Matthew Peters of Search Manipulator: Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO

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There’s no substitute for hard work — No matter how talented you are, there’s no substitute for hard work. If you want to be successful, you need to put in the hours and be dedicated to your craft. There’s no shortcut to success. I’ve seen this firsthand in my own career. The most successful people are usually the ones who have worked the hardest.

As a part of our series called ‘Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO’ we had the pleasure of interviewing Matthew Peters.

Matthew Peters is the founder and CEO of Search Manipulator, an online reputation management company that helps customers to regain control of their online presence and reviews when negatively affected, and to effectively leverage search results to grow a business and increase their audience. Matthew started Search Manipulator over 12 years ago with an engineer’s skill set rather than a salesperson’s and is able to effectively navigate constantly changing search algorithms. Matthew earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Fordham University and has been featured on Huffington Post, CBS Money Watch, ESPN Radio’s Lunch N Learn, and much more.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I’ve always been interested in how things work and how to make them better. I started my first business when I was in middle school, repairing and selling computers out of my parents’ garage on eBay. After getting a degree in economics from Fordham University, I worked in finance for a few years before starting Search Manipulator 12 years ago. My vision has always been to provide clients with the most advanced technology available for controlling their online reputations.

As an engineer, I have a strong understanding of how to navigate the complex landscape of the online world and everything that goes along with it. As a consumer, I know how important reviews are. Online reputations are vastly more expansive than an individual’s personal reputation, which is limited by word of mouth and other antiquated ways of communication. Whether it’s from an upset customer or an angry ex, an untruthful review can have severe effects for an individual’s personal or professional life. Search Manipulator reviews each keyword, and comes up with a campaign specific to that keyword to create and promote positive articles to outrank any review or article. Additionally, developing companies or entrepreneurs who do not yet have a big internet presence will benefit from Search Manipulator’s services in order to broaden their audience.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I’ve worked with people from all sorts of backgrounds and industries, so it’s hard to see what is the most interesting. I’ve helped “mom and pop” style businesses that were needing to build an online presence and had no real idea how to go about achieving that. Those have been pretty fulfilling because I’ve seen the positive effect my work has had helping struggling small business owners who did good work and had a loyal clientele but were in need of help to keep their businesses afloat. Of course, I can’t use specific names of clients but I would say that one of the most interesting stories that has happened to me since starting Search Manipulator is the work I’ve done with some very high-profile clients.

When working with high-profile clients, it’s a very different feel. You are often working with PR agents or various representatives and there is often a very targeted idea of what they want achieved. Sometimes, it can be very demanding as well. I remember one client who wanted to see results within the first week, which is, quite frankly, asking a lot. But this was a high-profile person who was accustomed to getting results in whatever projects they were a part of. I had some lengthy, intense, and energetic conversations with their reps and it was pretty high pressure, but we were able to deliver the results they wanted. And then that was kind of it. No more communication. No ongoing work. But then 6 months later, I received a very nice Thank You card and a gift basket. I guess you never know who is going to be a fan of your work.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the years, but I think one of the funniest was early on when I was still trying to learn how to code. I had this idea that I could create a website that would crawl all the search engine results and then rate each site based on various criteria that I thought were important. I spent weeks writing code and created a pretty sophisticated back-end system. But it turned out that my algorithms were completely wrong and the ratings were all off. Lesson learned: always test your ideas before you spend too much time coding them!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are too many people to thank, really. I’ve been really fortunate to have a lot of great mentors and friends who have helped me out over the years. But if I had to name one person, it would be my old boss from my first job out of college. He was a great mentor and teacher and he really helped shaped the way I think about business and engineering. Without him, I don’t think I would be where I am today.

As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?

There are a few key reasons why businesses and organizations should strive for diversity on their executive teams. First, it’s just the right thing to do. Everyone deserves a chance to have their voice heard and be a part of important decision-making processes. Second, research has shown that companies with more diverse executive teams tend to perform better financially. This is likely because having a variety of viewpoints and backgrounds on your team allows you to come up with better solutions to problems and identify new opportunities. Finally, having a diverse executive team sends a message to your employees and customers that you care about inclusion and that everyone is welcome at your company. This can help attract top talent and create a more positive image for your brand.

I think the effects of more diverse and inclusive executive teams are felt in a broader way as well. It sends a message to underrepresented groups that there are opportunities available, which in turn can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy effect. If a young person sees someone who they identify with achieving great things and working in an industry or job that they aspire to, that young person is going to feel more motivated to continue in that path and more likely to continue when faced with obstacles. So I think that the importance of building and maintaining a diverse executive team really has positive effects beyond just the company.

As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.

1. Make a commitment to inclusion and diversity. This starts with making it a priority for your company and setting goals to improve representation across all levels.

2. Educate yourself and your team on the benefits of inclusion and diversity. There’s a lot of research out there that shows how diverse teams perform better, so make sure you understand why this is important.

3. Be aware of your own biases and work to overcome them. We all have unconscious biases, but it’s important to be aware of them and work to counteract them.

4. Create an environment where everyone feels safe and welcome to share their thoughts and ideas. This includes providing training on how to have difficult conversations and how to create an inclusive environment.

5. Take action when you see someone being excluded or treated unfairly. This can be something as simple as speaking up in a meeting or calling out discriminatory jokes.

6. Celebrate successes and learn from failures. It’s important to recognize when your company is making progress on inclusion and diversity, but also to learn from any setbacks.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?

An executive’s primary responsibility is to provide vision and strategic direction for the company. This includes setting goals, making decisions about where to allocate resources, and determining which new products or services to pursue. Executives also have a leadership role within the organization, which means they are responsible for motivating and guiding employees to achieve company objectives. Additionally, executives are often the face of the company and play a key role in building relationships with stakeholders like shareholders, customers, and partners.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?

There are a few myths that I’d like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. First, it’s often thought that these roles require a lot of experience or technical knowledge in the industry the company operates in. This isn’t always the case — it’s more important to have strong leadership and strategic skills. Second, people often think that executives are paid very well and have lavish lifestyles. While there are some executives who earn high salaries, this is not always the case, and there are many executives who work long hours for little pay. Finally, there’s a perception that executives are born into their roles or have a certain level of privilege that gives them an advantage. This isn’t always true — many executives have worked their way up through the ranks of an organization and have achieved success through hard work and determination.

What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

The most striking difference between my actual job and how I thought the job would be is the amount of responsibility I have. When I was first starting out, I didn’t realize how much decision-making goes into being a CEO or executive. There are a lot of tough choices to make, and you often don’t have the luxury of time to reflect on them. You need to be comfortable with making quick decisions and taking risks. Another thing that’s different from how I thought it would be is the level of scrutiny you’re under. Everything you do is scrutinized, and you’re constantly under the microscope. This can be challenging but also motivating — you want to make sure you’re always putting your best foot forward.

Do you think everyone is cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the skills and traits required to be a successful executive vary depending on the company and the industry it operates in. However, some key qualities that are often necessary include strong leadership skills, strategic thinking abilities, and the ability to motivate and inspire employees. It’s also important to be able to effectively manage relationships with stakeholders, and have a good understanding of the business landscape.

That said, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. Some people may be better suited for other roles within a company, such as operational or technical positions. And there are certainly some industries that are more complex than others and may require greater expertise in order to be successful. For example, in the healthcare industry, it’s important to have a deep understanding of the regulatory landscape. So, if someone is considering a career as an executive, they should first assess their skills and experience to see if they align with what’s required for the role.

There are plenty of very intelligent, even brilliant, people who would not be good candidates for executive roles. People who like to work independently and want to control every small aspect of projects would not be well suited for an executive role. A person who is overly reserved or tends to second guess themselves also would not be a good choice. It really wouldn’t be fair to someone who doesn’t have the personality or drive for that role, if they were pushed into it.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?

Creating a fantastic work culture is all about establishing a positive and productive environment where employees feel valued and appreciated. There are a few key things business leaders can do to achieve this:

– First, it’s important to set the tone from the top and lead by example. If you’re serious about creating a great work culture, you need to be committed to it yourself and be willing to put in the time and effort.

– Secondly, businesses should invest in their employees by providing training and development opportunities. This helps employees stay up-to-date on the latest trends and advances in their field, and makes them feel valued and appreciated.

– Finally, businesses should foster a sense of team spirit and camaraderie among employees. This can be done by organizing company-wide events and activities, or simply by promoting open communication and collaboration.

When it comes to creating a work culture, one size does not fit all. What works for one company might not work for another. It’s important to tailor your approach to the specific needs and values of your organization.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I’ve been very fortunate in my career, and I’ve used my success to help others by mentoring young professionals and supporting various causes. One cause that is particularly important to me is access to education. I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to receive a quality education, regardless of their background or circumstances. That’s why I support organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, which provides educational and enrichment programs for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

I’ve also been involved in various programs to promote entrepreneurship, such as the Startup America Partnership. I think it’s important to give people the opportunity to start their own businesses, so they can create jobs and contribute to the economy. These are just a few examples of the ways I’ve used my success to make the world a better place. There are many more things I’d like to do in the future, and I plan on continuing to use my platform to help others.

Fantastic. Here is the primary question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Don’t underestimate the importance of networking — It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. This is especially true in the business world. Your network can be a valuable resource for finding jobs, networking opportunities and advice. For example, when I was starting out in my career, a friend of mine put me in touch with a contact who worked in the industry I was interested in. This contact ended up being a great resource and helped me land my first job.

2. Don’t be afraid to take risks — Sometimes, you have to take risks to get ahead. This doesn’t mean you should be reckless, but if there’s an opportunity that could potentially help your career, it’s worth considering. For example, I took a risk when I decided to leave my comfortable corporate job to start my own business. It was a scary decision, but it paid off in the end.

3. The early bird gets the worm — Getting to the office early shows that you’re dedicated and willing to put in the extra effort. It also gives you a chance to get ahead of the game and start your day off on the right foot. I often find that if I get to the office early, I’m more productive and have a better day overall.

4. Don’t burn bridges — This is especially important in the business world. It’s always possible that you’ll need to reach out to someone from your past someday, so it’s important to maintain positive relationships with everyone you’ve worked with. I’ve reached out to people from my past for networking opportunities and advice. Having a good reputation is key to success.

5. There’s no substitute for hard work — No matter how talented you are, there’s no substitute for hard work. If you want to be successful, you need to put in the hours and be dedicated to your craft. There’s no shortcut to success. I’ve seen this firsthand in my own career. The most successful people are usually the ones who have worked the hardest.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would love to see a movement that is focused on access to education. I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to receive a quality education, regardless of their background or circumstances. This would help close the achievement gap and give people from all walks of life the chance to succeed. It would also lead to a more educated and informed society, which is always a good thing.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorite quotes is “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” This is something that I’ve always believed in and it’s something that I try to live by. I’m very passionate about my work and I think that’s one of the reasons why I’ve been successful. If you don’t love what you do, it’s very hard to be successful. You have to be willing to put in the extra effort and go above and beyond if you want to achieve greatness.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them

There are a few people that I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with. Richard Branson is at the top of my list. I admire his business acumen and his entrepreneurial spirit. I think he’s done an amazing job with Virgin and I would love to learn more about his journey.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

Matthew Peters of Search Manipulator: Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.