Podcast 33 | The Fail Coach: An Entrepreneur Who Recovered From $5M Debt

Podcast 33 | The Fail Coach: An Entrepreneur Who Recovered From $5M Debt
Interview by Nikola Djuric
Published: February 09, 2024

In the 33rd episode of the DesignRush Podcast, our editor Vianca Meyer talks to Miha Matlievski, a UK-based business coach guiding decision-makers in growing their startups based on his 25-year-long experience.

Tune in to the full episode to find out:

  • Why learning from failures and appropriately managing expectations are crucial skills in scaling your business
  • Why leaders should hone their "soft" skills, such as empathy and understanding, over time to be able to nurture and grow their workforce
  • That most leaders aren’t born with their skills, but self-taught through continuous practice and dedication

Citing five main points of great leadership, Miha says:

“Listen to understand, recognize failure for what it is, don’t be afraid of difficult situations, be servant leader, and care about people. You have to love people, and not just the people you work with, to be a great leader.”


Who Is Miha Matlievski?

Miha is a mentor for entrepreneurs who aim to elevate their businesses and reduce their weekly work and company management time 10-fold, all while achieving better financial results. Turning a significant personal business failure into a learning opportunity, Matlievski discovered methods to overcome fundamental business errors and establish effective company structures. He has successfully collaborated with over 4,000 entrepreneurs and enhanced the operations of more than 150 small and medium-sized enterprises.

The conversation that follows highlights some of the most interesting parts of the interview.

Vianca: Can managing expectations help avoid the feeling of failure, especially in startups that often have to pivot?

Miha: Absolutely!

Many people dive into entrepreneurship without adequate knowledge or preparation, including myself when I started. I had no formal education in business, and despite my father being an entrepreneur, I lacked direct teaching from him due to his early departure.

Understanding the basics, such as product market fit, the buyer's journey, and customer experience is crucial. Many overlook the necessity of this foundational knowledge, opting instead to jump straight into business.

While accelerators and incubators can offer support, not all programs are effective in imparting the necessary knowledge. The lack of planning and understanding significantly increases the likelihood of failure, despite there being no guarantees of success even with preparation.

A common misconception is that success can come easily and quickly, exemplified by stories of rapid success, like going from zero to seven figures in a month with just one funnel.

This perception leads many to believe that all they need is an Instagram page and a funnel, which is overly simplistic and, most of the time, not grounded in reality. Business planning and a deeper understanding of the many aspects of running a business are essential, yet some people underestimate their importance, thinking that minimal effort or a single strategy will lead to success.

This mindset is misguided and can set entrepreneurs up for disappointment.

What strategies do you find most effective for learning new concepts?

From a young age, I've been deeply curious about understanding how things work, often diving into encyclopedias my mother bought me.

This foundational approach to learning is crucial.

I often turn to Elon Musk's learning method, which involves starting with fundamental principles before building on them, likened to focusing on a tree's roots before its leaves.

This method ensures a solid understanding, making it easier to connect new concepts.

In my workshops, I apply this foundational knowledge spontaneously, tackling real-time challenges. This approach has also helped me quickly grasp new tools like generative AI, where understanding the basics significantly shortens the learning curve.

What should the typical working day of an executive look like?

An executive's day should primarily focus on people.

Understanding and navigating human interactions are crucial, as we are inherently social beings. Skills like emotional intelligence, empathy, conflict resolution, and providing feedback are vital.

Leadership isn't just about being on the "fireground" (day-to-day tasks) but also spending time in the "firehouse," where learning, growth, networking, strategizing, and focusing on the company's vision, mission, and values occur.

Prioritizing people is akin to being in the firehouse, emphasizing the development of the organization and its members over routine tasks.

Leadership qualities can be learned and developed over time.

While some individuals may naturally find it easier to connect with others on a one-on-one basis, developing deeper leadership skills requires dedication.

Unlike hard skills that can be directly applied after learning, soft skills necessitate continuous practice to master. Anyone willing to improve and commit to the process can certainly develop these leadership qualities.

What are the most common challenges shared by leaders you've worked with?

Leaders often excel in many areas while lacking in some, notably in "people skills."

This gap can stem from not prioritizing these skills, not recognizing their value, or simply not being adept in this area. However, as the work environment evolves, with more options available for employees, being proficient in emotional intelligence, empathy, and conflict resolution is becoming increasingly crucial.

Leaders must adapt to become servant leaders to thrive in today's world.

Servant leadership is misunderstood by some as being subordinate to everyone, which is not the case. It involves genuinely caring about people by providing them with the tools, resources, and opportunities to empower themselves and become the best versions of themselves.

Developing servant leadership skills starts with self-awareness and managing oneself, the foundational pillars of emotional intelligence. It involves continuous learning through books, courses, and observation.

Trust, vulnerability, and the willingness to be the first to act are key.

Understanding and applying the concept of love languages in the workplace can also significantly enhance how you connect with and motivate your team.

Enabling employees to become their best selves may take longer, but it ultimately benefits the company the most. A team of empowered individuals, who are well-matched to their roles and the company culture, will drive success.

Effective recruitment, onboarding, and continuous development are key in this case — When leaders genuinely care and invest in their people, the organization thrives as a whole.

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