Understand that you are still a business. It’s great that you have decided to have your business serve some greater purpose beyond making money and satisfying shareholders, but at the end of the day, you still have to delight your customers and make a profit. That means quantifiable metrics must exist, and responsible individuals must be held accountable for achieving them.
In today’s competitive business landscape, the race for profits often takes center stage. However, there are some leaders who also prioritize a mission-driven purpose. They use their business to make a positive social impact and recognize that success isn’t only about making money. In this interview series, we are talking with some of these distinct leaders and I had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Louis.
Matt Louis is one of the nation’s leading experts in career transition for members of the military community. He is the author of the award-winning books Mission Transition and Hiring Veterans. Matt also serves as President of Purepost, a B Corp SaaS that optimally matches skilled, qualified candidates to career opportunities in the US economy.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us your “Origin Story”? Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
For the past decade, I’ve felt called to address a significant inefficiency in our nation’s economy. In my career, I’ve spent an equally large number of years in senior roles in and out of the military. Through that experience, I came to two inescapable conclusions:
As a result, both sides of this civil-military divide — and the nation overall — realized sub-optimal outcomes. Individual veterans and their families typically experienced a period of unemployment followed by several rounds of under-employment. Unacceptable suicide rates became part of the collateral damage, and military recruiting difficulties are now an unintended consequence. Organizations, negatively influenced by prevailing stereotypes and unable to understand or appreciate what this talent pool offers, forwent the incremental productivity and competitiveness they would have otherwise experienced. As a result, our national security and our nation’s economic productivity suffer — in my view, needlessly.
Being a systemic thinker, I saw employment as a direct causational factor where my efforts would bear optimal results. Not only does full employment offset suicidal ideation in the post-9/11 veteran cohort, but it also addresses all the other social determinants of health issues. My study of the underlying problems resulted in my two books focusing on this topic — one (Mission Transition) focused on the military side of the divide, the other (Hiring Veterans) focused on the civil.
These efforts subsequently led to roles on the boards of nonprofit veteran collaboratives, which strive to provide wrap-around services for members of the military community. These organizations act as the best one-stop-shop models to effect successful transitions for our veterans and their families in communities nationwide. While helpful and supportive, it wasn’t enough. I found the need for a systemic solution that enabled employment based on an individual’s competencies and skills — what veterans bring in spades but find challenging to verbalize — remained. The search for this solution ultimately led me to Purepost.
A West Point classmate who understood my aims introduced me to its founders. A series of conversations led to an advisory role, and subsequently, advisory work became a full-time opportunity.
Purepost is a B Corp SaaS that uniquely matches the supply and demand of talent in the US economy based on an individual’s underlying competencies and skills. Our proprietary matching methodology results in optimal hiring outcomes. Because they realize a quality match from the outset, individuals realize greater personal fulfillment, better opportunities for upward mobility, and a greater ability to build wealth for themselves and their families. Organizations save time, realize better retention rates, and — over time and at scale — greater competitiveness and productivity.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
National recognition by industry experts was always a goal, but it’s taken an exceptional amount of effort and time to get there. The quality of the talent matches we enable is partly driven by our data, whose source is more extensive and better than any competing organization on the planet and took us five years to create. But we are finally seeing some rewards from these years of effort. Josh Bersin, an industry analyst in the Human Resources community, recently featured Purepost in an article focusing on tech platforms for the talent industry that enable skills-based hiring and upward mobility. This recognition, in turn, has led to increased uptake in the market — a big boost for a start-up company like ours.
We often learn the most from our mistakes. Can you share one that you made that turned out to be one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned?
As a relatively new entrepreneur, some days it seems like I’m making mistakes all the time. One that we learned within the past year was regarding our pricing. We had under-priced our product. That may sound silly and beg the question of why we didn’t realize more traction sooner with lower pricing. However, we learned an interesting counter-intuitive lesson about buyer psychology. Sometimes, buyers see less value in a product priced lower and may thus be less likely to buy it. Economists would say that sometimes misinformation disrupts the standard supply-and-demand pricing curves. To illustrate this concept with another product, if you know nothing about the quality of the car I just purchased and I told you I paid $85k for it, you’ll envision a luxury automobile. On the other end of the spectrum, if I told you I paid $5 for my lunch, you would likely imagine a cheap, unhealthy fast-food option. But the reality may be very different. The lesson was that when the quality of a product or service is difficult to assess (as was our case as a new entrant in the market), the informational value of price is particularly powerful in discerning its quality. When we began raising our prices to a degree that corresponded to our perceived quality, we began to get more traction. Furthermore, we believe that as customers gain more experience with our platform and experience more success, additional price increases may follow to correspond with the increased quality and value realized
As a successful leader, it’s clear that you uphold strong core values. I’m curious what are the most important principles you firmly stand by and refuse to compromise on. Can you share a few of them and explain why they hold such significance for you in your work and life?
At Purepost, we post our values directly on our website for all to see. We also share our heritage, beliefs, and commitments as a business. We are as equally transparent in sharing them with those outside the company as those inside. As we say, “Our values are the bedrock upon which we do business.” They are as follows:
We act with honor and uncompromising honesty in everything we do.
We never mislead and always do what we say and say what we mean.
We follow through on all of our promises and commitments.
We take full ownership of our work and accept the responsibility for the outcomes of our actions.
We take a stand on issues and speak our mind, and are never deterred by fear of uncomfortable topics.
We make tough decisions in a timely manner and with confidence.
We value the importance of working with others and sharing information freely in the interest of building a culture of openness, candor, accountability, and trust.
We listen attentively to others, ask questions for clarification, and strive to view things through the eyes of others.
We will treat all people with dignity and respect and value the power of diversity.
We will provide the resources, tools, and information to achieve individual and team success while eliminating the barriers that prevent individual and team accomplishment.
We act with curiosity and creativity and keep abreast of leading-edge technology and best practices.
We always ask “why” a minimum of five times in order to identify opportunities, take prudent risks, and challenge the status quo.
Why we hold them dear has much to do with why we originated as a B Corp. As a B Corp and by statute, we must serve a societal good. For us, that societal good comprises veterans of the US military and their spouses. Given that, nearly all executives in the business are also veterans and military spouses, our mission and success are implicitly aligned with our customers. These values reflect the same values we held while in the military and reflect our ongoing commitment to helping one of our nation’s finest, yet most overlooked, talent sources find success in their future careers.
What inspired you to start a purpose-driven business rather than a traditional for-profit enterprise? Can you share a personal story or experience that led you to prioritize social impact in your business?
At some point in their lives and careers, most people begin to consider what legacy they want to leave. A quote attributed to Jim Morrison of the Doors goes, “No one here gets out alive.” So, if we have a finite time frame within which to make an impact using our earthly existence, what should we do? For me, I found it essential to retire from professional services to serve in a purpose-driven organization.
I’m a veteran of the US military. I’ve walked the path of those I am striving to serve with my books and my efforts at Purepost. Moreover, I’ve served for an equally long time in organizations that stand to benefit from effectively utilizing this same talent pool of US military veterans and their spouses. As such, I’m uniquely positioned to help each side understand the other.
These efforts are now critical. Besides the suicidality issues in the post-9/11 veteran cohort mentioned above, our nation’s security is at stake — literally. If military service is not seen as a gateway to successful civilian careers, future recruits may be dissuaded from serving. And that is precisely what we see today with the military’s recent recruiting shortfalls, which have reached levels that, according to some, constitute a national security crisis. The table below indicates projected recruiting shortfalls for the fiscal year just ended for selected services. These shortfalls follow the Army’s 25% (15,000) recruiting shortfall last year, which forced it to cut its planned active-duty end strength from 476,000 to 466,000.
And don’t expect the support enabling successful careers following time in service to come from the government. Why? Leaders in the Pentagon have a limited budget to allocate. Their mission is to fight and win the nation’s wars. Thus, leaders allocate the available budget to efforts and resources that directly enable that mission. Most taxpayers would likely support that thinking. That thinking, however, is short-sighted and overlooks longer-term dynamics at play that have negative consequences for today’s military recruiters.
Finally, and perhaps most directly, guess who pays the unemployment bill when veterans aren’t hired? The Department of Defense (DoD) must pay Unemployment Insurance for Ex-Servicemembers (UCX) to states whose veterans are not employed. These funds, whose amounts have varied from $200–900+ Million in recent years, subtract from DoD’s operating budget and thereby sacrifice funds that could otherwise be spent on our common defense.
Our nation is worth protecting and saving, and I’m hopeful that most people would agree. Given its importance and the potential role I could play in addressing it, the question I ask myself is, “If not me, then who?” In a speech entitled Citizenship in a Republic, President Theodore Roosevelt presented a passage known today as “The Man in the Arena” that speaks to my motivation to follow through on my insights. It reads as follows:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Can you help articulate a few of the benefits of leading a purpose-driven business rather than a standard “plain vanilla” business?
Many rewards come from operating any business successfully. And those will satisfy some portion of any professional’s goals and aspirations — from physiological needs to safety and security to love and belonging and even to self-esteem. I would argue, though, that optimal rewards come when success is achieved in ventures where your personal and professional goals are aligned. I would say that the pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — self-actualization — is only achieved when this occurs.
Because of this and the personal satisfaction that comes with it, I find it easier to tolerate short-term variances in business outcomes because there is a longer-term agenda at play. That’s not to say we don’t have goals and hold ourselves accountable for achieving them. It’s just that those goals are achieved within a framework that serves — by our way of thinking — a greater purpose.
How has your company’s mission or purpose affected its overall success? Can you explain the methods or metrics you use to evaluate the impact of this purpose-driven strategy on your organization?
Because our purpose is so embedded in our business, we see business accomplishment as mission accomplishment. As such, the metrics we use have a deeper meaning. Let’s take churn. While any business would expect to lose some customers over time, we have yet to do so. We read that as not just a positive business outcome but an affirmation of making a causal impact.
Can you share a pivotal moment when you realized that leading your purpose-driven company was actually making a significant impact? Can you share a specific example or story that deeply resonated with you personally?
I’ll share one story to illustrate the outcomes that individuals tend to realize in applying the lessons in my books and the capabilities of our Purepost applications. Still, there are a multitude of examples just like this one.
There was a veteran who served as a combat medic in the military. Like many of his peers who served in such capacities in Iraq and Afghanistan, he struggled significantly upon leaving the military to find his purpose, identify a corresponding career field, and chart a path to realize it. He also had some mild PTSD and sometimes struggled with his focus. I met him through my work supporting one of the nonprofits on whose boards I serve. I first introduced him to my book Mission Transition, which helped him address his open questions regarding purpose, career, and path — whose answers indicated the need for additional schooling. Understanding that, I introduced him to our Purepost applications, which he used to apply for graduate schools. I’m proud to say that he has been accepted to his school of choice and will begin classes next year. He has thanked me profusely on multiple occasions for introducing him to my work, as he sees it as being directly responsible for his outcomes to date.
Have you ever faced a situation where your commitment to your purpose and creating a positive social impact clashed with the profitability of your business? Have you ever been challenged by anyone on your team or had to make a tough decision that had a significant impact on your finances? If so, how did you address and reconcile this conflict?
We see ourselves as leaders in business, much like we saw ourselves as leaders in the military. As such, we prioritize our people, who, in turn, help us accomplish our mission. There have been times in our past when cash flow was such that near-term sacrifices had to be made to ensure the continuity of the business. At times, there needed to be more cash to pay everyone come payday. And so, we as leaders — who prioritize our people and our mission — decided to make the sacrifice of forgoing our pay so that the incredible work of our workers could continue.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs who wish to start a purpose-driven business? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know In Order To Create A Highly Successful Purpose-Driven Business.”
1 . Understand that you are still a business. It’s great that you have decided to have your business serve some greater purpose beyond making money and satisfying shareholders, but at the end of the day, you still have to delight your customers and make a profit. That means quantifiable metrics must exist, and responsible individuals must be held accountable for achieving them.
2 . For your purpose to resonate with people outside of your business, you will need to construct a proactive marketing campaign to educate stakeholders on the basis of your business and enroll them in its support. Nearly everyone appreciates a business that does more for society than just turning a profit. So, include that messaging as part of your outreach and your organization’s marketing materials. And when you realize success, publicly announce the accomplishment to reinforce your basis in the eyes of your audience.
3 . Take advantage of the additional sales channels your purpose affords you. For example, Purepost competes in the talent-matching industry and seeks to serve any commercial organization in the country needing talent. But we were also founded as a B Corp that benefits veterans of the US military and their spouses. And so, we actively pursue opportunities in any of the more than 45,000 Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs, many nonprofits) in the nation that might benefit from our services. In doing so, we tend to realize additional sales opportunities through the commercial relationships those organizations already maintain.
4 . Consciously construct a culture that puts your purpose in the everyday minds of your employees. Culture starts with values. Values drive beliefs, and beliefs drive behavior. At Purepost, we took a diligent approach to composing our list of values and the beliefs that emanated from them. Combined, they serve as a guiding light for our workforce. And we posted them on our website to encourage transparency and demonstrate how we walk our talk, an approach aligned with our purpose and a means for external stakeholders to hold us accountable.
5 . It may take extra work, but it is worth it in the end. For example, if your organization seeks to be formally certified as a B Corporation, your team will dedicate much time collating the documentation necessary to justify and maintain that certification. But that certification represents a significantly higher bar that few organizations realize. Moreover, it represents a culmination of aligning your personal and professional interests, which is what most purpose-driven businesses are all about.
I’m interested in how you instill a strong sense of connection with your team. How do you nurture a culture where everyone feels connected to your mission? Could you share an example or story that showcases how your purpose has positively influenced or motivated people on your team to contribute?
We don’t have to work as hard at this as some. Start with the fact that we are a B Corp. By statute, we must serve a societal good. For Purepost, that societal good is US military veterans and their spouses. So, our very foundation is focused on the mission of making a difference, which is implicit in our culture. Add to that the fact that almost everyone on the team is a military veteran or military spouse. We are who we aim to serve. These are our people. They are us. We deeply understand what was required to be successful in the military, and those cultural bases have carried over into our work at Purepost.
Imagine we’re sitting down together two years from now, looking back at your company’s last 24 months. What specific accomplishments would have to happen for you to be happy with your progress?
I would be happy to see progress in two significant areas. First is sales, where we need to convert a couple of the many large clients in our pipeline. I’m convinced that as soon as that happens, several others will get on board. Second, after that dam breaks and follow-on conversions rapidly occur, we can merge with a much larger entity that will enable us to have the significant impact on the economy that we all want to have. That’s been our goal, and we are all anxious to get there.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would love to see the civil-military divide in the country disappear — or at least significantly dissipate. Dissipation happens when all relevant audiences read and apply my books and effectively utilize Purepost’s applications. Everyone wins when that happens. Individuals find full employment in optimal career fields thanks to Purepost’s skills-based matching approach. This results in increased personal fulfillment, the ability to build wealth for families, and better opportunities for upward mobility in organizations. Organizations benefit by realizing increased retention rates due to the better quality talent match that competency-based hiring enables. Over time and at scale, organizations realize improved competitiveness and productivity, and the nation’s economy realizes improved GDP.
How can our readers further follow your work or your company online?
They can follow Purepost on one of several channels:
They can follow all the work associated with my books at Louis Advisors:
This was great. Thanks for taking time for us to learn more about you and your business. We wish you continued success!
About the Interviewer: Chad Silverstein is a successful entrepreneur with more than two decades of experience as a successful founder and CEO. He started his first company, Choice Recovery, Inc. a third-party collection agency, out of his apartment while going to The Ohio State University. He grew the business nationwide and represented more than 10,000 clients before he sold the company on his 25th anniversary. Chad’s second venture [re]start, a career development platform that helps people find new jobs, launched in 2013 as a division inside his agency. [re]start was a catalyst to Chad’s team becoming an industry outlier after connecting thousands of people sent to collections with new career opportunities so they could afford to pay their bills and get out of debt. His team was nationally recognized for their social impact, while twice being ranked the #1 business to work for in Central Ohio. Chad sold [re]start in 2023 and is now a writer and thought leader for Authority Magazine’s Entrepreneur and Sports Editorials. He also offers an exclusive executive leadership program inside his online community at Authentic Authority.