Wesley Mathews drives the vision and strategy at HLM. He is a sales-driven CEO who has scaled High Level Marketing from an idea to 45+ employees and $5 million+ in recurring revenue. Wes can be described as a scrappy entrepreneur and strong leader with tremendous vision and great humility.
Outside of business, he enjoys spending time with his wife and four boys – kid’s sports, golfing, fishing, hockey, or just relaxing when he gets that chance.
How did the concept for High Level Marketing come about?
I moonlighted for a web company back in 2004 or so, and I watched them do everything wrong from my perspective. I loved the idea of working with small- to mid-size businesses but they burned every relationship and the process to delivery was extremely painful. I knew there had to be another way. I was passionate about helping business owners but it needed to have a high level of quality and delivery behind it. So at the time, if you want something done right or to your standards, do it yourself.
I had a vision come to me and I woke up in the middle of the night saying “High Level Marketing”. I jumped on my computer immediately, and to my surprise, the domain was available. I sat on the name for 2-3 years before I did anything with it.
I started my first company from 2006 to 2009 and what I learned – the good, bad, and ugly – helped me architect what is today High Level Marketing.
How was the first year in business?
2009-2010 was awesome. Scrappy, scary – my partner and I were figuring it out as well on the go. It was scary to hire our first employee for $10-12 an hour. I remember it like it was yesterday; we were terrified. I wouldn’t trade that year for anything as it was the scrappy foundation we were built on. My partner and I divided and conquered. He stayed in delivery and tech, while I was sales, customer service, project management, and SEO, to name a few. I was busy and had a new wife and son the same year.
What was your marketing strategy?
Sell, sell, sell – hitting the phone, generating leads by cold calling, getting appointments, then closing those appointments. We had an okay web presence but I was the lead and only sales guy early on. It was the wild, wild west.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We grew 48% the first year, 78% the next. We hit our first $1 million in revenue within three years. Today, our revenues are $5 million+.
How do you define success?
Success is a perception. I define it as my family being happy and healthy, and enjoying what I’m doing.
At first, I was chasing money, which wasn’t success. Once I aligned my true value, the money followed.
What is the key to success?
Stay motivated by knowing your “Why?” If you know what motivates you, you won’t have a hard time grinding through the difficult times. Do what you love. If you don’t love it or want to do it, don’t. Be honest! Set realistic expectations and own them.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
People are typically in three buckets: 1) with you, 2) against you, or 3) don’t know you exist. Surround yourself with smarter people than you, and aim to be the dumbest person in the room. Iron sharpens iron – being alone sucks!
What are some quotes that you live by?
“Do or do not. There is no try” – Yoga.
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” – Mike Tyson
What are some of your favorite books?
I have many, as I read about a book a week. Here are four:
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
I lost a key sales guy. He was a huge driver in the business. I made the mistake and built too much of the business around him and his sales for a few years. I had to face the future without him and we worked together for years. Tough days, but we are both better for it and grew!
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
As mentioned above, know your why. When times get tough, remember why you are doing what you do. If this isn’t clear, it will be a tough road ahead. Every so called “failure” I’ve had, I wouldn’t change them. The lessons I learned were so valuable; it may not seem like it while you’re going through it, though. Keep your eye on the prize and don’t let little bumps derail your progress towards your goal. You will always have setbacks…those are guaranteed.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Do what you want, and don’t let anything or anybody tell you otherwise. Ask for forgiveness, not permission. Want it! I had more naysayers early on who didn’t believe in me. I didn’t go to a traditional four-year college. I don’t have a Bachelor’s. Now, I’m the one interviewing Harvard graduates for employment and growing a successful business for 10 years! And I also created opportunity for many employees as well. I was terrified in the beginning, but everything is scary at some point.
Join EO as soon as you hit $1 million in revenue or an accelerator as you’re growing. Build a strong peer group. You need to be around like-minded entrepreneurs. People who have been there, done that, are great. Mentors are a must! Good luck.