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 originally called two different places home: the Bay Area and Kansas City. I first came to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona, and 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. All the different parts that make up Tucson come together to make it special to me. Everything about it has always felt like home.
What is an experience in Tucson that shaped you?
Playing on the University of Arizona men’s basketball team was an incredibly defining experience for me. I was able to meet and connect with so many different people in the community and the University. Not only did I gain teammates, coaches, and lifelong friends, but also the sort of indirect connections with all the people that are part of U of A and the fan base, and even people that I don’t know. I would go in and have lunch at Mi Nidito Restaurant down on South Fourth Avenue, and people would recognize me and say hello. I have always felt really connected to everyone here.
Tucson is a very welcoming place. It has a lot of old-fashioned values, but at the same time, it’s also a pretty liberal city. The community is very respectful of each other. My experience playing basketball and the connections I’ve made have stayed with me. Tucson has always felt like home for me, and it is such a college town which is something that I’ll always appreciate.
What is your favorite landmark?
I don’t have a favorite landmark because there are so many that are special to me. My list, of course, 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. San Xavier Mission, I love the mission, and that’s just outside of Tucson. Sabino Canyon is particularly special to me, I live out in that area of town now. There are too many wonderful places to name.
What are the qualities of a team player?
One of the most important things to keep in mind for me is to focus on your team’s vision, mission, and goals. Those are the first things you should think about when you’re working or collaborating with a team, not your individual goals. What happens, typically, is if you’re focused on the team goals, your own goals, satisfaction, and things that you’re trying to do, usually fall in line as well.
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. Sometimes it’s not easy to figure out, but I think once you know it, really playing that part is essential. Your role can change, but it will always be important. Being candid, humble, and really taking satisfaction in other people’s accomplishments is key to succeeding on a team. Ultimately, 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 creates the best results.
Why do people and relationships come first?
Part of teamwork is putting other people and relationships first. Over time, we figured out with Genius Avenue and our partners that if we focus our efforts on the people and the relationship, our goals 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 agree on a particular term, a number, or something else. 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 align. It happens time and time again. With nearly every contract that I deal with, I focus on cultivating the relationship and the contractual process and negotiations become effortless.
Why is it our responsibility to improve every day?
A long time ago, somebody told me, “every day you’re either getting better, or you’re getting worse.” Those are your two choices: to get better or worse, so why not choose to get better? When we improve every day, our partners will notice and our customer service will be better. I’m also really process-driven, so I think taking that approach, in turn, will also lead to continuous improvement.
As an attorney, I’m very detail-oriented. If you can improve things little by little every day, you end up making these tremendous gains and gigantic improvements that you never really thought were possible.
Chris Baker, Genius Avenue’s VP of Technology and Innovation, and I talked extensively about just paying attention. When you pay attention, you understand; that’s self-awareness. You see things from a different perspective, from the big picture to the details. What is your company vision? What is the mission? This holds true all the way down to your relationship with a client and your employees Understand that being self-critical and reanalyzing yourself and your actions is a hugely important part of being self-aware.
We always have new models that we’re working on. In today’s day and age, with such technology and innovation, it’s possible that a particular model could be outdated in a week. However, core values like self-awareness and self-improvement don’t often become outdated. Those are things that we can always cultivate while being super flexible with the pace of the world and technology.
If you’re satisfied with where you’re at, you’re going to get stagnant, and you’ll go backwards. You have 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, securities regulation, and employment law. He graduated from the University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law.