Rewilding: Building Thriving Enterprises With Matt Pohl

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By rewilding your business, you can restore balance, reclaim lost elements, and thrive in harmony with your environment. In this episode, we have the privilege of sitting down with Matt Pohl, the principal of the Rewild Group. Today, Matt shares his personal experience and shows the remarkable potential of the methodology that led to a tenfold increase in his business value in just three years. He shares how these have shaped his unique approach to creating thriving and adaptive enterprises. Matt also introduces the concept of “rewilding” – identifying what is missing in an organization in order to restore balance. He shares how rewilding, among other strategies, can help build resilience and develop more value in a business. Don’t miss this chance to learn how to build resilient organizations that leave a lasting legacy.



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Rewilding: Building Thriving Enterprises With Matt Pohl

It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Matt Pohl. Matt is the Principal of the ReWild Group. He has spent nearly two decades as an entrepreneur and business owner and personally experienced the impact of the methodology when it helped his business value grow 10X in three years. Matt advises business owners on creating resilient organizations through leadership, infrastructure, strategy, and culture.

He brings a very rare level of hands-on experience in originative insight to the world of business growth, leadership, and management. He lives in Denver, Colorado, and enjoys hiking a 14er from time to time. For those who are not in the know, we're talking about 14,000-footer. These mountains in Colorado are fantastic. It is my absolute pleasure to welcome you to the show, Matt. I'm looking forward to our conversation.

Tony, I appreciate you having me on.

We're going to have a lot of fun. What we do on the show is sit by the virtual campfire, and tell stories, which is a nice visual to have. We share these stories of people's journeys through life and how they get to where they're making an impact in the world, which we truly are. I want to understand the moments that have revealed who you are. We'll do that through flashpoints or these points in your journey that ignited your gifts into the world. Sounds good?

That sounds great.

I'll turn it over to you, and you can start wherever you like. We'll pause along the way and see what themes are showing up. Take it away.

My journey starts in a small town in Iowa called Burlington on the Mississippi River. That was my formative years, all the way through high school. Part of the experience of my childhood was that my parents owned a small business. That's all I knew from all my growing-up years. Unfortunately, during the late-'70s and early-'80s, the economy was in a bad place. If you recall, there was high inflation and high-interest rates. It was tough times. On top of that, in the Midwest, there were droughts and some challenges there.

Being in that location, the economics would no longer support my dad's business. When I was in ninth grade, my parents came to me and said, “We're going to have to close our business.” They literally went down and turned the keys into the landlord and walked away from around 25 years that my dad had his business at that point. That was all he knew. Like a lot of men, our work becomes a big part of who we are. I didn't realize it then. I was too young to understand what was going on.

He never recovered from that. He was an interior designer. He was incredibly artistic and talented. I don't know that he was a great business owner. He never recovered until he passed away a number of years ago. He worked for other people, and it was never the same for him. That was a big impact on me during that formative period of my life.

It's interesting that you share that because you see that early period. You see the struggle and these moments of how people overcome these big challenges. You can see this as the seed of what you end up doing long term.

It definitely is. I started off my career coming out of college. I worked in three different environments. My first was at the Federal Reserve Bank. It’s this quasi-governmental environment. I had some great mentors there. I left that to go to Arthur Anderson, which was one of the largest consulting accounting firms in the world at that time. It was very prestigious and hard-charging. You had to throw everything you had at that opportunity.

I left that and went to a large company called Corporate Express. At that time, it was one of the top 4 or 5 office product companies. They were changing the way that businesses ordered office products. It was innovative for a corporate environment, with very high-quality people and high talent. I was working in a data-oriented department there and led the business intelligence team. Those three are different but had some large sizes to them and big numbers of people.

I left that because what was starting during those years was this need to be myself. I guess I got it from my dad. That's what I attributed it to. It’s to own something where I wasn't just one person in a large organization. What it came down to was being willing to say, “Let the market value me. Let the market put the price on the value that I delivered to it, as opposed to just getting a paycheck.” When you talked about flashpoints, this was a key pivot in my life to walk away from a good job and high income and say, "I'm going to go do my own thing, and I'll succeed or fail based on my abilities."

A key pivot in life could be to walk away from a good job with a high income and say, “Okay, I'm going to go do my own thing, and I'll succeed or fail based on my abilities.”

This is great that you’ve shared this because there's something about that. It's interesting because, at first, you think, "I've got this comfortable position. I've got this opportunity to be within this world of corporate, but I want to know who I really am and what I'm worth.” It's extremely scary knowing it firsthand. It’s putting yourself out there and having that moment of, “What am I really worth to the outside world?” Having that ability to see how you can contribute and add value and people seeing that as value is an inflection point.

That's a good point. It was an inflection point. To make things even scarier, I can't say that if somebody would look it from the outside that they would say, “That was a brilliant idea.” They would probably say, “You're being crazy.” At that point, we had four small children. Our youngest was about ready to go into kindergarten. My wife was wanting to get back into the marketplace after having spent over a decade at home and raising children. That was part of the impetus to do something on my own and to have her join in. I started my first business at 34 or 35. My wife was working with me full-time. That brings its own challenges and rewards. We've stayed married and have been business partners going on for twenty years now.

What’s interesting is you are business partners too. That's not something you often hear. Sometimes I've heard that on the show, but it's not an easy road to be able to work together because it's a lot of face time and a lot of arguments. Tell me about the biggest challenges you faced working together.

With Dawn re-entering the workforce, she had had her own success before we started the family. We’re pretty different personality-wise. We see things differently and approach things quite differently. Being able to compartmentalize our relationship as husband and wife and as business partners was the hardest thing because you don't ever get away from work. It's 24 hours a day and seven days a week, as it is being married and being parents of small children on top of that. It had its own stress.

All of that altogether made it challenging. I can't say we figured it out quickly. Over the years, we chipped away at that. We still drive each other nuts in different circumstances because we approach things differently, but we've at least gotten to a place where we know those differences. The key for us was getting to a place where we could appreciate the differences instead of seeing those differences as conflict all the time. A big turning point, especially for me, was understanding the strengths that my wife brought to the table and how that made us better as a team. It didn't happen overnight, but we finally got there and stayed there most of the time.

VCP 213 | Rewilding

I would love to hear what happens next. Here you are working in this business together. Was the business always the same, or did it take different forms and shapes?

There were two opportunities for me coming out of the corporate environment. They played off of two different experiences that I had gained. One was coming out of Corporate Express. I had been the Director of Business Intelligence. Building data warehouses and analytical capabilities was a skillset I developed there. My time at Arthur Andersen was different. It was data-oriented, but it was a niche area, which is litigation consulting. That is still data analysis, but it's focused on a business litigation environment.

Coming out of Corporate Express, I had two irons in the fire, whether data warehouse consulting or getting into this litigation, which took the form of class-action administration, which is not a well-understood thing. It's basically working with attorneys who are involved in class-action lawsuits and managing the logistics of getting notice and settlement benefits out to a group of people. It's administrative. It's paperwork intensive and data intensive.

Those were the two irons in the fire. What I realized after about a year is that one was leverageable and could grow into an organization, and the other one was me using my brain. I had a limit to how I could grow that. We decided to focus on the class-action business. That played to Dawn's strength as well. She's very operational in nature and very detail-oriented.

That's the horse we rode for fifteen years. We had tough years early on. We had some early success with some pullback, then some more success and some pullback. How I tell the stories is that we had two seasons of the business. The first twelve years were this up and down. We got to a certain level, and then we got stuck. We had hit a certain level of revenue. It was enough to make a good living. I would consider it a lifestyle business. It has supported us and our four kids. It was a good business. It was very profitable. We did a great job for our clients, but we had hit this plateau. We had grown to 10 or 12 people and back down to 6. That type of thing.

That was the experience of those first twelve years. It was in that twelfth year that we had a business broker come to us and say, “I got somebody who might be interested in your business. Let me value your business.” He went through that process and came back with a number. It was like, “Twelve years wasn't insignificant, but it was definitely not life-changing.” We said, “What are we doing wrong? Why is our business only worth this amount?”

That caused us that inflection point here. We said, “We can continue to do business as we have been for the last twelve years, and it's fine. We are making a good living.” We could say, “That's not sufficient. Let's do something different.” We came together and said, “We're going to be working this business for maybe another 10 to 15 years. Let's figure out how we run it so that it has transferable value to the next owner.” That set me off into this research of, “How do we go about doing this? What do we need to change?”

It was at that point that I stumbled onto a book called Navigating the Growth Curve. This book walked through this research that had been done in an interesting narrative format. It essentially said, “Businesses get stuck because the leaders don't understand that there are rules for growth, and those rules change as you go through these seven different stages.” It pointed out why we kept on going from stage one to stage two and then pulled it back to stage one. There were these rules that you had to follow if you wanted to get successfully through each of these stages. It's like, “I can connect the dots. I can see that we weren't in alignment with these rules. Let's try that. Let's get into alignment with the rules and see if we grow.”

VCP 213 | RewildingIn my research, I found out that the author of the book was living near me, here in Denver. We connected, and he did some coaching for about a year with me. The bottom line is we went from year-12 to three years later, we had tripled the business from a revenue standpoint. We had more than tripled the number of employees. We were between 30 and 35 at that point. We had grown through those last three years without any major hurdles that we couldn't get over, a few dead ends. We were following this methodology, and it was crazy how it pinpointed when things would change, what would change, and how we would need to adjust to meet the new rules.

In year-15, we were approached by one of our major competitors with an offer to buy the business. It turned out that the planet is all aligned. It was a great situation for us. We thought, “We might work another 5 or 10 years and not ever increase the value much more than what we're getting out of this offer,” and so we sold the business. We didn't plan it this way, but it so turned out that we had that valuation at year-12 and the valuation that we actually sold it for. There was a multiple of 10X between those three years of what our business was valued and what we actually sold it for.

Coming out of that, we were appreciative that we were in this unique situation. Even without it being in a unique situation, we could see that the value of the business had grown many multiples during those three years. While it wasn't everything, the missing ingredient was this methodology. That was the story of that core business then.

It's not just about the methodology. It's more than that. It's about the decision to follow a methodology. There are so many prescribed methods out there that we say, “That's nice.” You then try it out, but then you don't consistently follow it to completion. You often question, “What happened? Why can't we get the results that other people are getting?” It’s because you're not being consistent in following through.

What you demonstrated is this sense of realizing that you wanted something that you weren't getting. You came to that plateau moment. I always think about it in mountain analogies, too where you climb to a certain place, and then you say, “Do we like the view here? Maybe not. Maybe we want to go a little further. We want to see what else is possible.”

You reset your course, and you created this path that was even grander. In order to get to that next place, you needed to be consistent with the way that you were following that prescribed path. That's what made a big difference in getting to that 10X multiple. That's such an amazing story to get there.

We still think back to that and say, “How did this whole thing happen?” When you're in it, you don't feel like, “We're going to this thing, so it's going to be worse.” You don't think any of that. You're still focused on the day-to-day, but you start to see how things are changing. We went from 6 or 8 people up to 30. It was an amazing organization. I was so proud of the team we had put together and how they were bought in.

We were winning national awards. We had competitors that were at least 100 times as large as us. They would do these surveys of attorneys in these different marketplaces. We’re getting first place even though we were a 1% share of the market. We're beating out these companies that had many more customers, but ours were speaking out as being the top provider within the marketplace. We were so proud of that. The selling of a business is a pretty emotional thing. Going through that, I can't say it was thrilling. It's hard, but it was the right decision for us. We're so grateful that we were able to exit at that time in a successful manner.

It's a great story. Thank you for sharing that. The next question is going to be, what did you do next? I know that that's not the end of the story. It's a great chapter for what's next.

I was 50 when we exited the business. I'm a busy person. I'm a productive person. I like to get things done. If I'm not getting something done, I'm not happy. We stayed home for a little bit, and I was driving my wife nuts. She said, “You're going to have to do something.” I've cleaned the tile grout too many times. All these things that you should never have time to do, I was doing them.

It was at that point that I was reflecting on our experience. I said, “There are too many other business owners that were where we were in year-12. They hit a plateau and don't know what to do differently. They are stuck because they make enough money in their business or they can't work for somebody else, or whatever the reason.” There aren't a whole lot of options as a business owner that to go and close things up and do something new. That's very difficult to do, but you don't know what to do next.

The courageous decision we made was to say, "We're not going to be satisfied with where we are." We could have ridden that out for a number of years, still made a good living, and be satisfied with the status quo. The status quo can seem so attractive. It's our familiar friend. It's easier. Even though it's hard, it's still easier than trying something new. The idea was, “How can we go about taking what we've learned and sharing it?” It's like my one experience does not create insight for everybody else. That's one individual experience. Although positive, it's not sufficient in my mind.

The real courageous decision to make is to say you’re not going to be satisfied with where you are.

What we ended up doing is interacting with the inventor of this methodology. He had not been able to monetize it. He had some great ideas, but as an inventor, his mindset was more in that creation, as opposed to application. As a business owner, it had to be applicable for me to use it. That's a strength that I have.

We ended up acquiring his research and his IP, putting that into the ReWild Group, and taking a new spin on it, but benefiting from his research. Today, we're up to about 1,500 small, mid-sized businesses that have participated in different research and observation activities. Instead of my experience, which is real and meaningful, that isn't sufficient for us to say, “We can help other business owners.”

Using this whole base of research and observation, we can now take this methodology and have taken this methodology and made it accessible to business owners individually for them to do it themselves and through coaches and advisors that are trained in the methodology. That's what the ReWild Group did. It took that methodology. It transformed my business and created something that is accessible for the general business owner, business leader, and public group. A series of books and online resources are available on our website, but also through trained consultants and coaches that can come alongside you as a business leader and help you along the way.

My experience is somewhat unique in that I do have the ability to take academic principles and be able to turn them into tangible work and effort. A lot of business owners are too busy to do that and/or they don't have that personality that does that. They are good carpenters or cooks. It's where their talent lies. What we do is bring the missing pieces of their understanding of business to help them accelerate their growth, strengthen their organization, and make them more resilient.

The bottom line is I want business owners to be more successful. I want them to make more money. I want them to have more exceptional organizations. The purpose of the ReWild Group is we want to multiply the number of exceptional businesses globally because we believe that work is a very important part of human existence. As humans, we develop mainly through our work experience, especially as adults. If we have exceptional places where people work, we produce more exceptional people that go back to their homes and their communities as a better version of themselves. By focusing on improving businesses and making them more exceptional, the business owner, employees, and communities benefit.

In essence, that's where the name ReWild comes from. You're bringing people into this place and putting them back out into the wild in a way that allows them to feel more connected to who they are because they're more connected to the work. They are more intentional.

The idea of rewilding in the scientific application is to restore the natural balance of an ecosystem by inserting elements that are missing or have been pulled out over time. That's what we do. We help identify what's missing within an organization. Most organizations have a lot of what they need, but there are ingredients that they're missing. If you add those ingredients, you create this ripple effect that impacts the whole organization. That creates a more exceptional organization that has these positive implications for owners and employees.

VCP 213 | Rewilding

I have a few reflections on what you shared here. It's great what you've done. You almost 10X this whole methodology because your group saw an opportunity to see how you could take this broader and more accessible to other people. You've taken something, and you've actually used the methodology to take the methodology further, which is funny.

I also reflect on this sense that the entrepreneurs or the people who get out there and start businesses may have this great sense of their trade. There's also a sense of “stick with it-ness” that they need. It’s that consistency I talked about earlier with you. It’s the ability to know, “If I want to be in this for the long game, I need to make sure that I know what's going to work long term for me to be able to get there.” That is part of the system that you're putting in place. It is to allow them to see these elements that will help you get there.

Also, to have a roadmap. You start your own business. All you do is you have this passion or whatever it is. You're going to go and do it better than anybody else has. Yet, you don't know where you're headed. You just know it's always forward. You get punched in the gut, and you fall down. You have to get up and get going forward again. After a while, and even early on, it can get pretty frustrating when it's like, “I don't know where I'm headed. I don't see what's ahead.”

To me, one of the biggest things about this methodology is I could see I'm in stage one, and it looks like this. I can better understand the room that I'm in. When I go into the next room called stage two, I'm not just going in blindfolded into a dark room trying through trial and error and bumping around, trying to find my way. Instead, I'm entering that room. I'm at the doorway, and the light is on. I see what stage two looks like. That lets me navigate through stage two more gracefully and more successfully quicker. I get to stage three, and the same thing is there. I go into that next room and that next stage, understanding what it is.

That's what this methodology helps you with. As you're growing, it helps you see where you are. It diagnoses where you are and prescribes things that you can do to get better there, but then it predicts what's coming next. I don't know any other area of business where I can predict what's going to come next.

Here, I have a methodology based on hundreds and hundreds of other businesses' experiences that says, "This is what stage two looks like." Even if it's 90% accurate, that's better than anything else I have for any other part of my business. It's that roadmap that allows you to advance, knowing where you're going instead of just, “I'm going to put my shoulder to the plow, and I'm going to go forward, hoping it's the right direction.” Over the years, you start to lose a little faith that you're heading in the right direction.

I love what you're sharing. This is so insightful. One of the things I want to do is I want to shift gears back not to business but about you and your journey, and maybe some lessons you've learned about yourself and the journey to getting to where you are now, and things you haven't shared yet. What have you learned about yourself on this path?

By nature, I’m an analytical person. I'm a data-oriented guy. I've spent a lot of my career surrounded by data, but data doesn't lead an organization. Data doesn't create a vision. It’s learning to be okay with taking risks and understanding that risk-taking isn't a bad thing. It's not a negative thing, and it's not going to kill you. It gives you the opportunity to grow and to fail. In both cases, you grow. It’s this willingness to take risks and to accept failure. That's from somebody who's a very perfectionist. I don't like to fail. I hate failing.

Risk-taking isn't a bad thing. It's not going to kill you. It gives you the opportunity to grow and fail.

Even in the last ten years of realizing that failure is a prerequisite to success and embracing that failure. Not looking for it and trying to fail, but knowing that failure means you're learning, you're making progress, and you're learning what not to do, at the very least. It’s being willing to take risks. Even though my dad was a business owner, I grew up in a risk-averse environment. Most of us probably can relate to not wanting to take risks. This is one of the strengths of my wife. Dawn has a very high level of risk tolerance. She helped me see that we can take this risk. I started to learn and see where the logical risk or reasonable risk is. We continue to do this. One characteristic of all of our success has been the willingness to take risks.

A small subset of this second concept was I had to adapt. I have natural strengths and things that I like to do. I spend 25% of my day on things that I enjoy doing. That's not to say I do a lot of things I don't enjoy, but I have to grow in areas that I'm not naturally good at. I'm not a good salesperson. I'm more of an introvert than an extrovert. All these areas could hold me back, and I could say, “That's who I am, so I'm going to stay here.”

That one decision in year-12 to say, "We can either stay, or we can change,” was representative of me as a person. I can stay who I am, or I can try to get better even if these areas won't ever be my strength. I can grow enough that they're not an anchor to keep my organization from succeeding. As a leader, that's what it has to be about. You have to be willing to do what it takes personally for the organization to be successful. If you can't do it, you have to be able to bring somebody else in that can do that if that's a necessity for the organization. Embracing risk and being willing to change are two big things for me over the past 30 years.

It's brilliant. They go hand-in-hand. As you’ve said earlier, staying in the status quo is comfortable, but you get out, and you take risks, and then you see what's possible when you do that. Also, when you take risks, you have to be able to change because risk requires change and adaptability. That is well said. That seems to go well together. Thank you for sharing that. This message is what a lot of people need to hear. If you're sitting here saying, “Things are okay. Things are going well, and everything is great,” but they could be even better if you're willing to take that risk. You could have more. Not more for the sake of more, but more for the sake of bigger impact, more fulfillment, or whatever it is that you want more of.

That was my point. It doesn't always translate into more money. It can and it does, but it doesn't always do that. You are experiencing things. I am concerned about our society that we're not encouraging entrepreneurship and risk-taking because it leads to a sense of scarcity, always protecting what you have, never looking beyond, not pursuing more, and not seeing that there's more out there. It's more of a fear mentality than a risk-taking.

Going back to the idea of taking risks, one lesson you learn when you take risks is that what you thought could be the negative side of things rarely happens. You get more comfortable with taking risks as you take risks. The opposite is true as well. If you fail to take risks over and over, each time you're faced with another decision that has risk involved, the negative outcome of that looks larger and larger. You become more fearful of the downside, and you totally lose sight of the upside. You are putting yourself in a cage. That's what I feel in the last 25 years.

When you take risks, you learn that what you thought could be the negative side of things rarely actually happens. You actually get more comfortable taking risks as you take them.

It has been getting outside of the cage and saying, “It's pretty cool out here. I can go and do almost anything.” Not that I'll be successful at anything, but I can't imagine myself staying because fifteen years as I was selling my business, I looked back at some of the people I was with at Corporate Express. Some of them were still there. That could have been me. I could have been there fifteen years later, and who would I have been? I wouldn't be the person I turned out to be, having left and done my own thing.

This has been a great conversation so far, and I could continue this. I have one last question that I want to ask you before we close. What are 1 or 2 books that had an impact on you and why?

This might be a little self-serving, but Navigating the Growth Curve was one of those books. It changed how I ran my business. It changed the future after that. We've published a number of books to go along with that book. On the personal side, maybe it’s a bit controversial, but the book Atlas Shrugged is a book that has had a tremendous impact on me. It forced me to look at some of my belief systems. In particular, my perspective on money has been transformed by that book.

I grew up in a culture that looked at money as a negative thing, especially since I've had a lot of it. What I've come to believe is that money is immoral. Money doesn't have a morality to it. It simply enhances the character of the person that either has it or doesn't have it. Money is an amplifier as opposed to a source of morality. That helped me because if you have a negative thought about money, why would you get more of it if that's going to impact you negatively?

Part of it is we didn't have any money when we first got married. We created a healthy relationship with money. Money has never been a motivator for us. As we've accumulated more wealth, I haven't felt guilty about doing that. For me, it's about how I can impact more because I've been blessed with this. I'm a steward of what I have. How do I use this? Do I use it well, or do I use it in unhealthy ways? Atlas Shrugged was a formative book for me.

It's brilliant. This is not the first time that that book has been mentioned on the show. I'm surprised by that, which is interesting. I also love everything you shared about the psychology of money. Oftentimes, at a very young age, because of our upbringing, we get ingrained in certain thoughts about money and what it represents. Sometimes, it's a bad representation. We need to unwind that psychology and figure out how it's either serving or not serving us. That's what's also landing with me around this. It’s this sense of how our money mindset is getting in the way of us creating what we want.

It definitely can.

Thank you so much for this amazing conversation. I enjoyed hearing about your journey and all the insights along the way. Thank you so much, Matt.

Tony, I appreciate your time and great questions. This was good.

Before I let you go, I want to make sure that I give people a chance to know where they can find you. What's the best place to reach out to you if they want to find out more about you?

The key to our methodology is you need to know what your stage of growth is. We have a calculator that calculates your stage of growth at It'll help you understand your stage of growth and immediately give you access to a lot of free resources for your particular stage. It's not a one size fits all. That's one resource. Our books are available on Amazon. You can type in That will give you access to all the books that we've published.

Thank you so much, Matt. I appreciate all the people who've come to join us and read this conversation. You're leaving with some great insights. Please reach out to Matt and learn some more.


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