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Matt Given

Featured alumnus: Matt GivenMBA ’93 - MBA Corporate
CEO at Intelivideo
Columnist at Inc. Magazine

By Tracy McGee

Matt Given graduated from Clemson University with his Bachelor of Science in Marketing in 1992, then with his Master of Business Administration (MBA) in 1993. Like many of us, Matt did not have a clear path in mind when he struck out after school, but with his "go and get it" attitude, he's been able to find success wherever life takes him.

After graduating with his MBA, Matt moved to Washington D.C. and took on a position in an ad agency. Six months later, he visited a friend in Colorado and decided to move. He spent the remainder of the ski season living on that friend's couch before taking a job with ski patrol in Steamboat Springs, where he remained for 5 years.

In 1999, Matt moved to Denver to work for a credit card processing company. He ended up starting his own company, which, through a series of mergers, became Heartland Payment Systems, going public in 2004. He left Heartland to start the consulting firm Silver Line Business Systems. Silver Line consulted with banks looking for non-interest methods of income, providing payment products and services. The company had reached about 40 employees in 2008 when Matt decided to sell.

At that point, Matt began consulting on his own while also writing and angel investing in some start-up companies. He has investments in a handful of start-ups, including four that belong to Clemson graduates. As of 2015, he is the CEO of Intelivideo – one of those investments – and also writes for Inc. Magazine. With 25 years of experience in entrepreneurship, his winding path has led to many great accomplishments.

Why did you decide to get your MBA?

I was helping a professor work on a project my senior year and was unsure what I'd be doing after graduation. The project wouldn't be done when I graduated, and my professor suggested I stay and get an MBA while helping finish it up. He walked me down to the dean's office. The dean pulled up my records and looked through them for a few minutes, and I was accepted into the program.

What was your favorite class in the program? Why?

It would have to be the marketing research and strategy course Dr. Pickett taught. I like to joke that all these years later I'm still his favorite student!

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?

"The endurance of the grind" is something I'm proud of. I have been able to fail and fail and fail and fail and fail - only to learn from that failure, come back, and get better next time.

Plus, it's really cool to see my name published on Inc. Magazine.

Oh, I also took 2 years to really pursue triathlons and was able to make it to the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.

Can you describe how you maintain a work-life balance?

You have to make time for the things that are important. I'm usually up at 4:30 a.m. every day to get a run in or to write 1,000 words. I always make time. But there are times professionally where you have to make sacrifices and go get it. Right now, I'm the CEO of a start-up, and it's crucial that I get after it every day. The balance is not a constant straight line between work and life; you have to be ready and willing to make those sacrifices. Sometimes I have to get buy-in from my family and explain that this has to be done right now. I might work extra hours for a few long months, but then I might be able to take the boys to school for a few months after that. I use the analogy of military deployment. When deployed, they have no choice but to do their job, and as an entrepreneur, sometimes there really is no choice.

How do you maintain a balance between your job as a CEO and as a writer?

I write 1,000 words at least 2 days a week, which generates about 6 articles a month. I have an Evernote account with ideas, and ever since I started writing, I notice things that I didn't before as potential content for my articles. All of the content comes from my own ideas, unlike some publications that assign their writers topics. Some weeks I have to sacrifice my morning run to make time to write, but it goes back to recognizing that sacrifices have to be made.

What piece of advice would you give to our current/future students?

    1. Humility needs to be your instinct; it is a required trait for leaders. Owning mistakes and shortfalls, while giving away credit for wins, is one way to begin to set your natural default to humble. Mistakes are a massive win, and you should make (and own) lots of them. They show you have pushed yourself to the limits of your capabilities and give you an opportunity to show humility to those around you.
    2. Work ethic is essential for building the professional you. Some workers new to the workforce simply do not yet understand the grind it takes to achieve the level of success they claim to want. There are stretches in your life when you have to get after it, and I mean a year, or more, not a week here and there. Commit fully to building the professional you. Put in the time. You'll get there.
    3. Patience is key because career "progress" is usually slow. You are where you are. Take this time to bank experiences that will play a part in your development as a professional and as a leader. Focus on your developmental path, and the paycheck follows nearly every time.

For more advice from Matt, you can visit one of his more popular articles, When My Employees Ask Me for a Raise I Always Tell Them This.

What is your favorite quote?

My sons would say it's "Doing hard things makes you stronger."

"Discipline is the ability to choose to sacrifice something you want now for something you want more later."

What is your favorite Clemson MBA memory?

While I have a lot of great memories about my time at Clemson, I didn't get to come back for close to 20 years. The coolest thing for me now is to see how far Clemson has come. When I was in the MBA program, we were in a worn-out classroom in Daniel, and now it's in downtown Greenville. It's cool to see the growth and changes.

Matt loves to support fellow tigers! Anyone looking for a little advice, remember there is humility in asking, and with an alumni network as strong as ours, all you have to do is reach out.