Quenton has extensive experience in the field of international development and microfinance having developed a funding strategy for HOPE International, practiced microfinance in Ukraine, as well as lived in Poland while running a small business. Quenton holds an MBA with a concentration in International Finance, and has traveled to over thirty countries, resulting in a wealth of knowledge and depth of experience that is invaluable in his role as President of MATTER.
Give us MATTER’s elevator pitch.
We are a global health NGO founded and based in the Twin Cities. For 20 years we have been repurposing medical equipment and supplies to under-resourced clinics and hospitals around the world through our MATTER 360° Initiative. While we have a particular focus in Africa, we have worked in more than 50 countries over the last seven years.
As a leader how has your role changed during COVID-19?
I once heard a wise leader simplify leadership down to the basic task of taking a group of people from here to there. At MATTER we have a clear mission and organizational tools, such as a strategic plan, but with the current challenge of COVID-19, we don’t know exactly when or how we may be able to transition through this challenging time, given no clear ending in sight. So as a leader, this uncertainty makes it especially hard to know how to help bring our team from here to there. That said, our team has done a remarkable job of learning to shift during the pandemic and adjusting our work. We have had dozens of conversations about how we can help now, but we also focus on how things may change in the future and how we can be ready. I really believe these conversations give us a sense of hope that has helped us tremendously.
How have you pivoted your company to address the needs that have risen since the onset of COVID-19?
As a small, agile team, we have always been pretty good at pivoting. We were started by entrepreneurs and that spirit is alive and well at MATTER today. So when challenges come our way, the team often becomes energized. During the pandemic, we developed a phased approach. Every year MATTER receives hundreds of pallets of medical supplies in donation, including PPE. The very first call we received to help came from a group of Chinese doctors living in Minnesota. They asked to have masks shipped to Wuhan, which we quickly did. The next set of calls came from all of our hospital partners in town and we spent several weeks gathering and delivering PPE to our friends at HCMC, Allina and nearly every group in town. MATTER also works with kids and families in providing healthy food in our community. So we developed a strategy to deliver healthy snacks and meals to first responders and frontline workers. All in all, we were as busy as ever!
What are the big milestones to come in the next few years for MATTER?
We are halfway through a three-year strategic plan. It is foundational for MATTER’s work in Africa and I am moving to Zimbabwe in September for nine months with my family. We want to prove out our hypothesis that going deeper on bigger projects brings greater impact to those we serve. In the past, we acted as equipment vendors and helped in many small ways with projects. However, we felt a sense of calling to do more for these communities. And we believe with a deeper connection to our partners on the ground, greater and more sustainable impacts are likely. I am extremely excited about what we have been learning so far and what we will better understand over the next 18 months!
What does leadership look like to you?
I’ve always enjoyed learning about leadership and listen to a lot of books and podcasts to understand how to improve. My favorite author on leadership is Warren Bennis, who passed away several years ago. He had a famous quote that said, “Leading means deeply affecting others.” That is so true in my experience! When I was a freshman in college my basketball coach believed in me and my leadership. It was one of the first times I remember a leader deeply affecting me. It gave me a desire to pass that on to other people. The other trait I believe to be so important is authenticity. After reading thoughts from so many great leaders I would often try to ‘be like them.’ What I learned is that I need to be who I am. I certainly discover better ways to do things from others, but at the end of the day, most people are drawn to authenticity.
What is the best advice you have received in your career? What is the worst?
Well the worst is simple. I once had a friend tell me that you can’t show weakness as a leader. We were both young, and at the time I questioned if this was true. It didn’t take me long to realize showing weakness is actually a strength for a leader. The best advice, although I am not sure where it originated, I heard from Bahram, the founder of Lifetime Fitness. He said his philosophy on business is to ‘think big, start small, act fast.’ I locked it in the minute I heard it but had no idea how much impact it would have on me throughout my career. It has become the way we approach nearly every project at MATTER!
What have been the most rewarding moments in your career?
I’ve had two opportunities to live in other cultures abroad. Once in Kiev, Ukraine, and also in Krakow, Poland. These times resulted in tremendous personal growth that benefitted both the teams I’ve worked with and me personally. I continue to find pushing myself to pursue unique opportunities seems to provide to most growth and benefit for my career.
What is one personal goal for the upcoming year?
Move to Africa. This becomes a reality on September 11th when my family and I move to Zimbabwe. The personal and professional alignment for this move has been remarkable and I could not be more excited about this opportunity!
How do you relax/decompress?
Fishing, or really anything outdoors. I took my 18 and nine-year-old sons to Lake of the Woods to fish for Walleye. It was a remarkable time for all of us…it didn’t hurt that my nine-year-old pulled in a 28-inch Walleye as we were pulling in our lines to leave!
What do you enjoy most about the medical alley community?
I am new to the medical alley community. So, I am eager to learn about the opportunity to engage on a deeper level. As I travel the world, I realize our good fortune to have such a community with so much rich medical knowledge.