MATT SHOUP is the owner of M+E logoM&E Painting, a fast-growing enterprise here in Northern Colorado.  Many in Fort Collins are aware of Tim Farnsworth, Matt’s sign guy on the corner of Harmony & College.

But the story of Matt and M&E is much deeper.

Matt started this residential re-painting specialist company in 2005 with his last $100, after getting laid off from a job in mortgage banking.  With a passion for customer service and to develop a company of character, he launched in and has been  experiencing steady growth ever since.  M&E is now a multi-million-dollar company.

I first spoke with Matt back in 2011, and it’s fascinating to see how he’s developing personally, and how this affects his business.  It was great to catch up this week and learn more of his story.

Matt Shoup and familyMatt went through a period of deep introspection last year.  As a result, he worked hard on defining himself and his values and how that translates into the business.  He started thinking about the legacy he wants to leave.

As a result, he drastically expanded his activities outside M&E itself.  He took the book he published in 2011, Become an Award-Winning Company, and built it into a speaking and coaching business.

You’d think that this guy must be a crazy workaholic, going in so many directions at once.  But he’s actually similar to others I’ve profiled on this blog who are ambitious and totally energized by the intentional impact they’re inspired to make.

You don’t have to be a Type A personality for that.  You don’t have to be an extrovert.

Let me get back to those personal and company values.  become-an-award-winning-company coverDuring the process of writing his book, he had a chance to refine his ideas and develop the concept of the “Circle of Impact.”  This has now expanded into his coaching and speaking business, where he’s supporting and developing other leaders locally and internationally.

I’ve seen his concepts develop and clarify over time.  What started as a desire for M&E to be focused on delivering great value to satisfied customers has now matured into a clear company definition, values and vision.  Part of this refinement stemmed from his own personal challenges, but it also came from the experience of leading an ever-developing company.

This is a very common phenomenon.  I often work with clients who have a vision and values, but they feel that there’s more depth and impact to explore.  It’s not unusual to see surprising clarity to emerge from our conversations – sometimes even from just a single key word.

The lesson, I think, is to not expect perfect direction and vision when you’re starting out.  It’s OK to have a bit of vagueness, because clarity will start to develop.  As you are challenged by events, your deep thinking will help you to discover what’s important and how to make practical decisions.

Just make sure you do the deep thinking when it’s something important.  You may not want to remain satisfied with, “Well, everyone else appears to be doing it this way.”

If you want to make a difference, you have to BE different.

As you know, I always ask leaders in these interviews about the difficulties they have with trading profit against their values.  As you’d expect, there have been plenty of opportunities to make mistakes in a painting business like this.  Errors are made, colors don’t match, and great employees aren’t easy to find.  But Matt was quite calm about this: “We take accountability and responsibility for all of our actions.”  It’s about doing the right thing and having the trust of the customers.

Even in the case of when they prepped the wrong house for painting.  Sure, it cost them, and it was embarrassing.  But it also gave a powerful teaching moment which continues to be a lesson to every person in the company.

Matt hinted that there’s a new M&E advertising campaign, riffing off of this theme, to be unveiled shortly.  Since he swore me to secrecy, though, I’ll make sure I add a comment when it’s made public.  Hopefully all the local readers will notice and be impressed with the message.