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The Business Leadership Club Speaks with Matt Wallach

The Business Leadership Club Speaks with Matt Wallach

Last Thursday, the Business Leadership Club hosted Matt Wallach to speak about his business career. A Harvard Business School graduate and co-founder of Veeva Systems, Wallach focuses on sales and marketing strategies. The BLC audience posed questions for Wallach to learn more about his path to success and advice to aspiring business leaders.


What did you bring from your high school career to your business career?


He was an entrepreneur since childhood, learning from early ventures in reselling candy and shirts that if a product required high effort to sell, it might as well be high-priced. This mindset now allows Veeva to earn millions of dollars just by making one deal. 


Wallach entered college not knowing that business consultants or software even existed, and he planned on being a professional soccer player. Unfortunately, due to a high school accident, he had to redirect his future. As a soccer player, he also grew an affinity for winning. This champion spirit is a mindset that led him to success later on. Since Wallach always wanted to win, he worked harder than anyone around him. 


How did you find the pharmaceutical niche?


Wallach was assigned to the product side of a pharmaceutical company in one of his jobs. The pharma niche stuck, and he gained over 10 years in it before starting Veeva, positioning him as an expert in developing software and advising pharma companies. This is why he recommends that people do not switch their careers after growing skilled in their niche, since someone with years of experience in a certain type of setting will always perform better than a beginner.


What types of characteristics do you look for when hiring someone new?


Veeva has used the same hiring manifesto since it was founded. Wallach explained that the employees who are successful at Veeva are the people who have had a strong work ethic their whole life. These employees are not working for money— they just enjoy working, which aligns with the company’s values of money not serving as a priority.


How do you enforce a team mindset in the company?


Wallach acquired valuable skills from playing soccer, a team sport, and further developed his interpersonal abilities through years of professional experience. He realized that team dynamics don’t necessarily require everyone to be on an equal footing, since individuals have their own priorities that motivate them. This is why when leading a team, Wallach recognizes the importance of understanding each team member’s aspirations, whether it’s a desire for a raise, promotion, or recognition. To uncover these priorities, Wallach emphasizes the importance of connecting with his team, which often occurs during casual settings like lunch, evenings out, or other non-work-related times. Growing interpersonal connections with his employees has allowed Wallach to succeed as a business leader.


Have you ever walked away from a high-paying career or job due to other priorities in your life?


Although he could not recall a personal career or job decision, he shared that on multiple occasions, Veeva rejected high-paying contracts, such as one from a major vape company, due to ethical concerns. Focusing on its mission to extend human life and improve health, Veeva transitioned to a “public-benefit corporation.” This move mandated the board of directors to “officially” start factoring in the best interests of customers and employees when making decisions, which Veeva had been doing since it was founded. The strategy is what has boosted the success of the company over the past 17 years; since customers trust that Veeva has their best interest at heart, they will spend millions of dollars on the company a year and sometimes not even look at its competitors.


Wallach shared that many companies he analyzes have an exit strategy, meaning that they are constantly thinking about “how [they] will get money back to investors.” He explained that these types of places are building a company for the sole purpose of selling it and making money, leading them to make short-sighted decisions that will hurt customers and employees. Due to always thinking long-term, Veeva is now twice as big since Wallach retired.


Is there any difference between working for a public company vs. a private company?


Wallach admitted that there are some differences, yet a company’s private or public nature is inconsequential unless an employee handles legal, finance, or investor relations, or holds an executive role. Private companies keep revenue private, while public ones have real-time indicators, though they may not accurately reflect the company’s overall gains. Transitioning from a private to a public company is challenging. Wallach explained that this is because private companies should oversell themselves, while public ones should undersell, and transitioning between the descriptions of one’s company is tricky. 


What is a challenge you have faced or a time you have failed?


Although he has heard it plenty of times, Wallach does not believe that one needs to fail to be successful. He has faced challenges during his career but has saved himself before he truly failed due to his problem-solving skills. Still, he has learned that to grow from a mistake, you need to take yourself out of the situation and see what you would have done differently to succeed. For example, he interviews thousands of people, and when he hires someone who ends up being detrimental to the company, he needs to think about what questions he could have asked the employee to reveal these flaws.


Do you have any business advice for after college? 


Wallach advises post-undergraduates to join large, successful companies instead of startups. According to him, “If you go from start-up to start-up, you don’t learn what good looks like; you are always trying to figure out what to do next.” At a larger company, employees can see how good teams work together and how good businesses function. He claims that in an interview, he can always tell what type of company work experience a candidate has.


He also hopes that today’s students do not get used to expecting everything to come to them “hyperfast,” which is the speed at which anyone can find a question online. He cautions that this generation must not expect to be overnight successes— speaking from his own experience, careers take decades to build. At the end of his presentation, Wallach emphasized the irreplaceable value, especially in the business world, of gaining hands-on experience, facing challenges, and working collaboratively for success. 

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About the Contributor
Sasha Beck
Sasha Beck, Business Editor
Sasha is a senior who is ecstatic to spend her fourth and final year writing for the Banner as Business Editor. When she is not writing, Sasha fills her life with dance classes, programming projects, and versatile Apple Music playlists. You can also catch Sasha leading Computer Science Club meetings, Business Leadership Club speaker series, or Harriton Dance Team performances.

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