People Are Interesting & The Power of Trust

Kim Easterle Mattes AON

The business world has both personal and professional aspects; it’s not binary, it’s both. Being kind in a competitive world is important because you are not just looking for a contact, you are looking to broaden your world. You need to adopt the mindset that every person you encounter is of value and has something of substance to share, whether it’s business-related or everyday life. Today on the podcast we welcome Kim Easterle Mattes. Kim has been a friend for many years and we have had the opportunity to work on multiple transactions together. Kim is a VP at AON Risk Solutions in Detroit, Michigan. In today’s episode, we unpack thoughts on ‘People Are Interesting,’ and ‘The Power of Trust,’ and so much more. Stay tuned for an insightful conversation with Kim and me.

Key Points From This Episode

  •  Kim unpacks the statement “The Power of Simply Being Kind in the Competitive World”.
  • Examples of how to find value and interest in everyone — People are interesting.
  • Conversational tips for getting to know people at networking events.
  • The importance of building relationships before looking for business opportunities.
  • How to maintain friendships and continue to find value in people.
  • Team business development versus doing it alone.
  • The power of trust as a foundation in teamwork.
  • How to build trust in the business development environment.
  • The importance of being vulnerable.
  • Constant evolution: Reinventing yourself and how it plays in your career path.


[00:00:01] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Branch Out, a Connection Builders podcast. Helping middle-market professionals connect, grow and excel in their careers. Through a series of conversations with leading professionals, we share stories and insights to take your career to the next level. A successful career begins with meaningful connections.

[00:00:21] AD: Hey everyone, welcome to Branch Out I’m your host, Alex Drost. Today’s guest is Kim Eastele Mattes of Aon Risk Solutions. Kim and I have known each other for a number of years and had the opportunity to work on multiple transactions together. We unpack thoughts around people are interesting, the power of trust and so much more. Hope you enjoy.

[00:00:41] ANNOUNCER: Connect and grow your network. We are on LinkedIn. Search for Connection Builders.


[00:00:48] AD: Hey, Kim. Welcome to Branch Out. Super excited to have you here today.

[00:00:52] KEM: Great. Thank you for having me.

[00:00:53] AD: First I want to say you’re one of those people that everywhere I go you seem to be. You and I have known each other for a number of years and we spent a lot of time at different networking events or ACG events and whatnot and you’re always smiling. You’re always happy. You said something super powerful to me the other day. You said the power of simply being kind in a competitive world. I would love to have you unpack that some for our listeners.

[00:01:16] KEM: Well, thank you for the nice compliment, Alex. I do think that it is a very competitive world, and I think at its core we have to remember that business is great, but you have to be kind. And that basic kindness will take you a long way not just professionally, but personally, and those two do get very much intertwined especially today. Back in the day when we’re at networking events, you would have a drink with someone or you’d be at lunch or breakfast, where today we’re actually in each other’s homes. As you and I are looking each other, I can see you in your home and you can see me in my home. You really have to keep in mind that we’re all basic people at the core. And if you can connect with people and find out what it is that’s unique about them, it will serve you both professionally and personally because you’re going to not just look for a contact. You’re looking to broaden your world. And I think everyone has something great to offer. And if you can find that and walk away, it’s not just about a business lead or a piece of business. You’re looking to keep that person as part of your friendship circle.

[00:02:23] AD: Well, and Kim, you said some really powerful things there. I think first I want to point out, when you think about personal versus professionally, it’s not binary. It’s not one or the other especially in the world that we live and work in. As a professional, your life very much blends. So when you’re out networking, it is personal and professional when you’re doing it. Now one of the other things I really loved you said there, people are interesting, right? And something, everyone has value to bring. Can you share some examples of how you just get to know people better and try to find interest in everyone?

[00:02:57] KEM: Well, it’s interesting you asked that when. When think back to the first time you and I met, we met as guests at a baseball game, and there wasn’t necessarily business to be done. It was I’ve heard your name, I’ve heard your name and I’d like to meet you. And it could be, “Gosh! What are you doing now? What are your interests?” it’s not just about where you work and what next deal you’re looking to work on. You find different things that people have and the value, whether that’s their peloton and a different type of class they’re working on, whether it’s people they’re working with, but you can always walk away with something of substance from someone. Every person is interesting. And whether it’s the book they just read or where they just traveled or a deal they just worked on or someone they met, there’s just so much to take away.

[00:03:50] AD: Kim, you said something really important there. It’s this idea that when you’re meeting someone and you’re building those relationships, it’s not talking about how you’re going to work together on a business basis, right? For me, when I was there, the conversations I was having, it wasn’t necessarily about business. It was just learning about people and talking. It might be about what they’re working on or what they’re seeing in the marketplace, but ultimately it is trying to get to know them and what they might have an interest in.

[00:04:22] KEM: I’ll go back to my initial example, was when I met you. We were at a Tiger game, and little did I know we were going to end up working on the very next deal that we were both working on. We’re going to be end up working together. And we weren’t talking about that deal at the Tiger game. We were talking about different people that were in our group. We were connecting with different people at the game. And I think that when you go into it the networking event, you go into it because you actually have a love of the people and it’s in your DNA. You want to go out and you want to go meet with those people. And it’s not a target. There’s that person that I need to talk to in business.

Now what was nice is because we had connected, it was very easy afterwards to continue to discuss and then talk business. And to add to that, when you’re doing that, whether it’s that example or others, it’s easy when you want to call someone later and say, “Hey, I heard there might be a deal going on. Do you know anything about it? Or who I might contact?” because you’ve already established, first of all, an introduction. Then secondary, you take that to a business friendship. And then hopefully you can move that to a personal friendship. And then later it can end up perhaps ending in business.

[00:05:37] AD: Well, and Kim, you and I have talked about this before and you said it there, the connecting with people is part of your DNA. And when you go to a networking event, you’re going there to spend time with other people. You’re not going there because you’re trying to win business and convert someone to do business with you. Now, as a professional, you ultimately end up converting business by doing that stuff, right? But that’s the byproduct. That’s what happens because you went and did those things. That’s not why you’re going in.

[00:06:13] KEM: Well, to your point of you go into that networking event not for a particular issue, I think you and I both approach the networking as I’m going to go in and I’m going to meet people. But what can I do to help others? Really, an integral component of that networking is looking about how you’re going to help others. I’ll give you a simple example. Many of us now have to wear masks, and lots of people like their school mask or their company mask. Okay, how can I get these masks to the people that I met? They’re either Michigan, Michigan State, Western. When you find someone that makes these masks, how do you do something for somebody else? And it’s more of a personal what can I do. And it may eventually be a business what can I do? You’re in a business situation and someone said, “Gosh! I’d like to conduct a networking event.” And we actually had a call the other day and I said, “Well. Hey, have you talked to Alex Drost? Because he’s really done an amazing job of pivoting from the face to face to the virtual event.” And, Alex, everywhere I’m going on these virtual events and they’re originating on many cities, you’re hosting them. So it is really exciting to be able to walk away and have given something to someone versus taken. And you might not get it back long-term from that person, but that whole energy of giving to others comes back at a time you don’t expect it.

[00:07:45] KEM: So I think as you’re keeping in touch with that network of friends, we can help each other and remind each other about what’s going on in somebody’s world that might help someone else. I’ll give you an example. I had a friend who knew I like University of Michigan and she had someone in her husband’s shop personally make me some mask. And they were dropped off at my front door and I thought, “This is just amazing.” Well, I talked to someone else on a business standpoint and I forgot he went to University of Michigan too and I said, “Hey, I’ve got these masks. Do you want some of them?” “Yes, I’d love to have these masks.”

So I don’t think you’re just sitting out there saying, “What can I do?” I think we’re working together as a team and recognizing that people have different needs and trying to constantly be out in front of it to say, “What can I do to help that person?” Every time you meet someone, how can I walk away and do something for them? Whether that’s sharing a book you’ve read that you thought might be of interest. Whether it’s sharing a mask. Whether it’s sharing a business contact. It might even be a personal contact. Someone’s looking for a vacation home to rent. Or there’s so much to it. So I think it’s just all of us helping each other stay in front of that thought of how can I help someone else that I just was with.

[00:09:03] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, a Connection Builders podcast.

[00:09:12] AD: Kim, you and I we’ve talked about this idea of business development on a team versus being solo. And I think across the professional space, most people that sit in a business development role, it’s a very entrepreneurial-like role. Can you share a little bit for those that maybe are sitting in a role and trying to find ways to be more collaborative and create more of a team-like approach to business development and networking?

[00:09:37] KEM: I’d be happy to. I’m very fortunate to have my colleagues that I work with. We’re fortunate to have a natural camaraderie. And that natural camaraderie really comes out of trust. There has to be an inherent trust that when you’re working together as a team you’re doing it for the team. And I think as teams, you’re much stronger than you are individually. It’s very hard to cover a lot of area. If you can cover similar people as well as different people, you can expand your reach, but there has to be at the basic core trust.

[00:10:10] AD: Well, and how do you build some of that? Especially when you’re in an environment as a professional in business development where likely a large chunk of your annual income is going to be tied to some production figure or some generation figure and you’re starting to split when you have other people involved there. How do you get over that trust hub? How do you get that foundation going?

[00:10:30] KEM: Well, I think you lead by example. You start to show that when you get something in, you’re sharing it. And you start to realize that there’s more volume behind that when there’s a team. And it has to come with – Truly, they’re at that core. You are working for and with the other person and not just what did I do or what did you do, because it’s not going to be the same on a day-to-day basis. This would be similar to friendships, business relationships. It’s not a 50-50 every day, but the core value and the core point is the team. And going back to you know the team, the team, the team.

[00:11:10] AD: To get trust, you have to give trust. Hey, I’m going to have to give trust. And part of giving trust, it’s being vulnerable. It’s putting yourself in a position that in your case you might have said, “Hey, I’m going to share these deals,” and that maybe didn’t come back. And that’s going to happen. That is going to happen in situations. And when you’re in that, it’s an unfortunate place to be and you have to find a way to work through that. But in the end, if you don’t start to give that trust first, if you don’t open up for it, how can you ever expect it to come back? How can you ever expect it to really start building there?

[00:11:41] KEM: Absolutely. And that brings up a good point. Not every two people should be a team or three people. You might have to try a couple different teams and you may actually have to reinvent yourself a few times to be the correct team member. I really think that you have to look at it strategically and say, “Where are my weaknesses that someone else’s strengths can complement me and make me better and maybe I can give that back in a different way as well?”

[00:12:09] AD: Well, and you said there it’s, “What are my weaknesses and what are other people’s strengths?” How can you find that compliment? And one, that takes serious self-reflection to truly understand what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are. And then more than anything, an open mind to admit where you might be weak. And weakness, and I think so many times people look at, “Well, I don’t want to admit I’m not good at X, Y and Z.” The sooner you start to have an understanding that that’s not your strength and rather I have strengths in other areas and you lean into those strengths, you have so much more potential.

And then as you said, you partner up with the right people. You build the team around you. You find the right teammates where you complement those strengths. And ultimately it brings so much more value to what you’re doing. Now I want to shift directions here for a minute. You said something so important there. You have to reinvent yourself. And I think this is something really important for our listeners to hear. As a professional and as someone who is working to grow their career, what would you say when it comes to this idea of reinventing? How would you think through that?

[00:13:10] KEM: I had a mentor who told me mid-career that it’s not going to be one career, one location, one job. That may have occurred in the past, but today’s workplace, it doesn’t seem that that works quite as often anymore. And he was encouraging me during a transition time that you have to reinvent yourself. And he was an accountant by trade and he had had to reinvent himself from being standard books to when quicking came out and you automated a lot of the accounting. You then had to change how you viewed your job so that you weren’t out of a job. And he said, “Don’t ever forget, Kim, you’re going to constantly be reinventing yourself.” And so that means even now with COVID, how do we adapt? And like in your case, Alex, you moved all of our networking that we do and you helped us move it to a virtual space. That’s part of the adapting and reinventing yourself. And I think that we constantly have to be aware of how we reinvent ourselves. It’s just constantly being aware, using feedback, staying creative. How do you stay out in front of this? And business is changing. So it’s not going to be status quo. You’re going to have to figure out how to change with it.

[00:14:28] AD: What I think so many people have to realize is that the world is evolving and it’s evolving faster today than it ever has. And if you’re not on that forefront of saying, “Hey, I’m going to have an evolution mindset. I want to constantly do something. I want to constantly challenge myself and constantly grow.” You’re going to get left behind in that situation.

[00:14:47] KEM: Absolutely.

[00:14:48] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, bringing you candid conversations with leading middle market professionals.

[00:14:56] AD: Now, Kim, one question I always love to ask. I’m sure you’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way just like we all have, and those are always the best learning experiences. When you look back at it if you could give advice and say, “These are some of the things I really wish I just would have learned earlier in my life,” what would those be?

[00:15:15] KEM: There’s so many. I think most importantly is to keep an open mind. Things that you thought might not work, they might work. And I think as much as you keep your network open, you’re going to make sure that you keep a mindset around you that is not all thinking the same. And as you need to pivot, you learn that it doesn’t have to be in one direction. And to be open to it and be really open to what your weaknesses and strengths are. You might want that job over there, but that might not be a real good match with your skillset.

So I think you really have to be open-minded. You have to be a student of your industry and be aware of when it changes. So I think the key is just to stay open-minded and not get complacent that you really need to be constantly looking around you and saying, “Where do I need to be and what do I need to be developing to constantly doing continuous improvement?”

[00:16:22] AD: Well, I want to hone in on something you said there. Be a student of your industry. And it’s that student mentality. You’re coming here because you’re looking to learn and grow. I really want our listeners to take away that this idea that when you approach life with an open mind set about opportunity and always looking for learning and growth and new places to turn, you are going to have a life and a career that is going to excel at rates that you could have never imagined before.

[00:16:52] KEM: I think that’s well said, Alex, with the whole idea that it’s not just your career. It’s your life, and you have to be constantly reevaluating the choices you’re making and the direction that you’re taking to make sure it’s where you really need to be. Not where you think you should be, but where you truly should be. And I think bringing it back to the networking, the more people you’re involved with, the more difference in perspectives you hear, more people with more ideas. It naturally takes you on that course that’s not only going to be your business relationships, your personal relationships, but as you say, your abundancy of life is going to move with the more perspectives and the more uniqueness that you have within your groups.

[00:17:34] AD: Well, Kim, I’m so happy you brought it back to the networking there, because as a professional, a lot of what we do does go back to this idea of networking. But where I think some professionals sometimes miss the value is networking isn’t about just finding someone to do business with. Networking is about expanding your horizons and knowing people that they can teach you things and help you learn stuff that you didn’t know or give you different perspectives. And I challenge people all the time, build a network with someone that is far outside of the normal. Someone that is outside of what you do from a career, because in the end, those people that have different perspectives, that’s how you’re going to learn.

[00:18:12] KEM: Everyone is interesting and everyone has value and everyone has something of value to add.

[00:18:18] AD: Kim, I really appreciate your time today. This has been a lot of fun. And looking forward to talking again soon.

[00:18:25] KEM: Thank you for having me, Alex. It’s always a joy to work with you.

[00:18:28] AD: Awesome. Thank you.


[00:18:30] ANNOUNCER: Thank you for tuning in this week. Share this podcast with your professional network to help others connect grow and excel. Like what you hear? Leave us a review and don’t forget to subscribe now.