Matthew “Griff” Griffin

Matthew “Griff” Griffin
Matthew Griffin

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A 2001 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Matthew earned a degree in Engineering Management. Commissioned into the Field Artillery, he served with the 75th Ranger Regiment on three tours to Afghanistan and one tour to Iraq as a Company Fire Support Officer. He planned and participated in over 100 Special Operations direct action missions.

After departing the military as a Captain in 2006, Matthew moved to the private sector and worked in the construction industry. While he excelled as a leader in this first post-military role, the work did not adequately represent Matthews personal core values.

In 2008, Matthew was invited to serve as the Director of Military Sales for Remote Medical International in Seattle, WA. During this time, he helped develop military medical training programs serving customers around the globe. Working in the defense sector eventually led him back to Afghanistan to assist with infrastructure development.

After witnessing the positive effects of economic growth in conflict areas, Matthew recognized an opportunity to empower mindful consumers to support “Business, Not Bullets”–flipping the view on how wars are won.

In 2009, Griff co-founded Combat Flip Flops with a fellow Ranger Lee and brother Andy and the three partners established the mission to manufacture peace through trade with forward-thinking, self-determined entrepreneurs affected by conflict.

Combat Flip Flops was born, as many small businesses are, in a small garage in Issaquah, WA.

From 2010-2014, Combat Flip Flops worked to develop a viable product line that could be wholly supplied from Afghanistan including raw materials, manufacturing, and finishing.

Combat Flip Flops chose to work with defense manufacturers that produced combat boots and uniforms. Combat Flip Flops chose to work with defense manufacturers that produced combat boots and uniforms. As defense spending decreased, the livelihoods of thousands of local-national men, women, and especially children were at risk. This created vulnerability and volatility. Combat Flip Flops decided to partner with these factories to give the people meaningful employment and education opportunities so that they could support themselves and stabilize their communities.

Over the years, the business overcame many challenges including factory shut-downs, shipping restrictions, escalating war zones, and political struggle. In 2012, the team realized that a post-war Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Afghanistan did not exist – a critical policy that has been established to promote sustainable business growth in several post-conflict areas such as Vietnam and Columbia.

In 2013, Combat Flip Flops partnered with post-war manufacturers in Bogota, Colombia, with the aim of showing measurable economic progress to the governments of the United States and Afghanistan, and encouraging them to establish their own Free Trade Agreement to support a local workforce with safe and reliable job opportunities and education.

In 2014, Matthew gave an internationally-recognized Ted talk and Combat Flip Flops aired on ABCs Shark Tank in February 2016.

Current products include footwear (Columbia), sarongs and shemaghs (Afghanistan), jewelry (Laos land mind clearance), clothing (Nicaragua), and bags (USA).

Matthew was recently honored as part of the 2016 Puget Sound Business Journal 40 under 40.   In 2019, he was recognized as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Veterans in America by HillVets and Global Visionary by Real Leaders.  Also in 2019, Matt became a member of the Henry Crown Fellowship sponsored by the Aspen Institute Global Leadership Network.

He is single with two teenage daughters. In his free time, he enjoys mentoring fellow veterans both personally and professionally, mountain biking, skiing, hunting, and adventure travel.

One of Matthew’s core values is global service, serving  Team-5 Foundation is a veteran nonprofit comprised of volunteer teams that travel to extremely remote areas around the globe in need of medical assistance. Their motto, “In order to be involved, you must first show up” is critical to mission success. As the current Field Operations Officer, Matthew has supported numerous fundraising events and also participated in deployments such as Expedition Overland Central America in 2015 and Peru in 2016.  Matt also served on the advisory board of the American Freedom Fund, mentors transitioning Special Operations veterans with The Station Foundation, and facilitates retreats for the Heroic Hearts Project.

Speaking Topics

Values Based Leadership

How do you train and translate values as a leader? Through the experience of West Point, Special Operations, Combat, Business, and Shark Tank, the process of values based leadership is broken down and conveyed to the audience in a consumable, actionable message.

High Performance Teams

Everybody wants a high performing team, but what are the fundamental tools utilized to create those teams? With three decades of leadership in the world’s elite military and business organizations, the fundamental traits of high performance teams are conveyed to inspire action within the audience’s organization.

Overcoming Challenge (Risk and Evolution)

With risk comes reward. This talk is aimed toward large organizations with market share. Growth is a mandate, so how do large organizations get low and mid level management comfortable with taking the risks involved to create the mandated growth (reward)? Using proven risk mitigation techniques under the most dire conditions, the talk demonstrates achievement under the dire circumstances.

Global Small Business

Many use the term “Globalization” in conversation, but very few people understand how it works, the challenges involved, and how to be successful in the face of rapidly changing government policies and regulations. When starting from zero, how do you work with international suppliers to build a quality product, create margins, and meet the ever-changing landscape of global logistics? 30 minute talk using the example of Combat Flip Flops with the goal of developing the mental and decision making framework for businesses looking to manufacture overseas.

Special Operations Veteran (Ranger) (Persistence, Creativity, and Respect)

The tale of special operations soldiers learning lessons from war, changing directions, using data and history to guide movement forward, and delivering a new product to the market through the use of storytelling and technology. 30 minute talk with the goal of inspiring listeners to look at problems differently and build discipline behind change.

Speaking Topics

  • Values Based Leadership
  • High Performance Teams
  • Overcoming Challenge (Risk and Evolution)
  • Global Small Business
  • Special Operations Veteran (Ranger)
  • Manufacturing Overseas
  • Afghanistan
  • Free Trade Agreement Importance
  • War Zone Education
  • Perseverance