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Ep. 323 Innovation in Healthcare with Bardavon Health Innovations CEO Matt Condon

Matt Condon is the CEO of Bardavon Health Innovations, a company to provide innovative, clinically-based solutions to enable employers to identify and connect with the best medical practices in their marketplace through a proprietary cloud-based clinical intelligence system.  Bardavon has a mission to change healthcare with data, transparency, innovation, and integrity.  They have grown from about 30 to 170 associates in the last two years.

Bardavon Health Innovations is dynamically disrupting the healthcare industry by transforming the way Patients, Providers, and Payors interact with each other in the Workers’ Compensation marketplace.

As the leading national specialty PT/OT network, Bardavon’s mission is to improve the quality of healthcare by creating an ethos of transparency that revolutionizes the continuum of care by way of its innovative proprietary cloud-based software bNOTES®.

Learn more about Matt Condon and Bardavon Health Innovations:

Meet Matt Condon & Bardavon Health Innovations

Joel Goldberg: Matt, thanks for joining me and I sat in your office two years ago just to meet you, we’d been introduced and there’s a lot that has changed at Bardavon since then. So tell me about how the last couple of years… We’ll talk about what your company does and all of that in a bit, but how much things have changed here at your company?

Matt Condon: Yeah, the last two years I would say here at Bardavon, we’ve probably grown from 30, 35 associates to a 100 and almost 70 today. And I think it’s been a journey that we’ve all walked together here as we’ve added more people become a parade I guess, the journey has become a parade in a really beautiful sense because each and every person that we’ve brought on have added to our ability to impact a national marketplace from right here in Kansas City, and so we’re really proud of that. There’s been fits and starts and bumps and bruises along the way, you learn. But there’s no way for me to look back on the last two years or really for me the last, almost two decades here in the city and not think how fortunate and thankful I am for the people on the experiences I’ve had, for sure.

Joel Goldberg: I love asking people what they wake up every day being motivated to do? What’s your why? What gets you out of bed? You’re tackling major, major problems here. What gets you up every day?

Matt Condon: I think the reality that all of us are being touched by health care in such an intimate way. So if you look at even our Bardavon logo there’s a corn stock there is, a kind of little subtle reference to my roots as I were a farm kid. And really my part of the influence of me in transitioning from my first company or seed to Bardavon was to have a national presence and national impact on healthcare. Part of that was my journey with my own father. Who’s now passed away almost five years ago now, and seeing the way that a tough, hardworking, blue-collar guy experienced, navigated and felt his healthcare experience went, I want to have an impact on that. And so when I wake up every morning and make a decision to go to work and sacrifice time with my family and my wife, it’s meaningful because I think what we’re doing will, in turn, impact the way my children hopefully experience healthcare, and I’m proud of that. It’s exciting and it’s motivating.

Joel Goldberg: So tell us about Bardavon, how it started, what you’re trying to do, how far you have to go.

Matt Condon: So my first experience coming out of grad school in law school, I started a company here in Kansas City called ARC, it was a regional local play. And we opened up clinics that we marketed to employers and part of our value proposition was this data collection tool. We collected data in a unique way and we presented it back to employers so that they knew which doctors that they were choosing for their worker’s compensation care healed their employees best. We weren’t as concerned about the gross charges and the discounts and all the things that confuses about healthcare. We created a way to prove which doctors were healing their patients most efficiently and effectively. And that allowed us to grow really big in Kansas City. But it also… We weren’t able to scale that throughout the country and so in 2013, I sold that company to U.S. Physical Therapy, but we took that root system out which was the documentation system.

Matt Condon: And now today, Bardavon is present in 47 states around the country. We partner with many of the largest employers in the country and we help them navigate which doctors they send their injured employees or associates to when they’re hurt on the job. And for me it’s meaningful, it’s not a really sexy part of healthcare. It’s a lot of blue-collar workers but that’s more meaningful to me because those men and women build our buildings, build our roads, fight our fires, protect our people, they deserve respect, they deserve really good healthcare. And we’ve been able to create an environment where like no other space of healthcare. We can help them get to the best doctors most efficiently and effectively in almost every state around this country. We do that but we’ve deployed now our cloud-based EMR on the country and that just has never been done before.

Matt Condon: So for Walmart and Lowes, the companies we work with when they have injured employees today, regardless of where they are getting treated for care, they’re documenting on Bardavon’s platform. I love it, honestly know a lot of people… Maybe sounds cliche, I love what I do, I love the people I do it with and I’m more excited every day about what we can do.

Setting People at Ease when talking about Worker’s Compensation

Joel Goldberg: You talk about those people at the Walmart at the Lowes working hard to put food on the table every single day that are oftentimes forgotten, underserved, when you see those results how gratifying is it?

Matt Condon: It’s the best. It actually is one of the few win, win, wins in business and in certainly in healthcare. By treating that patient with respect the very moment they are injured by talking to them in plain language, they’re worried about making enough money to support their families and their kids and their wives no their husbands. By talking to them in plain language that this is what happened to you. You’re going to be okay, we’re going to get you to great providers. And it keeps them from worrying about hiring a lawyer. It keeps them from having this animosity with their employer and the provider, the doctor now he gets a patient that knows what’s going on, is excited and interested and motivated to get back to work. It creates a really unique environment that is honestly… I’m kind of probably pollyannish about it but I love it. It’s really a special opportunity and the evolution of meaningful technology and the implementation of that at the provider level in a way that’s meaningful for them is what’s allowed that. Technology’s catching up to the importance of really quality patient experience in healthcare.

Joel Goldberg: How much or maybe there isn’t, I don’t know. How much of a fight is there… I know that in the grander scheme of healthcare there are a lot of people that are getting rich the way it is and so to try to change that is no easy task. And that’s true in so many facets in life. While it’s always been this way and there are a lot of people up at the top that are getting really rich and they’ve got a lot of powerful people and politicians and lobbyists and all of that. They’re going to do everything they can to make sure that it stays that way. How much pushback have you had with what you’re doing?

Matt Condon: A ton, but I also… I’m probably everyday more and more excited or encouraged by the inevitability that we will improve our healthcare environment. It’s not great right now, there is this massive archaic infrastructure that is built upon confusing the patient nobody understands where EOB is, they don’t understand how the financial system works within healthcare. And so we all feel a little bit overwhelmed by that but that is going to change technology is… We digitized the healthcare world back in the late 90s and early 2000s now we are using that same technology to actually improve the experience and to dis-intermediate those that are not creating value.

Matt Condon: And so well it is frustrating because we know that our solution makes sense, we know that it creates value. There are these massive incumbent, archaic intermediaries that are pushing us a little bit, but they’re on the wrong side of that coin. The world will change, technology will continue to create a better environment for all of us. And so I think that’s encouraging. And I think that’s also why you’re seeing non-traditional players really start to come into the healthcare environment, the Amazons, the Walmarts, those kinds of companies are bringing that innovation to a space that’s sorely in need of it and they will change it, it’s coming.

Leaving College and entering the “Real World”

Joel Goldberg: I always like asking guests what they envisioned as a kid or getting out of college and I can’t imagine that you pictured it quite this way, a company of now 170 or so people and conquering the world’s problems. Maybe you did want to conquer the world’s problems but what did you want to do coming out of Iowa State?

Matt Condon: I wanted to get married to my wife-

Joel Goldberg: Good start.

Matt Condon: It was a good start-

Joel Goldberg: Who I believe if I remember correctly when we met, she’s the smarter one in the family, right?

Matt Condon: She’s way smarter. That’s a low bar though.

Joel Goldberg: I’m not just propping you up… With the molecular biology or something like that.

Matt Condon: Yeah, she was a… and I will say a valedictorian, she was great. It took her six years of me constantly asking her to date me for her to finally acquiesce but yeah, that was probably smarter for her then those days not to agree. I think I’ve been really blessed through my career, I thought I was going to play in the NFL probably out of high school, which was a ridiculous thing. But that’s what you think coming out of small-town Iowa. Then you go to college and realize you’re not that good and that you better figure out a different thing for your life, a different path for your life. I’ve been really blessed to have people, guys I played with at Iowa State and then mentors throughout. I wouldn’t worked at the International Performance Institute in Florida, grad school and law school, I came here and there have been some really awesome people that helped me, that would sit down with me and be honest with me.

Matt Condon: And yet at the same time challenged me to think big. So I think it’s been a serpentine path for me. What I thought I was going to do. Like I said, I thought I’d play football, then I thought I’d coach, then I thought I’d get into the business of sports and then really fell in love with this interface between healthcare and sports and took me on this path and I’ve kind of followed, I think where my heart took me but also been open to adjusting my path as new opportunities eliminate themselves.

Joel Goldberg: I think for young people out there and startup entrepreneurs, people with those big dreams they would look at… If they didn’t know you or anyone in your shoes and say all that, “That’s the guy up at the top of the food chain. That’s the guy running the big company.” And yet you were them. And I’m guessing knowing you a little bit but you still have that same spirit, that entrepreneurial spirit. I want you to talk about that a little bit and just that feeling of starting something new because you’ve been in those shoes before.

Matt Condon: Yeah, I’d say this a lot Toby, Rush and I, always have this argument about who came up with this story. I think it was me and he thinks it was him growing up on a farm. I do believe that’s the pure form of entrepreneurship, right? You plant a crop, you hope and pray for enough sun and rain. You, harvest that crop, you cry or celebrate for a day and then you get up the next day and you do it again. And that is the purest microcosm or a short explanation of what entrepreneurship is. Because it’s constantly getting your nose bloodied and getting back up and getting better and then getting your nose bloodied by a bigger guy and then getting back up. And I think actually that’s one of my talents and I think I probably derive that by being not really that good at anything but willing to just keep grinding and working when other people would quit.

Matt Condon: That intensity is something that is one of my strengths for sure. And being blessed by being not great at everything much, so I’ve always had to work harder than others did to succeed and as you go through and starting ARC and grew it and we sold it and that was great experience. And now starting Bardavon and it’s growing so fast, I love the grind. Some people are going to be better… the bigger company. I actually know that my strength and where I’m really good is at the grind and getting up a little bit earlier than the guy next door to me and working a little bit later than the person next door to me that’s a meaningful piece of who I am. They’ll probably get to a stage of this company where they need a different kind of executive and I’ll be open to that if that’s right, when and if that happens.

Joel Goldberg: I think that there are those that love the grind and those that don’t, and I can relate to what you’re saying, I know you were a much better athlete than I was. I was never… You played college ball, I just talked about it but I don’t know where… I mean I know where it came from and I wasn’t a farm kid. I lived a pretty nice middle class, suburban life growing up. What I did see every day was my parents getting up at the crack of dawn and hopping on the train in Chicago and going to their jobs and they were jobs in an office and that type of thing.

Joel Goldberg: But every day, every day gone before I was leaving for school grinding, I didn’t know any other way. And then working in a restaurant in high school and seeing a lot of the guys that were working there that were providing for extended families that were in from Mexico or wherever it was and just working and working and working. I didn’t know any other way but it’s an advantage now, because I feel maybe not everybody has that wants to do whatever it is. But I think you can out work people, I think that’s something that everybody can do.

Matt Condon: What I’ve learned is I’ve got to balance that. You’ve got to provide for your family… You’ve got to like, time. I’m not talking about like financial stuff, you’ve got to be there for your family. There have been moments you’re up early in the morning before you think anybody else has and you take a little bit of joy in the fact of thinking, Hey, my competitors aren’t doing this right now. I’m working when they’re not. I’m getting ahead right now when they’re not but that can become obsessive to the point where you’ve got to also push back and think, okay, now it’s time for me to shut this work down and spend some time with my daughters or my son and be with them. And that to me has been… The grind came naturally, the balance didn’t. I had to learn that and go through that experience in my life and I’m certainly not perfect, I’m just better now. I haven’t done it for a couple of decades.

Joel Goldberg: I think you can do both once you find that balance, I’m still looking for it.

Matt Condon: Totally, me too.

Joel Goldberg: I definitely find myself making decisions of saying no because it’s going to take away from family. Of course your kids, I think we’re a little bit younger than mine but then you think you haven’t figured it out and you realize that you put everything off so you can get home. And the kids are like, “Yeah, we’ve got plans tonight sorry, bye, bye.” Teenagers, so still balance. I picked that there’s something and I actually spoke to my son’s hockey team last time. They wanted me to come in and just talk a little bit about teamwork and all of that and it was awesome and the kids were great, but I said to them, and this was the message I could give them.

Joel Goldberg: I said… And I’ve shared the story in the podcast before, that when I was getting rejected left and right in 1994 for every TV job, and then there was really no internet, no YouTube links. You had to physically mail a tape, and I finally got the last rejection letter from a TV station in Montana and I said, either I’m never going to realize my dream or I’m going to need to do something different. And I started cold calling TV stations. I’m not a cold calling type and basically dropped the whole, “I’m going to be passing through Terre Haute next week.” Which wasn’t true, “Can I come in and shake your hand and say hi?” I ended up doing probably 25, 28 visits around the country. My message to the kids was, what are you doing in getting on the ice or practicing or in the weight room, what are you doing that’s more than someone else because you can control it, right? And that is entrepreneurship. That is business.

Matt Condon: That’s it, yeah. And I think that’s the cliche that always carries over to sports, right? I mean, you see it and even… I always think about going through my career and I played with great athletes at Iowa State, maybe the biggest impact on my life since then though retrospectively is thinking about I had the chance to coach Cael Sanderson, who came on in five times state champion in high school, four-time national championship in college and an Olympic gold medalist. And seeing a guy that was so incredibly naturally gifted but would still grind harder than everybody at the details. Was my first experience of seeing as an exceptionally elite person at something. And what made him transcend being really good to being iconic was that he had the grind of somebody that didn’t have that talent. I think that carries over into the business as well, you see really talented people that achieved success and then you see these really rare ones that have a lot of talent but also have that grind that comes with it and that work ethic, those are the ones that changed the world.

Creating Culture at Bardavon Health Innovations

Joel Goldberg: Well, there’s something I’m thinking about here and when you talk about being the first to get up or doing more than everyone else. That’s Alex Gordon with the Royals, and he’s not a big vocal guy. He is more so than people think but it’s definitely behind the scenes and he’s very comfortable in a leadership role but the stories… And he’s not the only one around sports but of faking I’m going to get to spring training so-and-so morning first and realizing that he was already in the weight room, that type of stuff. And so if you have that mentality back from your days as a farm kid and then as a football player and especially now taking on hiring more employees, 170 or so people when you’re setting that example at the top. What does that do for the culture here?

Matt Condon: I think it’s really important and I think trying to balance that with, “Hey, we’re bringing you in as part of this family here at Bardavon, we want you to take care of your family so get that.” I mean, I’m honest with them about my own struggles with that and so sharing, they may have some advice for me about how they’re navigating it but what’s we’re fortunate is this mission and vision about changing healthcare. Everybody is super motivated, it’s hard not to be motivated by about that. If you can change healthcare I don’t have to really rah, rah, the troops. We’re on this journey together, I accompany them on this path.

Matt Condon: We’re all walking together, we’re helping each other, we’re challenging each other. We have exceptionally high expectations of each other along the way that we don’t apologize about. I want the best here. I don’t want the best people, but I also want the best professionals because to do what we’re trying to do takes the best. And so it’s a really interesting leadership position when you’ve got 170 people that challenge me, I challenge them. We challenge each other about balancing things but we’re all 110% on the mission and vision. And so that becomes a really interesting leadership position.

Joel Goldberg: Well, you know what’s interesting to me is you’re all in on this, your people, your mission solving the world’s healthcare problems or at least being a big contributor to that, but then I listened to you on our mutual friend’s podcast, Matt DeCoursey, Matt Watson. Which was much more fun than what you and I are doing by the way, because that’s just the course he’s mind going off on tangents. Hilarious, it was great. The three Matts, but I was listening to that, and you said something that really struck me and I think it aligns with what you’re doing here. It aligns with having been the President of the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, your involvement with the Kauffman Foundation. You said something about how important guys like them are and other startups and entrepreneurs too. I’m paraphrasing here, but almost to the ecosystem of everything that is going on. So for you… And when I think about culture I learned this from Dayton Moore, the Royals general manager. It’s big it’s not just your people, it’s not just your employees, it’s everything surrounding it. So how important is all of that Kansas City entrepreneurship to you?

Matt Condon: On the hierarchy of what’s important to me it’s up there, family and other things but it’s there. It is absolutely critical, you can’t just have a successful company without having a successful ecosystem around you, you cannot. And so as I think about where you dedicate your time and love and resources and people and your efforts. There’s a part of it where I’d love to stay home with my family at the time, but I want to build a company that change all these healthcare? So I spend a lot of time here. You can’t build a company that changes healthcare out of Kansas City without having great universities, the Corsi and Watson and other entrepreneurs around that we share information on other resources, Maria Meyer and Darcy Howe that are doing things for the families of entrepreneurs and building that ecosystem. Iconic people that have come before us, the cliff Elli’Is, the Terry Don’s that will sit over a cup of coffee and give advice about personal and professional.

Matt Condon: All of it is important. And my position right now personally is to play this role. But that will evolve, I hope. And someday maybe I’ll be mentoring those that come after me and how they build successful companies around here. And I’m cognizant of all those responsibilities and how they change and evolve over time. It’s important for me to play my role right now but be open to the next step along the way. And I think you do that by taking as many opportunities to learn as possible. And it’s not always, it is from the Terry Don’s, it is from the cliff Ellis. It’s from the Joel Goldberg’s and I get to visit with you about stuff. It is from… You mentioned Alex Gordon, I’ve got to go hunting with Alex Gordon on a charity trip. Man, that had to be six years ago, he and Lucco Jaber.

Matt Condon: I was amazed at their attention to detail about everything baseball. I think Alex had to eat two pounds of beef turkey that week, he didn’t eat anything bad, right. He ate perfectly, we were in North Dakota. No one would’ve saw him, he didn’t eat a cab I don’t think that whole three days-

Joel Goldberg: spent a bunch of years.

Matt Condon: They are on their craft at all times, when you’re watching them, when they’re not watching them. And those are the things that are important. And so in this community the ability to be exposed to great leaders and to learn from them at all times is what makes us a beautiful city. And it makes it a city that if you’re investing, this would be a city you’d invest in right now if there was an opportunity to do that.

Kansas City Business and Entrepreneur Community

Joel Goldberg: So interesting the way you describe it because the… As I started my speaking business and in this podcast, the bulk of what I did over the first couple of years, even now three years or so in. It’s just meet with people. Try and learn from them, try to learn about them, just learn. I’ll say, when I go sit down with somebody I hope that I could pass something on or share something that adds value to them. And I don’t know what I’m going to get back but I’m going to learn something and that makes me hopefully better. And so this is a curiosity.

Matt Condon: I would say that in and of itself is an asset to this community that I would thank you, and I’m not trying to kiss up to you right now but there are people… There is a humility and an intelligence required to listen really well and I’m trying to go on that journey myself. You though are exceptional at father current. There are some other people I think about are rockers that are exceptional listeners and storytellers and that’s really important to this community as well. And I think there are others but all of that together makes it really, really interesting place.

Joel Goldberg: Well I think it’s all truly valuable in terms of the greater good if I’m listening or that just might be telling somebody’s story and passing it on, if you’re sharing it with others. That’s hopefully what I get a chance to do with this podcast is, because if somebody is listening right now and they could hear a little bit about Matt Condon’s journey and not just, “Hey, here’s how to build a business.” But everything else that matters. I don’t think people think, because you get so caught up in what’s going on day to day and when you start thinking about the greater good.

Joel Goldberg: I hope that doesn’t sound cheesy, but I don’t mean that in like a charitable way, we all understand that part of it but just when you can contribute in some kind of way it really matters. I know your involvement with the Kauffman Foundation and a couple months ago or so I had Barnett Helzberg on, and it was Barnett and Danny O’Neil together which is another great self strategic on my part because I knew that… I mean not that Barnett needs any help at all but you put the two of them together and he’s just like, “Well, let me just sit next to you guys and listen.”

Matt Condon: It’s gasoline and a match.

Joel Goldberg: Is phenomenal. But Barnett was… He was actually talking about everything that he had learned from you and Kaufman. Really, he was saying that you and Kaufman would love the higher… We don’t need to get into all this I know you agree with it of, or not the higher but John Sherman buying the Royals and just how smooth that’ll have gone from one family from the Kaufman’s to the Glasses to the Shermans that it’s perfect for Kansas City. But you now being so involved with the Kaufman Foundation, understand the spirit of all of this. What does it mean to be on the board, to be involved with the Kauffman Foundation?

Matt Condon: I feel so fortunate to be there at the camp when this happened and literally there with John when that was happening, six months ago and then we really celebrate at this last board meeting. It was just a really neat perspective, right. To have… And I think the history of Mr. Kauffman and his impact on the city and the Royals being such a fundamental part of his legacy here, but also the way that he ran that in a way he expected excellence from everyone. He, did the little stuff, he grinded, it was part of who he was. And that then manifested in the success of the Royals during his tenure, John Sherman, now taking over his role. I really feel like that speaks to the sense of the entrepreneurs in our community. Belief in their responsibility to give back.

Matt Condon: John could have done whatever you wanted, right? But he loves baseball and he wanted to further the legacy of Kansas City people owning that organization. And giving back to our city. And so in many ways that ownership group and there are others, right? Of that ownership group taking on the responsibility for the Royals, it was a challenge to all the rest of us, right? We also in our own ways have a responsibility to give back to the city and to do what we can to make it a world class city. And so, certainly they’re taking on that responsibility and I’m so excited about it but it was a challenge all of us to stop whining about our own responsibilities to give back and to get out of our own head about focusing just on our businesses and just on our families. We have a bigger responsibility and John and that ownership groups, this step is a challenge to us that we better respond to or else be quiet.

Developing Capital for Business

Joel Goldberg: Well said. I want to ask you a couple more things about Bardavon. First off… And you’ve talked about the grind and the spirit of entrepreneurship. When you raise $40 million in capital, what kind of skill did that take for you? I’m sure it’s something you’re much more comfortable with today than you were 10 years ago. What are the secrets?

Matt Condon: It’s not a different path than everything else. You got to grind it. You’ve got to develop the relationships. You got to develop relationships well before you’re going to be trying to raise capital. You’ve got to expose yourself, get in front of people, make the extra call, make the extra trip and get there. But also I think I’ve talked about this before, raising capital is not the moment you spike the football. That is the whistle where the game starts. And those that we have raised capital from in the past did so with the belief that we would use those funds judiciously to change healthcare. So when the checks come in, that’s when the work starts. That’s not our time to crack a beer and spike football. That’s our time to put our nose down and get to work.

Matt Condon: And so each and every step that we’ve gone maybe not locally but nationally there’s been these celebrations, this company raised X amount of dollars, this company raised Y amount of dollars. I think fundamentally it’s part of the Midwest Culture that we have is that is not the time to celebrate. That’s the time to get to work. And so we’ve tried to live that and everything that we’ve done and we’ve been very fortunate to have raised a significant amount of capital here. But it’s only because the day after we raised that capital, we got to work and make good use of it. And so I think that’s the real secret. The first raise is tough in its own ways. The second rais is a reflection on how well you did in the first time and the third and the fourth as you do that.

Matt Condon: And so I think I’m proud of the fact that we’ve known when to celebrate and we’ve known when to work and I think that’s part of why we’ve been able to raise capital and the way we have.

Joel Goldberg: Do you enjoy that element of it or no?

Matt Condon: I enjoyed the storytelling about the mission and vision of what we’re doing. I enjoy telling others about, “Yeah, you’re damn right, this Kansas City company is going to change healthcare and so go ahead and if you want to be a part of that and be a part of that.” I don’t enjoy the negotiating all the elements at the end, and how each element corresponds. That to me gets to be distracting and thankfully I’ve got other people here that love that part of the negotiation piece and so they run it for us. I like telling the story about what we’re going to do. I love getting people excited about what we’re going to do and I like meeting people. So that part of like just there are parts of it I don’t.

Baseball Themed Questions

Joel Goldberg: Let’s get to the baseball-themed questions. First one is professionally speaking throughout this long journey, whether it’s a part of one or not, what’s the biggest home run you’ve hit?

Matt Condon: People. And I hope that doesn’t sound cliche but we have built a team around here that we balance each other. There’s some things I’m good at, there some things that I’m not good at. Oftentimes those that we’ve brought in to our leadership team are really good at the self I’m bad at. And so I’m proud of that understanding who I am and who I’m not, I’m proud of. But we have been able to bring in world-class talent to this Kansas City company and I’m proud of that and we continue to do so. Really it’s only accelerating now we’re able to bring in people that have done exceptional things in other parts of the country that are now moving into Kansas City to be part of this story and we’ve done exceptionally well on the people game.

Joel Goldberg: How about a swing and a miss and what you learned from it?

Matt Condon: I think the swing and the miss for me when I think about it is, in 2013 we had, had a successful exit. I probably had some hubris there that I thought, well, I’m just good at whatever I do and I want to start my next thing and it’s going to be easier. And I had to be humbled. I needed to be humbled and I was, and realized that I need help and I need to ask people for help. And what I was so fortunate about is how many people respond to that in meaningful ways, really great mentors and leaders. I remember… I’m so embarrassed to say this, I remember having a conversation with somebody where I said, “I think mentorships kind of overrated.” And now the stupidity of that comment… My brain is marinating in how ridiculous that comment was when I said it-

Joel Goldberg: Caught me off guard to hear you say that because I know you know better than that.

Matt Condon: Yeah. I felt like… It wasn’t that I didn’t think there were people that had things to teach me, I just thought, man, I just need to do what I do and stop the noise and how untrue that is. The benefit of exposing yourself to others and asking them questions and getting their advice and getting their input and getting their perspective to me now is such a fundamental part of what I think has led to the success of this organization for that matter. And so I’ve evolved in that way. But I had to go through some tough moments, I think because of my unwillingness to ask people for help. And I’m over that now. I’ll ask you for help when this thing’s over I’m sure.

Joel Goldberg: I don’t know, I’m not going to solve anything that’s on a whiteboard we’ll put it that way. But no, the strong message is there we could all help each other. And I love the swing and miss question, especially when someone’s willing to be vulnerable. You were there because if you learn from it, others can learn from it too. But my favorite question is the small ball question, because the answers are across the board, generally people’s successes are their successes, their failure… Those fall in line. But small ball to me can be anything. So what are the singles, the bunts, the sacrifices in your world at Bardavon.

Matt Condon: They are the details, I’ll give you another example. We just changed our listserv here from no longer saying Bardavon employees. It says Bardavon associates. We will not refer to each other as employees here we are associates and we are colleagues. And that kind of nomenclature, that language you use around each other, that respect that you use around each other is super important to me and to us. And I think that is seen as small ball stuff but is a fundamental part of who we are as a culture. We just had our holiday party and then we did it at my house, so we’d bust everybody to my house. Being vulnerable, letting people into your house. Many people see who you are, letting them see your dogs and your kids run around your house is in some ways small ball. But that is the important stuff that defines organizational excellence.

Matt Condon: And being willing to place the same level of intensity on your 2020 strategic plans and your financing goals with how you talk to each other at the workplace is the small ball stuff that I think in many ways is often lost, but incredibly important. Not just to achieving what you’re trying to achieve but doing it in the way that you’re proud of. I’m not comfortable changing healthcare if we have to burn a bunch of bridges and treat each other poorly along the way. And I don’t believe that it’s binary, I think that you can have exceptionally successful companies and be good to each other and create a great culture at the very same time. And I think anybody who tells me different is intellectually lazy, I believe and I refuse to accept that. And so I think those kind of moments of thoughtful intensity and commitment to that intensity and unwilling to give up on it are the small ball things that make me love come to work.

Joel Goldberg: I liked the expression of small ball, other than the fact that it’s not small.

Matt Condon: It’s not small, yeah.

Joel Goldberg: And maybe that’s why I like to talk about it and it’s just that background of having watched the Royals, and I tie everything back to sports but they didn’t win with all the home runs. They were able to do it and they do need to find a competitive advantage with the type of people they bring in and do it a little bit differently than ever, and they have.

Matt Condon: And they got the trophy.

Joel Goldberg: And they got the trophy. They did-

Matt Condon: Scoreboard.

Joel Goldberg: They may… Scoreboard, right. All right, four final questions as we round the bases and these could be a little bit all over the place, but we’ll start with a question that… I don’t do a lot of sports on this podcast but I ask any guests that has a sports background some version of this question. So you’re going to get it. What was the football scouting report… I know you’re going to be humble but what was the football scouting report of Matt Condon and Iowa State or leaving high school to go to Iowa State

Matt Condon: Smart on the field. I was going to work hard I’ll show up for practice every day. I’ll work hard in the weight room and the intelligence and the work ethic will partly make up for average athleticism.

Joel Goldberg: You played what position?

Matt Condon: Safety.

Joel Goldberg: Okay, that’s what I thought. Hard hitter?

Matt Condon: Hard hitter, average speed. Not great I mean, but not slow. Hard hitter but I would watch film just religiously and would often guess routes and be able to guess right, which allowed me to have a slower first step but be in the right space anyway.

Joel Goldberg: Second question is, we run the basis a lot of young entrepreneurs out there, they might not even be young but starting something… could be any age really. What’s your advice for someone that’s just starting?

Matt Condon: Ask for help and put yourself… And because people will off… We’ll give it here. Ask for help, ask for perspective but also you’re going to be told this probably won’t work and don’t believe that either. I mean you’ve got to be… Every entrepreneurial journey starts with a hope wing and a prayer and you just know that but many of them end up with success. So listen to people, listen to their… If they have negative comments, take that in don’t ignore it but don’t lose sight of the fact that amazing things can and will happen out of the city and you can do it too.

Joel Goldberg: Third question as we round the bases, if I remember correctly, four kids?

Matt Condon: Four kids. Yep.

Joel Goldberg: So you’re busy, wife’s busy? You’re figuring out that balance, what’s your favorite thing, it might be different for each kid but what’s your favorite thing when you get away to do with the kids and the family?

Matt Condon: So my 14 year old daughter is this amazing young woman who’s grown up and our conversations are now more about life and stuff that… So that interaction with her we try to spend time every other Saturday just her and I. So for her it’s really visiting and me learning from her about the way the world looks to a 14 year old today is fascinating. My 12 year old has this beautiful kind of bubbly energy, so she’s always positive and loves her sports. So we talk a lot about sports. My nine year old is a fascinating, quieter child we spent a lot of time just snuggling on the couch. She’s got a snuggler dad. My last one is a boy whose now at this moment in his life in love with all things sports. And so if there’s a game on, we’ll sit around and he’ll ask me about how it works. And so it honestly, I guess if you bring that all down it is the conversations and visiting with them about who they are and the way they see the world are. It’s fascinating to me right now.

Joel Goldberg: My last question the walk-off rounding the bases, a lot of times I’ll ask about where you want to see a company go. We talked a lot about that I want to get back to the culture piece because I am just completely mesmerized by organizations that make culture such a priority that, that’s obviously the case here. I was talking to someone earlier, Barbara here, she was telling me about Bard events. You guys have… It seems to me like so many things going on very deliberately to try to bring people together. You talks about the party at your house and that’s no easy task when that number now is up to 170 which was two years ago at what?

Matt Condon: 30, 40, I don’t know.

Joel Goldberg: I mean in the last time I was here two years ago. You’ve got five times the amount of employees. So tell me about things like Bard events and how you’re trying to get everyone on the same page with so many new faces.

Matt Condon: So the tagline at Bardavon is a Shakespeare quote. So Bardavon is Bard of Avon is where the etymology comes out of but and the tagline is in yet words are not deeds. Companies can talk about culture all they want, they got to do stuff and you’ve got to be thoughtful and intentional about creating a calendar of opportunities for people to be with one another. And you’ve got to think about those things that you’re saying and the way that you’re saying it to make sure that those efforts resonate. And so the Bard events is kind of the way that we schedule those opportunities. I hope that they feel very natural and conversational and recreational but the reality of it is, we know that we’ve got a plan in January for all those… We’ve got a plan for that. We’ve got to put deeds to those words and really create effort around. And in so doing, it literally becomes one of our competitive advantages to everybody we compete with. It feels good, it feels right but make no mistake, it makes us more productive. It makes us more intense in our pursuit of the mission and vision.

Matt Condon: It is part of the reason why this company has had as much success as it has and so these people that sit outside of the store they can work anywhere. They’re freaks, they’re coveted, they’re recruited by all of our competitors. They’re the best of the best. They choose to work here because one of the things is that culture and that and that belief that we have to be good to each other and create an environment that honors that.

Joel Goldberg: Very powerful and has to be something that fills you with pride every day?

Matt Condon: It does. Yes.

Joel Goldberg: It’s awesome. Well, I appreciate you doing… If people want to find out more about Bardavon they can go to?

Matt Condon: Www.bardavon.com, email me mcondon@bardavon.com … stopover anytime.

Joel Goldberg: All right. Well, I appreciate it, great to catch up and thanks for all the insights. I learned from this, which I hope means that everybody listening will learn. That’s the whole point of all of it-

Matt Condon: I appreciate you. Thank you so much for what you’re doing.

Joel Goldberg: Thanks, man.

Matt Condon: I appreciate it.


Rounding the Bases with Joel Goldberg Podcast was created to share the stories of men and women in business and entrepreneurship that are both well knowing and or hidden gems. Joel believes that everyone has a story and their story matters which is why Joel is eager to connect with individuals that are bringing value to their community through innovation, leadership, entrepreneurial journeys, and developing company culture. If you would like to be a guest on Joel’s podcast please email us at joel@joelgoldbergmedia.com.

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