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Insight 19 August 2020

Andy Lothian in conversation with Spencer Matthews

For most of 2020, the world has been in the terrible grip of a global pandemic. Fundamentally this is a public health crisis, but the impact on economies and livelihoods around the world has also been devastating.

Throughout this period, the Insights Group has worked with companies everywhere to help them manage the disruption and support their people. In the first in a series of conversations, I speak to entrepreneur, reality TV star and Founder/CEO of the Clean Liquor Company, Spencer Matthews.

Spencer said the pandemic got him thinking, not only about his relationship with his team, but that it inspired deep reflection about his transformational personal journey over the past two years. Here is his story…

On growing a business

I had no CEO experience when I founded the Clean Liquor Company, so learning on the job has been interesting! It’s great when you have an idea and have to work out how you get it from here to where you want it to go. I’m excited by wanting to be able to do what others can’t and to do things that haven’t been done before. And I’m excited daily by being in a cool team and seeing our vision come together. I feel like we’re building something special. I really believe in the purpose of the company and I feel that others are buying into it now and we’re picking up more significant steam. I want everyone, especially younger people, to know that you can buy no and low spirits.

The learning curve has been steep and exciting for me. The business is growing really fast. I’m learning a huge amount every day. Lots of things I didn’t know have only been normal to me in the last year and a half. I wish I’d known all that before! Normally everyone else around you has the answers. In our small team, people’s skillsets are beginning to shine through. In bigger businesses everyone has more defined roles and you probably feel like less of an imposter in larger teams than when you’re exposed on several levels in a really small team.

I love being at work. I never thought I’d say that, because I wasn’t great at school. They didn’t teach me anything I found useful about generating income or the sorts of things you really need to know. I’m not convinced they teach you about being intuitive or harnessing the power of intuition. Or managing people or being a good businessman – it’s all about just committing stuff to memory.

About leadership

It’s a wonderful experience. To be a fantastic leader you must understand that you don’t have all the answers. The people you’ve hired probably know best! That’s important for me. As the actor Matthew McConaughey said, “If you take offence at being corrected, then you have an ego problem.” By growing and learning every single day, you become more powerful as a person and as a leader. It’s better to gather information from everyone, everywhere and then make your own mind up.

My role is to remind people that what we’re doing is special and great and to remind us of the who, how and why we’re doing what we do. I’m the fundraiser and I try and set myself hurdles, like how we can grow the no and low alcohol industry from being in 1% of UK households to 3% of households. Our ultimate BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) would be how to get no and low spirits into every home, but for now we’ll focus on increasing awareness and increasing market share!

I’m constantly engaging with the team. The team is quite familial. We’re all creative and entrepreneurial. It’s important that people who work here have their own creativity. I encourage them to sing out if they want to challenge something or if they think we’re making a mistake.

Everyone needs to be behind the goal. Working in a job you don’t love is stressful. Working in a job you love and adore is passionate!

On working with Insights

I couldn’t have found the Insights exercise more insightful. I loved it. I didn’t know what to think about it before out of naivety, having not run a business before. I wasn’t sure where it was going to go. But I found it alarmingly accurate and really exciting! It’s been very useful in helping us to understand each other better.

We all shared our Insights profiles and now the colours are permanently ingrained into the back of my mind! As a team, we understand each other more now and how our roles impact on each other. Understanding more about the logistics that go into the making of a person and how they think is very helpful. I’ve learned that some people are very different and you begin to understand that the way you present certain things to some people should be different.

You get all this insight into how the rest of your team think and who they are. Without the whole Insights colour wheel – or pie chart as I like to call it – the balance would be off in the business. I have no Cool Blue energy, a bit of Earth Green and Fiery Red, but mostly Sunshine Yellow. Now, when I’m talking to someone who leads with Cool Blue energy, I behave differently. I know their skillset is different to mine. I’m more operational in the way I deal with them because I know it’s what they’d rather hear. I now naturally also complement people (like me) with Sunshine Yellow energy more, because I know they value it!

Not only have I realised how we’re different – I realise that we have a really interesting dynamic on the team. Our Managing Director is my psychological opposite and we’re completely different in terms of personality preference, but we have an incredible relationship. He leads with what you’ve called introverted sensation and I, according to my Insights profile, lead with extraverted intuition. Once the penny drops that people are different, you can apply yourself to being the best leader and understanding the world of your team members.

Without my MD’s practical Cool Blue approach, it would all just be ambition and ideas. With my experience I’d struggle to do his job! He can juggle several spinning plates and even repair one if he drops it while still spinning the others. I’m more the artist driving forward what I believe the world has to know.

My personal journey

My story is the story of millions of people and hopefully is relatable to many. I drank to excess and I was inherently lazy and expected everything to fall into my lap. When I gave up drinking, I became a better person, even in the first week. I started reading books and podcasts and being inspired and fascinated by the brains of Bill Gates and Elon Musk and wanting to be like them. I broke out of the mould.

It all just clicked for me once I was sober. A single change in alcohol consumption gave me the boost and drive I needed to become who I want to be and that’s why our company will do well. There are millions of people who aren’t quite sure want they’re going to do with their life because every Friday night they get torn to shreds, spend Saturday recovering and then go back to work on Monday to a job they hate.

Two years ago I was in a very different financial position. Sobriety has given me whole life back and this is easily the most exciting time of my life. I’m a different person now. It’s like I’m in a different body. The idea of being the kind of father that I always I wanted to be became very real as our second child was about to be born.

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