Matt Likens, CEO of Ulthera, Inc., discusses her first job working on a muck farm on Ohio, his first job in the healthcare industry, his biggest mentor and more.
Company: Ulthera, Inc.
What was your very first job?
When I was 10 years old, my brother — who is two years younger than me — and I worked on a muck farm in Ravenna, Ohio. We would be picked up at 6 a.m., go to the farm, crawl around on our hands and knees all day, weeding crops that were grown in this very rich, black, wet soil called muck. It was mostly mustard plants and assorted other crops. Then, when the plants were ready, we would harvest them.
What did you learn from that first job?
It taught us the value of hard work. We didn’t have a privileged childhood, so it was a way for us to become self-sufficient and do the things we wanted to do, whether it was buying baseball cards or soft drinks. I learned that earning your own way in life is the right this to do.
Describe your first job in your industry.
My first job in the healthcare industry came in 1978 as a sales representative for Baxter Healthcare, working in their transfusion medicine business, selling blood collection containers and everything used to transfuse blood and blood components.
What lessons did you learn from your early industry jobs?
Right out of college, I got a job selling industrial tape for Johnson & Johnson in Minnesota against 3M, which had an 85 percent market share. So I learned rejection very early in my career, but I also learned the value of having a good second supplier. Companies with such a dominant market share tend to get arrogant and take their business for granted. So if you work hard and portray yourself as a credible second supplier, it’s a way to get in the door.
What were your salaries in your first job and first industry job?
My salary at the muck farm was 35 cents an hour. My salary at Johnson & Johnson was $13,000 per year.
Who is your biggest mentor?
Harry Cramer, who was the CEO at Baxter when I left. I have a book in my office that Harry wrote called “Values Based Leadership.” If Harry said it, he also acted that way, so his words and actions were absolutely in synch with each other. That was an excellent example and I’ve tried to emulate that as I’ve moved past Baxter and into the startup world.