By Melinda Collins | Photography by Bryan Isbister from Creative Images Photography
It was 1998 and Martz Witty was delivering his first ever major public speech to a group called American Singles Incorporated, entitled ‘How to achieve your personal and romantic goals in 1999’.
Considering his impending divorce, it was an irony not lost on him – especially as his soon to be ex-wife was sitting in the audience.
“I couldn’t hold my own marriage together and here I was telling 600 or so people how to achieve what they want in their personal relationships.
“But it was a marvellous opportunity to bring business, accountancy discipline, creative methods and ideas into a personal arena to show how the two are related because, whether it’s personal or business, the principles behind success are the same.”
Whether it is a client or significant other you are looking for, the steps are the same, he says. “Determine your target market, get yourself out there, be known, be sincere, be genuinely interested in the other person – all those principles are the same.
“It was quite exciting to share that logic; it was a little embarrassing that my first wife was in the audience,” he laughs. “But we get along great again now.”
It’s this real-world empathy Martz credits the success of his business development organisation, Martz Group. “One of my fundamental beliefs is that the purpose of a business is to sell it, so I’ve owned 23 businesses over the years. One of them lost me $32,000 every 24 hours the doors were opened.
“So when a client comes to me and says ‘you don’t know what it’s like’, I say ‘try me, just try me’.”
A little leverage
While Martz is a chartered accountant by qualification, he certainly doesn’t fit the stifling stereotype. Today Martz Group is a unique mix of traditional accountancy, business development and professional speaking.
“We do accountancy, because it’s the nuts and bolts of business; it’s something that has to be done. Essentially we’re a business development agency, we moved into professional speaking as a way to leverage the business development across a large number of people.”
It was this desire to disperse what he was learning that led him into the business development game initially. “I had learnt all this experience in the real world, but I was only applying it to one person, being my employer at the time. I wanted to be able to take that knowledge and distribute it amongst a lot of people.
“Do I have all the answers? Absolutely not, but I’m good at the questions, so we get there, we always get there. It’s my passion; it’s my favourite part of what we do.”
He kind of fell into accountancy on his dad’s advice when his desired motor mechanic apprenticeship failed to materialise. “It was the best advice dad could have given me and I haven’t looked back.”
Martz’s first accountancy firm was sold as part of the matrimonial property settlement and today he does a lot of work in matrimonial settlements, where the business needs to be valued.
“It’s a painful time; when clients come in here they are typically very angry at the dissolution of a partnership. It’s about taking the cold balanced business side and applying that to the personal side so we can remove some of the emotive charge which then makes it more palatable for all concerned.
“I’ve had the divorce, ridden the ride, got the t-shirt and taken the photo,” he laughs. It was his addiction to work which he puts the break up of his marriage down to. “I used to be a workaholic and got it terribly, terribly wrong. Not a day goes by that I don’t look forward to coming to work. I love what I do. It’s about tempering that enthusiasm so I don’t go down the same path.”
It’s a common issue among passionate business people, he says. “We talk about this work/life balance. I think we have it all wrong. Work and life aren’t equal.
To my thinking it’s life balance; work is just a subset of life. As a business developer, one of the most common things new clients say is, ‘I’ve got a great business, now please give me my life back’.”
No collective currency
You see, success is different for everyone. For some, it is making a million dollars, for others it is working 40 hours a week instead of 60.
“Business growth doesn’t necessarily mean bigger. At the beginning of an assignment we have to work out what success is for that person. Whatever it is, if we can measure it we can manage it in business.”
One of his most interesting clients was someone who needed the business solely to fund their cancer treatment. “For them the battle was won when they beat the cancer, it didn’t matter how much money was in the bank.
“Their health was the currency they were measuring their success in.”
From there, Martz says there are only four ways business growth can be achieved, whether you are a mechanic or run a massage parlour. “Getting more clients of the type you want, increasing the transaction frequency (the number of times the client buys from you), increasing the margin or the money you make per transaction and being more effective in the business processes.
“Business success is often concealed as hard work and people often go ‘oh, that’s too hard, I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing’.
“Interestingly once you take that step as a person or a business, it’s never as painful as you expect. Suddenly you end up with a culture of positive change. When you end up with that culture there’s no holding
Therefore no two businesses want the same thing. “Some business coaches have been guilty of becoming sales coaches instead of business coaches. Sales are only one way out of four to grow your business and an increase in sales may be what the business wants, but likewise, it might not. Also it’s important to differentiate between what a business wants and what it needs.”
There are three things which can stunt a business’ success Martz says. Firstly, accepting you don’t have all the answers. “One of the biggest hindrances to success is not asking for help and worse, not accepting help.”
Even in his own business, Martz says this is of great importance. “With my background I have a wide range of experience,” he says. “But I don’t know everything. So if I have someone come in from the high IT industry, that’s where my networks come in and I would go to a colleague with that experience.”
Secondly, is procrastination. Martz recently carried out an independent evaluation of a business from the ground up and compiled a list of factors which could significantly effect the business in a positive way. “They’re now looking at it going ‘hmmm, we’re just not sure if we’re ready’.”
But overall, the most common and at the same time surprising roadblock to business success Martz observes is a fear of success. “It’s a really interesting and common paradigm which a lot of people in business need to deal with.”
The first thing for someone serious about being successful in business is to start with knowing what you want and where you want to go Martz explains. “Steven Covey in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People put it best when he said start with the end in mind.”
The next step is to bounce ideas off some independent people that you can relate to. “It’s risky talking to family as they will protect you to the end of the world and therefore tell you what you want to hear.
“Like you need to find clients of the type you want to have, you need to have advisors of the type you want to have, the bank manager who listens to you, has empathy with you, gives you good advice, the accountant who understands your business, rather than just trying to make a buck.
“Too few businesses put together an advisory board, they think it’s just for the big boys, but the smaller fish can benefit just as significantly.”
The biggest factor to set the successful aside from the unsuccessful is attitude. “Another great line from my dear old dad was that it’s the journey, not the destination that’s important. I believe we run a very successful business here, we’ve made mistakes and we’ve learnt from them, but the key is it’s always been fun.
“If we had gotten everything right the first time, I wouldn’t have had nearly as much fun along the way.”
So what are some of the misconceptions about business success? According to Martz that would depend who you were talking to.
“Generation Y bring an amazing energy and strength to the table, but they want it today. Baby boomers have been raised with the belief system that if you work hard you’ll do well, and they have done.”
With an enormous number of baby boomers looking to sell their businesses in the next five to 10 years, Martz questions who they will sell to.
“Generation Y isn’t interested, they think they can do it themselves faster and better. Then there’s the generation Xs who are tarred a little with the work hard to succeed principle, but they are also a little tarred with the ‘I can do this faster and better myself’ principle and they just want to go in there and do it for themselves.”
And the solution is? “The right person, doing the right job, at the right time with the right tools, at the right price.”
It’s a popular little ditty Martz likes to espouse, but he says if you can get those five things right, you’ve nailed it. “One business I work with has all three generations; grandfather, father and son working within the business and they are on fire. We’ve put the respective people in roles that best suit their personality, drive and interests and it’s been the winning combination.”
The overriding trick, he says, is the ability to ask for help.
“I remember a client in the United States who wouldn’t even change their own light bulb in an ordinary height ceiling. Kiwis are a different breed. Our men, in particular, are not good at asking for help unless they are absolutely painted in the corner. Those who do ask and then act on that help really fast-track their success.
“Us Kiwis are very do it yourself. If we could just temper that enthusiasm with a willingness to ask for assistance we could be even better.”