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The Light Files - Steven Leeper

Steven Leeper

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Laura Max visits with Steven Leeper, founder and owner of Matchstick, a marketing, communication and design staffing firm.

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Laura: Hi, everyone. I'm Laura Max, your host of The Light Files on thebusinessmakers.com, brought to you as always by Audi Central Houston. I am here today with Steven Leeper. Steven is the founder of Matchstick, a marketing and communications staffing agency. Steven, welcome to the show.

Steven: Thank you so much. It's great to be here.

Laura: Well, we're so excited to have you. And you founded Matchstick several years ago. You all are - you've just won an award for the Marketer of the Year.

Steven: Yes. Yes.

Laura: Just two weeks ago.

Steven: That's right. Yeah, it was a really big honor. It was the business-to-business services category, and I think some of the events and some of the different things that we do that are unique in marketing the recruiting firm really, really played well to the judges.

Laura: Yeah, so speaking of the things that you do that are unique, I wanted to talk about some of those with you. There are staffing agencies, you know, all over Houston; we have lots of jobs available here, which is a good thing. But yours is unique for several reasons, and I want to hear you talk about those.

Steven: Yeah, absolutely. I think one sort of underlying premise for me is that I wanted to start Matchstick as a way to say how do we treat people like people and not numbers and treat people with respect. And I'm not always going to have a job for a candidate, but a lot of times that's not what a candidate needs. They may actually just need a good introduction, they may need a good opportunity to go to a networking event, they may need just a good suggestion about their résumé. So this idea that what is in the best interests of the candidate, and maybe it's not a job, it guides a lot of my thinking of working backwards at the problem.

Laura: So this isn't just about finding, you know, any random Joe to fill any random position; you're really working face-to-face with your clients and trying to find them the best position possible.

Steven: Exactly. And one of the cool things about kind of the business model is that I'm working with the clients and then I also do the recruiting, so I'm a full desk recruiter. And it's more rewarding that way for me and it also - it leads to less lost in translation. You know, when you understand the culture fit and then can communicate that with a candidate, oftentimes the fit is in the details. And so being able to go directly back and forth and not have a lot of in-between hands I find is really helpful.

Laura: So aside from all the efforts that you go to finding these individuals their ideal positions and really working with them face-to-face, you also are sort of known for putting on some great events around the city.

Steven: Yeah, actually that's probably my favorite marketing kind of cornerstone.

Laura: Marketing tool.

Steven: Yeah, exactly. I kind of consciously when I started out Matchstick decided to not do a lot of social media, which is very unconventional and I got a lot of flak from friends who said it's a no-brainer and that's where you need to spend 80-percent of your time marketing. And it's just not a strength or a particular interest or passion for me. Now will I do that at some in the future, or maybe as I hire up and continue to add people? Maybe. But for me, I have a real passion for events. I drove the Wienermoblie for a year out of college. And so I love events, I love people, face-to-face interactions, and I think people are still moved uniquely face to face. And so I do crawfish boils and we've done outings to the Dynamo game and a lot of different things like that, that is kind of I guess a little out of the box.

Laura: So the Weinermobile, for those in the audience who don't know, is the Oscar Meyer mobile, I guess. And you had a nickname; what was it, when you were driving?

Steven: Sauerkraut Steven.

Laura: Sauerkraut Steven. So you have really come a long way now, starting your own business, which is no small feat. And recently getting this award. But what I find probably the most fascinating about you is that in three weeks you are getting married, and you have just said to me before this interview that that may cause, you know, what you've worked on with Matchstick so far to maybe take second or third place to that new venture.

Steven: It'll be an interesting balance, kind of juggling this. But I feel like, you know, with Matchstick that first year was particularly crucial to get off on the right foot, you know, and to kind of set the cadence and the rhythm that I wanted to run the business at. And it feels like that same thing, that we're getting married, and I don't try to make the analogy to my fiancée, Lindsay, she probably wouldn't love that business. But it's true and it feels like that first year I just need to set aside a good amount of time to make that go well. So Matchstick will obviously continue to be a very high priority, but it probably will be underneath kind of that relationship and Lindsey's in my first year of marriage.

Laura: Well, I think that's so cool to hear you say, 'cause I interview a lot of people on this show who are entrepreneurs or started their own business, and oftentimes as passionate as we are about our dreams, you know, or as passionate as we are about our relationships or getting married, it's incredibly challenging to prioritize, 'cause it seems like everybody is working 24 hours around the clock all the time. The fact that you've managed to start a business without really over - basically spending your whole life on Facebook is pretty incredible as well. So I love hearing that, you know, I love hearing that there's more to it. We're whole people, as you said, we have a lot to balance, and it's really important that we put ourselves and our relationships in front of everything else and still pursue our dreams, which is possible.

Steven: Yeah, I think that's right. And I think that for me setting boundaries is just - is so critical, and so I think that early on with Matchstick I said, "I'm not going to work till 10:00 every night." And I don't know that that's for everyone; I think some people are going to do that, and that's fine, that's what works for them. For me, I understand that emotionally I want to be available to people, and so at these events I can't muster up care or energy out of if I'm sleeping two hours a night. So I want to bring my full self and be present, and if that means that I cut off work at 6:00 at night then that's what I need to do.

Laura: And it is possible, ladies and gentlemen. We're hearing it firsthand, even though it may not feel like you can resist answering that e-mail at midnight.

Steven: Right.

Laura: Maybe you can, and maybe you'll be the better person for it.

Steven: That's right.

Laura: Well it was so great to have you on the show, Steven. Thank you so much for being our guest.

Steven: It was my pleasure.

Laura: And I am your host, Laura Max of the Light Files on thebusinessmakers.com, brought to you by Audi Central Houston. You can find us each week on thebusinessmakers.com or on Sundays at noon on News 92 FM. We'll see you again next week. Bye, everyone.

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