Episode 014

The Hot Seat

Loc Pham Interviews Matthew Brown of ThumbStopper

“It’s not about what you’re manufacturing or what you’re selling. It’s really more about the story you’re telling online about those products.”
Matthew Brown
CEO / Pres | ThumbStopper

Loc Pham, Facebook Ad Manager for LotVantage, assumes the host position and turns the tables on Matthew Brown putting him in the hot seat for this week’s episode of BROWN on BRAND.

Loc deploys the company's advertising spend on Facebook and manages LotVantage's social media platforms. He previously worked for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and McKay Advertising + Activation (MA+A). Pham was surprised at how hands-on and accessible Brown is, a stark contrast to previous experiences with CEOs he's worked with. "You can tell he really cares about the company right now," Pham said. "I've seen some bosses that just don't care about their company's employees, so it was refreshing to see someone who actually cares." 

With his curiosity piqued, Loc wanted to know more about how Brown came to be who he is today. In this episode, they talk about ThumbStopper, Brown's advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and what motivates him as a CEO. Read ahead for highlights from the episode.

So to start off, what was the moment where you felt like enough was enough? What was your ‘aha’ moment where you needed to make a difference, and why?

As a young kid growing up in the Midwest, one of my worst memories was a summer working on a farm detasseling corn. Looking back as a teenager, that week was probably 15 or 20 hours, but it felt more like 40 or 50 hours. It was literally one of those things that, by the end of the day, your hands are bleeding. That was like the most brutal thing in the world. I figured out that’s just not what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to be in any type of position where I felt like I had put in 40 or 50 hours. I wanted to get out of the Midwest and get a fresh start.

What keeps pushing you to this day to continue doing what you’re doing?

Number one: My kids drive me. I think I've got an internal drive and some gifts that have allowed me to turn business problems and human labor problems into technology or software that eliminates that. And we've been very good at doing that for the last 15 years. I often wonder what retirement would be like too. As long as I'm physically capable of getting out of bed, I have no intention of quitting. This is my vacation. I cherish my time with my family, but I'm ready to get back to the office. People think I'm crazy, but I love this game. I love doing it.

That’s interesting. It’s amazing to see what you were able to accomplish in the years you’ve been doing this. So what is ThumbStopper and what makes the product do what it does?

If we were in an elevator and I only had four floors, ThumbStopper does one thing: it connects the brand with the retailers that are selling their physical goods. What does that mean? The retailer has a social media presence today that is a huge influencer of these physical products and services. The brand isn’t connected at all to the social media pages of those retailers, so that’s what ThumbStopper fixes.

We’re connected to a brand’s retailers through a token (username and a password) and we’re able to take the right product from the brand and shelve it automatically on their social media pages. By doing that, it opens up a world of opportunity for that brand to execute on advertising on social media to those consumers through the retailer outlet.
So we connect brands, a lot of times through co-op money. And the retailers love the ThumbStopper product because they’re able to share on social media without having to physically put it on their Facebook wall. Then we can turn that into advertising to local consumers and their local markets, which helps them sell more products.

So, as we're growing as a company and getting bigger, how do you get your team to believe in your why?

When we bring new people, we have a formulation where we look at four-to-six candidates for the job. We do a lot when it comes to making sure that this person is a good fit for the culture. The thing is that our culture is fast-paced, but the nice part of that is that there's a work-life balance. However, we enunciate hard work. You've been here for roughly 45 days and were thrown in the fire with a set of requirements and a set of guidelines. But you've been a part of that culture. It's a balance.

For future entrepreneurs that are trying to start off, is there a step-by-step process that they can follow? Are there any pitfalls they should avoid?

People fail to plan. Very early on, one of my mentors backed me into an Arthur Andersen-level sales and marketing plan. And I realized, every year I spent about 30 to 45 days planning what that year’s sales expectations were and what our budget was going to be. The ability to get your hands and grasp around a real business plan is fundamental. So, by planning, then I had something to manage. And then by planning and managing, it gave me the only shot you could get at execution, because it’s hard to execute by the seat of your pants.

So with that being said, would you say your younger self would be very proud of you and the decisions that you’re making right now? Would you say your future self would be proud of you as well?

Yeah, very much so. It's amazing to me some of the things that we've accomplished, especially with such humble roots. Working with humans can be challenging, and managing people is probably the hardest part of anybody's job. But you know, people find a home here. We find a way to fit people categorically into a place where we can capitalize on their strengths. So yeah, I think so.

So when it’s all said and done, what kind of impact do you want to leave? What do you want the world to remember you as?

Number one: a good father. I take that job real seriously. Number two: a leader that has empathy, but I also need to work on having a bigger stick. I don't have any aspirations of being on a magazine or a Steve Jobs type of person. I'm very proud of what we've accomplished and very fortunate to be where we are today, but we've got a long way to go. I have big goals for this company.

Okay, well thank you for sitting with me! That's all the questions I've got!

Yeah, thanks Loc, I appreciate it! Great questions, and some of them were off the cuff enough, but I had a great time and really appreciate that!

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