Matt Childs is far too laid back for someone who spent a couple years disarming bombs for a living.
He hails from Mishawaka, a city in northern Indiana very close to Notre Dame. He moved around a bit as a kid, even living in Cyprus before returning to Indiana to attend high school.
As a teenager weighing his options, Matt decided to become an architect so he could design baseball stadiums. His guidance counselor, seeing Matt was good at math, suggested he consider becoming an engineer instead. After all, engineers and architects “basically do the same thing” and the country’s best engineering school was right down the road.
Taking the guidance counselor's advice, Matt applied and was accepted to the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, where he studied civil engineering. The Army paid for his schooling in exchange for four years of service once he completed his degree.
“I went into the Army for two reasons,” said Matt. “To pay for school, secondarily, and primarily because I was watching when 9-11 happened, and that struck me. I wanted to be able to do my part.”
Matt went through ROTC, graduated and joined the Army Corps of Engineers. As a member of the Corps, he had three options: construction, topography or combat. As a civil engineer, the obvious choice was construction. And yet, he wound up in combat.
“The Army, in their infinite wisdom, put me in a Stryker unit, which was route clearance,” said Matt. “Basically, we went from point A to point B disarming bombs and disposing of them.”
Matt deployed to Afghanistan, where he got blown up, shot at, “all the things you’d expect.” It was a tough tour of duty, but after serving the requisite four years, Matt volunteered to stick around for a second deployment, extending his contract by two years.
“I just knew my job wasn’t done,” he said. “I could do more. That’s why I wanted to go back a second time.”
Matt’s second deployment allowed him to work on a grander scale. Looking for a way to serve the people of Afghanistan, he built a national counter-IED program. He successfully lobbied for the support of high-ranking generals, who made the program one of the main focal points of their mission. With the backing he needed, Matt created a program to recruit, train, equip and validate members of the Afghan army according to NATO standards for bomb disposal. Within a year, the program grew from three local NATO-qualified bomb disposal experts to more than 1,000, who served all over the country clearing IEDs.
Matt earned his Sapper tab, one of four specialized Army designations, and the rank of captain. His service complete, he spent the next nine weeks backpacking across Europe before settling back into life as a civilian.
In his post-Army career, Matt chose not to pursue engineering.
“You don’t want me to design things," he said. "I could do it. I could crunch the numbers, I could do the math, but my heart isn’t in it. I’m not passionate about designing things like true engineers are.”
Instead, he tackled sales. It suited his entrepreneurial spirit and love of autonomy. Plus, he realized a lot of his work in the Army was more about sales than engineering anyway. He had enjoyed getting the buy-in for the CIED program, training, recruitment, getting the right equipment — and that was all sales.
“Realizing that, it was an easy transition for me,” he said.
Matt started with the industry he knew best — construction — and did business development for a marine construction firm out of Tacoma that worked on part of the new 520 bridge as well as the rebuilding of the Skagit River Bridge. After almost two years, he moved on to Sportworks, a bike rack manufacturer in Woodinville that makes 90 percent of the bike racks you see on the front of buses. Matt served as a sales rep for their bike parking product line, ran sales and eventually ran their marketing department.
By the time Matt joined OneAccord in 2018, he was very familiar with the company.
“I knew OneAccord, saw their successes, saw their struggles, saw how they managed each one of those obstacles with integrity,” he said. “After I transitioned out of the Army, I didn’t know how much I needed to be around people with integrity until I was around people without it.”
When the capital advisory services team formed within OneAccord a few years ago, he saw how his skillset could benefit the company and decided to join the team.
Initially, Matt focused on business development, primarily for the newly christened capital advisory team. OneAccord had just made a major shift to a three-pronged approach to serving businesses and Matt’s goal was to get the word out far and wide.
Business development remains Matt’s focus today, but his role has morphed over time into what he calls a conduit. Business owners who want to do something in their business and aren’t quite sure what, or aren’t quite sure how, can call Matt. He helps owners crystallize what they want and how to get there.
“Let me understand where you’re at and let me orchestrate who can be there with you,” he said. “For example, some business owners think they want to sell their company. So they call me and we figure out they don't really want to sell, they just don't want to run their business day to day. Or they are tired from new business development. I can figure out how OneAccord can best serve the business owner and get the right people to the table."
Outside of OneAccord, Matt is a busy man. He really enjoys helping small businesses, so in late 2019 he started Sapper Insurance to provide health insurance to small businesses. He focuses on making sure leaders who haven’t previously offered health benefits fully understand their options and make the best choice for their situation.
Matt also serves as chief operating officer of Clean Shop Supply, a PPE distribution company that enabled one of their clients to give away 50,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, more than 2 million masks and a large number of hand sanitizer stations during the shortages of 2020.
When he’s not serving small businesses, Matt enjoys hanging out with his family. He and his wife, Sarai, have been married since 2011 and have two kids; Colt will be six this year and Ellie will be four. Matt completed his MBA at the University of Washington last year and serves on the board of Encompass, an organization that helps children facing perplexing health issues. He’s also a foodie who enjoys wine, skiing with his family and serving in their church.
OneAccord helps business owners meet their goals by not only laying out a plan of action, but walking alongside and guiding them through that plan to the finish line. This series highlights the people who make this possible.