Lesson #3: “Develop a tight team relationship and a fighting spirit that wins”

As a young boy growing up in Wales, Matthews was a born engineer. He loved to fix anything that was broken, and break something even if it was not just for the fun of putting it back together again. If anyone in town had an electric motor that needed repairing, or even a musical box that needed a second life, they knew where to turn. But it was not just his engineering skills that were being developed at the time. Matthews was learning crucial people and relationship skills that would come in handy years later.

"I always had engineering in my blood and I got a reputation for being able to fix stuff, and when people asked ‘How much?' I'd say ‘It's a pleasure and no charge'," he says. "It left an obligation and I very quickly found when Christmas came around, I had so many gifts."

Matthews never charged for his services, but in fact learned that the returns he got were far greater than any price tag he could have asked or. "If there is a payment, it is a settled account," he says, "but if it is for free, it is not settled and it engenders a very close relationship."

It was a lesson that showed Matthews the value of relationships, and something he tried to instill throughout his team at Mitel. When he first began working there, he wanted to give people part ownership in the company. Much like when he was fixing things for friends back in Wales, Matthews thought that giving ownership to people would create a similar relationship between them and the company. Ownership, according to Matthews, meant that people would work harder than they otherwise would for just a salary.

Beyond Mitel, Matthews used this winning strategy in every single one of the companies he founded. "I helped to build Mitel and then Newbridge and lots of other companies, developing a tight team relationship and a fighting spirit that wins," he says. "I love kicking ass."

Matthews considers Mitel his greatest success in this realm. "The deal was that for every $1,000 loaned to the company, the person who loaned would end up having a $1 share," he says. "Ten years later, that $1 share turned into $2.5 million."

In addition to employee ownership, Matthews implemented quarterly staff meetings for all staff members. He would outline the company's activities and progress, while also encouraging employees to voice their opinions. What this did was not only make sure all staff members were on the same page about the company's goals and direction, but it also gave them a sense of having a say in that process. After all, the more people were on board, the less chance there was of going in the wrong direction.

Matthews learned the importance of relationships at a very young age, and it was a lesson he kept with him and that served him well throughout his corporate career.

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