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Matt Christensen, Vice President of Sales for Vita Inclinata

Posted 260 days ago ago by Admin

Matt Christensen is a unique subject for Executive Watch. Almost everyone we profile has some sort of roots in aviation and/or helicopters. Christensen came to helicopters from lifestyle-marketed consumer audio headphones. In the early 2010s, he was part of the launch executive team for SOL Republic headphones targeted for EDM fans. This was par for Christensen’s career that has focused on growing small technology-based companies. And by “grow,” we mean GROW: When Christensen took hold of the sales team at SOL Republic, he guided them from $0 to $70 million in sales over the span of three years. “My philosophy was to take the headphones to EDM events and introduce them to the fans; we traveled to more shows than I care to remember and wound up with our products in stores like Best Buy, Apple, Radio Shack, and on Amazon,” he says.

As exciting as those days were, he’s even more motivated about coming to safe-hoisting technology company Vita Inclinata Technologies Inc. which produced precision-control systems for cranes (Vita Industrial) and helicopter hoist missions (Vita Aerospace). The Colorado-based company’s products save lives and has itself an exciting and poignant story we published in our July/August 2022 issue. As the company’s founding encapsulates Christensen’s search for meaning in his career, let’s briefly look back at Vita’s founding…

In 2009, Vita Inclinata founder Caleb Carr was practicing as a search and rescue volunteer in high school. During a routine training mission, his friend and mentor, Don, went into cardiac arrest next to him. A helicopter arrived to transport Don to the hospital, but couldn’t insert its rescue litter due to gusty winds, rotor wash, and the mountainous terrain. After multiple attempts, the helicopter was forced to turn back without Don. He died as a result. Carr learned that this was a too common problem that caused the loss of many lives. He enrolled in medical school at the University of Colorado – Denver with the goal of saving lives. There, a professor listened to his story and challenged Carr to solve the hoisting problem.

Taking on that challenge, Carr founded Vita Inclinata (which translates to “Inclined Life”) that developed proprietary technology that stabilizes hoist operations without the need for someone on the ground with a tagline. Vita’s new life-saving technology motivates Christensen. He says, “Our goal is to maximize the capabilities of helicopters with our improved technology that we hope will be accepted as the standard for hoisting. It's really easy to get behind Vita Inclinata’s mission. Getting our safer and better system into the field with our repeatable training to make everyone safer and more efficient is meaningful. And at this point in my career, doing something meaningful is far more important than doing something solely for the sake of making money.”

To be clear, Christensen didn’t jump directly from selling headphones to Vita Inclinata. In between, he moved up several steps in his search for meaningfulness. Immediately prior to coming to Vita Inclinata, Christensen was Chief Commercial Officer at Orbi Composites who developed lightweight thermoplastic materials that Vita uses in its manufacturing. Still, Christensen jumped at the opportunity to further Vita’s mission to save lives. “When the opportunity to work here at Vita in the aerospace industry happened, I threw my hand up; it’s been a great few months so far.”

Team Building

Yes, Christensen is a newcomer to the helicopter industry, having started at Vita Inclinata in May of this year. Yet, he comes to our industry with a long-time leadership philosophy he’s developed over his decades that harken back to his college days when he played linebacker for the University of Iowa Hawkeyes under Coach Hayden Fry. (His college football career was cut short in his sophomore year due to a shoulder injury but he kept his full-ride scholarship.) Christensen extols the value of teamwork, “My leadership style comes down to coaching. I’ve always been a part of teams and prefer to not be the sole performer up on the high-wire by myself; I’ve done that as a last resort, but teams that mesh together are stronger than individuals. My goal is to coach each member of my team to perform within the team while growing as individuals. Yes, I want them to grow their individual careers, but the best way to advance is as part of their team. If the team wins, then every person on the team wins. I have a good team here, made up of individuals that range from those early in their careers to more experienced players. Watching them grow and work together is great,” he says, but Christensen also shares an opinion on an approach that is not so great. “The ‘my way or the door’ authoritarian style from the 1970s-80s simply doesn’t work anymore because there are too many hiring options these days. If you don’t have a collaborative approach, you’re never going to get good feedback and input from your team.”

In addition to this team building, collaborative approach, Christensen also learned from his early career in his father’s business. The senior Christensen started out selling checks to banks and other paper-related products. After those office days working for “Dunder-Mifflin,” he grew his own office-supply business in the Midwest. Christensen absorbed this entrepreneurial sales spirit from his dad. “I learned from him how to take care of a customer the right way and not to discard old technology, but instead adapt it to new technology.” Christensen also found a role model in the Kansas City office. He says, “Janice Bartels was a fantastic mentor for me early in my career. We all were on 100% sales commission; there was no safety net. I saw how she established and maintained really great communication with customers.”

Ford Fishing Tale

Now, at the risk of straining good and true communication, we share a whopper of a fishing tale that harkens back to Christensen’s love for his family and old cars (remember, he doesn’t like to discard old technology, just because it has aged.)  Understandably, Christensen has been busy since starting at Vita. When asked what he likes to do in his downtime, he jokes, “Lay face down on the carpet and recover.” In actuality, he really likes taking advantage of the majestic Colorado outdoors with his family that includes two teens who’ll be leaving the home nest in a couple of years. (A semi-scheduled departure that has Christensen spending as much time as possible with his soon-to-be fledglings.) In addition to snow skiing, Christensen and his wife cruise weekends in their 1951 Ford convertible named “Betty” after Christensen’s late grandmother. Here’s the backstory, Christensen swears is hand-on-Bible true:

In the year 2021 my dad and I were casually spending a Saturday morning, leisurely looking around a Denver collector-car lot when we came across a car very similar to the one he had sold 20 years earlier in his home state of Nebraska.  I used to drive my wife in that car when we began dating, but it was a different color. The dealer’s eyes got wide when we told him the color of our old car; he ran to his office and then came out with a photo of the car taken before it was repainted. It looked exactly like our car, but I remarked that we couldn’t be sure without the maintenance manual that was missing from the glove compartment. Again the dealer went inside his office and came back with the old manual that contained our handwriting. He even produced my dad’s old “Route 66” keychain that had been found in the car.  That car had traveled from Nebraska down to Texas then to Durango, Colorado, and finally to the Denver lot where we just happened to come across it. I told the dealer, “I have to buy back our car: you got me, but just don’t kill me.”

Another shopper had a first option to buy the car, but he declined because the blinker didn’t work. Because of a $4 replacement part, Christensen gladly bought the old Ford and brought a smile to his wife’s face when he drove home the convertible in which he courted her.

From selling Vita Inclinata’s life-saving products through teamwork, to buying his family’s Ford, Christensen’s quest for meaningfulness seems on the right road.

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