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Secrets of Success: Matt Rissell

There are some “rules” of business success most entrepreneurs abide by. But many also have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that helped them achieve success. In “Secrets of Success,” a weekly interview series here at’s Small Business Forum, I ask some of today’s smartest, most innovative, most successful business owners to share their insights and success secrets with you.

Meet: Matt Rissell, the CEO of TSheets, his sixth successful startup venture. Matt cofounded TSheets in 2006 after discovering a gap in the employee time tracking and reporting market. Since then, the company has been named the Idaho Innovative Company of the Year and the No. 1 Best Place to Work in Idaho.

Matt is passionate about startups, strategy and identifying high-growth opportunities. He’s a well-respected speaker and contributes to AMEX Open Forum and The Huffington Post.

Matt serves on the executive committee of the Idaho Technology Council, the advisory board of the Boise State University Computer Science Department, and the Vistage CEO Network. He has also received the 40 Accomplished Under 40 Award from Idaho Business Review, Cartridge World’s Franchisee of the Year award, was named to the Verizon Wireless President’s Cabinet. Most recently, Matt won the 2015 Rulebreaker Award (which my company partially owns).

Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Matt Rissell: As a kid, my dream was to live, work and play in the mountains, so being a park ranger or game warden were at the top of my list. But I discovered I just like people too much—I’m a social guy! I get energized by the buzz, ideas and passion of other people, then decompress with breaks in the backcountry.

Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?

Rissell: I always had that entrepreneurial bug, but never really knew it. The closest exposure I had to entrepreneurship was one summer selling musical instruments at flea markets with my grandpa. I traveled and lived out of his van with him for a few weeks selling everything from drums sets to kazoos! Fast-forward several years, and I had the first instinct—and fear—to shake up my comfortable career, which was holding me back from pursuing my first solo endeavor. Then the equation shifted: The company I worked for changed their compensation plan, and as the top performer, this effectively cut my income by 60 percent. This pushed me out of my comfort zone, and fortunately, made it easier to take the leap. I started looking at franchises, found one with a solid business model, and soon opened a handful of successful Cartridge World outlets.

Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?

Rissell: Success is a tricky animal, and can be defined in so many ways. I think of success as a journey, not a destination. To me, true success begins with my family, and it starts and doesn’t end every waking day. To that point, every night when I go to bed, it feels like a pivotal moment, because the next day will be an adventure in learning how to grow bigger, better, faster and stronger.

Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?

Rissell: Great advice goes into a mental toolbox, and it’s sometimes hard to tell which piece did the most to build and shape your company. That said, one book changed my life and completely transformed the way I run my business: The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Read it. That’s been my advice for other entrepreneurs, and, speaking from experience, it’s solid gold.

Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?

Rissell: Create and maintain a pro forma to drive financial decisions, control expenses and help make decisions about investments. Want to start a new division, execute a new marketing tactic or make a new hire? Cut out the guesswork. Just input the numbers and forecast the impact it’s going to make.

Lesonsky: Do you have a small business prediction?

Rissell: Small businesses will continue to be the backbone of the U.S. economy—especially tech startups. They’re disrupting the big companies that have forgotten their customers and lost their ability to iterate quickly.

Lesonsky: What’s your favorite book?

Rissell: Truly an old classic: How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?

Rissell: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” –Calvin Coolidge

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Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and, and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.