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Run the business your way

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Matt Smith’s secret weapon is talent. The Washington, D.C.-area advertising superstar says he buys experience slowly by focusing and investing only in top senior people. A few unorthodox ways he runs his business:

• He runs the place on feel. When you’ve got that much experience, you can wing it. “We’re run by emotion and by our gut rather than by a spreadsheet,” he says. “We’ll sit and make decisions in a meeting sometimes about where our numbers are, this is what we’re doing and it will be all gut, and then the accountants will all sit down and analyze things, and we’re usually within 1%.”

• He’s cheap on the trappings. The flip side of putting all his money in people is putting next to nothing in the creature comforts. “We keep our overhead extremely low,” he says. “We renovated the building ourselves. We rent it; we don’t own it. We do everything on the real low end. Like we do our presentations in chalk. We feel that what clients are buying are the brains.”

• He has a life. His work wins awards, but Smith also has a hobby, antique speedboats, and he was just named a “pillar of the community.”

— Adapted from “Working from the gut,” interview by Jennifer Nycz-Conner, Washington Business Journal,

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