November 24, 2017


I'm grateful for so many things. What's moving me today, though, is this story. I'm sad we won't be going to Puerto Rico this year. Please give.

April 4, 2017

Do blogs matter?

In the old days, your blog or your website was your digital representation online. It was your brand. The clear place where you could share your voice and your thoughts.

It feels so quaint now, typing a post in Blogger on this 2012 MacBook Pro. But in an age of rapid change, it's nice to write something in a place that will stick around as long as I'd like.

This episode of the a16z podcast reminded me how fast our online identities have changed in the last 20 years, and how much it used to mean to me to keep up with Google Reader and the blogroll.

Each wave of change in personal communication leads to:

  • cheaper tools for creating content
  • more content produced
  • more content producers
  • more content types
  • bigger content types
  • more frequent production
When you add them together, any app you use to read, listen, watch, or experience is going to be overwhelmed when the next wave comes. The next app comes out, culture moves on, and the old thoughts, LiveJournals, Vines, MySpaces, and Twitters fade away. 

This is my blog, on a domain I control, with no ads. My thoughts are the product. The value is questionable, but at least the price is free. 

March 27, 2016

ContextMedia: Health

I've now been at ContextMedia for more than two months. We install a network of patient education devices into helath clinics and hospitals across the country. Our devices are ad-supported by sponsors in the health and medical world, so the devices are provided at no cost to the clinics.

I serve as a manager for a couple of different operations teams which install the devices and manage the entire customer service process. I'm thrilled to join the company, and am humbled by the talent and experience there.

May 13, 2014

Speech to New Leaders Council - Chicago Chapter

(l-r) Laura Garcia, me, Marquell Smith, Gov. Pat Quinn
I had the great honor of speaking to the Chicago chapter of the New Leaders Council last week. They held their annual fundraiser at the Paris Club and asked me to speak to the VIP crowd that met before the main event.

When Laura Garcia called me and asked if I would speak to the group, I was humbled. I was also immediately thankful for starting this blog years ago. I feel like I have a message for leaders of all kinds, and this venue would be a great place to test it out.

However, when I realized that the other speaker during the event was the GOVERNOR OF THE STATE, well that raised the pressure a level or two.

I did not read my speech from a script, but this is what I wrote out ahead of time, and pretty much what I said:

Hi - I'm Matt Kuzma. I'm Director of Operations at GrubHub, a little tech company you may be familiar with - anyone here order from GH? - Great - keep doing it! I've been at GH 3 years, and I love my job. 
I serve our employees by overseeing our facilities and operations, and I get to lead special projects, like when we merge with other companies, expand into new markets, things like that. 
I'm excited to be here tonight, certainly honored to share a stage with the Governor, but mostly to meet you all. I'm a leader. Always have been. And I love meeting other leaders! Because leaders-- especially young progressive leaders--understand better than anyone else, that Each Person Matters. 
Let me tell you a little more about where I'm from, and my career so far. I grew up in Kansas. My dad and a business partner opened a few restaurants. So for all of high school, I waited tables, baked desserts, ran deliveries, counted the money, you name it. 
Anyone here ever work for tips? 
When you work for tips, you learn quickly that Each Customer Matters - you never know who the big tip will come from. 
After college, I ran an ACT/SAT tutoring business for Kaplan, making sales calls to parents, hiring and training tutors, and meeting with students. I learned quickly there to make all my sales calls because Each Prospect Matters. 
Anyone here ever work sales? 
You never know who the big sale will come from.
After I got bitten by the politics bug, I went to grad school for urban planning at UIC and started working with some of you here on campaigns. Campaigns are very definition of this concept - Each Voter Matters, Each Donor Matters, Each Volunteer Matters. 
Anyone here ever work field?
When you work field, 100% of your time is spent making connections with people, because you never know for sure who will turn out, who will max out in donations, and who will open a polling place on Election Day. 
After my candidate's loss in 2008, I decided to work non-profit for a while to take a break from the campaign grind. I was Director of Communications for the United Methodist Church for 2 years, helping local churches get the word out to their communities. 
Each Person Matters. That's a message they were familiar with.  
Finally, we get to GrubHub, a company that succeeds by adding more people and more restaurants to its networks every day. Each Customer Matters. Each Restaurant Matters.
I'm a leader. Always have been. And I love meeting other leaders! Because leaders-- especially young progressive leaders--realize better than anyone else, that Each Person Matters. 
 Each Person Matters. You matter. Thank you. 

May 4, 2014

New Leaders Council

I'm thrilled and honored beyond belief to be invited to speak at the New Leaders Council event this week, along with Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. I have several friends who are current or previous Fellows from NLC, so it's high praise just to be in their company.

If you want to get more involved with top leaders in Chicago, join us!

March 25, 2014

When you've forgotten someone's name

So call me "Maybe"
Quick quiz:

Have you ever been in a situation where you were with someone who had obviously forgotten your name, but they were too embarrassed to ask you? So they called you "buddy" or "you" or "chief" or something else because they're stalling and frantically trying to remember your name? 

Don't they seem foolish?

Wouldn't it be easier if they just asked you? 

If they said: 

"I'm so sorry, I feel so embarrassed, but I've forgotten your name." 

You should do that, too. 

March 18, 2014

Expanding your bench

Julian Green, new guy
I'm a big soccer fan, and especially of the U.S. Men's National Team. So, I was excited to see the news that star prospect Julian Green had decided to play for the USA. Green has an American father and a German mother. He was born in the U.S. but grew up in Germany and has played for the German youth teams.

Green is a top prospect in European soccer, playing for one of the world's top teams: Bayern Munich. Getting him to switch to the US – a move allowed because of his dual citizenship – was a huge coup for the US. How did they do it?

“I was born in Florida and my father still lives there, so I have deep roots in the U.S. I’m very proud to be representing the United States. … A big part of the decision was the experience I had in Frankfurt [during a U.S. camp early this month]. All the players were super nice and welcomed me from the beginning. Clint Dempsey gave me a jersey with my name on it, and the way they supported me gave me a lot of belief. The coaches have shown a lot of trust in me, and now I hope to do everything I can to earn a spot on the World Cup roster.”
They were nice.

They were welcoming.

They gave gifts.

They showed respect.

They gave him a chance to prove himself.

Not a bad strategy!

January 11, 2014

Where does your energy come from?

Starting something or perfecting something?
Brainstorming or executing?
Supporting the star or being the star?
Serving people or leading people?
Closing down old systems or maintaining old systems?
Doing something totally new every six months or keeping something running for years?

One reason I love my job is that I keep getting the chance to work in the intersection of a) where I'm most effective and b) where I get the most energy.

I'm a small business and startup guy. Even as my company grows and grows, I keep getting the chance to help start new things.

September 2, 2013

Are jobs coming or going?

This Labor Day, Fred Wilson has an important post about how technology is affecting employment.

There's so much to say about this and so many ways that the future could play out. I do believe the future of employment will change dramatically. It already has. Here's my path in the last 20 years as a laborer:

My first job was at my Dad's restaurants. I got it because I'm his kid.
My second job was at Kaplan. I got it because I had a college degree and good test scores. I found it on Monster.
My third through sixth jobs were on political campaigns or government agencies. I got all of them through friends because of my volunteer work and personal interest in politics.
My seventh job was in non-profit communications. I got it because I had a personal connection to the org and I knew the person who was hiring.
My eighth and ninth jobs were for tech companies. I got them because I was friends with the founders and had stayed in touch with them over the years.

If I had to rely solely on my degrees or online job boards, I'd be nowhere. There is no way I'd be in the role I have now without building a personal network over time, taking chances on new fields, and constantly improving my skills in management, problem solving and communication. I don't know if this is a method that works for everybody, but I'm in my dream job now, and that's how I found it. I encourage every student or job-seeker I meet to start doing side work now, make friends with people who are starting companies, and keep in touch with people from your past, because you never know.

I stand in solidarity with the worker.

September 1, 2013

EPM in a Merger

Two great tastes that taste great together. 
My company became GrubHub Seamless a few weeks ago. I am excited and proud to be part of the integration team: a group of six people that serves all of our employees by facilitating conversations, writing project plans, measuring success, and communicating A LOT.

In my career, I've been on the acquired side of M&A, the acquiring side, and now part of a straight-out merger. The first month is always very hard, because, by their nature, humans hate change and don't trust people they don't know. Leaders can plan for quick integration all they want to, but they will usually end up with several weeks of people feeling each other out, taking their time, delaying work and figuring out who they can trust–and who they can't. Luckily, meeting new people, earning their trust and digging into new projects with them are my favorite things to do. I visited all three of our US offices already in August, and I am looking forward to sharing lots of good work (and great food!) with my new friends in Salt Lake City and New York.

February 13, 2013

The secret to a great annual review

It's review time at my company, which like at most companies means some Word docs, some introspection, and a bunch of racking your brain trying to remember what happened in May of 2012.

One secret to writing awesome self-evaluations (or other career documents) is to keep a folder in your email that I like to call props. In GMail, I tag an email for "props" when I receive congratulations from people. This year, I was able to pull up notes from important people inside and outside the company who thanked me or praised me for my work.

It's a pretty convincing way to make your case for a better raise, but even more, it's an easy way to remind yourself of the great work you do all year.

February 10, 2013

Charisma matters

Wow. The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane is a fantastic book on how to become "more influential, more persuasive, and more inspiring."

It's not fluff. Cabane has nailed both the tactics and the internal strength that charismatic people use to communicate with people. Even more, she gives the reader exercises to practice that will help build confidence and compassion. Highly recommended.

January 17, 2013

Problems are gold

Problems are gold. Each problem in our business is a new mystery to solve and a new opportunity to serve better.

In Seth Godin's new book, The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? Seth challenges everybody to try and fail. Look for the problems, fix them, then try again and get better. Try again and get better. Try again and get better. It's the only way to ever get good enough at anything.

Seth is an instant jolt of motivation for me. If you don't want to buy the book, check out his blog.

January 7, 2013

More feedback, please

Don't be a Dick (Vermeil)
There's a persistent misunderstanding about the word "feedback." Folks think that to give feedback is to be rude, to be a mean football coach, to be constructive. 

Feedback is just evidence of what the person did. In athletics, a great tool for feedback is a stopwatch. You ran a lap–here is your time. The watch isn't judging you. It isn't being positive or negative. It's just telling you the results of your work.

In our jobs, we don't always know the results of our work. Was my presentation effective? Did I write my email well? Who the heck knows?

Giving effective feedback to direct reports is easy. It takes just three sentences. The Manager Tools guys would do it this way:

Dick Vermeil, can I give you some feedback? (Vermeil: "Yes.") OK, when you make that face, here's what happens: it makes me uncomfortable, and makes your players scared. Then, they lose lots of football games. Is there something you can do differently next time? 
Start by giving positive feedback to your best directs tomorrow.

  1. Can I give you feedback?
  2. When you do that awesome thing, here's what happens: [AwesomeResult] 
  3. Yo, keep it up

January 6, 2013

Lean Business: Voice of the Customer

"House of Lean Production" by Pascal Dennis
Have you heard me babble on about Lean yet?

Lean thinkers seek to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. More value from fewer resources = profit! success! awesomeness!

Over the last six months, I've been studying this methodology and reading as many books as I can to see how this framework–which was born in the manufacturing context of Toyota Motors–can apply in my current work. 

One important concept that immediately comes out in Lean thinking is the voice of the customer. No matter what our role is on a team, we are producers, and we all have customers that rely on the output of what we do:
  • Reports
  • Written articles
  • Lines of code checked
  • Calls made
  • Decisions made

Do we pay attention to what that customer needs? Could we serve that customer better? 

Take a few minutes and think about 1) who your customer is in your work, and 2) which producers you are a customer for. Ask your customers directly this week if there is a way your work output could be modified to make their work easier. Give a note directly to your producers, letting them know that their product could be even more valuable if it was delivered in a different way or time. 

April 16, 2012

Money Matters #1

65% of Americans don't have enough cash on hand to handle a $1,000 emergency, says Having cash on hand is crucial, because when you put your bad luck on a credit card, you might carry that bad luck for years. Sell stuff if you have to, but don't stop till you get to four digits.

November 20, 2011

Why most newcomers join

Newcomers to your church or campaign are not likely to make friends with the old-timers. They are more likely to make friends with other newcomers. Who wants to hang out with the old guard?

Help new visitors or new customers or new employees socialize with each other -- they will learn the ropes from each other and stick around.

November 14, 2011

New Customers Matter

Been reading a great blog lately by Kevin Hillstrom lately called Mine That Data. Kevin is a consultant and expert in catalog marketing. This post on acquiring new customers really hit home. There are health signs for any organization. Attracting fresh blood is almost always a key one.

September 17, 2011

Tips for using LinkedIn well

LinkedIn is a useful tool when looking for jobs or helping friends look for jobs. If you don't have a full profile on LinkedIn, I encourage you to set one up now. Here's why:

Many of us work as knowledge workers. It's harder to show evidence of what we've done or what our accomplishments are, since many of them seem intangible. So, we need to find a way to show more evidence of our experience and accomplishments.

LinkedIn allows you to describe your full career history and to focus on your accomplishments. You have space to tell stories about your achievements. You can include links to your writing. You can go into detail about the sales you've closed, the money you've saved, and the lives you've changed.

The other important piece of evidence you can show is a recommendation. Each person you've worked with matters when you're looking for a job, because their testimony means something to the people in their network. And the testimony you give about your colleagues says something about you: you are the type of person who is confident enough to share praise about other people and will vouch for others.

Finally, you can keep tabs on your high school and college friends and see what it is they're doing for a living and a career. Catching up is now easy! 

August 15, 2011

Teammates matter

For the first time since I was in middle school, I got to be part of an actual soccer team. It was a team at my work, playing weekly games at one of the city parks. Soccer is my favorite sport to watch, and while I felt very out of shape, I had an absolute blast getting back on the field.

Our team won quite a few games, and made it to the finals in the playoffs. But what was most impressive to me was that everybody played, everybody had a chance to contribute, and we all became friends during the 8 weeks together.

The next season starts in just a few weeks! What are you playing this fall?

May 15, 2011

EPM, social media, and small talk

It's been a busy winter and spring for me, as I have changed jobs twice since Christmas. My new role at started just a few weeks ago, and as I run into people at parties, I'm amazed at how easy it is to talk about these changes. Thanks to Linkedin and Facebook, my friends and family already know the basics. It makes small talk so much easier when we meet in person, because we have ideas about what to ask the other person and go deeper in the story.

Announcing my job change on Linkedin and starting to connect with new colleagues helps a lot too - I can find out some of the basics of my coworkers and they can find out more about me, which helps us find things we have in common.

Here's a newsflash: people care about you. Tell them what's up.

April 13, 2011

Celebrities matter too

I had a chance recently to have coffee with the author of one of my favorite books. It made my day. And he invited me!

Several months ago, I read the book Predictable Success by Les McKeown after hearing Les on a podcast I liked. I found the book very helpful, and thought it did a good job of explaining some of the situations my organization was facing.

I don't know why I did it, but I found his email address in the back of the book and wrote him to thank him for writing it and how his book had helped me understand my job better. He wrote me back hours later - thanking me for reading it and asking me to stay in touch! Months later, when he came to Chicago for a consulting appointment, we met for coffee.

As I get to know more writers, musicians, comedians. programmers and other creators/creatives, I'm finding that all of them, no matter how famous we might think they are, crave feedback from real people, and they appreciate it.  Twitter is the perfect example of this  - I've received replies from several people I would consider celebrities. Their jobs may seem mysterious, but it's all just work, and they like for it to be appreciated.

So, email your favorite author, or send a tweet to your favorite band. They'll appreciate it.