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Matt Smith


Promoting the importance of living in gratitude in both business and in personally life wasn’t some sort of mid-life epiphany for me. Rather, I actually backed into, or tripped over the impact
of gratitude.

To explain, around 2011, having been in business 11 years, I became fed up and pretty miserable with the day to day life of owning our company. We were small, so I was clearly stuck working in the business instead of on the business. I had been seeing a business coach who kept imploring me to create my unique selling proposition. I went down the typical path of focusing about our customer service, our creativity, our quickness at solving problems, just the basics. But rightly so, he told me there was nothing unique about these things, and I agreed with him. He then said, hey, you’re a passionate guy…maybe if you focus on what makes you passionate about your business, you will discover your USP.

What ultimately dawned on me was a realization that the projects I really loved the most involved gratitude, specifically projects where clients wanted to thank their employees, or clients, or board members. Clients were so much more excited about these types of projects compared to typical marketing materials, trade show giveaways, etc. And I loved trying to figure that meaningful gift appropriate for the purpose…and I loved the recalling of the impact that the gifts made on the recipients.

I decided that promoting workplace gratitude was something I could be passionate about and that I was really helping people personally and professionally with this work. And voila, we had our Unique Selling Proposition! We became the Gratitude Specialists, recreating our website and promoting through social media, offering Weekly Gratitude Tips, even publishing an e-Book on the Power of Workplace Gratitude, which was essentially a guide to creating a culture of gratitude, including exercise to incorporate at work. We even featured a Hero of the Month story, highlighting an organization that understood the value of Paying It Forward in the Community. Our business really took off, with gratitude projects but also with regular branded item work. Because rather than promoting the latest widget or polo shirt, we were given ideas and content that inspired!

So, even though we were only a company of 4, we had most of Milwaukee’s major corporations as clients. And ultimately, our gratitude niche led to a negotiated sale of our company to a
larger, full-service competitor. My wife and I never thought we would be able to sell our service business, so it was quite thrilling. Another thing I started doing in 2011, which had nothing to do with gratitude, or so I thought at the time, but as a way to cope with my frustration and constant worrying about the day-to-day business, was I started writing down the names of family, friends and clients who needed a prayer or a well wish.

I’m Irish and back then would often wake up often in very dark Irish fashion ( I think it was BB King who wrote “Just before daylight is your darkest hour”). What I discovered was that just reading the names of these people who needed a prayer made me realize by comparison my problems were small…I didn’t have cancer, my kids were healthy, my marriage was strong, I had
close friends, I wasn’t rich but I could pay my bills…and as I made my prayer intentions toward these people in my book I actually found that my breath slowed and became deeper. I guess you could say it was a form of prayer. I realized that regardless of socioeconomic status, everybody experiences deep suffering and many, many people die early, some before they get anywhere near reaching their potential. So, this exercise helped me to not only put my business worries in perspective, it also prompted me to get busy, quit bitching, take more risks in both my life but in my relationships and maximize my gifts.

Crazy truth: my book now has 51 people I’ve know who have passed away between 40-60 years old.

Another component of the book, which I learned by reading Joe Sweeney’s Moving The Needle, is both a Beginning of the Day and an End of the Day Reflection, which again is just a exercise
of getting out of my own way, thinking outward about others instead of focusing inward on problems. I think one of the huge negative aspects of covid is that people are so focused on themselves and fraught with worry.

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