Matt Barlow (Marketing, 1994, Fylde) is UK Chief Executive of CAP which runs a national debt counselling network.
There are 252 CAP Debt Centres working out of churches, 72 church-based job clubs and a money management course aimed at preventing people from getting into debt. It has around 7,000 volunteers and 250 paid staff working across the UK.
Matt’s involvement in the business is closely linked to his faith story. He met his future wife, Josie, in what is now ‘Revolution’ in Lancaster. She invited him to church and, not wishing to appear narrow-minded, he went along. That night when he returned to his study bedroom in Fylde he laid on his bed and thought - what have I got to lose - a few minutes? He asked God, ‘If you are there, show me’ and he felt a strong divine presence in his room. He has been a Christian ever since. He is evangelical and lives and breathes Christian values. Matt is living proof that faith and fun can go hand-in-hand. After graduation, Matt and Josie went to spend two years in the Dominican Republic working on community projects. They learned a huge amount during this time about project management, communities and about leadership.
Returning to the UK, the search for a job began. He was fortunate enough to join Christians Against Poverty when it was in its infancy and his career took off from there. Here, Matt answers questions about his successful career combining his business skills and his strong Christian beliefs:
How did you get from Marketing to Management?
I began as one of the team and naturally took things on, as anyone with some ‘oomph’ about them would do. There were only eight people in the company at that time. Within 18 months I had been identified as a key deputy to the charity's founder. I assumed roles of Operations Manager and Operations Director and so in that respect was responsible for running a lot of the charity.
What recognition has CAP achieved nationally?
Christians Against Poverty has won numerous awards - Times Best Small Company 2008 and 2009 and I received the award for Best Leader to Work For in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013. Among the criteria which have delivered such success in these awards, are living the values of the organisation and acknowledgement of personal growth. The Christian nature of the organisation greatly enhances its scores in these areas, which makes it a very interesting model for other companies to look to. We even won the Contribution to the Credit Industry Award 2013 at the CCR Awards and Insolvency Team of the Year 2013 at the Insolvency & Rescue Awards.
What is the leadership style?
My leadership style could be described as ‘Servant Leadership’; following the example of Jesus. It is a style of leadership that puts the leader as responsible to their followers and their followers’ needs: to serve and not to be served. Through listening, empathy and awareness, I am able to build a community within the organisation and to create an environment where people can flourish. I encourage the team members to soar with their strengths, and the team thrive in this environment. But I’d like to be clear there’s nothing weak about this approach, it’s combined with a steely determination to get the job done.
What do you enjoy most about the role?
My greatest satisfaction is to bring hope to thousands of people. But in terms of actual enjoyment that comes from working with friends. CAP is a community in itself and people become friends through their work together.
What is the biggest challenge facing the CEO of CAP?
People have ceased to see the good that faith can do in society. The challenge is increasing awareness of this so that people can rediscover what the church should be known for: love, care and compassion. Most years, CAP grows by a third and managing this fast growing and thriving company effectively is a challenge.
What is your key skill?
The gift of communication and strategic thinking.
What are the ambitions for the future?
I am not ambitious for me personally. If God wills it for me to continue this work, then I will continue. What I do today means so much and is so fulfilling: that personal ambition seems superfluous. My role as CEO at the age of 33 was a great achievement and I have risen to that challenge and will continue to do so.
Matt’s role at CAP was featured in The Guardian on 18th February 2014