The Winding Career Journey
Not all companies are created by people in bustling cities, surrounded by entrepreneurs and businessmen. Some are started by people born and raised in small towns, like Matt Volm. Matt is the Co-Founder and CEO of Funnel IQ and Co-Founder of RevOps Co-op, a community for revenue operations professionals. Funnel IQ is a software that provides its customers with a revenue command center.
Growing up in a small town, Matt’s career path from rural Wisconsin to tech CEO was anything but linear.“I definitely have what you would call a very winding path to founding a couple of different companies. To start at the beginning, I grew up in a very small town in Wisconsin. One of those towns where there were probably more cows than people so was not necessarily always exposed to technology. My parents and kind of surrounding family had never pursued higher education or gone to college themselves. So I was kinda the first person to branch out and do those things.”
But being first generation has its own difficulties, too.
“Ultimately I wound up in college and decided to pursue accounting and finance. Because one, it was something that I was good at. And two, growing up in a small town, you saw like, ‘hey, accountants and finance people, they seem to be doing okay. Let’s go after one of those kind of safe sort of career paths.’
“So that was where I originally kind of found myself in college. After college, I started working actually of all things as a CPA for a large global accounting firm and realized very, very quickly that definitely was not the job for me. But I stuck with it for a couple of years, and then ultimately wound up in corporate finance, which was a much better fit, but definitely still just was not completely fulfilled.”
So where did Matt go then? Where many people go when they’re not sure about the next step in their career: grad school.
“After doing corporate finance for a little bit, I actually went back to business school. I went to Berkeley, got my MBA. After that, I thought maybe I should try out professional services again. So rather than public accounting, I tried out management consulting, realized very quickly that services was not the business for me. I liked to do things, not to just plan. So I wound up back in corporate finance again and still was kind of feeling unfulfilled.
“And then ultimately came across this one particular problem a couple of years ago in the legal technology space, because my wife is a lawyer. So I saw this problem that she had happening, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it and how to potentially solve it. And that was kind of my first foray into entrepreneurship where I somehow came up with an idea, got some people to go in on it with me, raised a little bit of money, and started my first company.”
“Since then, there was really no looking back. Ultimately that first company did not succeed. We ran it for about two years. I raised about a million dollars for that business, but just never found product market fit. So, shut that company down.
“After that, I actually joined another early stage startup at the time, which was called ally.io, building OKR software. That company was a big success. It was because of that company that I actually met you, Camela. Met a lot of other really great people, saw a lot of growth, a lot of momentum, learned a ton when I was there.
“When I was there, I came across another problem that I couldn’t really stop thinking about and how to solve. That was ultimately why I left Ally to start Funnel IQ and how I kind of wound up here today. So that’s the abbreviated version of how you go from small town Wisconsin to now starting a couple of different companies and giving it a try
Perseverance as an Entrepreneur
Small towns aren’t all just about humble beginnings. They can also often be home to your biggest critics. There’s a lot of judgment when choosing entrepreneurship, especially from friends and family.
“A lot of people certainly don’t really understand what Matt does for work. As you can imagine, it’s one of those things where a topic comes up a lot. Like oh, how’s the job going, how’s work going…And when a lot of your family is either working in a factory or on a construction site, it’s very like, yep, the building is going up. Or yep, went and fixed this thing today. People know what a building is, a pipe is, things that are being built in factories.
“But when I try to tell them about how hard it is to hire developers or how challenging it could be to try to get someone to use this piece of software that you’re building. They’re just like, oh Matt does some stuff on the computer. They don’t really know what that’s about.
“There’s definitely plenty of pushback too, especially when it comes to the lack of perceived stability. So they look at that and certainly are like, why would anyone choose that for themselves and put family and other people around them through it?
“There’s plenty of questioning, for sure, but I think now it’s gotten to the point where there’s also acceptance for some of the perceived craziness that I might have. Intolerance, maybe, is a better word. Folks have come around a little bit.”
Entrepreneurship is hard. It’s easy to become self-critical, to have a sort of negative self talk internally, let alone externally. Often, you’ll feel that you’re not contributing enough, but sometimes, like in Matt’s case, it works out really well.
“It seems like stuff always has a way of working out. My first startup, there was one investor that I met during that journey who I tried to convince to invest a bunch of different times. He never did, but we stayed in touch.
“When I shut that company down, he was one of the people who I was like, ‘Hey, you know, I’m kinda looking for something to do. If anything comes up, let me know.’ And he was like, ‘Oh, I’ve actually just invested in this portfolio, in this OKR software company called Ally. They’re looking for someone in operations and finance, you should talk to the CEO, I’ll introduce you.’
“And it was because of that I ended up joining Ally and getting to go through that whole experience, and now, ultimately starting this other company. All those things, I don’t know, they wind up happening for a reason and things end up kind of working out. The things pay off in some shape or form ultimately is the way that I look at it.”
Revenue Operations as a Career
Matt’s no stranger to revenue operations. As the former VP of Business Operations at Ally, he pulled together operations across People, Revenue, Finance, Legal, and more. It was one of the first times Business Operations was being used to describe what is now considered RevOps.
“I joined as VP of Business Operations, and what it meant was literally just making the company run from day to day and really needing to understand how all the different departments/divisions worked collectively, individually, and also together. And how to drive process, how to drive that rhythm of business every day, every single week, to move things forward.”Having a finance background definitely helped Matt find his sea legs, as it “equipped” him with “the tools, analytics, and strategy background to help think strategically.”
“Operations isn’t about one specific piece of the business. It’s not just about the kind of product, not just about this line of business, or not just about current customers, or implementing new customers. It’s all of those things and understanding how things work from end to end, and how you drive those teams forward.”
Revenue operations accounts for all aspects of the business’ operations, which means most days are something entirely different than the day before—or after. It’s an all encompassing umbrella term that doesn’t leave any function behind.
“I think that was the thing that I liked the most about the role. I think business operations, but also just any operations professional, is you really are this utility player that needs to have versatility to truly jump around from one day being in some sort of strategic planning meeting to the next day, building some financial model, to the day after, talking to current investors at a board meeting, and to the next day being the Salesforce admin Jumping in and supporting the sales team or the customer success team and something they need.
“Some people enjoy that variety and every different day comes with a different set of responsibilities. Some people don’t. I was definitely one that thrived off of that stuff and enjoyed it a lot. And I think it’s kind of what entrepreneurship is. Every single day is gonna be new.
“You just gotta have faith in yourself that you can learn new thing and try new things and figure them out. And I think that’s what any entrepreneur needs to do day in and day out. That’s what any operations person needs to do day in and day out.
“Before Ally, I didn’t have a whole lot of exposure to tools like Salesforce and everything else in the RevOps tech stack, but there’s no one else to do it. So when someone needed something, I was like, ‘All right, I guess I’m that guy, and I’m gonna figure out how to do this. I think it’s that mindset and experience that sets you up for both successfully.”
Intention & Balancing Career with Health and Family
Much like entrepreneurs, folks in operations tend to be overachievers or very high achieving people, who often struggle to find balance between working too little and working too much. Often it can feel like the company is your baby; you could spend every hour of the day and still have things to do.
So how does Matt find balance?
“I think it’s like everything else, where you need to be intentional about it. If you set your mind to something, go out and do it. If you wanna run a marathon, what do you gotta do? You can’t just go and run 26 miles the next day. You gotta build up to that, put in the work and the reps to get there.
“I think that work-life balance is no different. At least for me, I think I learned the hard way there with my first company, where I just didn’t really have any of that balance. I was working a lot, wasn’t really there for my family or my wife, or my very young kids at that time.
“Those are all things I learned from. And I think that’s the biggest thing with any startup, any job, or anything you do personally or professionally. Don’t judge your failure or success by the outcome necessarily, but did you learn something? Did you repeat the same sort of mistakes?
“So building this company the second time around, that was one of those things that I was trying to do very intentionally, was surround myself with a diverse group of people that came from different background, different perspective than I did. Folks that I could learn from.
“But then also building the company and setting the culture was just making sure that people knew, ‘Hey anything that we can do in any given day is obviously going to improve our chances of success, but the to-do- list is always going to be there.
“It’s never going to go away, but your kid’s only five years old once. You can only walk them to kindergarten so many times. Those are gonna be the things that will go away. Those are the things that you shouldn’t sacrifice for any job, for any career, for any company.”
When it comes to mental health, Matt has strategies there, too.
“Working out, exercise is very important to my mental health. I make sure I block my calendar on days so that I can get to the gym and I can go work out. I make sure to block my calendar when I need to bring my kids to school and pick them up, when they’ve got all their extracurricular activities.
“I approach it very much in the same way that if we’re going to set a meeting or go out for coffee, I’m going to block it on my calendar. I’m gonna set that meeting with you, the same way, like with my kids and stuff. I’m not going to do anything else right now. I think just being intentional about it, with everything else, is the way that works for me.”
Building a Community of Revenue Operations Professionals
From Matt’s experience and passion for revenue operations, a community was born, and continues to grow.
“RevOps Co-op is a community of people passionate about revenue operations. We’ve naturally got a bunch of people in there with revenue operations in their job title, but a lot of them don’t as well. So we have people from Marketing, Sales Ops, Marketing Ops, Customer Success, VPs of Revenue, Chief Revenue Officers, Founders, Entrepreneurs. Anyone who’s passionate about operations will find their place within RevOps Co-op. It’s a free, complimentary community to join.
“We’ve got a Slack Group, a weekly newsletter, longform content like whitepapers, a blog, a mentor program, a job board, a bunch of webinars, roundtables… We’ve got in-person events, we’ve done happy hours in places like Austin, New York City. A bunch of different programs that we run.
“For us, it’s all about delivering value to our members through education and peer interactions. We’ve got about 4,000 people in the community right now across 35+ different countries, 1500+ companies represented.
“Lots of chatter activity kind of constantly happening in there. And feedback’s been really positive from members.”
At CaliberMind, we highly recommend joining RevOps Co-op, because it’s where people bring their issues to the table. There’s nothing more valuable than having somebody’s who’s been in your shoes and made the mistakes and being able to tell you which potholes to avoid down that road.
Like Matt says, “if you don’t get answers to your questions, you also hear, ‘Oh, I have that same problem. I’m trying to figure it out.’ And you’re like, ‘Yes, I’m not alone. I’m not the only going through this.’”
You can find Matt on LinkedIn, email, or via Slack in the RevOps Co-op Community. More information on Funnel IQ can be found at funneliq.com. You can join the RevOps Co-op Community at revopscoop.com. Anyone who wants to learn more about Revenue Operations should definitely check it out.
For more career development and entrepreneurship stories, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.