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

John Corcoran 11:54

Yeah, that’s great. You know, and and now I look at your website, and we see Kevin O’Leary, we see Daymond John Magic Johnson, Steve Wozniak, Marc Randolph, you got an amazing array of, of different speakers on your platform. So if I’m a, you know, well-known person who was a best-selling book, or whatever, and thinking about choosing a speaker’s bureau, it’s a little bit easier decision. However, back then it must have been a struggle to convey the value that you would bring when you were still getting started.

Barrett Cordero 12:21

Yeah, I mean, it was a different world, we, we send out physical catalogs. In the moment, you

John Corcoran 12:29

see pictures of

Barrett Cordero 12:30

people, and then only you print out a catalog, it was out of date something. And we’d sent out a DVD. So we had metal filing cabinets of DVDs, or actually VHS and then DVD. So when the smartphone came out, obviously, none of us knew what that was going to do. But it accelerated the communication speed and abilities of all parties, which expanded our industry. And the same thing happened with say, Ted and YouTube, there was concern or initial feedback. Well, because now speeches are available, no one’s going to book them in person, right? It’s actually been the exact opposite. It’s popularized speeches and popularized content to the point where it’s also expanded the market as well. So it’s been interesting to watch that growth curve occur, because, you know, we’re 30 people. And last year, in 2022, we did 42 million in speaking fees. Amazing what it told me, that was possible in 2007, I would have said, how, physically, we couldn’t even figure out how you would do that. Yeah. And I think our great team is actually capable of even more. So I’m excited to see where we go.

John Corcoran 13:45

And so in not long around the corner from 2007 was 2008, the whole economic downturn, what was that like for the company, I was still in kind of the early days,

Barrett Cordero 13:54

that was horrible, is basically the word I would use, we, we created a, what we call the market correction, reset strategy plan. This was an outline that we had that was based off the 2008 recession, where we experienced a 60% dip in the market. And then we climbed out, and we finished the year down 33%, which is not bad considering how extreme 2008 was, but when COVID came instantly. So we went from, you know, sales to zero sales. And we had actually just purchased a building for our growing teeth into, and we were scared and worried and thought boy, are our plans. We have to throw out the window because they’re not extreme enough. So we had to lay off half the company and that was painful. That was painful, really good people and to let people go in at a terrible time like that to just felt bad on many levels. And we weren’t sure what was gonna happen. Thankfully, gradually the market came back and actual virtual engagements became very popular. And I would say COVID accelerated the, you know, the interest in virtual events, probably by 10 years. And I think once these, you know, the APA vision Pro headset comes out, and the others, that’s going to be right here on the desk for all of us. And we will most certainly have a meeting like this with those on for a corporate event where, you know, if you’re one of these Fortune 500 companies, instead of only having your 300 leaders go to Orlando for a conference, you can also have that live broadcast to your 30,000 employees, and they can all put on the headset, and be in the immersive experience of the guest speaker and the executive team, etc. So I don’t I think that would have been a slower change if it wasn’t for COVID. Because when we couldn’t meet, virtual became a thing. And for a year and a half it was it was the go to replacement for in-person engagements. And now we see either lots of in-person, lots of virtual, and they both make sense for different reasons at different times.

John Corcoran 16:15

And so once the early days, March 2020, April 2020, once we’d gotten over that initial shock to the system, then did your company almost go back to normal? You were still booking gigs, but they were just they were virtual instead of in-person? Or was it still? Was it still like Not at all? No, it

Barrett Cordero 16:36

was very similar. It was very similar, some minor adjustments, but essentially, it was the same type of transaction and yeah, customer and stakeholders and clients. Less travel involved. Yeah, less travel and don’t worry about. Yeah, I mean, for celebrities, it became really popular because they were available, they couldn’t be on movie sets or TV shows. Yeah. So they, they enjoyed these virtual events. And then clients love the idea of having celebrities. I couldn’t afford them. So that market grew, there was a lot of silver linings,

John Corcoran 17:13

many of the interviewees that I’ve had on the show said, you know, like, we had to do layoffs or everything, we were just scared witless in the first few months, and then it medially shifted. Then they had a higher ruin back in, and then some or just that they had, then they didn’t know how to fulfill the work that they weren’t expecting was going to come in and did.

Barrett Cordero 17:32

Yeah, I would like to say now after two big crises, I’ll, you know, hit the next one a little bit differently. I do like to say that calm waters make poor sailors around here. So I do think you know, rough storms help us get better at navigating future ones. There does seem to be a pattern when a market shift or a world event occurs where initially it’s like the emergency brakes pulled. And everyone’s worried. And things are different for a couple of months. And then somehow some way humanity and stakeholders figure out okay, what’s the way to adapt and move forward? Yeah, that’s definitely what happened in the financial crisis and during COVID and unlikely in whatever recession comes next.

John Corcoran 18:17

Yeah, whatever, whatever the next thing is, I want to ask. So I’ve been, you know, involved in different high profile individuals, mostly, through working in politics and presidential campaigns been around, you know, presidential candidates and presidents and stuff like that. I know how much logistics goes into those things, how challenging, you know, those things are? And I can only imagine what it’s like for you, you know, booking and organizing the calendar around some high-profile celebrity. And I just want to know, how do you do it? Like, how do you handle some world-famous individual coordinating schedules with, you know, you know, speaking opportunity, and all the little things, the green m&ms, the all the stuff that comes up along the way.

Barrett Cordero 19:03

Yet, it’s interesting, because it’s intimate, and it’s personal, by definition, yet, we have to scale ourselves as well. So we have to like scale.

John Corcoran 19:16

So it can’t just be it can just be you the one who is who knows how to handle those personal touches.

Barrett Cordero 19:22

We have a wonderful team, and we all have different roles. And of course, we all play a part in these relationships. And we need to be masters in our in our roles of how we do them. And so we have a really experienced team, and I’m so proud of them. We do very well with these high-profile individuals and some of the world’s best companies. We’ve learned you definitely want to learn figure out where you can systemize and not try to remember everything or be shorthand, you know, leverage the CRM to really help empower us to be smarter about choices we’re making and in decisions that are getting made. So that’s, that’s, that’s, that’s definitely a part of it. It is intimate though. And we we in it is relational. And like any good relationship, friendship or family, whatever it may be your workplace, those elements is what we also bring into this business, right? It’s like good values, it’s communicating, having those crucial conversations that are uncomfortable yet, help us move forward or gain clarity. You know, being consistent, you know, working hard, being open to different solutions, constantly coming from a place of, you know, care, realizing, hey, even though there’s a transaction at, at play here, it’s really though and, you know, these high profile individuals are leaving their families, they’re leaving their life to not go speak just for 45 minutes a day or two to go to this engagement. And then it’s the same on the other end for the buyer for the host that, you know, they’re not just filling a slot in their conference, or bringing someone in front of their entire company or a lot of their company, and their reputation is at stake on how that person shows up and what their bedside manner is and how they how they deliver. So it’s gonna be a little bit of a soup. And how do

John Corcoran 21:23

you deal with when there’s a letdown when you’re dealing with the customer. And, you know, the speaker shows up, and whatever reason I can think of, probably lots of examples, but there’s one that I went to about a year ago where high profile, former professional athletes spoke and kind of just phoned it in, showed up at nothing prepared, sort of on stage, you know, kind of, like winged it the whole time. And, you know, frankly, as a former speechwriter, I was like, geez, like he didn’t prepare anything, or pay someone to prepare it for you, you know? What, how do you navigate that type of situation?

Barrett Cordero 22:00

Well, I do like to always remind the team of the Buffett quote about takes 20 years to build a reputation and 20 minutes to lose it. So

John Corcoran 22:10

no doubt you take some blame sometimes, even if it’s completely undeserved, right. It wasn’t your fault. Yeah, clearly,

Barrett Cordero 22:16

yeah. 100%. And we, of course, know that. And it’s interesting, I bring this up, because we just talked about this is a sales team this week. And we did a little bit of a training as a role playing, because we most certainly have had those instances, but we just wanted to practice, how do we go about those? I mean, it’s tough to hear, you definitely need to keep asking questions to understand more like, you know, where did where did the speaker miss the mark? Where in the process, did we perhaps miss the mark, we’d like to usually suggest doing a survey of the audience, because that’s really helpful, because sometimes the coordinator, or the intimate party and voluntary interaction has a much different angle than maybe the audience, we’d like to compare those two and get kind of multiple viewpoints. Ultimately, they’ll tell you of all the tough feat moments like that we’ve had or not of all, but most, it ends up making for a better relationship. us in the, in the customer, realize, boy, we can make it if we can make it through this difficult situation, which is sometimes not a bad speech, it can just be, you know, world events or weather. I mean, that does affect our industry. And it’s a scramble, and there’s a lot of stress. And when we when when they see that we’re there to help and navigate that, and we can work with each other, then usually, it’s a good foundation builder for more work together.

John Corcoran 23:39

Yeah, I want to ask you about your talking beforehand, and you’re dyslexic, and there’s many who have dyslexia who compensate by empowering other people or delegation or systems, different ways of kind of accommodating and working around it, sometimes they find they find it’s a huge superpower. Because of that. Can you talk a little bit about that and how you’ve kind of adapted in your world?

Barrett Cordero 24:08

Sure, happy to, um, you know, when I was younger, I, I think I lacked perspective and just I, you know, just kind of navigated as, as best I could. And my mother got me a tutor at various times, and I kind of had to work twice as hard for a long time just to you know, make it by, that definitely instilled the good work ethic in me that I think I’ve carried forward. You know, since then I’ve realized it to kind of make note of how people think differently, and then usually work together with individuals to collaborate and work on problems together. And when doing that it can be really powerful incentives. It It’s also humorous, like, my wife and I get a kick out of like, if we go camping, you know, we put all the, all the pieces out. And I immediately start grabbing them and put them together. And she looks at me like, What are you doing? Like, we got to look at the instructions. And I looked at her going like, well, what are you doing? It’s a tent we just did together. But that’s how she and I approach, you know, problems differently. And in her case, she does brilliantly with educational tasks, multiple choice, all those things. For me, multiple choice is a death sentence, blue books, I do great. If you give me a chance to explain myself, I can get the point across. So in the workplace, I most definitely, you know, talk with colleagues, and figure out in leverage where each of us have our strengths to work through challenges, I think, to dyslexia, and for me, that also has this kind of disarming for the ego, like I’m very comfortable with being wrong. And so when I make wrong decisions, I just own it. And it’s kind of water off my back, I think is that age I I observe a lot of ego with individuals, and they’re there. They’re there difficulty admitting failures or admitting, you know, a mistake. Whereas I definitely err on the side of, hey, mistakes happen constantly. But that’s also because I’m dyslexic. I think. So just keep on moving forward. So I definitely would encourage people to realize there is there is a silver linings to it. And not to get too discouraged when school or certain institutional programs may send you a message like, you’re you’re not going to do well, or you’re not doing well. That’s most certainly not the case.

John Corcoran 26:51

Yeah, I mean, frequent frequently, honestly, that becomes the fuel that really moves people forward to I’ve so many times I’ve interviewed people that have said that, you know, some someone who didn’t believe in me, that really motivated me to prove them wrong. And I’d love to hear that.

Barrett Cordero 27:07

Yeah, yeah. And I think to it, it also, I wouldn’t be surprised if like with entrepreneurs, you also see more of call it the outliers in that group, or in businesses where people have taken risks and move forward because they’re accustomed to facing obstacles and challenges along the way, in in, you know, kind of pioneering and pushing through.

John Corcoran 27:28

Yeah, I want to ask you about, you know, because I used to be a speechwriter and studied a lot of different speakers and saw some amazing speakers in my, my day. You know, you’ve seen so many TED talks, you’ve seen so many speakers, so many clients, what are a few that stand out, like either experiences of seeing one of your clients speak that just shook you or moved you? Maybe some we haven’t even heard of before?

Barrett Cordero 27:58

Yeah, oh, I got so many. As you can imagine. I constantly am referencing a speech or a book or a podcast or, you know, something I saw most of my learnings come from the people we get to work with. You know, one of my all-time favorites would be Marc Randolph, who co-founded Netflix. Did you interview him?

John Corcoran 28:19

I did. Yeah. That’s how we connect it actually was through Marc, because Marc, then I connected another person that I know about Marc, possibly speaking. And then he connected me to you. And it’s right. There was

Barrett Cordero 28:31

all comes full circle. Yeah. And there’s a connection there. That’s one reason I have my memory was hinged on the YPO component. Yeah, well, then, as you know, but maybe if some of your audience didn’t hear, you know, he co-founded Netflix, he’s also been partner and Looker and other ventures that have been extremely successful. And, you know, his the, he has a book out now, in the original title he was kind of considering was, nobody knows anything. And he basically kind of, you know, poking fun at when any, when most of us have new ideas, or were pioneering Nobody knows if it’s going to be successful. There’s a lot of people who think they know who gives you an opinion, if they think it’s going to be successful, the entrepreneur doesn’t even know. So you know, you need to go out and you need to test your idea and you need to be out there and you’re going to learn a lot by by doing opposed to thinking about it. And you know, Marc is so gracious and humble. And he’s well rounded. You know, he also talks about how he never missed a you know, a Wednesday dinner with his family and he and his kids and wife still love them. And I think we don’t hear enough about that when people are this you know, a wildly successful person you know, he’s in he’s part of that knows the National Outdoor Leadership society which encourages youth to go into the outdoors. Joe I really respect Marc. I’ve learned a lot from him. It’s it’s it’s a true play. sure to get to represent him and work with him. And every time he speaks, I learned something and walk away. Feeling good.

John Corcoran 30:09

That’s great. I also want to ask you about what would have been some of the challenges for you personally leading this organization going from, you know, six people in the back house, to now you’re the head of this organization, 30 people or so you said, are depending on you for their livelihood? How have you up-leveled your own skills? You mentioned YPO, which is an amazing organization. You’ve been a part of it for quite some time, which has little, you know, groups together that meet together. But what are some ways that you’ve uploaded your own skills as you’ve grown into this leadership position where you’ve been in for a while now, but Oh,

Barrett Cordero 30:49

my school is still in session. That’s for sure. And it probably will be for many, many more years. I think good leaders read a lot. Definitely reading, I always take away something from a book even if it’s one thing in amongst 300 pages. I’d also say watching podcasts, listening to podcasts, watching specious speeches, from those who have done it or researched others. That’s, that’s very helpful. Yeah, getting help. I mean, I mean, I’ve, I tap every resource there is I’ve had an executive coach, I’ve had a therapist, I’ve been part of YPO. I’ve had mentors. You know, I mean, you name it, I’m constantly tapping into resources to support me to either, you know, carry the responsibility, or to learn or to process my thinking and work through whatever opportunity or obstacles in front of me. It’s, it’s, yeah, it’s, I wouldn’t say it’s one thing, it’s many things. And then, of course, you know, family and friends. And I’ve learned the hard way, when we started, my wife and I were fortunate enough to have two daughters. One is currently six, and one is three, I started just counting exercise, and I thought, okay, just I’ll be more present with Dad and I got work responsibilities. And that caught up with me, I started to have physical symptoms over time from all the stress. And so now I’m very regimented. I worked out at lunch. 10 years ago, I would have said, I could never work out at lunch, I don’t have the energy to work out at lunch, it’s got to be like, at night, or the morning or something. And I’ve made it work. And, you know, I’m committed to that. And for me, it makes a huge difference, that exercise and on the regular, you know, diet, pay attention to, you know, what I consume? All those kind of basics, I’ll say, but they’re, you know, they’re, they’re impactful.

John Corcoran 32:53

Your dollars are still young, but since you mentioned them, I want to ask you about this is off the top of mine from for me, I have four kids, oldest just turned 13. Youngest is four, but you’re raising them in an affluent community. You know, you’ve got celebrity clients, you’ve got, you know, companies earning a pretty penny, you know, what are your thoughts on raising kids? So they’re not entitled, so that they have drive and ambition?

Barrett Cordero 33:22

Yeah. First of all, wow, that you have four children. Anybody with three or more like you deserve a medal? Like the state should send me something in the mail. Like we recognize you as a community hero. Fantastic. Awesome. The sacrifice that you’ve made in what you’ve done to do that? I mean, that’s more I think, than building a company. It’s a great question. And it’s something I have thought about. I have definitely, my father unfortunately passed away this past year. But I remind them frequently that he came from Mexico when he was eight years old, and moved to San Francisco with his mother and, you know, went after the American dream. And I think it’s really important for them to know that’s, that’s why we have the Cordero last name. Now, I embarrassingly don’t speak Spanish. As a dyslexic. I’m still learning English. But you know, they, they I think they know that’s a part of our story. And we’re cognizant of the circles we’re in. And so we’ve currently been conscious about having them go to public schools so that there is diversity and they’re exposed to the community at large. Because I do think that’s really healthy, because if we stay in our narrow lane, they would have a kind of an asymmetrical experience.

John Corcoran 34:49

Yeah, yeah. I want to wrap up with my last question, which is my gratitude question, you know, as you look around at especially, especially peer And contemporaries, maybe others in your industry, however you wanted to find that it could be other speakers bureau heads, it could be other presidents of company, other business leaders and in your community. Who would you want to just acknowledge or thank publicly for helping you in your journey?

Barrett Cordero 35:18

I think, you know, the because we talked a little bit about business today who comes forward to me is this woman Deborah Sours. When I was in high school, my junior year, there was career day, and she was a stockbroker. And she came in and explain what she does. And, and at the end, she said, Hey, I have two summer internship positions, who would like to, you know, try it and me and this girl, Suzanne raised our hand. And Deb, you know, welcomed us into the stockbrokers. That summer, we put on our, our formal clothes at word tie back then. And we made our calls and did those things. And Deborah kept in touch with me. And she was the one who ended up working with big speak for a year or two, and who, you know, call me years later and said, Hey, I think you would be good at this. So if it wasn’t for Deb, I would have never gotten into this industry. And I think it’s, it illustrates the point of how, you know, she didn’t need to go to career day and talk to a bunch of children about what she does. I didn’t need to raise my hand and go to a summer internship that paid nothing but you know, I got some experience, but because she took a chance making choices, and I did as well. And, you know, we we fostered a relationship. In my case, the direction my life was changed. So I’m completely grateful for that. And I have a lot of people I’m grateful for that would be hours and hours. But today, that’s the person who really comes forward to me.

John Corcoran 36:50

No, thank you to Deb. Barrett, this has been great. Where can people go to learn more about you connect with you and learn more about BigSpeak?

Barrett Cordero 36:57

Thanks, John. Probably LinkedIn. And then, of course, is our company, and my profile is on LinkedIn. And it’s been nice to get to talk with you, John. And I hope we get to hang out in Santa Barbara at some point. Please consider me available. The community has any questions or anything to follow up on. 

John Corcoran 37:12

Sounds great, thanks Barrett. Okay.

Outro 37:22

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