Meet Matt Williams: A Q&A with our CEO
Exhibit Partners was founded in 2004 with just a small leased office and four employees. In our current home, 65,000 sq ft of office and warehouse space, our team offers a full range of both live event and virtual capabilities. Entrepreneur Matt Williams built the company and remains a hands-on CEO, involved in many of our client partner relationships and always seeking ways to improve, innovate and evolve.
What was your first job?
At 14, I was a dishwasher and a busboy making minimum wage at a cafe in my hometown.
If we reached out to your high school peers, what do you think they would say about a young Matt Williams?
They would likely say that I always had a plan and that I was friendly to everyone.
How did you become involved with the trade show / event industry?
In 1998, I answered a newspaper ad that read “Get rich slow.” Although I had no idea what I was about to embark upon, it all began on January 18th.
Is there a relationship that stands out in your mind as being a key turning point in your career?
There are many, both positive and negative. However, it all began with the accountability, ethics and hard work instilled in me by my late grandfather. He also had a design, engineer & build entrepreneurial business, but for greenhouses.
Has your vision for your team changed over the years?
Certainly I’ve grown my awareness of what works, mostly from my errors, but my vision hasn’t really changed. I believe every person, brand, business, and life in general, prefers to evolve toward a better tomorrow. If I teach others to lead with that in mind, we’re all growing together. The opposite is a complacent path, a place where amazing people and brands eventually leave.
What have you learned from the pandemic and the turmoil of 2020?
That humility is a good thing; it binds us closer together. Adversity, in any form, should bring this out in all humanity. As such, we’re more aware, innovative and open-minded to new ideas.
Where do you see the industry heading in 2021 and beyond?
Remember when cross trainer shoes were the thing? They integrated all of the sporting activities with one shoe type. It was beautiful marketing. Similarly, a return to power for agencies who innovate and integrate will drive brands and corporations to spend wisely; they will jockey for the lead spots, while traditionally complacent brands, often giants, will be passed by.
As an entrepreneur, do you have any advice for those thinking about starting their own businesses?
Rather than obligatory adherence to family and friends’ advice, join a forum group of other entrepreneurs who have or will experience the same issues you’ll face. They won’t tell you how to raise your kids when they don’t have any!
I’ve often shared: “If you believe what you conceive, you can achieve.”* It’s easy to doubt yourself. We’re all our own worst critics, but when self doubt extends onto others who rely on you, that lack of conviction erodes confidence and they’ll go elsewhere. Just live up to promises.
*A paraphrase of a quote by American author Napoleon Hill.
If you have crossed paths with Matt and would like to send him a message or ask a question that we could share in a follow up, please leave a comment!