Josh Fuller is the founder and CEO of Matic Digital, a digital strategy and talent growth agency that he grew to over $1.5M in new business in its first year. Josh shares how he did that while also battling serious health and...
Josh Fuller is the founder and CEO of Matic Digital, a digital strategy and talent growth agency that he grew to over $1.5M in new business in its first year. Josh shares how he did that while also battling serious health and business challenges that would have made most entrepreneurs give up - but he pushed through and kept going.
Building a business is hard work on the best of days, but when you get thrown both personal and business curve balls at the same time, it can be difficult to find the motivation to keep going under the weight of it all.
In this episode, Josh Fuller takes us on his journey to founding his creative digital company, Matic Digital, expanding his services into talent growth, and the rocky road he was forced to navigate after a serious health crisis and a non-paying client converged at the same time.
Josh tells us that he never had plans to start an agency and how he expanded from providing creative digital services to also growing and matching talent. His company focuses on acquiring top talent, and he describes the challenges, advantages and strategies he uses for retaining premium independent workers and the human-centered approach he takes that has been very successful.
After experiencing business success after just a few months, Josh was hit with an unexpected health crisis while also dealing with a sudden drop in revenue after a large client stopped paying their invoices. He’s very candid about how he considered closing the doors on Matic Digital but details how he was able to persevere by going all in, eventually making it through to brighter days.
You’ll be inspired by Josh’s resilience in overcoming obstacles and his gift for nurturing people and relationships that has become a superpower for growing his business.
Skip to Topic:
2:19 - Launching a creative agency
3:18 - The challenges of being a 1-person show starting a business
4:17 - Branching out into talent growth
6:09- The 3 categories of clients Matic works with
9:15 - The advantages of using top talent
11:08 - Strategy for retaining top independent talent when you’re an agency
13:02 - Why they employ a nearshore strategy for hiring talent
14:11 - Maturing their anchor business model by promoting the human story
17:33 - Creating a different approach to independent work
19:55 - The importance of emphasizing why you do something over what you can do
22:08 - On working with clients in a way that’s collaborative and fun
28:41 - What sparked Josh to start an agency when he previously had no plans to do so
29:58 - The big strength that has helped Josh build his business
31:30 - Helping clients find talent that’s a best fit for them
34:21 - How the move to big agencies revealed the need for strengthened people skills
36:53 - Getting hit with both financial and health crises at the same time
43:16 - Not quitting when things were at their worst and steps Josh took to turn things around
45:02 - The surprise resolution that sparked momentum for Josh and his business
45:52 - The big piece of advice Josh has about going all in
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Welcome to the Real People Real Business Show. My name is Stephanie Hayes, and I'm a business strategist who loves to speak with like-minded entrepreneurs to share their real stories and the gritty details of building their businesses. On this show, you won't hear about the glamorized entrepreneurship journeys that you see online. You won't be told how to make six figures in six weeks. Instead, you can expect to hear real, vulnerable and inspiring stories that you can relate to that have helped create the foundation for each of our guests businesses. Goodbye, boss Babes. Hello, real life entrepreneurs. Today, I'm so excited to welcome Josh Fuller. Josh is the founder and CEO of Matic Digital, a digital strategy and talent growth agency that surpassed 1.5 million in new business in 2021, its first year, despite a personal health bombshell client payment delinquency of nearly $500,000 and post covid economic uncertainties with just four full-time employees and about 50 independent contractors in Matic's stable. Josh has a lot to say about finding what drives you, trusting your gut, pivoting with resilience and humor, discovering and shaping talent, and defending the value of your work, your experience, your time, and your people. Welcome to the show, Josh, and thanks so much for taking the time to share your story today. Absolutely. Thanks so much for having. We've got a lot to talk about clearly, . Yeah, that intro certainly, uh, . Yeah. Yeah. I saw you twitching in the background there. So let's just jump right in. Tell me the story. How did, how did Madic Digital become a thing? Where did it come from? What was the journey? Yeah, so I've, I've been in and around digital and creative and numerous roles for, for a couple of decades, getting my start wa there was the.com implosion and there was no jobs. So I started a company then, and which I ran for nine years. Um, it, it paid bills and I learned a ton, but it, it certainly nothing like what Matic has been able to do just in the, in the first year. Um, from there I jumped into, uh, creative director as an agency and really got kind of boots on the ground exposure to bigger projects, bigger teams, bigger personalities. It was wonderful. And then I, I was fortunate enough to spend several years with Deloitte, um, doing, again, bigger teams, bigger projects, and moving on into some startups. So I kind of did the full spectrum in, in early 2021. Found myself, you know, probably like a lot of us after Covid, just. My, the, the startup I was at was cool and it, it was great and, but it was a slow process and Covid made things even slower and I really missed shipping and missed seeing results of the work we were doing. And so ended up stepping out to, um, do a little independent consulting and I guess figure it out, uh, what was next. So I did not have a notion to start Matic or an agency at that point. I was fortunate enough to get a, uh, kind of creative consulting gig, um, that was supposed to go four months. It lasted six. Uh, and just realized pretty quickly I was having the most fun I had had in 10 years working in that capacity direct with the client. A few other people heard, I was independent, started having talks with them and helping out. So last, uh, in September 21, I launched. Uh, digital and the, uh, the, the, you know, the, the journey's been really fun. Um, it, it was, I was pretty rusty when I came to all the things of running a company from billing and taxes and, you know, uh, getting clients, uh, again and, and sort of creating exposure and keeping teams happy. It was, it was a lot of, um, new ex new knowledge from, I guess working in the bigger fields, but being back to kind of a, a, a one person army was, was a bit of a wake up and, but we got through the first few months, which were, are always bumpy and, um, ended the year really optimistic, going into 22. And, uh, yeah. So from there, I mean, it just started to scale. We, we, uh, had the idea of how do you. Talent busy when you are not as an agency. Um, layoffs are very common. Didn't want to get into, you know, the higher and fire, uh, spectrum of things. Just didn't feel like that was the right path. I don't think many companies do think that's the right path. So not necessarily special that I felt that way, but, um, started thinking, well, you know, there's a need for great talent. I've, I've been in the field for over two decades and I, I, I've brushed shoulders with a lot of great people, but also I just kind of know how to, you know, what I'm looking for or what kind of soft and hard skills I think would be good for client teams. Sent a few emails around, asked a few questions, and, um, before we knew it, uh, uh, uh, A client company that was forming had, had said, yeah, we need, you know, maybe a designer. And you had mentioned having a few, um, you know, available maybe. So can we meet 'em? So I sent them a few candidates to talk with. Uh, five. They met with all five. They engaged four for, for three month contract. And that's kind of the birth of Matic teams, um, which was, was great. So we had the studio doing our, our agency work, but now we had four practitioners for these kind of long-term dedicated, committed roles on client teams. We bolted them in, we supported them in the background, um, through Slack and other communications tools and, you know, just keeping, you know, kind of fostering a team initiative. But they were very plugged in with the client directly building that client's product. And, um, over the course of a few months, the four turned into 12. . Um, we were filling well beyond creative. We were filling director of qa, a product lead, uh, WordPress developers, Flutter developers. It just, it just sort of scaled and, and it was a, a really awesome journey of, of kind of seeing this thing come to life while still, um, maintaining our agency and building our talent. And so, you know, that was the start. Um, I guess that was what really bolstered the two, was a little bit of agency experience and a little bit of luck with this, this idea of, of wanting to sustain when we find great talent, keep them busy. And so who are the clients that are engaging you? So we have a handful of different types. Um, really, you know, we work with some agencies, actually some larger agencies. It's, it's kind of a funny paradigm that we're able to, to partner in there. We understand the language, the challenges, and, and can help you know them for the three or six or eight month engagement, um, without needing to scale and downsize. Um, a as you know, per typical with, with client dependent work, it's very difficult days, uh, with agencies in terms of the AOR model as agency of record model is, is somewhat, uh, deflating in popularity and with companies building their own product teams, their own internal marketing teams, they really want to own that whole process. So agencies are still very much valued and, and necessary. It's just the adaptiveness is changing and, and so that's, that's a category we, we support. Um, quite often another category is developing, you know, not quite like pre-seed. Uh, groups, but you know, startups that are maturing, um, uh, startups that have recently closed a significant series A or series B and need to grow quickly and, um, you know, would rather spend the dollars on shipping product than on building an HR team to find that, um, interview multiple times, uh, to, to building out a team for different capacities coming to us, we can sort of quickly adapt as an agency to their, from a discovery model, we can sort of quickly adapt as an agency to their, their understanding their needs and their issues, but, uh, and their challenges in kind of their culture and, and the chemistry and where the gaps might be, and start to curate our talent against those, those gaps and either pull from people we already have, or again, sometimes it's been a little more unique than the typical wheelhouse. We don't, you know, we are a, a strategy and creative digital services company. We don't have a fleet of flutter developers just. You know, in the back office. So like, there is some, some work we'll do to go out and actually find and, and, and, you know, do a text screen and do testing and, and do all that. But we, we try and cut the, the time to hire from, you know, a month to, to two months. We try and bring that down to a week, to two weeks. Um, and of course again, offering that kind of, you know, plug and play background, if there is an issue on the soft skills, if, if there's a culture fit issue, a skillset issue, a need to scale a more positive note, if they just need another, uh, member on their team, um, we can, you know, really be responsive to that. Uh, and I guess the last category is, you know, we've um, haven't yet closed, uh, but we've gotten through the contract process, which is actually quite the challenge . Um, but we remain at the ready for a couple of larger, more, um, fortune 500 type brands that, um, are just dealing with. Uh, kind of looking for new ways to hire and new ways to scale and find specialists. One of the things when you're dealing with independent talent is, um, there's, you know, a lot of people in there. We really strive for top talent. We strive for, for those that have, you know, intentionally chosen the path of choosing to work for three or six months, because perhaps they want to take another three off and go on a road trip or spend time in Europe and be unplugged and, and versus a PTO type policy. So they'll bill a bit more, they'll, they'll work a bit harder, but when the engagement ends, they want that break. They might want go back or they, you know, another benefit to top talent in the workforce. Um, variety. Uh, it's very easy to fatigue. It's very easy to fatigue on, um, you know, certain page types that you're just revisiting and churning on. And, and, um, you know, a lot of the data, we find it design doesn't need touches and doesn't need updates, but, The designers themselves maybe are just kind of fatigued of doing this same page with a slightly different header and a slightly different location for the form field. So bringing that freshness to, to the talent and also the benefit of freshness and excitement to the clients seems to be a really good match. So having, having run number of, uh, consulting companies, services, organizations, you know, one of the things that we really wanted to build was we wanted to build a consulting agency, um, just with top talent. And so everything you're speaking about right now is, you know, kind of in the cross herds of everything that we had been struggling with as well. Like how, not so much struggling, but like how do you maintain this roster of super high-end consultants that will come and go? They like it because it's flexible, but you can't employ them. You can't hire them as full-time employees. And so what do you find is the key to keeping them engaged, keeping them around, and knowing that you can rely on them? Yeah, that's a great question. So, you know, first of all, I won't. Um, postures, though we've figured that out entirely. We have not, um, getting closer. I think one of the big light bulb moments that, that, that happened initially that that has proven to be pretty relevant is the agency. Um, you know, we stay very, very sharp in, in this space. We, we are currently much, I would say if, if you took a scale, the scale would lean heavier on, um, studio engagements through the agency. So client work. So one way we, we, we keep people engaged is, is we solve all those problems just inherently by being an agency. Our work is variety, uh, variety driven. Um, our, our clients are across multiple spectrums, so the en and the engagement asks are different on each one. So, um, keeping that aspect of it, paying competitively, paying quick, um, is a huge value add that, uh, you know, predictable forecastable revenue is important. Just choosing, choosing a life of independence doesn't mean choosing a life of, I don't know where my next check is, um, or shouldn't mean that. So, uh, a couple of just, you know, what I would call just no, no brainer. You're a professional, we're a professional company. We want you to keep being with us. We just treat people really, really fair and honestly. Right. Um, so there is no special magic algorithm doing that. I think it's just trying to give people a, a sense of consistency. But you know, it's not quite the wild west where you're out on Upwork, uh, promoting yourself and cutting your price against the next person, cutting their price. We also stay fairly focused, um, in a, in a nearshore market. So we have several matic teams, um, practitioners up, up in, in your area in Canada, and, and, and then mostly the rest in the US.. And, um, you know, there's a few thoughts on that. It, it, it's not so much about talent because there is talent obviously all over the world. It's amazing talent. I'd love to tap into all of it, but, um, it's time zone , it's like really what it is, it just comes down to being able to work on time zones. That makes sense. Being able to, you know, if you're gonna participate in a client team that's building a startup, working at a rapid pace on a, on a sprint schedule, on an epic, you know, deliverable model. Um, you've gotta be on the slack when they are, you've gotta be at the standups when the standup is scheduled at 9:00 AM And we, we don't, uh, really ma we don't allow for any room to where there's a, you know, somebody'sdialing in and it's 1:
00 AM their time. Like that's, we just, we keep everything very nearshore for, for the logistics. So I think a couple of those things have just really helped give people a sense of, you know, we're building something that that can be an, an a bit of an anchor. Um, and 2023, there's a lot of big plans to mature on that model. Oh, I wanna hear more. Yeah. Yeah. It's, uh, sure. Right now, . Yeah, go for it. Let's hear it. Um, so a few, a few of the key hires we've just, uh, started to develop in January. We have a talent advisor coming on. Um, where that, that role I, I see is, it's kind of like our answer to an HR team. Um, basically we, becau in lieu of having one, being as early as we are, we don't have an HR team, um, other than myself. And just again, everybody having a shared kind of, you know, Be a professional, be a respectable kind of person to, to everybody we, we work with. But, um, the talent advisor is really about fostering that relationship further. Getting to know in the off days, like not everybody's working all the time. We have a lot of folks that, you know, do, uh, find themselves on the bench, whether it's by choice, their engagement ended. We haven't teed an next one up yet. Um, whatever that that case may be. It's, it's just the reality of independent work as a whole and trying to harness it. So, um, we want to be talking to our, our teams all the time. A lot of folks, nobody really to date has become a Matic team's player, as I call it, like, kind of call 'em the players, um, uh, for the team, nobody. Done that, um, without meeting with me, without chatting with me quite a bit. They have access to me on Slack and selling all the things, but I am one person. So growth means you gotta, you gotta scale that. And also, I'm one person. I can't be everywhere all at once. And so something I haven't been able to do is, is that I, that's on our vision is building these vignettes, these features really, you know, the talent we choose. There's, there's eye-opening moments in their work or in their positioning or in their, you know, plug and place skillset from, you know, coming into FinTech to a new FinTech or healthtech to another health tech. Um, we wanna really feature this in a way that's not. Always, uh, you know, through an email to a client in a very relevant, you asked for this, we have these three people to push in front of you. We want to push our people out in the world through all the channels we have at our disposal, and, and, you know, potentially, eventually do things like this, do a podcast with them and, and really get to know. I'm, I'm very fascinated. I love my journey into design. I'm a nerd. I saw, um, I didn't think I was a nerd growing up. I can re I can admit it now. Uh, but, you know, I, I saw the Matrix and bought a computer, like I was studying architecture and I saw the movie, bought a computer and started. Just playing with design. So, you know, there's my admission of my nerdy background into the field. I did not go to school for this. I did not train in this, but yet I've, I've done it for two and a half years. I've own two companies. I've been a part of acquisitions, um, you know, startups that made it to acquisition. I've been with Deloitte, been very fortunate in my career. My path to it was very driven, uh, by, you know, this kind of passion and this idea of listening to music while I work just sounded cool to me. It seemed very cool to me and and it was not on my trajectory before. So I wanna hear other people's stories. Um, and so we're building in some tools to really f facilitate that. And I think it's those human stories that are really gonna help, um, you know, companies and organizations that are very used to a way of doing business. And a lot of times you've got two things you've got, we don't deal with third parties. Or we are just, we just went full-time right now and that's great. That is totally great. It's also, you know, going up against kind of massive layoffs, quiet, quitting people having two or three jobs at one time. Um, you know, there's, there's a lot of shifting plates happening in the space of just people in tech and, and you know, what, what the future holds. I certainly don't have an eight ball, but I do believe that what we're trying to build is there's another way, right? There's just another way. And, and it, it could be a best fit where it's not so much employee employer, it's entity and entity coming together and doing awesome things. And so we're really trying to build on that, that experience through real tangible, you know, small steps at a time. Right? Again, like just, so I'm very excited to have a talent advisor joining and that's a, that's a major step. And there's, there's some other things that are a little less, um, Solidified that, uh, that, that will be, uh, probably not ready right now though. Okay. Well, we'll have to come back and check in on those. Um, you know, it's, it's interesting, I, so my, the early part of my career was in the.com, like I grew up in the.com era and like literally in the thick of it building and incubating companies. And I, I had this role that I should never have had in my early twenties where , it was fun and it was great and it really helped me grow. But I feel like we're in that sort of second wave. You know, COVID really changed a lot about the way we think about work and what we're looking for from our work. And I see an agency almost like a b2b, um, model, right where you are. You are acquiring the services of another business. And that business happens to be an individual. But when you start to think about yourself as a business, then you start to make different decisions about where you get engaged. And the, I think the, in, at least in a, a fast paced, nimble environment like we're in right now in tech and, you know, in the space that you're in, um, I think the freelance model makes a whole lot more sense than hiring employees. And I think what's really interesting about your business is that you have, you're a digital agency, but your focus is almost more on the people and the people, the resourcing talent side of it than on the actual work that's getting done. And I wonder if that's, I think it's smart because I think that. Your clients are probably engaging agencies now, less so on whether or not you can do the work because you all can. Um, and more so on what, on how you engage. Do you think that's true? I 100% think that's true. It's, it's, you know, uh, shared principles, empathy, you know, I think, I think organizations and brands and anybody out there on the hiring side, you know, um, should be met with, uh, tho those, you know, principles. I, I, I definitely believe so. We, we have uh, I think a kind of organically empathetic ear to just, you know, it's not, it's not about what we can do, it's about, you know, or even how it's, that's not usually the thing that we're selling at all. It's more the why and like getting to that, that answer together. And, and, and, you know, there's been a lot of. I guess growth in the space in terms of, of how do you get to a strategy? How do you define a set of KPIs that you're gonna build against, bill against and deliver against? And um, but I think a lot of times, somewhere along the way, the industry kind of stopped listening for a little while and it was like, well, it was very prescriptive. Like, oh, it's user first. It's a hundred percent user first. Like, you're not user first. That's crazy. And. By the way, I share that to some extent, but that's not how they foster a relationship. Right. Um, and I, so I think the agencies that are gonna win and, and the ones that are gonna continue to win are, are the ones that have just shown us, you know, we, we listen, we, we don't, you know, we listen to stakeholders, but we go out and on the street, wherever that is, if you're, you know, a coffee shop, stand outside and ask why somebody walked by. Now you're, you're doing user interviews. It doesn't have to be a, a great veil and thousands of, you know, billable hours tied against user research. User research is generally what you and I are doing right now. It's a conversation and, um, a focused one, but a conversation. And I think getting to that and, and, and really, you know, being a partner that's like, look, you need a cool thing. We wanna build a cool thing. Let's go figure out what that cool thing is together. I think that's the, the, the kind of, the shift in dynamic and um, uh, over the last few years, that's a big positive for the industry is we're not. Again, there's no big reveal magic curtains. You know, we, with at Matic, we do, uh, weekly check-ins with clients kind of wherever we're at. Um, you know, if there's, uh, a client need or a, or a certain client requires a, a certain reveal element, um, we certainly do that. Uh, if, if they, some, a lot of folks we're working with really like to be kind of in the trenches with us and like, let's dig into the design file organically. We'll show you our top thinking and then we'll kinda show you how far down the rabbit hole we went and we'll, we'll kind of come out of it, you know, with an alignment and move to the next benchmark. Um, so that's, you know, that's how I like to work. I, I think it's a really fun way to do it. And, um, it seems like it's being adopted a bit more and more every day. Yeah. You know, so design's a funny one for me because I, I work with a lot of creative, um, individuals and have over the course of, of my career and I think, um, There's a tendency to want to be like, let me get it totally right first and then I'll show it to you client. And, uh, what my best friend is a is a designer, and she, she's like, you know what? Forget that. She goes, we, you know, we've been doing this for too long. She's, you know, we're, we're pushing 50 and we, we went through the.com mirror together. That's where we met. And she's like, you know what? I'm gonna get a design to a client as, as quickly as possible. Because where the real conversation starts to happen is when they have something to respond to. Because trying to pull things outta the blue. And, you know, so the, the, I find that the, a, the creative world is starting to become a lot more pragmatic in recognizing that marriage of a client's requirements. And it doesn't always have to be the, the, the most innovative design. It has to be design that works for the client. It has to fit the business, right? Yes. It, yes. I, I, I think there's only one. , you know, kind of caveat to that maybe, or maybe it's just in addition to, is when you, when you're talking with, I mean, I do this all the time. If somebody asks me about my problem or my goal, my North Star, whichever kind of, either way you spend that question, I could get there. Um, somebody asks me that. I, I will inevitably always, my first instinct will be to start talking about the agents, uh, other agencies that I think are killing it or that I, that I, you know, would like to emulate or that I would like to be more like, um, competitive. I'll go straight to, you know, in industry and I'll keep, I'll keep my world really narrow. But when you start to think bigger than that, and, and so we, we do a lot of that with, with clients now is okay if you're, if, if, you know, if you're a consulting group, um, Start thinking about car companies. Like what are they doing? What, what ingenuity, what messaging, what small details or touches? Like start thinking bigger than just your industry. Um, you know, if what I mean, Nike's a great inspiration to many, right? From, especially in design. They're just amazing. So take a Nike and you take a technology services group and you ask the tech group that's only looking at other tech groups in their sector, uh, to date, they're like, oh God, these guys are doing this and they're saying it this way and they're seeing it this way. Well, let's go look and see how Nike is, thought of ways to sell us shoes without talking about shoes. Um, let's go. Like, look, it's not like we need their budget to be inspired by their creativity and, and by their influence. And so, you know, I think that's a, a fun way to get there. And, and I like, you know, It, there was a time when it's like, Hey, give me your problems. I'll give you your solution. And, and sometimes that there's a time for that, I think, but it's very rare. Um, more often than not, it's, it's, it's, it's kind of like, give it, let's, let's work together to get to like this, make this wet clay. Let's start to look like something. Um, and, you know, we should be taking inspiration from everywhere we can, uh, to be quite honest. So, yeah, I, I always encourage, don't look in your world as you already have done that. You're an expert on your own competition. Let's look bigger. Let's look elsewhere and get our ideas and our, and our hopes there. If, of, if a brand makes you resonate a certain way and you wanna resonate that way to your customers, let's dissect that brand. Let's get to the why. Well, having worked with Nike in their technology services group, , what's really interesting about tech, about Nike that I see is, is that has how integrated their. They're businesses. And so they, you know, we're working with the guys who are, you know, working on technology, business management, and super nerdy stuff. You know, I, I'm full, I've been a nerd since I was born, I'll totally, fully admit that. But they're, you know, but they also spend a lot of time with the marketing group. They spend a lot of time with, um, their creative talent because everything is in some ways connected. Right. And I think that's a really good point. And I think being, um, being an agency or a consultant group or someone who provides services, what I've loved about that role is that I get to work with so many different types of companies, from paper companies to, um, you know, uh, international shipping to, um, law enforcement and justice. And we get to see, and we get to have that perspective, but I don't think our clients always do. And so we are supposed to be there as the catalysts to help bring that inspiration in. Right. A hundred percent. A hundred percent. I'm a little jealous of your Nike. I came close, uh, when I was in, in Europe with Deloitte for, for a while. Uh, we had Adidas and um, I got to pitch, we worked with Adidas too. Yeah, . Yeah. Yeah. We had a couple of the cool shoe companies, but, uh, and, and we were just moving towards Under Armor when I, uh, came back to the States . But yeah. Never got to do much creative. It was a lot more of the, the analytics and Tableau work. Yeah. Yeah. We didn't do any creative. We're, we're all back in stuff. Yeah. Um, so what was the trigger? You know, you, you didn't intend to start up an agency and at some point in time it became that, and probably pretty quickly, right. What was that trigger where you said, you know what, this is a business? Yeah, I mean, it was fun. Um, that was the trigger. You know, I mean, I think in the early two thousands when I started my first, it was desperation. Uh, I, I, I didn't, didn't know where the future was, but I, I had a couple years in it, loved design, didn't see myself doing anything else. I was still doing coding then too. I don't anymore. I'm the worst, uh, at coding . But, um, you know, this time around, I, I'm older. I, I've got a, a daughter, I, you know, probably most people did say, you should definitely just go get that cushy job and like en enjoy that. And, and, and I, I often have thought maybe I should . Um, and you know, especially earlier in the summer, uh, with some, some life stuff, the health stuff that was happening, but. Uh, to get back to your, your question. No, I'm thrilled that I didn't, um, it, it was, I was having fun. That's it. Uh, people were coming, uh, around, you know, I, I keep a pretty healthy LinkedIn. Somebody, a few people in my world have said my biggest strength is, uh, I haven't worked with you in years, but we still get lunch cuz you reach out. And I don't know if that's like, you could stop bothering me for lunch now, or like, truly , but whatever it is, I'm really happy that that's like kind of just a natural instinct to like, oh, I loved working with 'em and I'm curious what they're up to these days and we should go catch up. And so I try and do that pretty often. And uh, that's what I think how the word, you know, kind of spread, um, in kind of in my smaller circle that, that, hey, yeah, I'm doing some things like on my own. And, um, so you. I didn't plan to in February start an agency. But yeah, it was very intentional around July, August of last year that I'm doing this. And, and in September we launched and, um, by launched, I mean, I, I had a new email on a website, um, . There was no fanfare. I just, uh, we launched, uh, had a few clients. We were, we were, uh, working with and and o off to the races. And, uh, yeah, I think, and then in, like, I, I told the story of teams. I mean, that was really organic as well. It just, uh, I, I had a, a, i, having been through agency one once with very little experience and just again, more, I just like designing. So I'm gonna do this and, you know, never, never scaled very, very large, but had a lot of fun then too. Um, the, the one thing I knew is it was, you know, it's really hard to sustain when you're on a project by project. Um, Life cycle with revenue. And, and so that's kind of teams was more really just a staff hog thought. And, and it turned into, I'll, I'll say this. So the, the client that we placed a lot of people at, um, earlier this year, uh, they were a big part of it. They were very complimentary. They, they, they, um, after the first few people they said, Hey, these folks were great. They had been working with some recruiters and some other folks, and it weren't getting, um, the type of results they were looking for in terms of capabilities and soft skills and, and everything from the people. And again, we were kind of, you know, batting a pretty high average with them, with the people we were sending. And that's not me at all. That's those people. But they're like, no, you have a real skill for picking, like, for selecting talent, for like knowing who would be a good fit. Where, um, like it's, it, it seemed to be something that we were shining at a little bit and. So I, again, I owe that to like 20 ish years of, I I we only put on people that we put on Matic projects. Right. So, um, the idea is kind of, yeah. The people that are in our, our wheelhouse, some, uh, sort of a very special type of skillset that's like not an everyday touchpoint. We don't always at Matic have like multiple Android applications being developed. But right now on teams, we have two Android developers working on projects, uh, for clients cuz they had an Android need. So some of that we, we didn't have just auto inherently amatic we went and found, but, um, but all the people kind of have at least one quality, which I guess is, I, I wanna work with 'em , that's, I, you know, that's it. I, I'd wanna work with 'em and, uh, and they do good work, right? So. Well, and, and if you listen, I mean, at this point in my life, I think we all get to this point where we're like, you know what the, the business that we're gonna grow, I think we have to go through our starter businesses, right? And I've certainly done that. Um, you know, I have one business that I've had for 12 years now, and it's still going strong, but we get to this point in terms of our own reinvention, where I think that eventually our true nature comes back to us and we build based on that. And so everything that you've said to me today, it sounds like this strength that you have around people like the LinkedIn and, you know, just naturally prioritizing those relationships, I think it seems pretty natural that a big part of your business would evolve around people and understanding people and building upon people and being, you know, people focused. So yes, you build a creative agency, but you build a creative agency that has this really interesting kind of, um, you know, people component, resource component to it. Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, just as a, I can never take a compliment. Thank you, by the way, for, uh, without adding a little humility to it. When I, you know, 10 years in, in an industry, I'd never, I, I only had, had, had one job for a little while before the.com fallout. Um, so prior to that, I, I had never really had a design agency job. I started my little one that I ran for nine years, uh, from the oh three to basically 2012. And when I got, when I left it, it was because a partner, a bigger agency in Denver had said, Hey, we're building a, you know, kind of rebuilding our creative practice. We need a CD, and I'm very good friends with the CEO. So he kind of kept pushing on it, and, and I, it wasn't, didn't take much, took a few weeks and I said, you know what? This would be a good time to leap into a bigger job, so let's try that. Um, and so I did, uh, and I was, I was like an untrained, you know, outdoor cat that. I needed to be housebroken. Right. And in terms of conversations, in terms of, uh, you know, blunt, blunt force, , and, uh, and that was at a, at a smaller agency that was independent. And, and, and even there, I noticed it, but when I really noticed it was Deloitte was when I really had to sharpen up on, um, people skills and just, you know, there's a, there's a way to deliver. You can't, you know, some creatives, by the way I've learned, will respond really well. When, when, you know, when the feedback is basically, well look at it from a new way. It's like basically start over, right? Like, some creatives would really respond well to it, have really responded well to that. Not all. Uh, there's, there's different conversations. There's different levels of, of feedback. There's different levels of, of, you know, um, guidance and collaboration that people need to, to, to get there. And Deloitte really taught me that like. Um, quite a bit. So, so yeah, thank you for noticing that. But I, I guess I wanted to caveat it with, yeah, maybe, uh, there was a time when that that wasn't so the case. I was just more like, oh, it's not good. Well, that's, listen, that's to be expected, right? We were, none of us came, came out of the womb being good cons, consulting people, people Right. , and, you know, we all need to work on it. I've always been very direct, a very direct communicator. And as a woman that's not expected, especially in a very male dominated industry. And so you have to, you have to find your way around this without giving up who you are. Um, you mentioned that there were a couple of very unfortunate things that you had to deal with, and, and I'd love to hear a little bit more around your thinking as to how we, how did you not crumble? Oh, well, um, I, I do have a, a, a kid that, that really gets mad if I, if I get lost and say, oh, we're not going. I can't find this place. She's like, uh, don't be a quitter daddy. So she said those things to me and that hung in there. But yeah, this year was, was tricky. I, um, uh, so in, in right around April, we were doing really well with teams so well that I wasn't all that worried. The agency was a little not getting quite the attention because teams was just growing at a, at a pretty good pace. Largely due to one client. Um, and unfortunately they were having some funding management issues in terms of managing the funds they had already gotten. So they were overs spinning. And the first place that you start to cut is on your bills to smaller companies like us. So, um, we have, and just, that's not a rule by the way. That's just more what would typically happen. . It's, uh, it's unfortunate. It's definitely not a, not a rule. Please, no, nobody else ever do this again. But, um, so they stopped, uh, basically they kept needing people and engaging us on good faith, but their, their payments stopped arriving. Um, and you know, as much as some folks in that organization were great partners and friends, tomatic. Some met more. The financial side of it didn't really care. Hematic was, or, or about our people. And so, uh, there was a point in time when I was using every credit card at my disposal to pay whoever I could with anything we could. Cuz we were also very new into this business. It's, we didn't have a big, you know, reserve account set aside for this, for this to happen, you know, five months into the year. Um, so it got pretty bleak. We eventually had to pause services. They had hired quite a few people at this point. They inverted to full-time, which we're totally supportive of. We don't go out and headhunt, but if talent loves the company and the company loves the talent, I mean, we're not trying to stop destiny with manic teams. Like we'd prefer to keep all our people with us, but, um, if that's what happens, that that's a good thing as I see it. And, and there's a congratulations in order for that. So that did happen. And um, and the ones that they didn't, we, we were kind of left holding the bill. And thankfully through, um, kind of I would say luck in a few people's good intentions and got involved later in the game. We did eventually get paid in August, so just cliff finger over for that story. But simultaneously, while that's happening in the trenches of not being paid, owing contractors, you know, a, a pretty scary amount of money, uh, in, in the first few months of this business that was doing this, and then started to kind of feel, feel like maybe not, may, maybe not, uh, as successful as it looked like it was gonna be. Um, I ended up getting sick. I was having kind of recurring stomach pain and that, uh, eventually I called telemedicine to where I was kind of rightly so called. You know, why, why would you live with this dummy? Go to the, go to the emergency room. Um, and I'd probably been dealing with it for about six weeks. So I went and um, sure enough, my gallbladder was full of gallstones and it needed to come out and, and, uh, so they did an emergency removal and, um, and so that, that part's all good cuz you're thinking I, okay. At least like the health thing is good. I know what's wrong. I know why I've been throwing up so much or whatever. And, uh, that turned into I, I, I was home about a week feeling great when, uh, I thought the gallbladder thing was the worst pain I had ever felt. Um, it wasn't the, uh, out of nowhere. I mean, I'd had a client lunch and a couple of calls in the afternoon and during the last caller on 3:00 PM I noticed something was really starting to feel off. And, um, by around five I couldn't breathe. I was feverish and sweating and there was no driving me to the er. I called 9 1 1. Um, they, they got here in time and, and it turned out a, a gallstone. Uh, that didn't make it out with the gallbladder. Um, I blocked my pancrea lining somewhere in the last week, uh, pancrea tube and, uh, triggered a acute pancreatitis, uh, and esophagitis from all the filling up and I don't know, like four other things, Um, so I, anyways, it was, it was crazy. I spent a week in the hospital. Um, it was over Father's Day, which, uh, my, and so my, my daughter and, and her mom spent a lot of time, uh, being around and, and being really supportive. And, um, but yeah, I spent a week there and then I went and spent, uh, a week at, at, uh, my daughter's mom's house, um, in the guest room. And it was a really interesting low point. And I, so I, that was when we were really in it. Um, also during that week at her house was the time I needed to pause the services to kind of stop the, the, the figurative bleeding of money to the, to the client. That was, that was so in, in, in default with us. So it was a really interesting period and I was about three days outta the hospital when I had to, um, essentially tell five people, there's five or six people at this point, um, that were Matic teams working there. You, I, you've gotta stop working now and I don't have another thing for you. Um, so it was like, let five, you know, people go really good people telling them you don't have a job right now and there's no revenue and I can't do anything about it, um, because we can't get paid by this client and. But I did that from like, one of the weakest points of my life and, uh, like physically. So yeah, it was a really interesting time and, and July was not much better. I was very, uh, very contemplative on am I just too, too old to be doing this company stuff? Like maybe I should just get that job and take care of my kid and like, you know, clearly I'm falling apart here, I'm in the hospital. And, um, but right around the end of July, I, I, I had gone back and forth. I had some conversations that looked like maybe there was, there, there were some good opportunities for sure. But all the, all the advice was kind of the same from folks I I appreciate is like, if you're gonna do Matic, you have to do it all in, like, just, you gotta be all in and, um, you know, knowing you have a backdrop is, is going to be a weakness on the hard days. And I did know I had a backdrop to land on, but, um, I somehow, I, I found encouragement in that and, and I ended up. You know, I started looking at, like, at this point we'd done close to a million in revenue. Not, uh, not realizing half of it yet, but . But we had sold it and we had earned it. And I, I was like, I, I'm six months into this, we've done a million in revenue and I'm gonna close it because one client's like late on paying us. So I kind of started looking at strategies and, and what do I need to do and what needs to happen to where we can get base back to baseline with our contractors that, that are, that are waiting, um, for their money. And let's just assume we're never gonna get paid by that client. What has to happen to make this thing work, and how long does that have to happen for? And so we're right around the last week of July, I said no to, uh, quitting and, and went back in on it and little weaker, but, but, but motivated and, um, And then I got pain acute pancreatitis again, uh, because they had to take a stent out of my pancreas, which triggered it, . So August 2nd, I'm back in the hospital this time, three days, only three days, and three days at my daughter's mom's. Again, it was, it was like the same thing, but just a lot easier. Um, I ended up going to New York a few days later and, uh, I'll just say this as a, as a close, it was the best part of my year, I think. And, um, we, we had had a couple of conversations with ex client's, new COO, who came in and heroed up for us and got us paid. Um, around August 11th, and I know this because I woke up in New York. I'd had client meetings, but earlier in the year, bought tickets to see a concert there at Madison Square Garden and woke up that day and, and the money had been deposited and it was, um, It was just an amazing, like, I'd already said goodbye to it in my head and it came back and it solved quite a few problems and gave us the momentum we needed to turn this year into, you know, the last five months have just been outstanding. Um, the first quarter of next year is crazy. We've got a couple new folks joining, so, I don't know, I guess it's, you know, at least for me, I, I have no nothing, no lesson to preach here other than like, if it's something you really want, like yeah, there, take, take away the, uh, you know, uh, trampoline floor, just if, if you're gonna fall, fall, but just get back up. Right? And so that was, that was, uh, my year, . In a nutshell. I mean, nothing in a nutshell, right? , we just, my mom has just been through, uh, the same thing, gall gallstones and pancreatitis and yeah, it was quite a, it was quite a journey. Um, I have, we're coming up on time, but I have, um, one question that I ask all of my, my guests, and I'd love to hear your perspective on it. Um, what's the difference between what we hear out there in the business world and the online business world and everyone talking about business and what's real? Ooh. Well, uh, that is a, a big question. Um, what's real? I mean, , so we're talking a lot, you know. What's real is that no matter what you're building in technology, there's a user, there's humans, it, there's, there's humans that wrote that code. There's humans using that code. Um, that's real. I mean, it may not be the biggest answer, but it's a right answer. Uh, in a lot of ways. Um, it's easy to forget, si forget that in the business world of this trend or this emerging market or, or you know, we've got AI and web three and all these, and they're all great and like companies should be using and leveraging all of them. But it does ultimately all kind of go back to we're all just people. Um, I love that. That's a great answer. Nobody's answered that yet. Oh, for the first Really? Well, nobody has, nobody has provided that answer, that answer, . But I think it's, you know, it's spoken from a true kind of creative services professional, right? Because at the end of the day, you know, the work that I do in corporate doesn't, isn't creative, but it's still, it's the same concept. At the end of the day. There are all these frameworks, you know, I do a lot of DevOps stuff and there's a lot of frameworks that we can follow. And those are easy, right? Those are easy to understand. But when you start talking about how those get implemented and executed in a really like, meaningful way that it's gonna stick, it's the people that you have to understand. And I think this comes back to the theme and the focus and everything that you are about. It's really about the people. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Awesome. I love it. So we're gonna, we're gonna finish up here just because we're coming up on time. Yeah. And can you let the listeners know how they can find you? Absolutely. Um, so Josh Fuller, I'm on LinkedIn, but also Matic Digital is our.com. Um, so matic digital.com. And there's info out there about us, uh, our work, actually not us as I, I don't have a bio on that, believe it or not. We just let the work kind of do the talking right now. Um, and uh, and then there's a lot about teams as well. A lot of teams info out there. So yeah, check us. Awesome. We'll include all the show notes, all the links in the show notes, and, and so people can find you and check out all the work that you're doing. Um, and I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us today. We're gonna wrap it up. I'm so happy that we had the opportunity to chat with Josh today to hear more about his business and how it came to be, his experiences along the way, and what the future of the business entails, even though we didn't get all of the details. thank you for tuning into this episode of The Real People Real Business Show, where we get the real entrepreneurial stories and journeys that you can relate to. Show notes, resources, and links from this episode are available on my website and social media platforms. And thank you again for joining us today. If you've enjoyed today's content, I would love for you to give us a review on whatever platform you're on as this helps us share these genuine stories with an even bigger audience. Until next time, keep building, keep dreaming and keep being real.
CEO & FOUNDER @ MATIC DIGITAL
Josh Fuller is the founder and CEO of Matic Digital, a digital strategy and talent growth agency that surpassed $1.5M in new business in 2021, its first year – despite a personal health bombshell, a client payment delinquency of nearly $500k, and post-covid economic uncertainties.
With just four full-time employees and about 50 independent contractors in Matic’s stable, Josh has a lot to say about finding what drives you, trusting your gut, pivoting with resilience and humor, discovering & shaping talent, and defending the value of your work, your experience, your time, and your people.