Stay level minded — There will be many highs and many lows in this journey. The lows can be very low and the highs can be very high. But the more level minded you are able to keep yourself, the more clear you will keep your mind and the more focused you will be able to keep your team. The highs can make you overly greedy or start steering from your vision and the lows can make you question your vision and start trying to make short term fixes. Keep level minded and handle both the challenges and wins with a balanced mind.
As a part of our series called “Meet The Inventors”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Reiner.
Matt Reiner is a CFA, CFP®, and partner at Capital Investment Advisors, a 2.8+ Billion dollars RIA in Atlanta. Reiner is also CEO of Wela Strategies, a sister company to Capital Investment Advisors, and is the founder and CEO of Benjamin™. Benjamin is an AI technology created by Reiner after seeing the gaps in technology used in his own firm. Reiner’s true passion is using his vast experience to coach other advisors across the country, helping them evaluate their firms’ practices and find the best strategies for future success. To reach Matt Reiner, visit www.MattReiner.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I was extremely fortunate growing up. We grew up in Atlanta and had a very close immediate family. I have an older brother who is now my business partner and also my neighbor. We are fortunate to be very close today although that wasn’t the case growing up! My dad started our advisory firm, Capital Investment Advisors, when I was 10 years old. This was the time that I was just starting to really grasp everything that was going on in the world, so I always say that I grew up in the wealth management space. I’d always go to my dad’s office and just hang out. Wealth management was really the only profession I knew of other than professional athlete, but given my height and build, that wasn’t a likely option. I joke that while others were watching cartoons, my form of entertainment was CNBC! I played sports throughout my early years and then decided to go to Arizona State University for my undergraduate degree. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I had grown up in one house and one part of town my entire life. I was comfortable there but hadn’t experienced independence or people with very different backgrounds. Going to Arizona State allowed me to learn a lot about myself, and I was able to make friends with a diverse group of people from all walks of life and from all across the country. I was fortunate enough to have a supportive family that allowed me to take this opportunity for 4 years. After college, I came back home and started working with my dad and brother in our family business. This all ultimately led to me starting Benjamin and takes us to where we are today.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Henry Ford — “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
This is my favorite quote of all time. This is a quote that really explains how I go about life. I’m always thinking just a bit differently and am comfortable going against the grain. Not everybody sees it the same way. In my life, I tend to take the road less traveled by. I like to build and create things that are outside the scope of what people think they need. I like to be innovative, creative and think outside the box. I want to create the next “thing” that people never thought would be possible or seemed so utopian that it would never be reality. I’ve been that way my whole life, and sometimes it’s a challenge, because it’s easier to fine tune what is there rather than creating something that isn’t. But, that’s the stamp I’ve striven to put on this world since day one.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Reboot by Jerry Colonna
This is actually a more recent book for me, but it has had an immense impact on my life over the past two years. This book reshaped the way that I think and prompted me to get into mediation and creating mental clarity. The book has changed the way I live my life, I interact with my friends, family and peers and how I run my businesses.
What the book taught me is that when we are looking to create change and really just in everything we do in our lives, we have to put failure on the table. We have to see this as an option — a low desired option, but an option none the less. In the past, I found myself running from failure, which led me to be a different person than I wanted and kept me from an open mind. When you put failure on the table as an option, you have accepted that as a possibility and are now able to think and interact with a clearer head. Too often when you are running from failure, you are saying that it isn’t an option and thus leads you to take different actions. When you have accepted that failure is an option, you aren’t running from anything, but rather you are running to something. That something is your vision. This book has led me to be a better leader, without question.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. What was the catalyst that inspired you to invent your product? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
I started out in the wealth management firm that my dad had started. Then, my brother and I started another wealth management firm that was focused on the mass affluent. So, we were running two advisory firms — each unique in its own way. Given my roots, I always had the passion to build something. Fortunately, we had two growing advisory firms, and they were able to present some unique challenges that needed some solutions. One of those needed solutions was around scalability, client experience, integration of technologies / process, and ultimately profitability. We were growing, and the traditional way to support growth requires adding people. However, this strategy also poses challenges to profitability from the firm level, so we set out to try and solve this for our own businesses. We set out with the goal of how we can better integrate our technologies and processes to allow for us to scale the employees to create deeper and more meaningful relationships with our clients and ultimately uncover a way to increase margins.
Ultimately, we built our own technology company as we were unable to find any solution that fit our unique needs. It took about 3 years, a lot of missteps, and a good chunk of money until we saw that “a ha” moment. It came when we initially implemented our technology solution called “Benjamin” to help solve one single task within our main advisory firm. That task was in regard to onboarding. The “aha” moment came when the individual that began using Benjamin came to us and had all of this spare time and wanted to know what to do with it. At that point, we were able to have this amazing and talented employee do more sophisticated work that led to a more rewarding job for that individual and an enhanced client experience for our current and prospective clients. At that point, we knew we had something, and it was unique to the space. The value was seen immediately. We saw a couple more “aha” moments along the way, but at this point, we knew we had something that could really impact our industry in a positive way.
There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
I overcame through persistence, perseverance and having people that believed in me around me. The question of whether it is luck or hard work that builds a business tends to be brought up in conversations. I think it is a hybrid of both. It was a lot of hard work and just pushing through and not letting the deflation of the negative aspects of building a business or being told “no” keep me down. This is something that has been instilled in me from an early age. But I will admit, it is also a lot of luck. I am lucky to have the background, the family support and the opportunity I have. I’m lucky to have started out in such a successful financial advisory firm and to have a supportive group of people around me. I’m lucky to have met the mentors I did when I did and to have my family and friends and colleagues supportive of what we are doing.
To be able to push through, you need all of these, and you need to be committed to the long game. Nothing great comes quickly or easily. Building a business is the most difficult thing I have ever done and it has taken an extremely long time of many ups and downs. And yet, we still have a long way to go!
Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?
I think that at times people get discouraged because there may already be people out there doing something similar to what they want to do or create. However, not every great idea or business is the one that creates a new category or starts a new trend. Many businesses come up because the businesses out there aren’t doing the service or building the product as well as it could be done. So, doing research and understanding what’s out there, how others do it, and where opportunity may lie based on how you perceive the problem is a great place to start. The one thing you want to make sure of is that what you build is 10x as good or provides 10x the benefit relative to the options currently out there. You don’t have to be first, but you have to be better…10x better.
Also, don’t get caught trying to make the perfect product or perfect service out of the gate. The best thing is to just start, get feedback as quickly as possible, and be open to iterating and evolving your beliefs. Build the simplest form of what you want and try it out on people. Then, look to iterate, scale and build the perfect business. Not many people nail it right out the gate.
Did you have a role model or a person who inspired you to persevere despite the hardships involved in taking the risk of selling a new product?
Yeah, this is easy… my dad. I’ve said this to my team before and will continue to say it as our business grows. I aspire to build a business that is able to impact as many lives as have been impacted by the company my dad started. I counted it the other day, and right now, nearly 100 people’s lives are impacted because of the business he started. These are the employees and families that are currently relying on the opportunity that was created by him. This doesn’t include the nearly 3500 families that are benefitting from the services of the company. That’s impressive! Additionally, the challenges and perseverance he had is incredible, and to be able to have even an ounce of that would be an honor. A few years after starting the business, with our entire family’s livelihood resting on his shoulders, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. This caused emotional stress along with financial stress as the business was still in the early stages. Fortunately, my mom came through it and is still here to see all that he created, but that’s not an easy position to be in. Then, the financial crisis in 2008 took many businesses to their knees. My dad’s business faced many challenges as well, and now that there was some success, my father was watching the business he built and planned to share with his sons face potential risk. He spent so much time struggling to keep everyone employed and spent many late nights talking with clients to ensure they made the appropriate financial decisions. That’s impressive stuff to watch, and I sat front row to the entire journey. On top of all this, the man just cares about his people, and that is what every leader should strive to do.
For the benefit of our readers, can you share the story, and outline the steps that you went through, from when you thought of the idea, until it finally landed on the store shelves? In particular we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.
For us, it was slightly different. We were building a product for a specific industry, and we had the advantage of having industry knowledge because we were already financial advisors.
We started out with a completely different idea than what Benjamin is today, and this allowed us to learn about technology and to begin engaging with those in the local tech scene here in Atlanta.
From there, we decided to take these lessons and put them to work within our own company. This led to the first “ah-ha” moment that showed us that we were on to something. Then, we began talking with others in the industry to see if they would find it beneficial and helpful. They did, and once we received our first signed contract, we knew we had something.
However, the journey here was talking to a lot of people and sharing our story with every person we knew within the industry. We never stopped learning about others’ businesses and challenges and providing them insights about our product and our journey. As much as it may seem like the story has been over talked about internally, we knew we had to continue saying it, and we are still telling it today. This led to people noticing us and talking about us. This type of word of mouth in our industry is what has created the opportunities we now have.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Yeah, it was the very first conversation we had with a developer about the idea. It was outside on the patio of a bar drinking an old fashioned. I remember the conversation vividly. I described our desire as something really simple at that time. We wanted to build a simple app that allowed for people to sign documents. I spent about 5 minutes describing it, minimal questions were asked, and we had our guy, hired right there.
Lesson that was learned? How you see things isn’t how others perceive it, and if you want to keep from being disappointed, you must be detailed oriented. What was delivered and the time frame of delivery was far from what I had initially expected from that first conversation. I had done a poor job communicating my expectations and understanding what was involved in making the vision a reality. So, I was left holding this bag of hope and no product and having to restart multiple times.
Now, there are much more detailed descriptions, I ask a lot more questions, and I work to better understand the pieces that are needed to the solution. I don’t want to be a developer or an expert there, but I want to be able to know the right questions to ask and have a better understanding of what they may face so I can help better navigate.
So, you have to understand deeply what it is you want and be able to very vividly and simply explain it, or you will be left dissatisfied.
The early stages must have been challenging. Are you able to identify a “tipping point” after making your invention when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
As I mentioned earlier, it really stems back to the idea of putting failure on the table. Before that, I wasn’t the best manager or strategic thinker because I was completely focused on making every decision in the moment to keep us from failing. As soon as I changed my perception, it allowed me to find the right people and to empower them as opposed to “tell” them. I allowed myself to trust them and let them excel. It allowed me to better understand and create greater clarity around the vision for the product and the business. In turn, this allowed me to be a better leader towards that vision. The moment that all of this became realized was when someone other than me made a sale, and then, it was when someone other than me led a group of us towards accomplishing a goal. These small wins build on each other and start to allow you as a leader / founder to start seeing the success.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Invented My Product” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
Embrace competition, but keep the focus on your company
- Early on, our focus of building our company was hinged on what the others in the space were doing. We were trying to develop to catch up to them as opposed to develop to be our own. And this is a constant rat race. The early leaders will always be a step ahead, because you are only see what they have done, not what they are doing. And what this led to is the fact of not having our own identity and vision. Thus, it’s good to know there is competition and understand what they are doing. This shouldn’t scare you or make you feel like you need to “catch up”, rather you should focus on your vision and your product and ensure that you have your OWN vision of what you want to build and how you want to do it and then you go and execute it. Don’t try to be someone else, be your own company and product.
The rejection will never get easier
- Gosh, this one I thought would get easier, but it never does. The mindset around rejection can get better, but it doesn’t make it easier. It goes from rejection of an investor, a client leaving you, a prospect telling you no to employees leaving you. All of the rejection will lead you to question the company and the vision you have. This is natural. Take time to feel that feeling, but move forward. Because although you will have many rejections, they won’t determine your success. How you persevere and push forward will. You can’t please everybody, you can’t have everyone want your product and you can’t have every investor want to invest in you. But there will be people out there that will believe in your vision, your product and want to invest in you. Keep pushing till you find those.
Better to be good than perfect
- I’m a perfectionist and this one is the hardest. But the concept of quick and iterative didn’t come to me until after we had failed and spent a lot of money already. This is mainly around the product development. Early on I always wanted the product to be working perfectly and have everything in it that was part of my vision. As opposed to focusing on getting the bare bones out, learning and then iterating and pushing forward again. This concept of trying to make things perfect before launching and showing it to people caused us to delay getting feedback, it also impacts morale, because the team wants to see the product in production. There is a fine balance here that you have to find. And always focus on getting an aspect of the product / service in front of the public because that is where you learn the most. Things you never thought of will come out of delivering something, and that is impossible to replicate by keeping it internal. Your idea of perfect, may not be the markets desire for perfect. I created my own scope creep in our business because we always wanted something else before launching, which led to never launching.
Execute, execute, execute
- This aligns a little with the above. Strategy and vision is all great, but if you and your team aren’t focused on executing and executing quickly, then you will ultimately be passed and run out of money. Focus on executing and delivering the simplest form of value for your consumers and deliver it. Put a high emphasis on high quality and focused execution. The focus needs to be on getting your most simple and viable solution in front of people as soon as possible. Early on I spent so much time on ideating and building out the perfect product / service. Whereas I should have been spending my time identifying the most impactful aspect of the product and service and getting that to a point to deliver as quickly as possible.
Stay level minded
- There will be many highs and many lows in this journey. The lows can be very low and the highs can be very high. But the more level minded you are able to keep yourself, the more clear you will keep your mind and the more focused you will be able to keep your team. The highs can make you overly greedy or start steering from your vision and the lows can make you question your vision and start trying to make short term fixes. Keep level minded and handle both the challenges and wins with a balanced mind.
Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
Go. Start. Do. Create the simplest version of what you want. And share it with a target market. Get their feedback. Do this as quickly as you can and don’t try to make it perfect. Then go back and see if you are able to take their feedback and incorporate it with your vision that makes you passionate and that makes people’s lives 10x better than it is today. Just start and don’t let analysis paralysis hold you back from trying.
There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?
These individuals are extremely talented. What I have tended to see is that using a consultant like this early on can be a crutch because you are looking to them for the proverbial silver bullet. It keeps that safety net underneath you, and you start to lean on them for all of the answers. I saw myself doing this with my early mentors. I’d take their advice and go implement only to have a curve ball thrown at me, and I wouldn’t be confident in my own decision making. And, because these ideas weren’t my own, I wasn’t clear on where to go. These consultants and mentors aren’t in the business every day, so they aren’t necessarily always available and up to speed on the information necessary to make decisions. Not everyone is like me, but when I removed those crutches for me, I gained more confidence and clarity (albeit failing a bit more), but at least it was on my own.
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?
Venture capital is sexy. I’ve been in that boat and tried to get money that way. It’s fun, but in the end, you have to remember the idea of control of your vision. VCs can really help quickly scale a business if it is in the right stage, but just as quickly as they can help, they can also dampen the future prospects of the business. The ideas of your business are yours and as you bring in outside investors, goals may be misaligned. You may want to iterate and test some things out, but VCs have one goal… provide a return to them and their investors. So, the moment your tinkering and testing starts to impact their goals, that will be the moment you become misaligned and lose your say.
Until you’ve reached some sort of scale and want to pour gasoline on it, then bootstrapping with potential family and friends allows for you to keep control and give the idea the best shot to get off the ground based on how you see it. Getting VC too early can really hold great ideas from being able to fully flourish.
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Part of our vision at Benjamin is to create what’s called Benjamin’s House. This is a focus on creating innovative houses across the country that help to promote financial literacy. I think we have a long way to go to be successful, but we are working to get to a point and have it as part of our company vision. It’s a goal to give back and promote financial literacy across the US. The more that we can empower the wealth management industry with scale and efficiencies, the more opportunities they will have to serve more individuals. I believe that the more individuals have access to wealth managers, the better off families will be over time.
You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I want every person in America is able to retire one day and continue to earn the same amount they are in their peak earning years. I want to find a way to instill the knowledge and saving habits into every person in America to create financial independence that allows them to retire one day and enjoy the fruits of their labors.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
So, for me I’m a huge sports fan. I think that sports are one of the main reasons I am who I am. You have to go through adversity, you have to learn how to work with others, and you have to put in the time to accomplish goals.
I’d love the opportunity to meet Tiger Woods. Not only was he the reason I started playing and fell in love with the game of golf, but he has revolutionized an entire sport and created such opportunity for the sport itself. He has made the sport more accessible for those that may not have had the opportunity or interest before. Additionally, he has persevered through many difficult times. He went from the top of the mountain to the lowest of lows, and he stayed there for a long time. Ultimately, he pushed through to reach back to the pinnacle of the sport by winning The Masters.
My desire is to revolutionize an industry, provide an opportunity for more individuals to have access to financial literacy and financial advice, and ultimately create better opportunities for both those within the industry and those that need the services of this industry. The way that Tiger was able to persevere and push through both highs and lows is inspiring. It would be great to learn more about how he kept his mental fortitude and drive during these times.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.