Matthew Schecter is the president and chief executive officer of The Lockwood Group (Lockwood), a medical communications company based in Stamford, Connecticut. Matt has over 25 years of experience in medical communications and publishing. Since starting Lockwood in 2007, Matt has overseen 40% Year-over-Year (YoY) growth and currently has over 215 full-time employees. Lockwood works with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in three key areas: medical affairs, commercialization, and publication planning. Lockwood’s clients rely on its highly-specialized staff (one-third of Lockwood’s team members have advanced degrees including: MD, PhD, PharmD, RPh, PA-C, etc.) to help position their products in the marketplace. Lockwood attracts top talent nationwide through its unique philosophy, “Work is something that you do, not somewhere you go.” Two-thirds of the Lockwood team work from home in 18 different states, allowing Lockwood to scale its organization quickly and attract the best and brightest from around the country. Lockwood has also been very focused on the work environment for those who do work in the main headquarters. For the past five years, Lockwood has been selected as one of the top places to work in Connecticut by the Hartford Business Journal. Lockwood has also been selected by Inc. Magazine as one of the Inc. 5000 fastest-growing privately-held companies for the past two years.
Prior to Lockwood, Matt ran The Cortlandt Group, a medical publishing company with two nationally-ranked medical journals: Cortlandt Forum and The Clinical Advisor. In 2001, The Cortlandt Group was sold to Haymarket Media Group, the largest privately-held publishing company in the UK. As part of the transaction, Matt agreed to stay on and run Haymarket’s custom publishing and Continuing Medical Education (CME) divisions, and under his leadership, he increased revenues more than ten-fold in five years before leaving to start Lockwood.
Matt was born in NYC, grew up in Westchester County, New York, and attended Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, where he received a BA in Political Science. While at Bates, he was a three-time NCAA Track and Field All-American, Indoor NCAA National Champion, and record holder in the High Jump. In fact, Matt still holds numerous tournament records. Matt enjoys skiing, cycling, golf, and spending time with his family. He currently lives with his wife and two children in Riverside, Connecticut.
How did the concept for The Lockwood Group come about?
I have worked in medical publishing and communications my entire adult life. My father worked at Pfizer for 22 years and was the Director of Marketing Research and Planning, before starting a medical publishing company. After graduating from college, I spent a season in Aspen, Colorado working as a ski instructor, as well as for a hot air balloon chase crew and in a health club. When I returned from Colorado, my father put me to work at the company. Eventually, I would end up running the company, and when my father wanted to retire, we sold it. I went to work for the company for five years and learned a lot, but also learned that I enjoyed being an entrepreneur. So, I left and started Lockwood in 2007.
I believe very strongly in empowerment and that work is something you should not simply “go to,” which is one reason why two-thirds of my company work from home in 19 different states and abroad. We also have one of the largest scientific staff in the country, with over 80 full-time advanced degree scientists and medical directors.
How was the first year in business?
I would imagine my first year in business is not much different than any other entrepreneur’s first year. I don’t remember taking any vacation that year and was thankful for any business we could win. I am pleased to say that our first customer is still with us, which is a reflection of the work that we do.
What was your marketing strategy?
Our strategy from the beginning was that we are not order takers. We will not come to our customers and say, “What would you like us to do for you?” We are grounded in science and we approach all of our work that way. We will come prepared and offer our customers a number of different ideas based on this approach and work with them to come up with solutions.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Lockwood has averaged nearly 50% growth every year for the last eleven years.
How do you define success?
I define success in many ways. At Lockwood, I define success by being voted as one of the best places in Connecticut to work for the last five years in a row by Hartford Business Journal, or by being an Inc. 5000 company the last two years. This growth is directly-attributable to the culture we have created here at Lockwood. We have some of the lowest turnover in the industry, and in the past year, we have had nine boomerangs (people who have left Lockwood and returned). Success to me is also a reflection on our customers. I am very proud of the fact that our first client is still with us today. Lastly, I also define success personally by my family. My daughter is a junior at Bates College (my alma mater), majoring in neuroscience, and my son has just been accepted to Cornell University College of Engineering to study computer science.
What is the key to success?
To me, the key to success in business is two-fold: 1) create a culture where people want to come to work every day and do their best work, and 2) to steal a quote from Steve Jobs, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” We have a lot of smart people at Lockwood; they are a lot smarter than me. I encourage them to tell me what to do, because I do not claim to have all the answers. This empowerment has helped keep our customers coming back to us, year after year, and taking us with them if they move to a different company.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
That culture trumps strategy. Culture is so important to Lockwood, and in the current environment, where we have 2% unemployment for college-educated applicants, you better have an environment where people want to come, or you will not be able to scale. We cannot grow our business without hiring smart people.
What are some quotes that you live by?
“Every day is day one.” – Jeff Bezos
“The biggest thing that kills business is complacency.” – Warren Buffett
“Disagree and commit.” – Jeff Bezos
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
My toughest day as an entrepreneur was early on in Lockwood. We had a second company that created educational programs for physicians. While Lockwood was growing Year-over-Year, our other company was not and required resources. In the end, I made the tough decision to shut the company down, and while we were able to keep many of the employees, there were some we had to let go.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I am very focused on the things that I have control over, and I do not spend time worrying about those things that I cannot control. I never focus on the upside; I always focus on the “what happens if the business does not come in” side of things. That way, when we do have issues that come up, we face them head on and when we can’t control them, we just move on to the next thing.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Do work you care about, not something you think you will flip to make money. Find good people to share the journey with you and create a culture that people want to be a part of. Be very focused on what it is you offer and differentiate it in the marketplace. Make sure you have enough money raised so that you can focus on what it is that you want to accomplish.
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This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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