At age six, Louis Matrone didn’t know much about baseball. His mother took him to tryouts where, according to regulations, he should have been placed in a team of other young children playing “coach pitch” baseball. The faster paced Little League, where kids pitched to each other, was reserved for children age seven and older. Seeing potential in Louis, however, the Little League coach made an exception and gave him the choice. “Do you want to play with your age group, or would you like to play real Little League?” he asked the child. Louis, without hesitation, responded, “I want to play with the big boys.”
Since Louis began playing Little League as the youngest kid on the team, he has made this same choice over and over again. “It was at that point in time when I first realized that people shouldn’t put me in a lower level if I thought I could perform at a higher level,” he avows today. His success in baseball translated into success in golf as he got older, and, later, into success in business. Never content to rest with what he’d accomplished, Louis, in sports and in the business world, eagerly sought out the next step up, the larger arena—the big leagues. He credits his father with inspiring him to consistently move up the ladder in this fashion and still quotes his advice today. “Don’t ever play with kids that aren’t as good as you,” Mr. Matrone would say. “Play with kids that are bigger and better, and try to be like them.” Louis has put the mantra to use countless times over the years, from his days tagging along behind older golfing buddies who showed him the ropes, to his entry into the business world when he was armed with nothing but intelligence, determination, and confidence.
Today, Louis serves as President and COO of Information Managements Consultants, Inc., (IMC) a successful information technology company servicing public and private clients and with about 80 percent of the business in government contracts. Founded in 1981 by Sudhakar Shenoy, the business provides services in two areas. Under the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) umbrella, IMC helps clients manage vast amounts of data while modernizing or creating an array of administrative systems. IMC organizes and streamlines HR, legal, and accounts payable departments, and helps eliminate redundancy in stored data. In addition, IMC has a health and life sciences component, which works with the federal government and primarily the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and commercial clients to provide program support. “Our scientists, doctors, nurses, and technologists are working with the client’s doctors and nurses, supporting worldwide efforts like clinical trials with the National Institute of Drug Addiction,” Louis explains. “Our systems support all the interactions between global scientists.” Thus, both arms of IMC provide much needed assistance and organization to crucial projects.
Louis joined IMC in June of 2000, after a twenty-two year tenure at Electronic Data Systems (EDS). While it would have been easy for him to relax and enjoy the fruits of a successful career after running a $700 million piece of EDS, his ever-present desire to move into the big leagues eventually won out over facility and comfort. IMC is a significantly smaller organization than the multi-billion dollar EDS behemoth, but one where Louis was offered the chance to be a true entrepreneur and to run a business in an all-encompassing way he’d never experienced at EDS. Getting him onboard, however, did take a bit of convincing, as well as the wisdom of his wife of 36 years, Pam.
Sudhakar Shenoy, founder and CEO of IMC, first met Louis socially while playing golf with mutual friends. Today, Louis speaks highly of the man who tempted him away from the business he’d joined fresh out of college decades earlier, relating how Sudhakar graduated from the prestigious India Institute of Technology, went on to the University of Connecticut, and ultimately found success in the IT field. “He took what he had and started IMC, and it was really on his shoulders,” Louis explains. “He was a one-man band, and he worked hard. He’s a tremendous sales mind, he’s got the largest Rolodex of anyone in the region—a testament to his charismatic and personable nature.” Sudhakar had been working without a COO for about a year when he began asking Louis to consider taking the position. Initially, Louis was reluctant because, on paper, the idea made no sense. He was firmly established in a position where he oversaw a hugely profitable portion of an old, well known, and very secure business, and in February of 2000, Louis firmly told Sudhakar that the move wouldn’t make much sense. “I thought that was the end of the conversation,” he laughs now. “A few months later, I was COO of IMC.”
After the second or third time Sudhakar called with his job offer, Louis mentioned the discussions to his wife, expecting her to brush off the idea. But Pam, knowing Louis’s long-harbored entrepreneurial ambitions, had the opposite reaction. “She turned to me and said, ‘I think you should seriously consider that,’” Louis remembers. He took her advice and gave the decision some real thought, reflecting on his dad’s career as a small business entrepreneur, running a local gas station and liquor store. As a kid, Louis dreamed of being involved in those businesses. He thought about what he’d be giving up at EDS—an honorable position, but also all the bureaucracy that came along with it. “In the world of bigger companies, even though you’re running $700 million worth of business, you really don’t have as widespread authority as you might like,” he points out. “You have to go to the finance department, then the executive committee, then this, then that, and then get the CEO to sign off on it.”
In making the decision, Louis then thought about Sudhakar as both a businessman and a trusted friend, and suddenly, the equation began to look a little different. “I knew IMC was a secure bet because the company had been around for twenty years and had a lot of success, and I had a lot of confidence and trust in the individual who was running it,” he reflects. “I knew I’d be able to utilize all the good things I had learned at the bigger company while leaving behind the bureaucratic elements, bringing best practices to a company that needed them.” With that, in June of 2000, Louis agreed to join IMC and fulfill his lifelong dream of running a business. Once again, the tantalizing vision of what he might accomplish in the big leagues was too tempting to turn down.
Throughout his young adulthood, Louis’s predisposition toward rising to the top manifested itself in his golf game. After playing for the first time at age 12, he informed his father that he would go to college on a full golf scholarship—a vision he fulfilled five years later. During high school, he convinced his parents to transfer him out of his private Catholic School for the opportunity to play on a larger, better golf team, getting more exposure. In college, his determination to recover from surgery on his hand had him outpace even his most optimistic doctor’s timetable and resulted in winning at Regionals, pulling the team on to the National Championship.
His commitment to golf also led to his first experience earning money when, unbeknownst to his parents, he began working at the local country club. They didn’t want him to have a job so young, but he was insistent and was quickly promoted from cleaning clubs and parking cars, to working a real job at the pro shop. Through the job he met the coach that ultimately recruited him for his college team—not to mention his wife, Pam, who was a member there.
Louis’s career at EDS had a similar upward trajectory. Although he stayed with the same organization for 22 years, he moved up consistently and aggressively, leaping from one department to another without the requisite experience and learning as he went. He quickly gained proficiency in operations, sales, and marketing, all without additional education. He began in the accounting department as a fresh graduate, quickly setting his sites on getting out of the office and working directly with clients. Louis told the executive in charge of the financial department that he wanted to start working on the projects and she arranged for him to meet with someone for an interview. The man, a retired marine, ended up becoming Louis’ best friend, but in their initial meeting was a bit intimidating. “I don’t know a lot about accounting, but if you screw up, I’m going to know more about accounting than you’d ever want me to know,” the man warned.
Louis admired and adopted this hands-off management style and replicated it as a leader today. “I let people do their jobs, and I’m not going to micromanage them,” he explains. “I’ve learned how to separate my own responsibilities from the responsibilities of others—how to draw the line, rely on others, and not attempt to single-handedly run everything.” This knowledge, however, didn’t come easily—it was hard-won wisdom that followed a hellish year of almost literally non-stop work. Sent to Connecticut to fix a struggling project, Louis spent a year in the office, taking off only three days total, including weekends and holidays. “I sacrificed my health and I barely saw my son,” he remembers. “My wife had to bring me a change of clothes and shaving kit more times than I can remember because I just never went home. That’s when I first realized, I wasn’t bulletproof, and that delegation can be key.”
Nowadays, Louis recognizes the importance of balance. “What good are you going to do if you work so hard you kill yourself?” he queries. “I’m going to be better at my job and get the chance to enjoy my beautiful granddaughter by living a longer life. I’m giving back and applying some of the things that I’m learning as I’m growing. You need to have your sanity and your health. If those foundational elements get out of balance and you have too much work, then your family’s going to sacrifice.” He married Pam at the young age of 19, and as they approach 40 years of marriage he is quick to remember the support she provided throughout. Although his parents were initially reluctant to approve of the marriage, they couldn’t help but be won over by Pam’s kindness and grace as she nursed Louis after a serious golf injury and subsequent surgery. As a result, his mother gave her blessing willingly to a marriage that remains one of the great joys of Louis’ life today.
In advising young entrepreneurs entering the business world today, it comes as no surprise that Louis is a vigorous proponent of taking risks. “I don’t buy into the ‘I’m never going to take a chance’ mentality,” he affirms. “If we don’t have people that are willing to do this, who’s going to run these companies? Who’s going to take it to the next level?” He emphasizes the importance of setting goals, without which, you can’t measure what you’ve accomplished.
For Louis, the kid who was too young for Little League, the adolescent who was too busy for a job, the accountant who was too inexperienced to work with clients, the executive who was too comfortable to become an entrepreneur, life has been about defying expectations and taking on the next level. Indeed, it isn’t only about taking it on, but more so about demanding it. “I’ve had some of my successes because I was willing to take a chance and learn a new capability, but it all comes down to the fact that I was willing to take a chance on myself,” he confirms. Taking this chance is what the big leagues—both in business and in life—are all about.