Matthew Griffiths | The “Escape Room” for Entrepreneurs and Surviving and Thriving After a Brain Tumor

Matthew Griffiths is a Vistage Group Chairman at Vistage International (UK) Ltd. Vistage is a leading global executive peer-group organization with 24,000 members worldwide. Matthew works with many business networks in his capacity as a Non-Executive Chair, Executive Coach, and Strategic Advisor. He has held senior leadership roles in the entertainment technology sector including being the Company Director/MD at TSL & White Light Group. He then became the Chief Executive Officer at PLASA Ltd, the world’s largest entertainment technology trade association, for 18 years. 

Matthew is the host of the Turning Point Podcast series from Vistage (UK). He is also involved in a company called Games Without Frontiers, a kind of escape room for entrepreneurs. 

In this episode, John Corcoran talks to Matthew Griffiths, of Vistage International (UK) Ltd about leadership and business coaching, about his role as a Vistage chair, and his experience with battling brain tumor.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Learn:

  • Matthew Griffith’s thoughts and experience on doing a podcast
  • How Matthew’s parents and background influenced his career in theater and entertainment
  • Matthew talks about his rise to leadership and his entry into business coaching
  • What led to the acquisition and merger of three trade associations into PLASA and why the merger was dissolved six years later
  • Matthew’s advice to leaders on how to best cope with the impacts of COVID-19
  • The characters and roles of Vistage group chairs
  • How Games Without Frontiers works and how it has pivoted in light of COVID-19
  • Matthew recalls being diagnosed with a brain tumor, how it impacted his life, and the powerful lessons he learned from it
  • How Matthew learned to let go of his anger while at the rehab center and what he did with his life after that
  • The people Matthew acknowledges for his success and achievements

Resources Mentioned:

Sponsor: Rise25

Today’s episode is sponsored by Rise25 Media, where our mission is to connect you with your best referral partners, clients, and strategic partners. We do this through our done for you podcast solution and content marketing. 

Along with my business partner Dr. Jeremy Weisz, we have over 18 years of experience with B2B podcasting, which is one of the best things you can do for your business and you personally. 

If you do it right, a podcast is like a “Swiss Army Knife” – it is a tool that accomplishes many things at once. It can and will lead to great ROI, great clients, referrals, strategic partnerships, and more. It is networking and business development; and it is personal and professional development which doubles as content marketing

A podcast is the highest and best use of your time and will save you time by connecting you to higher caliber people to uplevel your network. 

To learn more, go to or email us at [email protected]

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Check out Rise25 to learn more about our done-for-you lead generation and done-for-you podcast services. 

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:14  

Welcome to the Revolution, the Smart Business Revolution podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution. John Corcoran.


John Corcoran  0:40  

All right. Welcome, everyone. John Corcoran here, the host of the Smart Business Revolution podcast where I get the great privilege of talking with smart CEOs, founders, entrepreneurs of companies and organizations really worldwide, including today talking to a friend over across the pond over in England, but I’ve talked to you know, CEOs and founders YPO and eo and Activision Blizzard, Lending Tree and Open Table and so many different ones. I’m also co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. 

And today, I’ve got with me, Matthew Griffiths. Matthew is a Vistage chair. He’s got a couple of really interesting things about him. So one, he’s involved in a company called Games Without Frontiers. It’s kind of like an escape room for entrepreneurs. It’s he who can wrap your head around that we’re going to talk about what that is. He also was the head of the world’s largest entertainment technology trade association. And we’re going to talk about that after having been born into a theater family. He kind of was born into it, but eventually rose to head that association. He also survived a brain tumor and had to relearn near nearly everything and also overcome the anger that he experienced from going through that. So we’ll talk about that experience as well. 


But first before we get into that, This episode is brought to you by Rise25 Media which helps b2b businesses to get clients referrals and strategic partnerships through done for you podcasts and content marketing. You’re listening to a podcast right now. And if you’ve ever thought about the idea of starting a podcast, I say yes, do it and it’s the best thing you’ll ever do. One of the best things I’ve ever done in my life, and I get to meet and talk to smart people like Matthew here today, Matthew, you’ve been involved in podcasting. So I’ll just bring you into the conversation. What has podcasting been like for you? What is your take on doing a podcast?


Matthew Griffiths  2:35  

Well, hi, John. Thanks very much for having me as well. And welcome to London. Podcasting from my point of view is great exactly as you just said, you get a chance to meet really clever, really interesting people. And if you can get it if you can get it to a point where it just seems like it’s a conversation between the two of you. And your guest is not worrying about who’s listening or you know, the family. And supreme law, your case the millions of people listening to this. It’s great because you can really get into those in depth conversations and just one on one. So you can start to draw stuff out to people. And the great thing about a podcast, where you can see someone is you’re reading the body language. So as long as you remember to be quiet, you let the guest talk. And I’m sorry, that’s not meant to be a note here for this, but you can get the best out you know what I mean about that, you know, people have got so much to say they’ve got what they wanted to say. And then what you’re trying to draw out is what, what they probably didn’t intend to say. Well, that’s the interesting stuff.


John Corcoran  3:38  

Absolutely. Right. Exactly. It’s that the fun stuff is teasing out of people. And I should mention Turning Point series is the name of the podcast from Vistage that Yeah, you are involved in so if you want to learn more about doing that, about doing your own podcasts, go to rise 25 Media calm or email us at support at rise. 25 Media calm so Matthew, firstly, Let’s start with your background how you got into entertainment technology. You’re basically born into the industry, both your parents were involved in the theater.


Matthew Griffiths  4:09  

That’s right. You’re almost as near to being born in the traveling circus. My father came out to the war, Second World War, having loads of skill in electronics, and got a job in the theater. He started working in London’s West End in the Phoenix theater, and he met my mother who had come out of art school where she’d studied costume design. And they met when she was a stage manager. He was an electrician, they got together. And very quickly, my mother realized that they probably needed to work separately. So she gravitated over to television, which at the time started to do live production of Performing Arts on television or certainly on British television. And she had a very long career. rare in TV and she did his current affairs and she ended up doing a children’s TV, which she said was the most fun part of the whole life. He, on the other hand, worked as started off as an electrician, let’s say then became group engineer and worked for the Stoll, mus theater. And publish was one of the big faces or groups, or the biggest hits group in London’s West End, certainly in the 80s 70s 80s 90s 2000s. So they had about 13 of the Western thirds. Are there any of your listeners that have been to London would have been in one of them like the London Palladium, the Drury Lane theatre, magisters, or the shells, gravity theaters. And so, growing up as a child, the only way I got to see my father was by going up and being with him on stage and I kind of you know, that’s how I ended up in the business because that was my initially right playground and that’s where I felt more comfortable.


John Corcoran  6:02  

Got it. Got it. And so what point did you kind of rise into leadership? Because that’s a big leap from running around behind the stage helping with lights and sound and stuff like that to, you know, being really deeply involved in eventually leading the world’s largest entertainment Technology Association.


Matthew Griffiths  6:23  

Yeah, I think I was thinking about this. I think it comes down to two things. It’s about accountability and responsibility. And because I’m my father, son, as it were, you’re always trying to come out from underneath his, his wing, if you will, and establish yourself and to do that you had to take control of certain things you wanted to own a project, own something or other that you know, you could do. And I was very lucky I was surrounded by very good people who encouraged and anybody working in live performance will know that it’s Very good as an industry for sharing that, that sort of know how around. So all the opportunities were there. I just, I loved it so much and just took everything that came my way. And then I was very lucky with a number of tours that some clients that came up that took me all around the world. And then I learned while I was asking about and taking things on, and it was just something that came very naturally, I didn’t think of it. At the time as leadership, I just thought of it as being doing what I was meant to do and giving it right. And, you know, we worked with deadlines, the curtain goes up at a certain time every night and you got to be ready for it. And then it was only later when I joined the Vistage organization. Looking back, I realized, you know just how much I’ve gleaned over those early years which had led me to help me when I did the trade Bobby stuff and then when we did some governmental stuff and then subsequently what I do now Which is country? Yes.


John Corcoran  8:02  

Yeah, yeah. And, you know, one of the things you did while you had a plaza was you’re responsible for merger and acquisition of three trade associations into Plaza. So, you know, a lot of the people that listen to this show are business leaders, and maybe they’re thinking about acquiring other businesses. So what led to that? And talk a little bit about that experience of bringing in convincing these other trade associations to join under one umbrella so to speak?


Matthew Griffiths  8:36  

Yeah, I mean, where it starts, of course, is, is with a vision. So you need to be sharing the same vision with the people you’re talking to. And, and you need to, you know, in grado silence Simon Sinek ways you need to understand why what why are you doing it? Why, yeah, who’s benefiting from the whole thing? Why? Why would this work? At the time, the colleagues I was working with, we appeared to share the same vision and what we wanted to get down. bizarrely, it, everybody that came along with us on the journey from the members that we represented and all the staff that work with us. They got it, they understood it, you know, probably everybody got it and they were like with it, where it where it became problematic was right at the very top of the organization where those issues weren’t quite aligned as we thought they should be. And that that’s where you get the slight fracture points and, and that’s what ultimately kind of can go wrong. If you don’t jump on that very quickly. So you need to share the same vision you need to be in the right place at the right time. You need to be communicating that people know what you’re thinking. I think you just need to go through it. He needs no other time. Yeah, as a UK, trade body Coming into the US market. That was part of our hurdle.


But we did it on both sides when it worked.


John Corcoran  10:07  

And so then how do you fix that problem at the top with the other leaders at the top of the organization? Is it as simple as I imagined? It’s not as simple as just getting rid of a couple of people?


Matthew Griffiths  10:19  

No? Well, not because, well, I suppose that is a way you can do it. It leads to more problems further down the track. But I think equally with a trade organization, you’re talking about taking the hearts and minds of the people that you represent with you as well. So you know, you’re talking about tribal leaders here coming together in a coalition. And as we’ve seen in global politics, you know, that’s not necessarily an easy thing to do. So, whilst everybody’s benefiting, it works well when it starts to get pressured as oz did. When the Crash happened. The last crash happened.


John Corcoran  11:03  

Are you talking about 2001? Are you talking about 2008-2009? Okay,


Matthew Griffiths  11:10  

because when things start to go awry, and of course the members that you’re representing globally start to come under pressure, as do the organization’s themselves. That’s when you really have stress testing, testing, pressure testing, those relationships that resolve that trust.


And yeah, you know, in our case,


five finally proved too much that the merger had to unmerge Finally, but we had some we had a good run, we had about six years of it working really, really well and very powerfully and we and we were able to get into government and lobby for the industry. And, you know, we all I’m looking at now, looking. We’ll start with this triple pandemic. We have one of the industries that is suffering the most.


John Corcoran  12:08  

Yeah, and I did want to ask you about that, you know, if you were still in charge, and you were advising your members, you know, we’re recording this and basically at the end of May 2020. So the whole Coronavirus pandemic is still unfolding. Right? live entertainment is completely shut down. So, you know, and this relates also to the work that you do with Vistage with your members you have now what are you advising people if you were still head of that organization? Also, what are you advising your Vistage members?


Matthew Griffiths  12:41  

Well, the first thing you got to get away from the panic mode initially, which is, you know, I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know how to deal with this. What are we going to do so once you get through that element of it, you then have to be very honest yourself. And you’ve got to ask yourself the tough questions, as Jim Collins would say, you know, you know, you’ve got to be brutally honest with yourself. And have you got a business there that can go forward? Are you going to find different things that you can do? I mean, I’m aware, for instance, as an example, as an engineering company, solely based in the UK, that manufactures specific parts, engineering parts for stages, so they’re actually making the protective equipment for the health service, then we’ve had to pivot into that. Now, is that a long term thing? No, it’s not. Is it keeping them going through this period? Yes, it is. You know, and they’ve got a number of staff that they’re employed, they’re going to still be employed, they’re going to keep people in their jobs while they’re working out what this new world is going to look like. It looks like so if you want to save up for the kid, we’re not going to get open in the next few months. Certainly not the way it was. So you have to find some Something thing that’s gonna work in that period of time, and you’ve got to take some tough device companies, we’re running out with a number of people and the amount of resources they need, they’re not going to be in that size anymore. So you’ve got to start looking at how you look after the stuff that you’re going to retain, but also how you do the best for the staff that you may have to let go, and how you can help them in the workplace and find a way forward for them. And that’s really tough. That’s a lot of business leaders have gone through that, of that scale. And so a lot of the work I’m doing at the moment is allowing them to talk about through and start scenario planning. You know, there are three or four Mariette syrup scenarios they’re going to plan for, and it’s just helping them talk that through. And I notice if I might say that’s where the Vistage model is very, very good that the real power is in getting those peer to peer conversations. really honest. truthful conversations that you wouldn’t necessarily have with other board members, family members, stockholders, shareholders, whatever, you just have them with fellow CEOs, where you can be brutally honest and say, you know, just what are we going to do with this? And you’ll get really good feedback.


John Corcoran  15:20  

Right? Right. There’s a great visit chair who I know here in San Francisco, Carl Arnold been doing it for a number of years. And he brought me in to speak at his group about podcasting recently, and generating leads using podcasts. And he, you know, he demonstrated really, his commitment by, you know, just really going above and beyond as a Vistage share, just, you know, just to care and calling his members checking in on them really like beyond the scope, typically of a typical Vistage share. So it sounds like no for you from a functional standpoint, in terms of the role that you’re playing Laying now, as, as the leader of your Vistage groups, it’s really about being there for them being a sounding board, meeting them where they’re at and helping guide them through what they’re going through,


Matthew Griffiths  16:14  

Yeah, and this is a very well known business chair here in the UK, a senior Let’s call him a senior of his chair, Ivan Goldberg. And he always describes himself as having a safe pair of ears. And that’s I love to go by that sort of thing. Because then you know, sometimes you just need to talk it through, you just need to say it out loud, someone who’s got no agenda other than they’re trying to help you. So they’re not going to try and dissuade you, they’re not going to tell you that it’s, you know, politically wrong or this certainly other they, you just need to talk it through, talk it out and have someone asking tough questions back. And that’s what business shares do. And you can only do that by being valuable whenever they want to have those conversations, but also prompting them, you know, having one to ones with them and coaching them through it. Because otherwise the danger is you become very siloed in your thinking and you just go out into the real world and frighten you. Right? yourself off to


John Corcoran  17:22  

 much. Right, right. Let’s talk about another project you’re involved in: games without frontiers games without frontiers, you know, I described it I don’t know if they describe it this way. But to me, it struck me as kind of like an escape room for entrepreneurs. So tell everyone what it is. Exactly. And of course, you know, we’re recording this. And, you know, the model the way you’ve done it before, hopefully will come back sometime in the future right now. People are not doing in person gatherings. But the idea is that in person gathering of business owners and talk a little bit of how it


Matthew Griffiths  17:56  

works. Yeah, well, this is a great case example of what happens in The pandemic. So the original idea as you very well described, set up by two guys’ posture, bang and Tim Jew based out in Edinburgh, in Scotland. And they have this idea where you get it not necessarily business owners, a lot of them are business owners, but senior management team, certainly up to 13 people get them in the room, they may know each other, they may all be in the same company, there may be complete strangers to each other. And NASA says you don’t tell them very much. They know they’re going to come in and play a game. They know they’re going to, they’re told they’re going to be running a fictional company, but they’re going to be running it through. The management teams have all been sacked. The business owner has bought this new cohort of 13 people in and you very quickly assign them to one or five desks that’s a marketing desk. That’s a production there’s a finance this Then there’s a CEO desk. So you, depending on how many numbers you’ve got, you’ve got two or three people per desk. And on the desk, there’s a laptop computer, which is hooked up to the software system. And then there’s a little five booklets beside them, which gives them the briefest of instructions on how to run that specialism within that company. So marketing sales. I knew very quickly it may be the sanitation of the game, we’ll run them through. Right Well, you know, john, you’re going to be on the sales desk. Your job is you can lead from marketing you process it and you hand it on to production as soon as you’ve done that make the sale hit the bell we pay you permission, which is in terms of little sweeties confectionery companies that happens and and the system goes on. couldn’t be simpler and you Give them the barest minimum of a new say a minute in the game is a week in real life. So we’re going to run this for 26 weeks, six months. So that’s 26 minutes. And the game starts and you hear the claps are about and off you go. And of course, everybody’s looking and just World War One. You haven’t told us how to do this than the other and you said, well, that’s not what happens in real life. You know, you get into a job, nobody comes up and tells you exactly how to find your company. You write the rules. You don’t like the rules. rebu


John Corcoran  20:34  

ldable so then does everyone kind of quickly read the booklet and talk to one another and overthrow the reader leader? What’s i


Matthew Griffiths  20:42  

 like? It’s really funny because different people will do different things. So most of them start reading the book and they go quiet. So now this is happening. There’s a big widescreen up on the wall and that’s giving you a rolling cash flow. They start with 160,000 Sterling in this case. We thought it was in the UK. And now as America goes by that’s dropped on the trendline. By third, I think it’s 13,000. And then by the time it gets a segment has gone up 30 and haven’t done a sale yet, at this


John Corcoran  21:15  

point, someone’s probably freaki


Matthew Griffiths  21:17  

g out, someone starts freaking out. So say we got to sell something. So they want to work out how to set it and what to do and, and of course, what they do without giving too much of the game away, is everybody just goes mental. They just keep sending stuff and no one’s paying attention to payment terms. No one’s paying attention to cash or whatever. And I would say in the number of times I’ve run this game, I would say broadly, 95% of people managed to bankrupt the company within the first 26 minutes. They just run out of cash. And what they’re doing is they’re overselling nothing. So anyway, you do this. It is an intense experience when you suddenly realize that you’ve only got 26 minutes. It is intense. But what you’re also doing is you’re pressure testing relationships, communication, thinking, that sort of thing. And then you stop and you say, Well, how is that you do a little bit of a wash up and you go around the room, when you look at the results. There’s a whole bunch of reports that come up, and you very quickly and you know, what did we learn blah, blah, blah. So nobody talks about it. Then you have about you allow the CEO then the notional CEO to run a virtual board meeting for 10 minutes, what they’re going to fix, because then they’re going to do another 20. So they’re going to do it for the next six months. I’ll put some money into the company, this facility, I’m never gonna be an in


John Corcoran  22:47  

estor. Arthur, you’re an investor, ok


Matthew Griffiths  22:49  

y? God puts more money into the account. I say another 200,000. Right. Off we go right o


John Corcoran  22:57  

 time. So how do they do it? How do they do the second time


Matthew Griffiths  23:00  

e Then this is where it gets really funny, because now they get the process kind of right. But they’re not as they’re still very ineffective. And it’s, it’s at this point, you suddenly start seeing the penny dropping or you know, like going on in some of them as to what they could do better. And they start asking things like, Well, can we? Can we change the way that we did this in your company, you do what you want. You don’t have to change it. And so, of course, over four iterations of this, they get through this four times. They finally work out about communication, not overselling. They work out how to work together, they work out that maybe working in little micro teams is better than working as one big unit. The CEO who, by the way, at this point has just been sitting back watching this going on and suddenly realizes he’s got to get involved or she’s got to get involved. And they start either causing trouble or they actually productivity. So by the end of the day, you do two sessions in the morning, you have a lunch time, you might switch the teams around, you know, as an investor, I might insist the CEO changes his staffing 


Unknown Speaker  24:15  

round. So you can do that you can come in and make changes


Matthew Griffiths  24:19  

 Okay? Sorry, thank you. He wants any more money, he’s got to make change. Got it. Got


  1. So it’s a great way apart from teaching people about the mechanics of very basic mechanical elements of how a business runs, while you’re also doing your, you’re saying what certain characters are like in pressure situations. Invariably, it’s the quieter ones that come through. Because they’re, you know, they’re watching and they’re studying. Sometimes the louder ones are the ones that struggle with it a little bit because, you know, it’s just not happening, how they want it to happen. Mm hmm. And it’s just absolutely worked brilliantly over here and people love it. And a lot of organizations use it. However, the pandemic happened. And as you quite rightly pointed out, we now can’t meet up in groups. So how on earth do games without frontiers run this game? Quickly calls are also having a moment of sheer panic as they said what we’re doing is a remote working exercise. So they’ve now managed to develop a system where you can run this whole game for remote teams. And as with any phone focuses on going from sort of the start of it, where you’re you’re talking about being chaotic, and you’re that you’re then running through being reactive and then being active and it’s trying to get you to the final bit, which is almost been like Zen like, which is you’re not just coping with this, you’re now actually making this competitive advantage. It’s about having conversations that don’t have to rely on everybody. At the same time, you’re talking about conversations that are happening at the same time in parallel with other conversations, and how people are able to take that initiative and do that and understand where they’re trying to 


John Corcoran  26:16  

et to. Well, it’s such a cool idea. I hope that, you know, it will spread and more people will be able to experience that, I hope I’ll be able to experience that at some point soon, either in person or virtually. It and Now tell me, we were talking, we talked previously about this, tell me about some of the experiences you’ve had with groups going through this because I know you said for example, you’ve had some aspiring CEOs who weren’t happy with the way that things shook out because it wasn’t as profitable as businesses. They may be an adm


Matthew Griffiths  26:50  

ssion. Yeah, I’ll be in terms of the game. But yes, yeah, yes. Very often what you’re trying to do is when you bring people in Make sure they don’t go into the sort of discipline that they’re already doing. So you wouldn’t put an RFP in the accounts or financial but in fact, you’ll probably put them in marketing or something. But when you’re working with a client, very often they’ve got something in mind. And one particular client that comes to mind wanted to put in an aspiring CEO, someone idea marks become the next, you know, head honcho. And he was just a very dictatorial directive kind of person. And so yeah, they bankrupted in the first phase and then they did it again in second place, and that’s by no means shakes there. And then we had lunch and you know, we had a word with them and just so we know you might want to try a little bit as there’s a part of the game where you say Well you know if you’re if you’ve been aware whenever you’ll see it and you can work away that it worked for him. Miss He missed this by country man, it just absolutely missed it. And the more he was missing it, the more he was getting really frustrated with the whole thing, which meant everybody was just shouting at him. He’s the one time I’ve actually had stopped the game before the very end because he bankrupted it so many times. And, and he just he was in Canada so it took him a long time to calm down and just you know,


John Corcoran  28:39  

people well, I guess people can get competitive in any kind of game right? I mean, you know, people can stalk off from a tennis match and refuse to continue do


Matthew Griffiths  28:48  

ng it. Yeah, and it’s now got some great learns whether he took the great lads I’m not sure but certainly the management team around some great learns from it and just realize that if they’re going to have him in that position, There’s certain backups, there’s certain things you’re going to have to do to help. Right, right. But it was very funny how he really believed in the game and he was so immersed in the whole thing. Yeah, catch anything wrong. And as we all know, you know, keep doing the same thing doesn’t make it


John Corcoran  29:23  

right. I want to circle back. I want to circle back to you know, we teased it in the beginning when you had a brain tumor. Yeah, talk a little bit about what that experience was like, going into it, having to relearn everything that you knew. Tell us you tell us what that experience was like, and also, you know, how it guided your decisions to do what you’re doi


Matthew Griffiths  29:48  

g now. Yeah, well, but it didn’t. JOHN, it was probably a major what he talked about turning point it was a major turning point in my life. It was just To the point we had sold the company I was running and being sold into a bigger group of companies. And that hadn’t been particularly stressful. I mean, any, any one of your listeners that’s gone through a merger and acquisition knows that they can be stressful but this wasn’t overly stressful. And it saved us mostly, which meant that everybody still had a job. So by and large, it wasn’t very good. And I went off for a holiday funnily enough, I went, came out to the states and events with my partner at the time, and came back and I started losing weight feeling tired, everybody put it down stress the take over and the silent company didn’t think any more of it. And then finally the chairman of the company that had a group of companies that have changed our company. Who turned out to be a great mentor to me going forward? Send me check yourself out, yo


 know. And he said, Look, do me a favor, go and see my wife, my GP general practitioner and get a second opinion. And I went to see this doctor and he phoned a friend of his and he said go home, pack a bag, I need to see you at the hospital tomorrow. And I went to this hospital and I ended up staying there for six months. And now whether you can see suddenly those of you that are just listening to it. I’m a reasonably big guy. I was cried on smaller than I was then because I’ve been on the road doing a lot of stuff so I was quite beat up but I went on Generally the lowest I got over that six months, I got down to about 10 and a half peo


Unknown Speaker  32:06  

le so. So what that is in pounds, b


Matthew Griffiths  32:09  

t yeah 40 5060 pounds, something like that. And by that point I’d lost my sight and I’d lost part of my hearing that was bedridden, I couldn’t walk. And what had happened is over that period of time, and this is the thing that I’ve learned about the medical professions, they ultimately they don’t just go to the thing they think it is, they just eliminate stuff. And it’s taken six months to eliminate all this stuff. And everybody around me was freaking out. They just thought, oh my god, this is 


John Corcoran  32:42  

rying. My whole for how long did they not know as a brain tumor


Matthew Griffiths  32:47  

 then? No


 until once they realized what it might be. Then they started looking at a certain area and within the brain, I realized that what they thought was something else. Actually was masking the Cima elements. So,


John Corcoran  33:06  

right. So the month, two months that you didn’t know what 


Matthew Griffiths  33:10  

it was? Oh, no, it was good four months that they didn’t know what 


John Corcoran  33:14  

it was. You’re in the hospital for four months, and you don’t know what t


Matthew Griffiths  33:17  

Is it? Yeah, without knowing what 


it was. Everybody could see me just wasting away. Yeah, I swear to, honestly, this is the truth. My whole priority in that time was what time the lady came round with the tea tree. But when the morning and that’s the only view it concerns me if she wasn’t there. At the two time Mary was a very nice Lady. She used to bring around the teacher. Mary wasn’t there at nine in the morning and 330 in the afternoon. I used to get upset 


John Corcoran  33:49  

n Why. Why are you focused o


Matthew Griffiths  33:51  

 that? Because that became my new normal. That became my structure that was what I was working with. I couldn’t see it by this point. All couldn’t even get out of bed even if he wants to go and get a big cup of tea. Yeah. Just me


John Corcoran  34:07  

t that is the one thing you could depend on you could focus on Yeah, yea


Matthew Griffiths  34:10  

, they suddenly find out what it is. At this point, I’ve got all the major brains in London, seeing me and trying to work out what it was. Thank you became a special case because that meant I’ve got the best group. Anyway, they find out what it is great. Now what to do, because now they’ve arrested the problem. Now I’m, you know, in a wheelchair, and I’m, you know, a shadow when I was I managed to get the eyesight back through steroids and stuff but lost the hearing. What we do now and the thing was, well, you can either be in the wheelchair for the rest of your life, or we can try and coach you back into how to walk again, you need to teach you


Unknown Speaker  34:54  

how to get rid of the tumor, 


Matthew Griffiths  34:57  

hough. They treated the tumor solely to shrink down. I couldn’t 


John Corcoran  35:00  

perate Got it


Matthew Griffiths  35:02  

 Okay. So technical


y Yes. I’m here still so yeah, yeah. Let’s assume they have. Ye


John Corcoran  35:11  

, yes, we’re happy. But you have to learn how to walk


Matthew Griffiths  35:15  

again. So I have to learn how to walk again. And I’m, I’m really angry, John, um, you know, I didn’t want I didn’t ask to be you. Yeah, it was to be in a wheelchair. I certainly didn’t ask to have all this stuff around me and I certainly didn’t need, you know, everybody having a go about, you know, you need to be on drugs, you know, what you’re going to do, how you’re going to live, you know, all this stuff. So, I get taken to a rehab center. My father was alive at the time and he wills me in the wheelchair. And at the front door of the center were met by this, as it turned out was very lovely, which was quite a domineering lady. When she met me at the front door. She stopped. She got up. I had just stopped by the As she said to my father, you get back into the car and you go home, we’ll call you when we’re ready for you to come and pick him up. And so he looked slightly taken aback and went to try and complain and she just fixed it with a look and said no go and then she did to me and I was so sad. I was angry, I want to be here. I said, I’m right and you’re gonna do everything that you’re being told and you will learn how to get up out of this wheelchair and you will get but you’ve got to do what you’re advised to do. So at that point, I nicknamed the nurse Ratchet after pickiness because that’s what she did the paperwork and about an hour later she said, Okay, now you can go and meet the rest of the patients here in the sort of coffee communal area. And this is where the first lesson hit me. I get wheeled in and they’re in it. In this coffee refractory area is everybody else in wheelchairs. And literally, within about a minute, two minutes, I forget that I’m in a wheelchair. Everybody looks normal. So I have this real thing about people talking about disabled people. They’re not disabled there. They’ve got emotions, they feel everybody feels things they see they will, depending on what, but they do have disabilities, some have more than one. So that’s right. So you’ve got to split, but they’re not the same. Yeah. And so we start to start to realize you’re learning these very powerful lessons. You know, everybody sees themselves as normal, when everybody’s in a wheelchair. And then you start to learn how to, you know, when you’re a baby, you learn this stuff without even thinking and babies just get fed up with falling over.


John Corcoran  37:55  

That’s it Is this how you learn to let go the anger How did you let go


Matthew Griffiths  38:00  

of the When you become so focused on, on doing the right thing, and then because you’re surrounded with, you know, peer to peer contact, everybody’s the same as you. And everybody wants the same thing. We all want to walk again, we all want. We have people that have suffered from strokes and from tumors and all sorts of stuff. So we all share the camaraderie, you know, some of us were jokers in the unit, some of us were good storytellers, some of us you know, we’re good friends and all this sort of stuff. So you bond as a group and you and you start to learn and you learn to unlearn everything that you’ve learned up till now. And then you trust in people to relearn again. So you actually go into a swimming pool because as an adult, you realize what it’s like to fall over you know, it hurts. What they do is they tend to put you into the swimming pool so that when you fall over you don’t hurt yourself. You’re obviously water, sea calm and you get to learn how to walk in Three months later, I walked out of that rehab theater. And I met a nurse Ratchet in the car park you know, hugs and kisses to everybody’s go out. And the last person I see is nurse Ratchet and gave her a big heart in tears and all this. And I said, Thank you so much. And, you know, thank you for giving me a talk. As she said, we didn’t do anything. He said, we just gave you the tools. And that was the biggest powerful thing. You know, whatever you do, you’re the one that’s going to


John Corcoran  39:32  

do it. So then how did that influence what you decided to do with the rest of your life? Did that, you know, influence your decision to do what you’re doing


Matthew Griffiths  39:41  

today? Yes, that in part, so I came out of that and thought right, then nothing’s gonna stop me doing what I want to do. So if I want to go for something, and there was a whole bunch of stuff going on in the background, which led me into taking on the CEO job at Plaza. Which I subsequently did. And it was a UK based trade body at the time. And then we broaden that to being EU wide. And then we set up a publishing business in the US. And then that led on to the merger in the US. And just everything we tried, we just went for something more we went for, you know, we ended up lobbying in government, we ended up setting up qualification programs, training programs. 2012, London had the Olympics, a lot of the companies that we represented were fundamental to that opening ceremony, closing ceremony that was spectacular and went around the world. So we did move a lot of stuff in a very short period of time. But over that period of time, it kind of took me away from what I really loved. it all became a bit too political, it all became a little bit too, you know, dealing with these faceless bureaucrats, both sides of the water to be fair. And I had a chance meeting with an old work colleague at a summer drinks thing. And he said, Oh, yeah, it’s great. You’re, you’re set now until you retire. And that just horrified me that anybody could look at me and think you’re going to retire. And it got into my head. And three weeks later, I just thought I’d have no I’m not gonna do this anymore. So I gave him six months notice. And I thought, What am I going to do next? And then a very good friend of mine introduced me to someone who happens to be within the Vistage community, not with a view to doing Vistage. But as a result that came up that he said, I’ll tell you what, you’re going to be ideal to be a Vistage chair. And I’ve been in that community since 2016. I love absolutely every second of it. I mean, I couldn’t be happier with the people I work with the people that support us, the members that we work with, just happiness can be now that you work with people that all want to learn. They’re lifelong learners, they all want to scale up. They’re open staff. And that’s just a really refreshing place


John Corcoran  42:24  

to be. That’s great. And I’m sure that you are a vital resource for them going through these challenging times right now, and especially in the context of what you’ve been through before, knowing that, you know, as bad as things are right now, you’ve been through tough times before. Well, Matthew, that was a great story. Thank you for sharing that. Really appreciate that. I want to wrap things up the question I always ask, which is, let’s pretend we’re at an awards banquet, much like the Oscars of the Emmys and you’re receiving an award for lifetime achievement for everything that you’ve done up until this point. So what we want to know is who do you think who are the mentors were the friends were the business partners who are the peers that you would acknowledge in your remarks. Maybe nurse, ratchet, whoever you would ackno


Matthew Griffiths  43:07  

ledge. Yeah, now she almost ratchets about that. Um, okay, I’ll do it without the Gwyneth Paltrow tears as well. So the first first people always got to be the family mother father. My father was a great role model for me. Love where he did my mother as well. My mother was a working mom, and she did it when it wasn’t fashionable to be working. So both of them and my brother my brother’s an animator, and great role models for me so it has to start within um, It then goes on to our there’s so many people in my life that I’ve been so good to and charitable to me. The mentor I was talking about before In fact, there’s two of them. John Simpson from Why crew if we named check them and Brian Raven wildlife group, Brian I’m still very great mates with he actually lives in London locally so we meet up so there are loads of people along the way that have given me their time and their expertise. I’ve got a very close circle of true friends as opposed to acquaintances, and those true friends by that I’m talking about a dozen people here who and they’re the ones that will be absolutely brutally honest with you and ask you the right way so I have to thank them because therefore they keep me grounded on the road. And the biggest one that keeps me grounded is my wife, Catherine, who is an absolute rock and is brilliant. And that’s the whole reason we do this and and and I do it and she’s really good at asking those tough questions. So that’s part of this ratchet is there along with the physio terr


John Corcoran  45:11  

rists. Yeah, then sure they’re out there still doing good work. Well, this has been great Matthew, where can people go to connect with you and learn more about you?


Matthew Griffiths  45:19  

Probably best place is either go to and search on my name. You can see my bio and me there as a chair, or go to for the Games Without Frontiers website, and you’ll see all about the game there. And then if you look for me on LinkedIn mjagriggiths on LinkedIn, connect, please feel free. connected, we’d love to hear from everybody. And then through the best to cite You can also hear the turning point.


John Corcoran  45:57  

Excellent. All right, great. Thanks so much, Matthew.


Thanks, John. 


Intro  46:00  

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