Matt Fornataro: The Great Equalizer

Don’t be stuck in your own head – write, erase, and scribble all over.

You know that feeling when somebody is talking so fast and eloquently about something, but you have no clue what any of it means? It’s like a mental race you can’t win. The language. Words that you just can’t keep up with. You leave the call or meeting in a mental pickle. This happened a lot to me, still does in fact. It used to overwhelm me, that is until I met the greatest equalizer in the world, THE WHITE BOARD. In a lot of my meetings I simply say this: “thank you very much, I think I understand, do you mind if I jump on the white board here to walk through it? You’re clearly very well versed in all of this, much more than I am”.

I then attempt to walk them through what they just told me, in my language: scribbles, stick people and arrows. Guess what, it works every time. First, I have established that they are more experienced in this topic and I am eager to learn more. Then, I even the playing field by taking them to my space where I think the best, the White Board. This works with interns, investors and everyone in between. I can’t hope to communicate in business terms with someone that has been in the game 20 years, so I don’t try to. Every industry has its ‘lingo’. I remember in one of my early meetings with our now investors, drawing the word ‘SAAS’ and asking them point blank, wtf does this mean? They laughed and one of them said “software as a service.” And voila ~ now I knew. It would be no different placing a tech person in a sports locker room in between the 2nd and 3rd period as the boys say ‘get er in, pinch d, stick in lane.’

Using the White Board has also accelerated my learning in many ways. Too often we get stuck because we are scared that if we ask a question will get laughed at, or in many cases we feel we should already know about the topic. Get it out of your head. Ask questions. Problems are easier to solve out of your head, write it down, erase it, rework it, scribble all over it until you find the answer. The White Board has yet to let me down.


-Matt Fornataro

Founder, Torch | Former Pro-Hockey Center