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HOW JENNIFER MATT FOUND THE GUTS TO START HER OWN BUSINESS AND WHY SHE ALWAYS BRINGS HER OWN PIE TO THE TABLE

Jan 20, 2014 12:00 AM


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Jennifer Matt is a woman of many talents. She’s an online pioneer, entrepreneur, athlete and author. But early on, long before she became president of Web2Print Experts, Inc., she harbored a very different dream: She wanted to be a marine biologist.

ETERNITY IN THE EYE OF A WHALE

“I loved the water, I loved science and I loved dolphins,” she explains. “The summer of my sophomore year in college, I got an internship at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego. I discovered that being a marine biologist meant working alone in a lab on very specific studies over a long period of time. The woman I was working with had been studying a synapse inside a pilot whale’s eye for decades.”

Jennifer couldn’t picture herself thriving in the library-like confines of an aquatic scientist’s world. “I enjoyed the summer, but most of my memories are of the lunch break, when we played ultimate Frisbee, went to La Jolla beach and swam in the ocean. I’m a big-picture thinker. I’m very passionate, and I love creating something and launching it.”

PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF

In 2010, Jennifer founded Web2Print Experts, Inc. to provide product-independent advice and technical assistance with print-related technologies. “We are a services-only organization,” she says. “We can refer any technology to any customer. We don’t have to make one tool work. It’s very liberating.”

The US Department of Defense (DoD) was Web2Print Experts’ first customer, a significant victory for the new company, which was then only six months old. Jennifer and her team implemented web-to-print across 200 print centers globally, including a custom billing application integrated into the DoD’s financial systems.

“We won the bid for the web-to-print solution at DLA Document Services, the largest in-plant in the world servicing the DoD. I’m very proud of this win—I had pitched DLA for over a decade from three different technology companies,” says Jennifer. “My company has led the implementation and complex integration into SAP. DLA is one of our important long-term customers today.”

MOVE OR DIE

Although some graphic arts firms and print providers have successfully integrated web-to-print into their businesses, Jennifer says many are still tentatively dipping a toe in the water. “The industry needs a big wake-up call,” she says. “People, commerce and engagement are moving online—why are we still talking about it like it’s something printers should be considering? Just this week, a client asked me to do a SWOT analysis on moving online! I can do that in three words: ‘Move or die.’”

Jennifer is proud of Web2Print Experts’ corporate culture: “My company talks openly about mistakes, we do regular post-mortems, there is little to no politics and we laugh a lot. I couldn’t find that culture, so I created it. I’m really proud of this. It’s not perfect; it’s always in a state of iteration, but it has the qualities that are so important to me.”

GETTING OUT OF HER OWN WAY

Today, Web2Print Experts comprises 15 technical people in the US and Europe. In hindsight, Jennifer says she probably should have started her company sooner. “I was qualified to start my own business about ten years before I did it. I didn’t get the guts until I was forced into it. Find the guts—owning your own business is a great version of the American dream. You get to control your own destiny.”

STEPPING UP TO THE TABLEyes

Growing up with six brothers also prepared Jennifer to deal with the printing and software industries—where women executives remain the exception rather than the rule. “I’ve definitely been treated differently,” she says. “That’s why I love Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Many times, as Sandberg notes, women just don’t come to the table. They don’t ask for raises or promotions. It sets us all back, as women, if we just accept what we’re offered. I have no problem talking about money and my value.”

This concept of value played a key role in Jennifer’s decision to launch Web2Print Experts. “After I left NowDocs, I realized that up until that point I had been working for approval. When you work for approval, you’re working for someone else whom you don’t get to pick and have no control over,” she says. “I work for money now—not because I measure success in money but because money is the currency we use to exchange value. I give my time and I create value in return for money. Once I stopped working for approval and started working for money, my whole life changed. A lot of people work for approval and are miserable because of it.”

DON’T FORGET THE PIE

In addition to taking a seat at the table, any businessperson of either sex should bring something new to the discussion or, as Jennifer likes to put it, bring their own pie: “If you bring something new, everyone is willing to share it,” she explains. “Today, print sales people are all fighting over the contracting print spend. What they should be doing is bringing new reasons to print to their customers, reasons that can create new revenue streams for both the printer and the customer. If you bring the pie, guess what? People are willing to share it with you!”

NO MORE EENY, MEENY, MINY, MOE

If print is to remain a relevant medium of communication, graphic arts service providers must step up their digital game, particularly on the software side, says Jennifer. It all starts with a clear business strategy—software is the enabling tool that creates leverage for businesses.

“We’ve witnessed many poor software decisions that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in waste,” she says. “Some are scared of technology decisions or, worse yet, delegate these activities to people who don’t grasp the business ramifications. The most common pitfall in all technology purchases is thinking technology is actually the strategy and all you have to do is buy it.”

Web2Print has launched a Software Boot Camp for Printers. It’s a six-week intensive online event. “We’re not teaching theory; we’re tackling your current software challenges,” says Jennifer.

AUTHOR! AUTHOR!

Amazingly, Jennifer has found the time to write and co-author books. Her first effort, Web to Print, proposes a common language for discussing web-to-print to help define an online strategy and then choose the most appropriate web technology. HP printed and distributed 18,000 copies at drupa 2012; the book was also translated into Mandarin for distribution at Print China 2013.

Make Great Software Decisions: A Guide for Printers was a team effort—Jennifer and her Web2Print colleagues collaborated on the new book, which Xerox distributed at PRINT 13. “As a services organization that is independent of any particular software package, we can provide unbiased guidance,” she says.
All proceeds from both books are being donated to the Electronic Document Systems Foundation (EDSF). Jennifer, who serves on the board of directors as the executive vice chair for development, says she is thrilled to support the foundation. “Web2Print Experts is the smallest company represented on the EDSF board, but we’re among the top contributors [because of the books’ success]. That’s wonderful.”

To learn more about Jennifer’s early career and childhood and Web2Print Experts’ Software Boot Camp, Key B2Me.me/C28