Matt Sturgess, Academy for Chief Executives
As chairman of the Academy for Chief Executives, Matt Sturgess helps business leaders from across the Birmingham region to grow their organisations. We caught up with him to find out more about his role and how he got to where he is now...
What is it the company does?
Unlocks the potential of business leaders and in turn their businesses. We deliver fast track learning with like minded groups of non competing business leaders, led by inspirational chairmen and women who have all led successful businesses.
The Academy meetings are a sanctuary for business leaders to dial out of the day to day hustle and bustle and zone in on themselves and their businesses. Our lives seem to get busier and busier, having quality time is becoming more rare and even more valuable, spending that time learning and reflecting from expert speakers and the questions other members raise is valuable in itself. Getting the chance to share opportunities, challenges and dilemmas that are current, with a group of experienced people with both similar and different businesses is invaluable. Many of our members tell us the issues they raise, be they business related or private, they cannot discuss anywhere else.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
To help and support our members and their businesses to grow in every aspect. Key to this is to listen to what is happening in their lives and provide the necessary support.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I have a fascination for understanding how things work, so for me the right path was an electronics engineer degree. When I graduated I was the first person to do so in my school for over 20 years! I did a sponsored degree with Thorn EMI working in every single department of their business for 18 months whilst studying, which was hugely valuable, teaching me the power of team work and culture.
I moved into sales by accident, as I was working with customers designing the first surround sound speaker systems. I then worked for a few global businesses travelling the world and then smaller SMEs, some family owned. Deliberately I chose to work in many different markets to gain experience and challenge myself, the common theme was manufacturing businesses.
My toughest challenge was completing a distance learning MBA at Warwick whilst in my first director role and becoming a father, lots of long nights and dedication. I have held a series of director positions since early 2003, then becoming managing director.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
The ability to build great teams around you and truly listen and be aware of what is going on around you. Having highly effective teams creates a huge amount of momentum to get things done, that momentum carries you, the rest of the team and the business through difficult times and is a support to each team member as they go through different phases of growth and dilemma. It also ensures new strong leaders will emerge in time to keep carrying the business forward.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Getting airtime in business leaders' busy lives to make them aware of what the Academy for Chief Executives does. When members come along and experience the Academy they get it, the challenge is getting past all the day-to-day distractions within the leaders' role and numerous different marketing messages bombarding business leaders.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I enjoy running and walking, I find this a great way to work things out in my head. Over the years I have developed a lot of different techniques to help me. When faced with a major challenge I always remember what my nan told me when I was seven, ‘always look for the opportunity that comes from a major challenge, there will be one, focus on that and you will get through the disaster quicker’.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I do not ever remember having a fixed job or role in my mind, I do remember a burning desire to help and support people. From an early age in the school playground I remember standing up for others that were getting bullied.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
The only thing guaranteed to get me going is people being rude or discourteous to others, I see no need for it. I was brought up to treat everyone the same, with courtesy and respect, and it is important to me. If I find people behaving this way I call them out by talking to them directly, but whilst listening carefully to understand why they felt it necessary to behave that way, to prevent re-occurrence.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Providing support to more and more business leaders and their teams in increasingly innovative and flexible ways.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Do not expect too much from yourself, look and ask for help and support - it shows strength, not weakness. Constantly learn, it keeps you alive.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Do not be so hard on yourself and expect too much of yourself, build a good team around you quickly.