Mantvydas Matthew Narusevicius, Founder and Managing Director of WFDM Ltd, believes he has always been a natural leader, from his early days in school parliament to captaining his basketball team. Yet the journey which led him to found his own multi-faceted business has seen him gain experience at all levels on his way to the top – experiences which he considers invaluable for making him a better leader.
“I started out in hospitality as a waiter, working my way up to Restaurant Manager, to eventually leading teams in a group of restaurants as General Manager. I believe in gaining experience at all levels in order to understand the people you are leading,” he begins, emphasising the importance of leading by example, listening to others and taking what they have to say on board.
“I went on to study finance, moving from hospitality to accounting when I was 24. However, after completing my studies, I just couldn’t find my feet in the industry in London. Shortly after, my family came to Malta to celebrate my father’s 50th birthday,” Matthew continues, looking back on his decision to move.
At the time, he describes himself as a one-man-island. “I had so many business ideas, but no support. I kept getting rejected for funding, so I decided to join the real estate sector,” he says, and he was doing very well for himself when opportunity came knocking. “I was drinking coffee in a restaurant in Marsascala when the owner approached me to take the lease. Something clicked. I had so much experience running restaurants for others – the time was now right to open my own,” he smiles, adding, “I knew how to do everything except cook, so I joined forces with a chef and we opened Foam & Fork. It was a challenging project, but we did well, and expanded to three outlets before I eventually sold my share to my partner.”
But bigger things were on the horizon for the ambitious entrepreneur. “A few months prior, I was working at the outlet in Gzira and someone from Wolt approached me to include the restaurant on the platform. I was all for it, and we got talking. He went on to propose that I join him to do logistics for the company,” Matthew recalls, admitting that despite not having experience in the field, he decided to jump in, head first.
But there was a hiccup. This all happened in March 2020, and just as he was about to launch, Matthew ended up getting stuck in Mexico where he had travelled to get married, as the pandemic sent the world into lockdown. “We started the company from Mexico,” he recalls of the early days of WFDM Ltd, roping in some of the guys from the restaurants to help with deliveries.
Sure enough, the company soon grew from a one-man-army to a sizable team, giving the founder the opportunity to learn many lessons along the way. “I ran the company by myself until I had about 60 employees, motivating the team on a daily basis, as well as working on marketing, accounts and payroll – everything right down to motorbike maintenance, even though I’ve never owned a motorbike! It was all about leading by example,” he smiles, recalling, “people would see me working long days from the garage, seeing how much I care about it – and they would care alongside me. I’m one person after all, it’s the people that make the business. Without them I am nothing.”
It is a leadership quality he continues to nurture and emphasise today, making an effort to find common ground with employees from all factions of the business, building relationships and helping them feel looked after. “I believe that this helps them to feel like they are part of something bigger – because this is all down to them,” he shares.
And as the months rolled on, the humble startup which started out as a transport and catering provider began to take on a different form. With such a great influx of business, extraordinary recruitment procedures and growth, the Managing Director made the decision to position WFDM as a temping agency for recruitment. “I was interviewing hundreds of people, both in person and online, so we got licensed as a recruitment agency,” he explains – and that’s where the company’s growth trajectory really took off.
“We started generating bigger revenues and approaching bigger clients, subcontracting, outsourcing and head hunting for big companies. This really allowed me to diversify WFDM, expanding into several other industries,” Matthew reveals, chalking it all down to observing the business and seeing where it could grow naturally and organically.
“Now, we also have WFDM Rentals, through which we rent motorbikes; and Property Management Ltd, through which we source project managers and link them with tradespeople in the construction industry, using our capital to buy properties and flip them. We have also recently started an in-house PR company for the business, which deals with the marketing of our different brands,” he continues, adding that diversification and internationalisation are key, with WFDM also recently opening in Cyprus, and a new real estate business and food truck also being on the cards in the near future.
Apart from juggling work with a busy home life with two children and two cats, today, Matthew’s primary focus is the expansion of the recruitment side of WFDM Ltd. Having dedicated much of his time to diversifying the business, he continues to stress the importance of the people involved in making it all happen. “In every project I embark on, I find people with a passion for it. People who really want to do it, and would love to start it themselves but can’t, due to lack of capital or leadership skills,” he says, utilising his own passion for recruitment to connect the dots.
Bringing an end to our discussion with a final word of advice for aspiring leaders, Matthew affirms, “we are only given one chance to live, so go after what you want. And always lead by example – it is not you, it is your people who will make you successful.”
The interview forms part of the 50 Business Leaders project. The online serialisation on MaltaCEOs.mt will feature 50 distinguished business leaders, CEOs, and emerging business minds to create debate and encourage business leaders to share their journey with our readers.
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