CEO Spotlight: Q&A With Matt Fiedler Of Vinyl Me, Please
Matt Fiedler, Co-Founder & CEO of Vinyl Me, Please, launched the record-of-the-month company in January 2013 to provide music lovers with a more meaningful listening experience. Today, Vinyl Me, Please is located in Denver with 23 employees and ships exclusive records around the world. For our February CEO Spotlight, we asked Fiedler a few questions about growing his company, what he’s focused on for 2019, and his journey as a CEO.
What was the original idea or pain point that inspired you to start your business?
Streaming was becoming more prominent in the U.S. and was changing the whole model (for the consumer) from paying for ownership, to paying for access. Streaming has an impressive impact on the music industry—it’s changed the way we listen to, share, and discover music, and, in many ways, has revitalized the music industry. But, it assumes music is a commodity, and obfuscates our personal relationships with music.
Being an art form as powerful as music is (one that can define a generation, a time period, a movement, or even a life), we believed music was more than just a commodity, and should be treated as such. We were drawn to vinyl, not because we saw a business opportunity, but because it provided a deeper, more rich experience, and gave us an opportunity to cherish the bands/albums we loved.
We launched VMP after asking ourselves a series of “What If?” questions. What if we could bring back the idea of listening to and appreciating music? What if we could build a community and a conversation around music? What if we could share our musical discoveries and obsessions with the community (and allow them to share them with others as well)? Those questions became the basis for VMP.
What is Vinyl Me, Please?
Most simply, we are a record of the month club and online record store. More broadly, we exist to experience music more deeply. Our vision is to be the champions of music appreciation, focusing on curation, storytelling and community. We plan to create opportunities to serve music fans through a multitude of new products and channels that are true to our values & competitive advantages, but go well beyond vinyl.
What aspect of your team or company culture are you most proud of?
We have a core value titled “punch above your weight.” It’s a value that means a lot to me as it’s defined my journey as a CEO.
Being young and naive, I had no idea what it meant to be CEO when we first stated. I literally earned the position through a winner take all game of rock, paper, scissors. I recognized I didn’t have the experience to be good at the job so I pursued it with intense curiosity and a willingness to go beyond my comfort zone everyday. That process has led to tremendous personal growth and has helped us take VMP from a passion project to a full blown company.
This value signifies the truth that we’re all capable of much more than we may think we are. This establishes an expectation that everyone in the company pursue their positions with intense curiosity and a willingness to push themselves. It’s a value that forces personal development, and through that, organizational development. I’m proud that it’s a value our company and team live by.
What is the most important thing you're working on right now, and how are you making it happen?
Maintaining healthy cash flow and driving towards profitability. These things are really a testament in our ability to execute and grow responsibly. To achieve them, we intentionally built our 2019 budget and plan around these objectives. We’ve identified initiatives that will have the biggest impact on these things and have established clear ownership for them.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received as a CEO?
Every time you double, everything breaks.
This applies to just about everything—budgets, personnel, processes, communication, and beyond. I love this because it’s simple and hints to some amount of inevitability as your company grows. It reminds me that my job is never done and that I constantly need to be editing everything we’re doing to make sure we’re always getting better. In my experience, shit hits the fan when everything breaks all at once (and there is no foresight / planning given to it).
What has been the most meaningful aspect of your engagement with the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network?
I have been blown away at the Advisors’ willingness and desire to help (as well as their proactivity in doing so). Our company presentation yielded a great conversation with lots of points of follow up. I received personal emails from just about every mentor after the meeting with follow up information and an invitation for continuing the conversation.
I believe I am the product of the people who have helped me along the way. The Denver/Boulder community has been so accepting of me, and so willing to help, that it is another sign that this is the best place to build a company. Organizations like BEN make that even more true.