This is the first blog of our VP Spotlight series. Learn about the people behind Genius Avenue that impact not just our products and services, but also our company’s culture and the Tucson community. The values and lessons each VP brings to our team make Genius Avenue what it is today.
VP Spotlight: Matt Muehlebach
SVP of 5Lights & General Counsel
What is your connection to Tucson?
I am from two different places, the Bay Area and Kansas City. I came to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona, which is my connection to Tucson. That’s the first time I ever visited Tucson. I’ve been here ever since.
Why is Tucson special to you?
I’ve always felt very connected to the people, the community, the culture, and the land here in Tucson, the environment, and everything about it. It’s always felt like home, which is why I feel very connected to it, and to all the different parts of it.
What is an experience in Tucson that shaped you?
Playing on the University of Arizona men’s basketball team was an incredible experience; it definitely shaped me. It’s how I connected with so many different people in the community and the University. I met so many people through that experience. Not only my teammates, coaches, and my friends, lifelong friends, but then just the sort of indirect connections and all the people that are part of U of A and the fan base, and people that I don’t even know. People at Mi Nidito Restaurant down on South Fourth Avenue that I would go in and have lunch, and they would recognize me. I just feel really connected to everyone here.
Tucson is a very welcoming place. It has a lot of old-fashioned values, while at the same time it’s also a pretty liberal city. The community is very respectful of each other. Tucson has always felt like home for me. My experience playing basketball never left. It is such a college town, that’s something that I’ll always have.
What is your favorite landmark?
I don’t have a favorite landmark because there are so many that are special to me. So, of course, it probably just starts with the University of Arizona, the UA mall, McKale Center, Arizona Stadium, Gentle Ben’s, you name it. Everything around the U of A, the downtown area, El Charro, 4th Avenue. Sabino Canyon is really special to me. I live out in that area of town now. San Xavier Mission, I love the mission, and that’s just outside of Tucson. There are so many places here that are special.
What are the qualities of a team player?
There are a lot of qualities in a team player. I think there are dozens of them that you can look for in people. One of the first things for me is focusing on your team’s vision, mission, and goals. Those are the first things you think about when you’re working or collaborating with a team. That’s another collaboration. But being focused on those team goals and not so much being worried about your individual goals. What happens, typically, is if you’re focused on the team goals, your goals, satisfaction, and things that you’re trying to do, usually take care of themselves.
The top qualities of a team player are being collaborative, honest with people, responsible, living up to your commitments, and understanding your role. Understanding your role is a really big one. And sometimes that’s not easy to figure out, but I think once you know it, really playing that part is essential. It can change, but it’s really important. Being candid, humble, and really taking satisfaction in other people’s accomplishments. Ultimately, too, just wanting to be part of something bigger than yourself and taking joy in that, taking delight in accomplishing those things you can do as a team.
Why do people and relationships come first?
Part of teamwork is putting people and relationships first. Over time, we figured out with Genius Avenue and our partners that if we focus on the people and the relationship, our goals, whether trying to hit budget, make sales, or get a deal done, are attainable.
We want to be aligned with our partners and to grow with them. During the negotiation of a deal, we’ll hit a snag a lot of times; we’ll hit points where we do not really agree on a particular term, a number, maybe a service fee, or something. When we start focusing on the relationship, the people, and how we want to grow together, it’s almost magical how suddenly the terms and the things we’re trying to negotiate become aligned. It happens time and time again. Nearly every contract that I deal with, as a general counsel, when I negotiate, I really focus on the relationship, and the contractual process becomes effortless.
Why is it our responsibility to get better every day?
A long time ago, somebody told me that, “Every day you’re either getting better, or you’re getting worse.” Those are your two choices: to get better or worse, why not choose to get better? When we get better every day, then, obviously, for us as a company, our partners will feel it in a great way, and our customer service will be better. Our relationships are going to be better. Everything we do is going to be better for the client. I’m also really process-driven, so I think that taking that approach leads to getting better every day.
As an attorney, I’m very detail-oriented. If you can just improve things, just little by little, and you do that every day, you end up looking back, and you can have these tremendous gains and gigantic improvements that you never really thought were possible. As I said, not only does it help and benefit the customer and the client, but it helps us at the same time.
Chris Baker, Genius Avenue’s VP of Technology and Innovation, and I talked about just paying attention. When you pay attention, you understand; that’s self-awareness. You see different things, from the big picture to the details. What’s the vision of your company? What’s its mission? It goes all the way down to just your relationship with a client and an employee too. Maybe they need a friend. Understanding that being self-critical is hugely important, and that’s part of being self-aware. It is reanalyzing yourself and how you do things all the time.
We have different models that we’re always working on. In today’s day and age, with technology and innovation, it’s possible that a particular your model could be outdated in a week. Core values don’t often ever become outdated. Those are things that we stick with, but being super flexible and working with the world and the technology. We all saw it with COVID how you can be flexible and relearn how to work together.
If you’re satisfied with where you’re at, you’re going to get stagnant, and you’ll go backward. So, you’ve got to be looking at how you do things and how you can do them better. Why do you need to improve on them? Because otherwise, somebody else will.
Matt was a partner in the law firm of Hecker & Muehlebach, PLLC. His areas of practice focus primarily on complex corporate and business transactions general corporate and business law, and securities regulation, and employment law. He graduated from the University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law.