it again. Rather than being different, we focus on being efficient and doing what we say we will do.” By keeping the focus on doing what they do, as well as they can, an essential core value of the company, R&D sidesteps the trap most beginning startups fall into – the desire to be all things to all people.

An unexpected tool in Matiak’s toolbox is the dictionary. To communicate effectively and be more intentional with words, the dictionary has proven to be the gift that keeps giving. “I feel that knowing, understanding, and using words as they are intended is something that is not a thought for most. A great example: Habit – “applying to individuals, signifies a way of acting or thinking done frequently enough to have become unconscious or unpremeditated in each repetition or to have become compulsive…” How much can be pulled from that? One sentence of a definition that covers a third of a page. I could spend all day on this…I bet your dictionary app ain’t got all that and then some. I love my 50lb. dictionary!”

Matiak and Chambers paused as the crowd laughed at the statement “the customer is not always right.” The business owners (those in the room) shared a moment of solidarity, thinking- finally someone said it out loud. “The company stands for more than a single transaction. If the customer is rude to the technician or disrespectful of our time, they do not share our core values and are no longer partners with us.”

During the Q&A session, the question concerning sourcing and keeping employees came up. Matiak was quick to answer that R&D looks outside of the industry to find team members. “We have technicians from plumbing to automotive. We look for aptitude indicators more so than specific skills. Do they have character? Do they have core competencies?” Matiak revealed a key component is investing first in himself, and then his team. “When I do what I should and invest the appropriate energy into what I know I need, I have so much more that I can offer to others to multiply the effect of an investment in them. Investing in others is something I have come to enjoy more than anything else as part of my daily profession.

Matiak mentioned his struggle with the work-life balance, admitting that while he does not dwell on failures, he does take home the “leftovers” from the day more often than he should. What helps is being intentional on his commute home. “There is a 15-minute stretch on the way home without cell service. I use that time to engage with everyone in the car.”

Matiak’s advice for entrepreneurs starting out: “Pick the furthest point you can see and work backwards from that. Figure out the steps required to make that step happen and come up with a plan from there. Connecting the dots is not more complicated than the daily discipline to work toward your goal. Ignore the input that says you can’t, won’t, or should not. If it’s founded in a reason, take the input. Past that, you know your path. Stay on it.”