From Print Production to DAM Software CEO: Meet Matthew Gonnering, CEO of Widen
Interview with Matthew Gonnering, CEO of Widen
Matthew Gonnering got his start in the printing industry and his first job at Widen was to sell printing services. Shortly after starting, he noticed what Widen was doing in the digital arena and saw it as the foundation for a modern business model which undoubtedly set the future of the organization as a marketing technology. Today Matthew is the CEO of Widen, where they continue to drive a customer-first mindset resulting in double-digit growth and nearly perfect customer retention. As part of our series we’re talking with CEOs who are making a difference in the martech space, and to learn more about how they got their start. Let’s get to know Matthew.
Tell us a little about yourself. How did you find your way into leading a DAM software company?
I have a beautiful wife, five incredible children, and was born-and-raised in Wisconsin, now residing in the Madison area. I worked in the printing industry growing up with production jobs in the bindery, prep and printing areas. Widen needed a sales rep for printing services in 2000 and the job fit my background and career path. My sales manager pointed to the phone on my first day and I got to work. Widen had built an incredible technology for managing images and I was tired of cold calling for printing services, so I presented the CEO with a marketing plan. The plan was focused on marketing the ‘image database’ and he gave me the green light. I went on to lead sales and marketing by adding incredible people before I earned the CEO role in 2009.
What’s the key to success as a CEO?
I’ll let you know when I figure it out. 🙂
I take lessons from Saint Mother Teresa on keys to success for all matters, including this CEO stuff. Humble yourself by being vulnerable, maintain a cheerful attitude in the face of darkness, respect the dignity of the human person because the feeling of being unwanted is the worst disease of all. All other keys to success seem inferior.
What keeps you up at night?
For the last 13 years it’s mostly been crying children. However, the youngest is almost two now, so rocking crying babies back to sleep in the middle of the night has greatly diminished. The oldest is now a teenager; that keeps me up in a different way. In the context of business, it’s making sure we’re not getting comfortable with our growth and increased market attention. We’ve done some great things but we’re just getting started.
What are the most challenging problems you’ve set out to solve?
There’s all kinds of challenges related to scaling an organization. It’s been exciting navigating internal alignment as we increase the size of the Widen team and the software we provide to customers.
What do you believe are the most critical areas for marketers to focus on going into 2018?
I know there’s a temptation to think trendy things are critical yet there’s a foundational virtue with which we cannot lose focus; authenticity. What does the brand really stand for?
I love social, mobile, content, virtual reality, augmented reality, blockchain, internet of things, martech, content marketing, digital experience, machine learning, artificial intelligence, multi-channel, omni-channel, and cross-channel as much as the next marketer, but customers want to know the real you.
If you seek loyalty, tell them about the real you.
What pragmatic, practical steps did you take as a leader to engage employees in improving customer experience?
At our weekly all-employee standup meetings we feature new customers and highlight existing customer experiences to keep the customer at the forefront of our conversations. We also invite our customers to workshops around the world and our annual Widen Summit in Madison. These events are hosted and attended by Wideneers who get a chance to understand customer problems directly. In addition, Widen teams are frequently visiting customers on-location to empathize with their workflows to ultimately solve problems they may not know they have.
What’s your tip for staying balanced and focused in a high pressure job?
Sometimes dialing up the pressure helps you stay focused. Tell yourself, “there’s many people counting on you, don’t let them down.” Emotionally, that can be a bit much so I like to think of integrating that mindset with several other wellness dimensions. Here’s my rundown: don’t be comfortable with what you know today (intellectual), trust the people around you (occupational/social), say the rosary daily (spiritual), and exhaust yourself in exercise (physical).