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Cover art for "Executive Decisions: A Podcast for Business Leaders," episode 21 featuring Matt Stevens. It shows a man in a suit and red tie, smiling, with a green background, white swirls, and a yellow upward arrow.

From Frogman to CEO: How Special Ops Skills Translate to Corporate Success with Matt Stevens

Matt Stevens transitioned from the U.S. Navy in July 2017 after serving for 26 years as a SEAL. He attended The Honor Foundation’s (THF) inaugural East Coast class in the Spring of 2016, joined the THF SOF Advisory Board in the Spring of 2017, and then joined THF’s Board of Directors in February 2018. Throughout his career, Matt served as a Special Operations Executive leading high-performing teams conducting our nation’s most sensitive operations, cultivating interagency relationships and executing plans in dynamic environments. Matt served on the leadership team of an emerging technology company from 2017-2019 before assuming the role of Chief Executive Officer of THF.

In this engaging conversation, Sarah interviews Matt Stevens, a former US Navy SEAL with 26 years of service. Matt’s career journey is highlighted, including his transition from the Navy, involvement with the Honor Foundation, and his experiences as a SEAL team leader. Matt emphasizes the importance of trust and credibility in leadership, earned through tactical proficiency, keeping promises, and vulnerability. He also discusses the influence of mentors and the need to adapt leadership styles to different situations.

Matt shares how the Honor Foundation has been instrumental in helping Special Operations veterans find fulfilling post-military careers through personalized coaching, networking opportunities, and support. Matt’s passion for helping his fellow veterans shines through as he shares success stories of program participants who have found meaningful careers and the joy of giving back by becoming coaches and instructors for the foundation. The conversation also touches on the organization’s future goals, including expanding its reach to more transitioning veterans across the country.

“In my work now at the Honor Foundation, I see that a lot of folks think that every single person who was in the military probably has PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and they were like in gunfights every day of every month of every year for 20 years. And it’s just not the case.” – Matt Stevens

This week on Executive Decisions:

  • Introduction to Matt Steven’s background.
  • Where did Matt find his start as a leader?
  • How to become an effective leader.
  • Mentors and leadership style.
  • Managing risk and saying no.
  • Making the decision to retire from the military.
  • The importance of educating veterans about the business world.
  • The first class at the Honor Foundation.
  • How the Honor Foundation has evolved under Matt’s leadership.
  • Traveling as a family.
  • Staying on top of life outside of work.

Our Favorite Quotes:

  • “We don’t charge transitioning veterans anything; we go out and hustle and raise the money. So they don’t have a financial burden while they’re getting out of the military and losing that steady income stream.” – Matt Stevens
  • “I always just find it fascinating to hear as people have successful careers as leaders, where they found their start. And it could be something as basic as a paper route” – Sarah Delahanty
  • “Success for us is somebody finding fulfillment as defined by them. It’s not about how much money they’re going to make or what school they’re going to get into.” – Matt Stevens
  • “Title and the rank are just one component, then you have to earn the trust of the people behind you and they have to earn yours. A trust transfer in the relationship where they then follow you because they believe in you and you believe in them.” – Sarah Delahanty
  • “We will never degrade the quality of what we’re doing. It’s a platinum standard, and we want to give that to any special operator who wants it.” – Matt Stevens
  • “It’s not just all about ‘help the veterans’; it’s like, hey, how do you want to help your own business? You might consider hiring some of these rock stars who are probably gonna run circles around some of your other folks.” – Matt Stevens
  • “Scaling that jump in scale, at some point, is going to be huge. We’re always thinking about how to grow what we’re doing without degrading quality at all.” – Matt Stevens

Connect with Matt Stevens:

About SYM Financial and Executive Decisions Podcast

Executive Decisions is a show for business leaders. In each episode, host and financial advisor Sarah Delahanty sits down with executives and local experts who serve them. Together, they tackle some of the harder questions that business leaders face today. From inspiring creativity in the workplace, to managing company politics, to making the best choices with executive compensation, taxes, and lifestyle — our show delivers stories and lessons learned across many industries and lifetimes.

Email Sarah at sdelahanty@sym.com with questions, comments, and to schedule a one-on-one conversation.

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Disclosure: Certain links above are to third-party sites and are not affiliated with SYM Financial Corporation (“SYM”). SYM is an independent investment adviser registered under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. More information about SYM including our investment strategies, fees and objectives can be found in our ADV Part 2, which is available upon request.

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