“5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Founded My Company”, with Matthew Rosenberg and Chaya Weiner
Persistence is the key to success. People often find ways and reasons to not do things — to not pick up the phone, to not jump out of an airplane. There will always be a reason to not do something but the second you can release those constraints you realize most things are not as hard to achieve as you might have made them to be. We self impose these restrictions on ourselves. Flipping that mindset and combining it with persistence will get you anywhere you wish to get to.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Matthew Rosenberg. Matthew is an international award-winning designer, currently leads a multinational team working on projects around the world. After working for MAD Architects in Beijing, Rosenberg returned to Los Angeles to launch M-Rad Inc., whose mission is to revolutionize the architecture industry and resolve its inefficiencies by expanding the scope of the architect. In less than five years he has built a client list with the likes of Amazon, Equinox, SpaceX, Ring, Blue Bottle Coffee, Virgin Hotels, Zappos, WeWork, TopGolf, and over 50 other curated partners and clients. Rosenberg has developed projects around North America in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Nashville, Las Vegas, Toronto, and Saskatoon, and has started to expand to Italy, Portugal, Taipei, and Australia. Rosenberg’s most recent acclamations have landed him on Forbes ‘Small Giants’ list while Inc. Magazine has named him one of the ‘Top 10 Designers Every Business Should Have On Their Radar.’ He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art (University of Saskatchewan), a Bachelor of Environmental Design in Architecture (Dalhousie University), and a Masters of Architecture (SCI-Arc) which he received alongside a Selected Thesis Award. He has also studied architecture at McGill University in Montreal and the Louvre in Paris.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always remembered wanting to be an architect. It was either this, a chef or a lawyer. I’m kind of doing all those things now anyway so I guess it worked out pretty well.
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?
There was a time when I had a few decent sized projects in the studio and six, maybe seven, employees that didn’t have much experience and were young. They were all I could afford. I still wasn’t paying myself (and didn’t actually start paying myself until the end of our fourth year but I knew I had to get a more experienced team in place so we could properly implement these projects. These were our first prominent projects under the M-Rad Inc. umbrella which made their success extremely important in helping to build our reputation. I ended up releasing all but one employee and starting over, convincing a couple of more experienced architects and designers to join the team and quit their previous jobs. There was a week when everybody had left and I walked into a 5,000-square-foot building with only one employee. That was a feeling of complete shock and excitement all at once. I look for that feeling at every turn, to make sure I’m making big enough moves to ensure we grow and constantly innovate at every corner.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I tried working for other people, but it never seemed to work out. I couldn’t understand why I should work for someone for 90 hours a week for barely any pay when I could work that many hours and do exactly what I want to do and really make change happen in a much more efficient manner. The fear of having to go back and work for someone else is enough to keep me going forever.
So, how are things going today? How did Grit lead to your eventual success?
Very well, thanks! Persistence is the key to success. People often find ways and reasons to not do things — to not pick up the phone, to not jump out of an airplane. There will always be a reason to not do something but the second you can release those constraints you realize most things are not as hard to achieve as you might have made them to be. We self impose these restrictions on ourselves. Flipping that mindset and combining it with persistence will get you anywhere you wish to get to.
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?
The time I rallied six recent graduates to participate in a design competition for a $320 million Arts District on the Gold Coast of Australia. I was running the studio out of my 540-square-foot apartment by myself in LA, had one project, no money, and no space. So I jammed in seven people into the living room of this apartment and worked for a week straight with several all-nighters, while my girlfriend (now wife) slept in basically the same room as all these strangers designing for a nearly impossible project. We ended up long listing along with several other notable architects such as Zaha Hadid and Richard Rogers.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our business model. There was a summer in the middle of my Masters of Architecture degree that I had two job offers. Both offers were for me to work for free for well-known ‘Starchitects’. I had to negotiate to get $300 a month as a stipend and keep it a secret so no one else found out because they didn’t want to have to pay anyone else. I made my decision based on a financial factor — something I try to never do in business. We take on clients who are unique, innovative, and care to change the world through better design and thoughtful partnerships. We will be publishing our employee salaries within 2 years and will make sure that all those studios who get away without paying people will no longer be able to lean on the free labor of students.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Love what you do. It’s impossible to burn out doing what you love. You might have tough days and you will definitely have long ones, but if you love it, you want it to last forever. If you feel burnt out, you’re in the wrong field or doing the wrong thing.
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?
My father and mother have always been great role models. My father retired and lasted all of two months before he decided to go back to work. He now spends even more time researching and raising money for research that is aimed at preventing childhood diseases. It speaks to my point about loving what you do — if you love what you do, you won’t want to stop doing it.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Creating better spaces and buildings — both for the environment and for its inhabitants — has been my method of bringing goodness into the world. The built environment has a profound effect on the well being of humans. Consequently, enhanced spaces result in leading healthier and happier lives, and can be pivotal in how you interact with your surroundings and community in a way that maximizes positive possibilities.
(Choose) 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. Be persistent. Successful people like when people have to work to get to them. They did.
2. Ask for what you want. Even though you think people know what you want or need, they don’t. Be clear and direct.
3. Take risks whenever possible. You will always figure a way out if it doesn’t work.
4. Trust your gut. It’s the only thing that uses your whole body and mind to help you make the right decision.
5. Be forgiving. People make mistakes but those people can help you down the road if you let them.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. :-)
Educating people on how to design for daily problems. If we can educate people on how to design through problems (like lack of clean water in developing countries) we can give power to thought and action.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.