How this millennial CEO 'supercharged' his career by firing himself

'Being a young tech CEO is not all it’s cracked up to be'

How this millennial CEO 'supercharged' his career by firing himself

It’s the new American Dream. At 25, Matt Bodnar became the CEO of a struggling tech company and turned things around. Unlike most stories, however, his narrative is about self-reinvention.

Bodnar was initially working as an analyst at Goldman Sachs when he became part of the restaurant group Fresh Hospitality. The young man was eventually called in as finance chief of the company’s tech brand, Fresh Technologies, which had earlier suffered financial setbacks.

The company was losing money – and it was up to Bodnar and the rest of the C-level executives to save it from disaster. Unsatisfied with where the business was headed, he decided to step in as CEO.

“The day I took over as CEO, we didn’t have enough cash to make payroll,” Bodnar said. While it would take years before Fresh Technologies would return to good health, the young CEO developed a strategy to steer the company to success.

“My initial task was to clean up the company and get it organised,” Bodnar shared on Entrepreneur’s Problem Solvers podcast. “I spent several years getting the financial end of the business squared away, figuring out what are the right business lines we need to be in, what are the profitable things we’re doing, what are the unprofitable things we’re doing, putting in the right systems and processes to help get the business out of danger.”

“It was super sexy and exciting to be a young CEO and to feel like, ‘Wow, I’m the master of my destiny and I’m running this company and I’ve got these crisp, new business cards that say ‘CEO’ on them,’” he said.

While the business was saved, things began to plateau for Bodnar. “We were sort of stagnating; the business wasn’t growing to the next level the way that I wanted it to grow. It had reached a great stable balance point, but as the now maybe 27- or 28-year-old CEO of this company, I wanted it to be a fast-growing, high-flying business, and the reality is it wasn’t getting there,” he said.

It was in that period – after much soul-searching – that Bodnar decided to step down as CEO.

“I started to realise it’s not all it’s cracked up to be and maybe it’s not even the right skillset for me, and maybe I’m not even that good at it,” he recalled the self-doubt he experienced.

A friend who was also a tech CEO succeeded Bodnar while he transitioned as chairman of the board, a move he claimed suited his abilities more.

This form of self-reinvention has become a rule-of-thumb for him to “supercharge his career”, as Entrepreneur pointed out.

“My constant focus is, how can I replace myself with somebody who’s smarter and can do a better job than me?” Bodnar said.

 

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