Growing up in South Africa with the sound of bees from some of the 5,000 hives his family had, Martin Steinhobel learned a thing or two about being an entrepreneur at the feet of his “go get-em”, “never say die” father. Watching his father work hard all day and then head-off to move hives late into the night, Martin gained his own stalwart work ethic from seeing his dad in action.
“My dad would never ask anyone to perform a task that he wouldn’t do himself. The worst of all of the jobs, he would do himself,” Martin recalls.
Early in his childhood, Martin’s mother passed away and the loss had a significant impact on his life. Though it was the hardest thing for him to deal with, it also contributed to his strong leadership abilities and the way that he relates to others.
“I think, going back to my childhood now, weathering the loss of my mother helped me understand that, even though bad things can happen, you can actually work through them. The experience certainly shaped me, and contributed to my assuming leadership early on in my career. I also thought that my father’s habits were just normal: the way he ran the bee business, fixed his own trucks, custom designed the machines he needed, and then built them himself. So that’s how I approached the world; if there’s a problem, you overcome that problem and just get on with it.”
Martin utilizes that leadership and passion for others every day at his company, Valens Point, where he is the president and co-founder. Valens Point, founded in 2007, is a consulting firm focused on providing business management consulting and exit strategy planning for small business owners.
When Martin and partners Debra Mendes and David Smith decided they wanted to buy and run their own company, they initially went out looking for a small business that they could take over and improve. What they found was that small business owners had trouble understanding the value of their companies. There was a big gap between what people thought the value of their business was and what a third party would think that value would be. Martin and his partners realized that they could fill that gap and Valens Point was born.
After graduating high school, Martin attended Rhodes University in South Africa where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and a Bachelor of Commerce. Martin performed computer science related jobs at the college and helped with research for some of the professors. Then during his summers he would work as a clerk in an accounting department, but his experiences there were surprising to him.
“Because of my father’s work ethic, I had no concept of a 9-5 job. The first job I took in college was a clerk in an accounting office for a paint company. When 5:30 PM came everybody stopped and went home and I didn’t understand why. We had things to do; we were in the middle of things. I didn’t understand why everyone had stopped.”
After college Martin served in the South African military where he completed two years of service becoming an officer in the process. During this time Martin was involved in top-secret operations, working as the head of his electronic warfare station.
Once his two-year term was over, Martin went to work at one of the mining companies in South Africa. There he helped identify and solve a particularly trying technical issue for the company related to regulatory reporting required by the Inspector of Mining Leases. The application the company had in place for tracking and reporting that information was over-complicated and inefficient.
Martin spent several months working on the issue, but soon realized that the underlying approach to solving the problem was flawed. So he rewrote the entire system. What had taken the company over eighteen months to build and countless man-hours, he replaced within three months, reducing the size of the application to about a tenth of its former size and substantially improving the applications functionality.
“My philosophy is that, at the end of the day, our starting point should be, ‘yes we can and will find a way to do things’. The fact that it looks like you can’t is absolutely irrelevant in terms of solving the problem. It’s just a matter of figuring things out.”
Martin met his wife while they were both in college and they married during his second year in the military. Describing marrying his wife as the single best decision of his life, Martin wanted to support her dreams when she won a scholarship to attend The University of Cambridge, so they packed up and headed for England. Work permit requirements turned out to torpedo hopes of Martin working in England, so he looked elsewhere.
When he received an offer to work for three months in the U.S., Martin and his wife decided that it would be a good opportunity for him.
“The thought was that I would work in Texas for three months, then go back to Cambridge and finish out the year with my wife and then take a brief tour of Europe and go back to South Africa.”
That thought didn’t quite pan out though. After some initial difficulties, Martin ended up being rather instrumental in redesigning the City of San Antonio’s 911 emergency response dispatch system. Three months turned into six months and six months turned into a year before they finally decided to return to South Africa. At that point Martin was offered a management position in Denver that was too good to turn down.
So Martin and his wife moved to Denver, where he started his climb up the corporate ladder, eventually achieving overall responsibility for all Professional Services in the U.S. and Canada for Software AG. It was here that Martin met and worked with his soon-to-be partners. Connected by a camaraderie and good understanding of one another, there was an entrepreneurial air about them which naturally propelled them towards business ownership.
“I grew up in an entrepreneurial environment and so did my partners. We all have a passion to help others and in particular to help business owners get more value out of their businesses.”
Martin has his own personal reasons for wanting to help his clients with their exit strategies.
“When my father came to transition out of his business, he didn’t have resources that could’ve helped him in any meaningful way through the transition. It didn’t go as well as it could have and I just think that, if you’ve worked a lifetime and built a business, it should go well at the end, when you come to transition out.”
Martin’s advice for recent college graduates is to be courageous and bold and do things that are hard for you – this will lead to great success.
“The obvious paths are not the only paths,” he continues, “You can, if you apply your mind to hard problems, or things that seem insurmountable, come up with solutions that can make a difference. Spend the time. Don’t jump to the first solution. There could be better solutions. The obvious ones are not necessarily the right ones.”
A born leader with a passion for people, Martin Steinhobel is dedicated to finding the right solution for the problem, especially when others have tried and failed. A creative, out-of-the-box thinker whose talents for new ideas and determination are only shadowed by his successes, Martin is an expert at challenging the insurmountable. With a passion to help people see their everyday world in a better way, Martin has met that challenge and proved the victor.