How To Leverage Sales and Speaking to Grow A Business With Barrett Cordero

Barrett Cordero is the President of BigSpeak, a speaker’s bureau representing motivational and keynote speakers. Under his direction, the company has generated exponential growth and has been listed in Inc. Magazine’s 5000 fastest-growing companies for six years. Before joining BigSpeak, Barrett was an Account Representative at CJ (formerly Commission Junction) and a Manager at the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. He is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO).

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Barrett Cordero, the President of BigSpeak, about leveraging sales and speaking to build a business. They also discuss tips for working with high-profile individuals, how to thrive as a dyslexic, and how the 2008 economic recession and the pandemic impacted the speaking industry.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • [01:47] Barrett Cordero’s experience growing up in Santa Barbara, California
  • [04:09] The lessons Barrett learned working at Four Seasons and Commission Junction
  • [07:26] Barrett talks about doing sales at BigSpeak and the challenges he faced
  • [13:43] How the 2008 economic recession and the pandemic impacted speakers
  • [18:17] Tips for working with high-profile individuals
  • [23:37] How to thrive as a dyslexic 
  • [27:26] The most outstanding speakers Barrett has worked with
  • [30:06] The evolution of Barrett’s leadership style
  • [34:47] The peers Barrett appreciates for supporting him

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Episode Transcript

John Corcoran 0:00 

All right, today we are talking about how to learn about the business of speaking that is speaking on stage and how to leverage speaking in a business. We’re talking to the president of one of the largest speaking bureaus in the country. His name is Barrett Cordero. I’ll tell you about him in a second. So stay tuned.

Intro 0:20

Welcome to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we feature top entrepreneurs, business leaders, and thought leaders and ask them how they built key relationships to get where they are today. Now, let’s get started with the show.

John Corcoran 0:37

Alright, welcome everyone. John Corcoran here. I’m the host of the show. You know you if you’ve listened to this before, you’ve heard we’ve had some amazing guests on here, including some of the clients of the man who will be talking to in a second we’ve had Netflix, Kinkos, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, Redfin, you name it, lots of great episodes in the archives. So check those out so you can listen to those. And of course, this episode’s brought to you by my company, Rise25, where we help B2B businesses to get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships with done-for-you podcasts and content marketing. And you can learn all about what we do at

All right. And my guest here today, Barrett Cordero. Barrett is the President of BigSpeak, a speaker’s bureau, and under his direction, BigSpeak speakers bureau has been listed in Inc. Magazine’s 5000 fastest-growing companies for six consecutive years, which is absolutely insane. He’s been with the company for about 17,18 years now. We’re going to hear about his journey, and how he got to where he is today. He’s coming to us from beautiful Santa Barbara, California, which is where I went to college, he went to college at UCSB, one of the most beautiful parts of the country. If you haven’t been there, go visit some times a Barrett, it’s such a pleasure to have you here. And I want to hear about, first of all, you grew up in beautiful Santa Barbara. So you knew it, and you went to college there. And we were kind of talking beforehand, about one of the limitations of growing up in such a beautiful town at least 20 years ago, is that it didn’t have a big industry. And if you wanted to stay living there, your family’s from there and everything you grew up there. There were limited career opportunities, I ended up leaving, I had gone to Washington, DC, and Sacramento, and then here I am in the Bay Area. Because I didn’t see those opportunities for me, what was that like for you as you’re graduating from college, and you’re thinking you want to stay? What are your options?

Barrett Cordero 2:28

Absolutely. And thanks, John, for having me. And I hope I provide some useful information for your audience. And I really welcome this opportunity. So the question was, what was it like growing up here? And then how did it change over time?

John Corcoran 2:42

Yeah. And you know, what were you seeing as your options if you wanted to stay in this town?

Barrett Cordero 2:49

The Internet definitely helped this area go through a renaissance, because you’re right, growing up here. And right around college, it was still a limited market. It was the military economy, you know, the defense industry organizations, you know, you had accountants, lawyers, and doctors, and some agriculture. But there definitely was not a technological corporate scene at all. Now, since then, in the last 20 years. We have multiple publicly traded companies here in Santa Barbara, and from Santa Barbara, like Sonos and Procore. And Decker’s and Invoca. You know, and many more. So it’s been wonderful to see those companies thrive here. See the impact that’s had in the community a lot more jobs, that’s pushes me meant more housing. And sure, there’s a little bit more cars on the road. But ultimately, I think the prospect of hopefully my daughter’s working here in 20 years, and living here is much higher than it was when me and my friends were getting out of college. And I looked around thinking, how are we going to make this work? And half of us got lucky. And then the other half ended up in different places. Right,

John Corcoran 4:01

right. You mentioned Invoca. I had the co-founder of Jason Spievak on the show. And he had amazing, really interesting insights. You end up going though, we were talking before, and about one of the few industries is hospitality. That’s one of them. As you know, in higher education, a lot of people, a lot of people in their 20s or in graduate school or something like that, You end up going into hospitality. And I’m interested to know like what you bring from that you actually worked at the Four Seasons, which is, you know, a spectacular place to work. What do you bring from that experience to the work that you do now?

Barrett Cordero 4:36

Hmm. Well, hospitality was a natural first step because I’d spent many years as a waiter. I was at Caros for I think five years off and on helped me pay my way through college and you learn how you certainly learn the importance of service. You know, being friendly, being timely, being organized, working well with others. Juggling resource issues dependent on food and teammates, etc. So when I was thinking of jobs, and I saw an opening for the four seasons, kind of entry-level manager position, it made sense to interview. And they agreed that my my thinking was on point. So, you know, they take a shot on me and I worked there for about four or five months. And it was an awesome opportunity, I really got good exposure to a large, successful organization, what a potential career path could look like. I also, I think, learned at that point in time that it seemed a little too predictable for me, and I wanted to explore more and maybe take on a little more risk. And that’s what initially, I’d say, kind of nudged me into going into the technology sector. I worked at Commission Junction at that,

John Corcoran 5:55

yeah, I was gonna say, is almost like a Goldilocks type of thing. Like, this one’s too hot. This one’s too cold, like you have like kind of the corporate experience. And then you go work for Commission Junction, which was one of the very early affiliate marketing companies in that industry, in the early days of the internet, and then how was that different from the Four Season experience?

Barrett Cordero 6:15

Yeah, it was a lot different because it was a newer company, there was already a history and there were some establishments within the organization. But in that atmosphere, I got the exposure to how a new-age tech company is running. And compare it to Four Seasons, which has a special you know, four seasons has a specialty in management. So it’s, it’s much more I’ll say, thorough, and kind of methodical about how they go about things. Whereas CJ was a little bit more open and alternative to what they would take bets on and experiment with and risk to fuel growth. So I found it stimulating I liked it, the more I learned about the space of affiliate marketing, the less interested I got. And I wasn’t quite sure on where and what I would do next within that organization or industry. So a woman who, you know, I have great gratitude for called me, Hey, there’s this little company called BigSpeak. They’re a speaker’s bureau. And they’re opening up a position for a sales agent. And you should interview. So if

John Corcoran 7:27

You had a major in busy con, as we say, at Santa Barbara, what was it like for you going from that to sales?

Barrett Cordero 7:39

Ah, I never thought of myself as a salesperson. And I think as time has gone on, I’ve realized it is a natural place for me to play. And I like it. And busy content UCSB was pretty theoretical. There was a lot of like, yeah, economic theory. Yeah, I actually really liked I almost did a minor in accounting. I enjoyed those classes a lot because they were so specific and practical, like financial statement analysis, and, you know, accounting, helpful skills.

John Corcoran 8:13

To have now.

Barrett Cordero 8:14

Yeah, and so I liked that. But there wasn’t too much of that within the business econ degree at UCSB. But it was a good starting off point. And I always had an I would say, just an instinct to want to learn about business and learn more about business. So for me, it was the right major because I got a little bit more exposure. But I think now the university has an even more robust program with like a technology management program, they bring the business community in. Whereas back then I would say it was probably much more academic. Yeah, whereas now there’s there’s actual active engagements with the business community in town

John Corcoran 8:56

And what was it like working for a speaker’s bureau located in Santa Barbara now I think many people listening us would think like a speaker’s bureau naturally be in like Las Vegas or New York or social for you, as a young, hungry sales agent and educational consultant working for this company. It seems like it would make a lot more sense because you probably have to hustle and talk to you know, people that are booking speakers and, and recruit speakers to, to come join your bureau. But you’re in Santa Barbara, right? I mean, I imagine you’re hitting the phones a lot. What was it like?

Barrett Cordero 9:32

Yeah, you’re completely on the money. If we are in New York City or Los Angeles, it would have been a lot more natural. Well, Jonathan and Elise Wygant founded this company, and their original goal was to raise the consciousness of the Fortune 500 and change the world. And then we joke that once the the name changed from consciousness, unlimited to BigSpeak, and our initials became BS, we got commercialized. So, you know that, but truly, that’s our roots. And that’s what we’re passionate about is, is working with individuals who have, you know, quality substance or authentic, inspirational and bringing that into organizations and audiences to help them get inspired and informed.

John Corcoran 10:18

So I’m here in Marin County, which sounds like the place where something called Consciousness Unlimited would be located. Were you involved in that when they change rebranded? And when when when did that happen?

Barrett Cordero 10:30

I wasn’t it was it was before my time, it was right in 2000. But Jonathan had the idea and Big Sur, at Excellent. So okay, well, that makes sense. Yeah, it makes sense, right. But

John Corcoran 10:40

at some point, they must have been like, Okay, this is what direction we’re going. And this name is holding us back. Yeah,

Barrett Cordero 10:46

part of it. And so when I interviewed with Jonathan at his home, I think it was in 2007. You know, it was a five-person company, and it was in his back house, and his office was next to the garage. And I found Jonathan completely inspiring and interesting and intriguing, and someone I could learn from, and the opportunity of being a salesperson was compelling. So I took a leap. And it’s obviously worked out really well. And yes, in the beginning, it was there was a steep learning curve, being on the phone a lot sending emails, learning this space of this nice industry of representing people booking people structuring deals contractually, you know, completing the transaction and then facilitating the logistics, etc. But nowadays, the same and I’m constantly learning and I mean, how many people get to say they get paid to watch TED Talks and YouTube videos, right? And then or read these books and book them for business? So I still love the work after 17 years.