An interview with Matt Dumas, who joins as a Partner at Oxeon

Matt Dumas recently joined Oxeon as a Partner. Matt runs a tight ship, and has not yet led a meeting that spills over the allotted time. He so graciously allowed me an untimed window to both grill and get to know him. I’ve been extremely impressed by his ability to dive into the madness that is Oxeon Partners, and not only stay afloat, but also tackle large scale initiatives in his first few weeks. To be frank, I’m really curious—and I imagine others are as well—to understand why Matt has joined us. I know what a special place Oxeon is with both a great team and an unbelievable ability to shape the healthcare landscape like few organizations. What never occurred to me is the possibility that someone like Matt might share this same feeling.

Matt is a straight-shooting, charismatic executive. I find him quite easy to talk to, and he displays effortless diplomacy. He has managed to ever so politely hint to yours truly that it may be in my best interest to occasionally shut up ie, “have you ever noticed that we are created with two ears and one mouth?”

Culturally, Matt fits Oxeon like a glove. He lives and breathes the Oxeon motto of doing well by doing good, and as an active guy, he immediately embraced the Oxeon FitBit challenge. He has upped the office fashion game one hundred-fold with his occasional pocket square, and brings a more worldly perspective having lived in Germany and Switzerland.

[dropcap]Q:[/dropcap] Matt, how would you describe your professional career prior to Oxeon Partners?

Having led new ventures and turn-arounds in both large and small companies the vast majority of my career, I am an entrepreneur at heart. I was lucky early in my career to have mentors at P&G and Nielsen who saw me as an entrepreneurial business builder who was comfortable tackling new business opportunities and broken business models. After 15 years working at both companies, I led multiple high growth ventures across 14 different country markets. Inclusive of these ventures was the launch of a new Pampers European franchise and the build out of Nielsen Health here in the US. I eventually started my own company in 2009 focused on healthcare analytics and technology and have never looked back given the amazing opportunities in this space. Most recently, I was working on the turnaround of WebMD as SVP and Head of Marketing

[dropcap]Q:[/dropcap] In touching on your earliest of entrepreneurial days, what exactly were you creating in your dorm room at Colby College?

While most of my friends were doing what most college kids do, I found myself focused on the poor quality of Colby’s drinking water. Despite being located in Maine, an area people associate with pure spring water, I found the old campus pipes created a horrible taste and smell. I started a bottled water company as an alternative that delivered bottles directly to the dorm rooms and faculty offices. The majority of students lived on campus, and as you can imagine, the business took off, so I needed teams of friends to help with delivery. Early on I learned about the power of subscription revenue models, contract manufacturing, and managing people. I eventually sold the company before graduation. I wouldn’t exactly describe it as a Facebook exit. All joking aside, that early experience gave me the momentum and confidence to pursue new ventures for the rest of my career.

[dropcap]Q:[/dropcap] As the 5th employee at Oxeon, I have personally watched an idea spark and catch fire into a full-fledged business and given my work here in executive search, I witness operations in larger and more mature organizations. I would imagine you bring unique perspectives on matching specific talent and skill sets to an organization regardless of their growth stage?

From experience, I know that the C-Suite talent profile requirements of a pre-revenue start-up are largely different from a later stage, more mature venture. Depending on the growth stage, management team and investor profile, the attributes necessary for a successful leader will obviously vary. The trick is to identify the winning combination of management skills and leadership attributes through a close partnership with both clients and candidates. To do that effectively for early stage businesses, one needs to leverage experience. I think my early and later stage venture experiences across different size companies, business models and company cultures, gives me an advantage.

Interestingly, Oxeon represents an excellent example of this. Trevor and the original leadership team have been incredibly successful driving company growth over the past two and a half years. Given the major scaling opportunities to take Oxeon to the next level in search and investing, Trevor needed another Partner who had the operating experience and cultural fit to do that. I’m lucky to be seen as that person, and I’m looking forward to also help search clients address their own leadership needs.

[dropcap]Q:[/dropcap] As you considered what your passions were and where you saw yourself going professionally, I understand healthcare executive search to be a no brainer. With that in mind, the million-dollar question: “how did you end up at Oxeon Partners?”

It was kind of like an arranged marriage.

Trevor and I were introduced by multiple investors and entrepreneurs who saw how we could fit together culturally while having complementary operating and industry experience. However, there were no expectations. Before meeting Trevor, all I knew about Oxeon was that their culture was incredibly unique, and they had the best professional network in healthcare. When we met, there was immediate chemistry around both life and work experiences: differentiated but quite similar. After a series of conversations and lots of drinks, I found myself sharing a desk with him - but more on that later!

When Trevor and I first met, I had already been seriously considering the Executive Search space over the last several years given the talent issues facing the healthcare technology space. As an entrepreneur with an investor mindset, I struggled with the transactional orientation of traditional executive search firms. With the lethargic legacy of innovation in healthcare technology and services when compared to the vast scientific advances, until now, there have been only a limited number of players in the industry who have the C-Level leadership and management qualities from years and years of experience. With the overall transformation of the healthcare system, we are now seeing early stage healthcare technology related companies reach Series A, B and C funding stages as they try to scale into larger more mature businesses. In most cases, these investors and management teams need help in finding executives who know how to do this. Given my background and interest in talent, I see this as a tremendous career opportunity and a real way to make an impact on how our healthcare system transforms over the next few years. After spending time with Trevor and the team, it was clear to me that Oxeon, with its unique business model and culture, was the best place to do that.

[dropcap]Q:[/dropcap] Just as you talk about executive level talent being critical for our clients to move to the next level of success, the parallel need clearly exists at Oxeon Partners. As Oxeon continues to grow and evolve, where do you see your biggest opportunity to add value internally?

I am primarily focusing on two areas internally to help drive the scale needed to support our growth: Process and People. While keeping the unique culture alive and thriving, I see ways to introduce more efficient approaches to our research and industry outreach in a way that maximizes candidate quality and client timeliness. Our business model and culture focuses on people being the most important and unique asset. A top priority for me is to enable growth by also investing in training and management development in a way that preserves the Oxeon DNA and giving our younger leaders more responsibility.

[dropcap]Q:[/dropcap] In what is considered either the dumbest or boldest move, you are sharing a desk with Trevor. Not an office but literally a desk. What in the world is that like and why did the two of you decide to take that approach?

It’s very unconventional, but we both thought it would be the best way for me to quickly on-board with Trevor by my side. Talk about checks and balances! But seriously, with an organization like Oxeon, bringing a second senior leader into the mix is not without risk and we felt that sitting together would both help drive alignment but also would send a message to the organization that we are operating together. After two weeks, we liked the real time decision making and open communication so much that we agreed to work permanently next to each other. The architect responsible for building our new office space on Hudson Street in Soho was the one most surprised when we asked her to think last minute about how we can create a custom space for the two of us to co-locate. At least I’ll have my own desk when we move in September!

[dropcap]Q:[/dropcap] In light of some of these conversations about culture and talent, what was the best professional lesson you have learned thus far?

Regardless of industry or business model, all of us are in the people business. Through my 20 years of experiences at P&G, Nielsen, WebMD and as an entrepreneur, there has been one prevailing theme: the right combination of certain leadership attributes, personality traits and cultural norms are the electricity that fuels an organization behind every successful business. Whether working in mature businesses or building start-ups, I’ve personally experienced success and failure. The common denominator behind those experiences was the type of people involved and fit within the culture. I am at Oxeon today to leverage those experiences. [dropcap]Q:[/dropcap] Matt, I applaud you for being an active guy and a baseball fan. As a New Yorker, I take offense to your allegiance to the Boston Red Sox. When you are not in the office, what are you doing?

I am very much a family person and enjoy raising my three children with my wife, Melanie. Being an only child, I think I am vicariously living through their experiences as part of a larger family and love every minute of it. Living in Darien, Connecticut, my biggest challenge is to keep them in touch with nature and focus on boating, camping and skiing as an outlet that removes them from suburbia and the digital world. When I have the time, I still tend to my passion of fly fishing for trout or mountain biking, both in the middle of nowhere. And yes, I love the Red Sox as much as Trevor does.