Matt Crowley of Chicago Steak Company: “Be Responsible”

It’s YOUR business. Do what YOU want. One of the advantages of entrepreneurship is that you have an immense amount of control. You don’t have to be confined to what “others” are doing. Let your creativity flow and don’t be afraid to do something completely different. I had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Crowley, Vice […]

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It’s YOUR business. Do what YOU want. One of the advantages of entrepreneurship is that you have an immense amount of control. You don’t have to be confined to what “others” are doing. Let your creativity flow and don’t be afraid to do something completely different.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Crowley, Vice President of Chicago Steak Company, a Chicago-based purveyor of USDA Prime steaks, seafood, and other meats. In this role, Crowley leverages 11 years of restaurant management, marketing, and technology expertise to oversee customer service initiatives, marketing and advertising, budgeting, and product curation for Chicago Steak Company.

Crowley joined Chicago Steak Company in 2007; with the primary responsibility was research and development. The role evolved into a focus on technology and infrastructure, marketing, customer service, and customer safety. He was then promoted to company vice president in 2008.

Prior to joining Chicago Steak Company, Crowley worked in restaurant management.

A driving factor in his career is the belief that every facet of business should be approached with the utmost professionalism and customer service. This attention to detail and quality is reflected in Chicago Steak Company’s product line — all steaks are USDA Prime, which represents the top 2 percent of all beef sold in the U.S. — and the company’s focus on creating a supreme customer experience. Crowley is also passionate about customer education, and was instrumental in creating Steak University, a robust online resource that provides information and videos related to preparing, cooking, and serving steaks and seafood.

In his spare time, Crowley enjoys playing guitar and grilling the perfect bone-in ribeye.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I love business. And the idea of going into business for yourself meant that I would get to interact with all facets of business (marketing, legal, accounting, operations, HR etc.) vs getting placed in a silo within a large organization. That was attractive to me.

Going into business for myself I saw as a unique opportunity that may not present itself again. I had a chance to do something a bit different (vs the corporate route that my friends were beginning). Looking at the options before me, I had a job offer for a Fortune 500 company on the table or I could go do something unique. With my education and experience, I was confident that I could always land another corporate job. However, I did not know if the opportunity to go into business for myself would present itself again.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

Going into business for yourself is difficult. Chicago Steak Company faces competition from several well established, national brands. We believe in education (that’s why we created Steak University)and our entry into the marketplace with a this focus on educating the marketplace about quality beef was not well received by these purveyors. We have been threatened by lawsuits among other things but ultimately, we chose not to give up and to continue onward in our mission to provide access to high-quality beef and educating people about all things beef along the way. Ultimately that is what it comes down to as an entrepreneur: choice. You have to chose to continue on when it seems like everything around you is against you. I believe this is what you are referring to when you ask about “grit”.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

It was something I learned early on from my father and has been something engrained in me since I was a boy. Whether in school, work, or any aspect in life, the “drive” to press on is an important element in life.

So, how are things going today? How did Grit lead to your eventual success?

Chicago Steak Company continues to grow. We have had strong sales growth over the past 10 years, and we continue to gain market share. Steak University has become an authority on all things “beef” and we are proud to continue on this path.

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?

We advertise on keyword searches with Google & Bing. I review daily reports on this performance. One day I was shocked to see that spend had gone up over 20x than the day prior. After a bit of research, it turned out that the popular TV Show Duck Dynasty had a mention of “kobe beef” in an episode which drove search traffic for that term thru the roof. While I can’t say everyone visiting our site that day purchased (it is one of the most expensive types of beef you can buy), I can tell you I learned a valuable lesson about daily budget caps that day.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Chicago Steak Company stands out with our heart and dedication to what’s best for the person on the other end of each transaction. That can be seen in many areas. Our commitment to education on Steak University (because we believe an educated consumer is a happier consumer — whether they buy from us or not). Our support of Leukemia Lymphoma Society by raising money for that charity. Or our willingness to go above and beyond for our customers. A quick story: one year early on, we had very bad storms come thru the country just before Christmas. It resulted in delays by both UPS and FedEx. It was brought to our attention that one of our clients packages was just a few miles away from it’s destination, but that the carrier was not able to deliver the package in time for Christmas. The president of our company was able to coordinate with a local taxi cab driver to pick up the package and get it delivered. Just an example of how “above and beyond” is the normal here at Chicago Steak Company.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Make work fun. If you don’t enjoy it, then it will always feel like “work”. Find ways to incorporate what needs to get done for the brand, with what you enjoy.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We believe that education is extremely important. The fact that the educational content of Steak University gets millions of visits each year makes me proud to continue that effort. Also, the ability to raise funds for such a worthy cause as Leukemia Lymphoma Society is an honor. What they are doing with blood cancer research is mind-boggling and the ability to be a small part of that is incredible.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Things take longer than you think. Be Patient.

I cannot tell you how many times this statement has proved true. Especially when working with other companies and large outfits. Whether holdups are a result of bureaucracy of simply because the person on the other end is punching a clock, things always seem to take longer than anticipated. So learn patience.

2. Everything costs more than you think. Be Capitalized.

Same as above. Budgets exist for a reason so make sure you budget for the “unknown”.

3. It’s YOUR business. Do what YOU want.

One of the advantages of entrepreneurship is that you have an immense amount of control. You don’t have to be confined to what “others” are doing. Let your creativity flow and don’t be afraid to do something completely different.

4. Be Responsible.

At the end of the day, the buck stops with you. You need to surround yourself with intelligent people and make sure you are listening to their counsel. But ultimately the success or failure rests on you.

5. Do what’s right. Period.

Even if it “costs” you from a business perspective, do it anyway.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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