Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart.
I’ve been getting emails from today’s guest for, I guess, the past year. It’s not unsolicited. A friend introduced us because he thought I’d really like today’s guest and that I might want to have him on. There was this one line in one of the emails that intrigued me. He said he was doing $1 million in bookings for speaking. That means he got paid $1 million for speaking. I thought, “That’s not really what Mixergy is about. We don’t cover speakers. We cover tech startups.”
There’s something kind of intriguing about being able to get up on stage, speak and get paid for doing it. Even though it’s not a direct fit, what I’m noticing is that more and more tech entrepreneurs are actually speaking at conferences. It’s a way for entrepreneurs in general to build their reputations, build their networks and grow their businesses.
I thought, “This guy is intriguing me. I’ve got to find a way to have him on.” I set him up with the conversation with our producer. The notes came back as really promising and I said, “Let’s do it.” His name is Grant Baldwin. He is a speaker and has been for a long time. He’s actually recently started speaking. I think since he and I met, he’s started teaching people how to speak. You can see that at BookedAndPaidToSpeak.com.
This interview is sponsored by HostGator.com. If you need a new host for your current website, go to HostGator.com/Mixergy and migrate over. It’s sponsored by Toptal. If you need a developer to join your team or just build a new project for you, go to Toptal.com/Mixergy. I’ll tell you more about them later. First, I want to welcome Grant. Good to see you, Grant.
Grant: Good to see you, Andrew. Thanks for letting me hang out with you today.
Andrew: You bet. You know, you and I actually have a similar background in the sense that when it snowed and the school was out, we were excited for a different reason than most of our friends. What was getting you psyched about snow days?
Grant: I was excited because it was an opportunity to earn money. I was the entrepreneurial kid. I was the kid who was always looking for a way to make a buck. So, I vividly remember–this is probably like a middle school or so–I remember it snowed a lot. I had a buddy that lived in a more upscale, nicer neighborhood in the town. So, he said, “Let’s go around and shovel some driveways.”
We went around. If I remember, we made something like $200-$300 for the day just going door to door, $20 to shovel a driveway. I just remember having wads of cash between us and just like, “Let’s do more of this. It doesn’t snow every day but what are ways we can generate money as a kid?”
So, I’ve always been fascinated by it. I’ve always been intrigued by entrepreneurship and business. As a lot of people like to say, I’m fairly unemployable. I don’t want to work for someone else. I’d rather create my own problems and issues.
Andrew: There were times that you did work for other people and I know how frustrating it was and I know how tough it was for you to find your path in life and to start making money as a speaker. We’ll get to it. I’ve got to hang out to this conversation a little bit longer because I feel like earning your own money as a kid is incredibly empowering and education in a sense that a book never could be and a class couldn’t and even karate class that is supposed to empower you doesn’t. And I think it’s from knowing that you’re going to get to keep the money yourself. As a result, you learn to sell. You push yourself a little bit more.
I know that a lot of schools today offer candy that you can sell for charity, allow you to setup a lemon stand for charity. Those are all great things. It’s always good to help charities. But there’s something about saying to a kid, “Go make this sale and you keep the money,” and learn something about how to save the money, get your imagination fired up about where you can invest the money, about what you can do with your future, about how great it would be if it snowed for a month. Does any of that resonate?
Grant: Totally. I also remember the shoveling snow was one thing. I remember another time just mowing yards. I had my uncle who’s a graphic designer. I had him design me a little brochure, a little flier. So, I went door to door all over the neighborhood and instead of going door to door, I actually put it in mailboxes, which I later learned is illegal. So, the postal worker came around after me with a big stack of the ones I had already distributed and was like, “You can’t do that.”
I was definitely the kid that was just like–I think my parents were really good about, “If you want stuff, that costs money. Money doesn’t just grow on trees.” I remember one thing my dad used to say is that work comes before play. So, do what you have to do so you can do what you want to do. I’m a husband. I’ve got three little girls.
So, that’s one of the things I’m trying to figure out as a dad, how do I impart that to my own kids? We don’t just buy it just because Mommy and Daddy have the money? What are ways that you can earn money? Not just me presenting you with options, but also helping them to see opportunities to earn money as well. So, yeah, it was a big thing that helped shape my childhood was well.
Andrew: I’d love to find a way to bring this into schools, to say to schools, “We are going to teach your students how to sell something and the money is not going to go to charity. We don’t need to whitewash this thing like it’s some kind of filthy money that you earned and unless you give it away, it’s just a dirty business that you got yourself into.”
“We’re going to let you keep it and we’re going to spend some time learning about how you can invest it and even if you buy just one share of Apple after working for the whole summer selling this, you’re going to learn something about what it’s like to invest the money and frankly even if you spend it all, you’re going to learn something about what it’s like to earn money and make decisions that you’re either proud of or not.” I don’t know what that’s like, but I’d love to somehow find a way to bring that into schools.
Andrew: You were talking about your parents. Sorry, what do you think of that?
Grant: I would totally agree. Again, like I said, as a dad of three girls, I don’t want my girls to grow up thinking the world owes them something and, “Oh, I’ll just get a job someday and someone’s going to magically give me a paycheck every few weeks.” I’ll give you a quick example. Our oldest daughter who’s nine now, a couple years ago she was really into the American Girl craze and had to have one of these American Girl dolls, which is ridiculously crazy overpriced. I’m like as a human I’m not going to spend $100 on a plastic doll. That’s insane. I told her, “You can totally save up your money.”
So, she saved up her money through doing odd jobs around the house and just looking for opportunities, saved up $100 to buy one of these dolls. So, not only was it a cool moment for her as a child, but it also felt like a cool moment for me as a dad like, “I didn’t spend $100 for this doll.” She put in the work. So, she treats it differently because it wasn’t something that was flippantly given to her as a gift for her birthday or Christmas or something. It was like, “I earned this money and therefore I earned this toy,” or whatever the thing would be.
Andrew: The thing is that parents who are entrepreneurs pass this on to their kids. Parents who are rich often pass this kind of information onto their kids, but it doesn’t happen enough. I remember reading Forbes magazine growing up and hearing about some of these guys who were running companies grew up going to board meetings because their dads would take them into board meetings, grew up around business because that’s what their fathers wanted to instill in them.
As a result, they were running these companies. I think Brian Roberts from Comcast was someone who, as a kid, used to go into board meetings. I could be wrong. At that level, they were often included.
Anyway, you mentioned your parents. I want to mention one more moment on that because your parents’ divorce affected you dramatically. What happened in your head when your parents divorced?
Grant: I was between the summer of my eighth grade and freshman year, my parents went through a divorce. Anybody who’s gone through a divorce as a child, you acknowledge like, “Okay, I get it. This happens. This is part of life.” Like a lot of crap that happens in life, you didn’t think it would happen to you. At the time, I didn’t really know anyone whose parents were divorced. It just kind of messed with me like, “This sucks. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.”
So, at the time, I get really involved in my local church. My youth pastor had a big impact on my world. It was just a really profound transitional season of life, dealing with this massive transition of family but then also figuring out where do I go from here? My dad and I had a bit of a falling out. We’ve since are on amazing terms. He was the best man at my wedding.
Andrew: About what? Open up.
Grant: Part of it was I just blamed him for the divorce, like, “This is probably your fault,” from what I could tell.
Andrew: Was it?
Grant: Probably more his than hers, but everybody’s got a part to play in something like that. I think it was one of those things like, “Let’s cast the blame somewhere,” and it happened to be him. So, I was just bitter and pissed off toward him for a while. So, as a result of that–I’m the oldest of three. I’ve got a younger brother and sister. When my brother and sister would go visit my dad’s like every other weekend, I would stay with my mom.
So, my mom and I got really close that way. We stated going to this local church. That’s why I got connected at the church, got connected to this youth pastor and really just felt that there are lot of things you can do in life and there are a lot of ways you can make a living and just felt like if I can do for others what he has done for me and just making some type of tangible impact.
Andrew: What did he do for you that attracted you to him or to the church?
Grant: I think he just saw–he gave me opportunities to lead. He gave me opportunities to even speak a little bit, even just in smaller settings. I think he just instilled confidence.
Andrew: With how many people?
Grant: Like small groups, like 20-30 people or so, sometimes to my peers. So, some of it was just that, just feeling like during a difficult season, here’s an opportunity for me to plugin and feel connected and a part of something.
Andrew: When you spoke in front of kids, how did it feel?
Grant: Amazing. I vividly remember one of the first times I spoke. I spoke to a different church, like a local church youth group of like 20-30 kids or something. Looking back, I know that the presentation itself went horrible and it was just a complete failure and bomb, but I remember leaving feeling like, “That was amazing. I can’t wait to do that again.” There’s a sense of like I feel like with some work, I could do this. I could do this well, not that everyone coming out of the gate has it nailed. But I feel like this is something I could get better at over time.
Andrew: I used to watch the religious speakers on Sunday morning and the way they had this huge audience listening to them and they get worked up and they get the audience worked up and they’d be like rock stars in many senses of the word because they had that audience and that vibe with the audience. I said, “I’d like to do that to.” Is that part of it too, the attraction of having an audience cheer for you and hang on your words the way musicians have?
Grant: Yeah. I think it’s a weird thing that speakers do, that we stand on stages, we have hundreds, if not thousands of people that listen to us and then people come up to us afterwards and we take pictures with them or sign autographs. When you boil it down, even when my daughters or my wife come, she’s like, “This is the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen.” But it is kind of the–I don’t know that that’s necessarily what attracted me to it. I think it’s one of the byproducts of the system.
Andrew: Before we get deeper into your business, I want to give people a sense of how big it is. So, how much revenue have you made as a speaker?
Grant: We’ve done about $1.3 million in speaking fees and we’ve done probably another 300,000 to 400,000 just on product sales as well.
Andrew: So, you go in and you speak and you tell people if they want to buy more they can buy it at the back of the room, is that how it works?
Grant: Yeah. A lot of the speaking that I’ve done in the past–this has shifted a bit recently–but a lot of it in the past and early on was speaking a lot to high school and college students. So, it wasn’t like I had some big massive coaching or consulting program I was offering at the back of the room. A lot of the times it was just a $10 book or t-shirt or something where people would line up and spend $10-$20 there. We definitely developed a lot of product revenue on the back end that way.
Andrew: And your highest year–this is over five years, right?
Grant: Yeah. I’ve been speaking full-time for about seven years or so, but the past five have been, I think, over six figures.
Andrew: And you told me how much your highest year was. Can you say that?
Grant: Yeah. We did about $400,000 was our highest year of speaking, which again was probably, if I remember right, probably about 70 percent was speaking fees and about 30 percent was product revenue.
Andrew: So, you grow up, you have this background that this youth pastor gave you and you end up at a job anyway, even though you’re this guy who’s entrepreneurial who’s shoveling snow. What job did you have?
Grant: I became a youth pastor. I went to bible college. That’s kind of what I wanted to do. That was a world I kind of grew up in and felt like I could be decent at it. So, I went to bible college, found a job at a local church. It was a decent-sized church. It was like 1,200-1,500 people or so and was a youth pastor there for about a year and a half. Parts of it I liked, parts of it I didn’t like. I’m sure we’ll get into that.
Andrew: What didn’t you like? I’ve got here in my notes that you just did not enjoy the job you had and I assumed this was it. I know later on you had a job at a security firm and we’ll talk about that. What was it about being a youth pastor you didn’t enjoy?
Grant: I enjoyed working with the students. I enjoyed working with the leaders that we had. The boss that I had wasn’t the easiest guy to work for. He was, I think, part of it was him and part of it was just the role that you’re always on. It’s not like you clock in and clock out. Granted, that doesn’t necessarily go away as an entrepreneur. But I felt like I was always at the beckon call of someone else. I was always under someone else’s control. I never really had a vote. I never really had a say. It was kind of like, “This is the way it is.”
One of the questions I rattled with a lot was, “Is this a busy season or is this the way it is?” If this is a busy season–and we all have busy seasons at any type of, whether you’re an employer or entrepreneur, there are parts of the year that are busier than others. If this is a busy season, I can probably ride this out. If this is the way it is, I really want to think about what happens next? Is this really what I want to do long term.
So, I big catalyst for me was actually when my wife got pregnant with our first daughter. That was a point where you’re kind of like, “Okay, is this the kind of profession I want to have? Is this the kind of life I want to have whenever I bring her into the world?” So, there’s nothing like bringing a kid onto the plant that makes you question, “What am I doing with my life? What is it that I want to become? What legacy do I want to create and the kind of life I want to build with her?
Andrew: So, you went into hat right away. You must have really been religious. Is it appropriate for me to ask you if your wife was your first sexual partner?
Grant: First and only.
Andrew: So, when you watch television and you see everybody having sex everywhere, do you feel like, “I’m missing out?”
Grant: In fact, my wife and I were high school sweethearts. We started dating when I was 15. I was 15. She was 17. So, I dated an older woman.
Andrew: That’s impressive at 15.
Grant: I had that going for me. We grew up in that world. I definitely would still consider myself a Christian. There are certain things you look back on and think, “That may not have made total sense.” I think you evolve over time in what you believe. It’s always been a big part of my life and I guess a foundational piece and really kind of a worldview that I would have.
Andrew: That’s interesting because I think I–and a lot of people do–evaluate how I’m doing in the world, or used to anyway, by how many women were interested in me. For a large part of my life, no women were interested in me. Did you feel any of that? If you didn’t use that as a yardstick, what was your external yardstick of how you were doing in the world, how cool you were?
Grant: I think whether or not I want to admit it, probably just success and finances.
Andrew: So, you must have felt crummy then because you can’t possibly make that much money from a church, can you?
Grant: No. At the time, among peers and other youth pastors it’s more just like, “How big is your youth group? How big is the church that you’re at?” So, that’s kind of a measuring stick in that space. But I think over time I’m always kind of looking at other peers of where I’m at on the spectrum of where everybody else is to make sure you’re in some ways keeping up with that, which is dumb, but at times I think we all do it.
Andrew: All right. I want to find out about the transition and then I want to find out later on about how you got your first clients and the rest of the business part of this conversation.
But first I’ve got to tell everyone that if you are looking for a new web host, you don’t have to put your bad web host. If you’re not happy with how fast your site is running, if you’re not happy with how bad it is and how hard it is to get tech support on the phone, if you’re not happy with how hard it is to get a new site up and running, you should go and consider at least HostGator.
HostGator will allow you to get a website up so fast that you’re going to find yourself saying, “You know what? I need to persuade someone to come work with me. I’ll go HostGator to my account and create a new website just to show them why they should be working with me.” You’re going to say HostGator is so good, if you’re going to have an event, you’re going to go to HostGator and create a new website just for the event.
It doesn’t take that long. It’s really easy. All you have to do is go to HostGator.com/Mixergy and when you do that, you’re going to get a huge discount, 30 percent off their usual prices. HostGator is a great place to go when you’re starting out a new business too, even if you don’t have one to migrate and they’re great at migration.
But if you want to start something brand new–you’ve heard several Mixergy interviewees talk about how they started with HostGator and many of them are still with HostGator. In fact, let me ask you this, Grant. If you were going to start a business right now as a speaker and I gave you a HostGator account and nothing else–no money to invest in it, you just have to create your website and start your business–what would that site be?
Grant: I would do something similar to what we’re doing now, honestly. I would create something about teaching people a specific skill, in our case speaking and how you actually get speaking engagements. I would do what we’re doing right now, which seems to be working right now.
Andrew: You know what? That’s a really good idea. I think your site is hosted on–yeah, it’s hosted on WordPress. If I go to your site it’s a one-page landing page that says, “You should learn how to be a speaker and I can teach you how to do it in nine sessions. All you have to do is click this button, give me your email address and I’ll start sending you emails about how to do this thing that I’m especially to that.” You’re right.
So, everybody who’s listening to us is good at something. They could very easily create a six-step or nine-step process for how to do this thing that they’re great at and drip that out over email and create a landing page that says, “I will teach you this over nine sessions. Give me your email. Tell me where to send your lessons and I’ll just keep sending it to you until you know or unit the nine sessions are over.”
And then at the end, you offer to sell something. Frankly, if the person who’s listening to us does not have something to sell yet, the easiest thing to do is sell a consultation package, right? “You’re happy with these nine sessions. I just taught you how to do whatever it is that I’m good at. Now if you want more, I’ll personally work with you. I’m only accepting two clients right now. If you want to join, just go and pay,” and you can send them over to a Stripe link or a PayPal link and it doesn’t cost anything to do any of that.
All of this can be done using a HostGator account. So, think about it. So, what are you especially good at? Create a landing page for it right now by going to HostGator.com/Mixergy. They work really well with WordPress. They will even, if you decide to add a shopping cart, give you free shopping cart software.
They have a 45-day money back guarantee so if they’re not as good as I say they are, you can get your money back. And they do unlimited email addresses for you, unmetered disk space and bandwidth. Unmetered disk space is pretty cool. It’s really powerful and they’ll even give you an AdWords offer, a $100 AdWords offer from Google, a $100 search credit from Bing and Yahoo and all kinds of other tools to get you started. Go to HostGator.com/Mixergy.
Grant: Boom. There you go. Well done.
Andrew: You know what? In the earlier interviews, I used to ask guests afterwards, “How did I do with my sponsorship read?” Now I feel I’ve got it. I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from the audience and from the sponsors and also from guests.
Grant: Its’ good when you incorporate the guests into it. I think that makes it a little more human, rather than I’m just reading off a script.
Andrew: Yeah, and they always come up with really good ideas. Like your idea, I like it. It’s so simple. Your page is just a one-page landing page. Of course it’s something anyone can do.
Grant: The tools that are available, whether it’s HostGator or whatever, there are just plenty of options. There’s no excuse whys somebody shouldn’t be starting and doing something.
Andrew: I’ve talked to all these entrepreneurs who, for a long time, were starting lots of businesses, lots of little ideas to see what would take off and what wouldn’t. But anyway, back to you. You weren’t happy where you were. What was the thing that made you finally say, “I’ve got to go be a speaker,” and why a speaker?
Grant: I remember I went to a conference and it was a youth pastor conference. I went to a conference in Nashville, actually, where we recently moved, in fact. I remember I went to a session and one of the–I don’t even remember who the speaker was–I don’t even remember a ton of what he was talking about. But I remember he said, “Listen, if you don’t enjoy 80 percent of what you’re doing, you need to find something else.” So, I vividly remember, “We’re all working for someone else. None of us enjoy 80 percent. What is he talking about here?”
But I remember leaving that session, going out into the hall and calling my wife and being like, “We need to…” We had been talking about it a little bit. It wasn’t like a blindside. “I think we need to quit. I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know where we go from here.” But after that, I went back and resigned from the position. So, it was a big turning point for us.
Andrew: Is that when you got into selling home security systems?
Grant: Yeah. Once I quit that job, I didn’t plan it out massively. It wasn’t like we had massive amounts of life savings. My wife was, at the time, five months pregnant. So, on the exterior, everyone’s like, “Have you thought this through? Let’s talk about this. Let’s make sure you consider some different options here.”
I knew at that point I needed a job and I was just looking for a paycheck. I was just looking for a means to an end. I found there was a local company that was hiring sales reps to do home security stuff. My father and law actually owned a security company in a different state, so I was able to at least talk with him a little bit, learn a little bit about the business.
So, really, it was no career ambition at all. It was just like I just need a paycheck at this point while we figure out what we want to do. At that point, I knew I liked speaking and was decent at it. But it wasn’t necessarily like, “Let’s quit this thing and let’s naturally roll right into speaking.” That was never really the plan.
Andrew: How did you then start speaking?
Grant: So, I would say that period before I started speaking and initially leaving that first job was a brutal several months but it was a really pivotal season because it forced me to really answer some of those deep questions about what am I passionate about? What is it that I want to do? If I can do anything, what do I want to do? Instead of just feeling like, “I went to college for that thing. We’re stuck in that thing. We have to continue doing that thing.”
Speaking was one of those things I felt like I was good at. I felt like I could make a career of this. I started looking around and figuring out, “Are there people that actually do this? Is this actually an option? I didn’t see this on the menu before, but maybe this is something that I could actually be decent at.”
So, once I found a couple of guys, then I realized I think I could actually do this. I think I could actually begin to become a speaker, whatever that means. So, I left that initial job in December, started the security job in January and then in September is when I first launch the speaking website and started moving in that direction.
Andrew: What was your original speaking website?
Grant: The Speaking website was just GrantBaldwin.com.
Andrew: The same one you’ve got today too. How did you pick your topic? I get invited to speak a whole lot and I try to do as little of it as possible?
Andrew: Because there was a period where I liked to travel a lot and now I don’t’ want to have to travel for work. I get to meet so many people just doing Mixergy interviews and just walking over to a coffee shop over here. What’s the advantage to flying out somewhere? I’m actually going to go next weekend to Vegas and spend four days in Vegas. What am I going to do? It’s not like I’m going to have sex with hookers.
Grant: I hope not.
Andrew: What’s the fun that I’m going to get to have in Vegas? I’m going to get to be surrounded by a bunch of business people, which is fantastic, at this conference and then I’m going to get on the stage and talk to a bunch more. What do I get? No more than what I get from doing this right here. I’m getting to talk to you. I’m getting to speak to a bunch of people in the audience.
So, that’s the reason. But I do feel that there’s a compelling enough reason that I do it occasionally and the reason is that when people see you in person, there’s a bigger bond. When people see you at a conference, there’s almost a stamp of approval that you get from the conference speaker and the environment. So, it does help.
Grant: I would totally echo that. You and I could or whoever, we could email back and forth. We can be on a Slack channel together. We could Skype from time to time. But meeting in person changes the dynamic of the relationship much more than any of these other mediums or venues could. So, there is definitely something powerful about speaking, being on a stage and connecting with an actual live audience. Now, don’t get me wrong. I would totally echo that. I enjoy traveling, but it’s way more important to me to be a good husband and father.
So, I’d prefer to stay home than get on a plane and fly somewhere and speak for 45 minutes and collect a check and come back. But there’s definitely like massive upsides to building those human relationships when you’re live in person.
Andrew: I wish I had done it before I got into a relationship because then I could have gone out and explored a new city and gone out and done crazy things and at the same time getting to meet a bunch of people at the conference who would be interested in going out with me to whatever adventure I wanted to go on.
There is one other benefit and that is getting to see the other speakers. There’s always a dinner for the speakers or a green room for the speakers or something where you’re getting to meet other speaker and that is totally helpful.
I’ve gotten to meet other speakers and build those relationships in a way that I could not get to know them over the internet. Even though they’re listening to Mixergy interviews, they’re not contacting me because they’re way too busy. But being in the green room together or dinner together or even at the same hotel if the organizer puts you up in the same place lets you get to know them.
Grant: I think along those lines, especially if you’re just getting started, being a speaker gives you credibility that just being an attendee doesn’t give you. So, if there’s someone that you’re looking up to, someone that you want to connect with or meet at a conference that is a few rungs above you on the latter, then being a speaker gives you instant credibility of like, “Well, they’re not going to let any schmoe speak at this thing.” So, it definitely helps for connecting with people.
Andrew: So, I’m wondering how you figured out what to speak about. I’m looking at an old version of your website and it does say here that your topics are being a difference maker and it’s ideal for school assemblies, leadership conferences, etc. You can also do a student workshop on “What the Heck Am I Going to Do with My Life?” “Broke Today, Rich Tomorrow!” How did you find these topics to speak about? How do you know what people are actually going to want to bring you into a conference to talk about?
Grant: Well, at the time, I really wanted to do a lot in the high school world. Again, that’s where I had a lot of experience. I had done a little bit of speaking there, felt like I could resonate with that audience and speak well to that audience. I think one of the things I did early on was try and understand that market of what is it that people actually get booked for. Just because I’m passionate about something or want to speak about certain subject or topic doesn’t mean anyone is actually going to pay me for it.
So, trying to pay attention to different conferences that exist on the market, what are they bringing speakers in? Who are other speakers that I would admire or respect and what are they being brought in to talk about? Not necessarily that you have to just copy them verbatim, but you’re able to just say, “Okay that’s at least a topic that someone is getting paid,” versus, “I want to talk about whatever.”
It’s like this–Andrew if you and I went to lunch and we sit down and the waiter walks up and says, “What would you like to eat,” and you say, “We’d like to see the menus.” And they say, “We don’t have menus. We can just cook whatever.” You and I would both assume this restaurant sucks. The same thing as a speaker. If someone comes to you and says what do you speak about? If you say, “Well, I can speak about anything.” The reality is you can’t. There are some things you can speak really intelligently on and things you’re good at and other things that aren’t for me.
When people to speak to certain types of audiences, like I could do that. It would be a stretch. It’s not a good fit. In the same way there are certain guests that that would be great on the show but you’re just like, “That’s outside the realm of what we talk about.” So, being really, really clear on what it is that you speak about is definitely important.
Grant: One of the conferences that I really liked was MicroConf. I spoke at the very first one. Let’s suppose that I had no connection to MicroConf and I wanted to speak there. You’re saying go to the conference page, look at who the speakers are see what they’re speaking about.
So I’m on here and I see Steli Efti, a past Mixergy interviewee. He’s going to be there. He’s speaking on “Website Teardowns and How to Build a Solo SaaS Sales Machine.” Beautiful. So, that gives me a couple of ideas. Let’s look at the next person, Sarah Haider. Again another person who’s been on Mixergy. She’s going to talk about “Do This, Not That: Creating an Exceptional Customer Support Experience from Day One.”
Now I’m getting a sense of what these people are doing. They’re each talking about one aspect of business that they’re especially good at. Jesse from You Need a Budget, also on Mixergy in the past, “How Bookkeeping Tripled My Revenue in Two Years.” So, it’s cash flow advice. So, in this case I might say, “What are the other smaller aspects of business that I can help people with because I do it especially well?” And that’s what I would talk about.
Grant: Well, in this case, you’re already familiar with MicroConf, so you would probably–if you say, “I want to speak at MicroConf,” there’s probably a reason why and you probably at least have a sense of what the conference is, who the attendees are, what it is that maybe the value is that you could bring to them.
So, rather than just going to the conference planner and saying, “I would love to speak at the conference,” just like with an open blank slate, rather than just saying, “Hey, I’ve got these two or three ideas. Here are some topics that aren’t being talked about or addressed. I think I can bring some value to this.”
The same way I did in ideally reaching out to you–instead of saying, “Hey, Andrew, I’m Grant. You should have me come be on your show. That doesn’t do anything for you and now you’ve got to do work and figure out what the angle it.” But if I’m able to say, “Hey, I’ve noticed that maybe you haven’t had a lot of speakers, here’s something we could talk about. Here’s how this could be relevant with your audience.”
Andrew: Here’s your email where you actually said that to me. On May 6th, you said, “Andrew, I know you’ve got plenty of options, but I’d love to be a guest on Mixergy some time. Here are some topic ideas that could be relevant to your audience. Number one, how to get booked and paid to speak–I’ve been a full-time speaker seven years, 67 paid events last year alone.” Do you mind me reading this out loud?
Grant: I don’t think so. I don’t know what’s in it.
Andrew: I don’t think there’s anything bad, but I just quickly scanned it. “Number two, selling through webinars–I’ve done over $40,000 in revenue in two months through webinars for our new course. Number three, how I built my speaking business,” and then you talked about how you earned over $1 million in speaking fees. That always helps, when a guy doesn’t just say, “I want to be on Mixergy,” but, “Here are a few topics that I know are relevant to you.”
So, that’s what you did. You said, “These are the topics that I’m interested in. I’m going to start to propose speaking about these topics.” And you had a sense of what you were interested in based on what you’ve talked about in the past but also what the events you were going to speak at were looking for and what other topics you’ve covered.
So, you’re putting yourself out there. Do you remember the first person who said no or one of the painful no’s before you go the yes?
Grant: Sometimes you don’t necessarily get a no. Sometimes you just get silence. I think that’s more common what happens. If I’m reaching out through email, they just don’t respond. I think that’s more common. I think this is whenever your reaching out to potential decision makers or conference planners or whoever it may be, it is a bit of a numbers game. I think that’s where a lot of speakers have trouble getting started is, “I sent five emails. I didn’t hear from any of them. I guess I’m not cut out to be a speaker.”
The reality is getting speaking gigs is no different from selling anything. You have to be willing to persist. You have to be willing to be persistent and hustle. Even with the example you just gave of MicroConf, going to the page, doing the research, figuring out, “Here’s who else they’ve brought in. Here are other topics they’ve presented on. Here’s the decision maker.”
I have some context for this event so that I have something to reach out to them rather just send it like mass spamming a bunch people. You can tell the difference whenever people pitch you to the show of people that they sent this to 100 other podcasters versus they wrote this for me. That’s the exact same thing you’re trying to do with speaking engagements. Why is it that you bring any value to the table for that conference and how would that be a best case, win/win scenario.
Andrew: I can see I thought where do I do a search to find more conferences like MicroConf to find out where I was going to go. I did a Google search and ended up on a lanyard page that lists all the startup conferences–actually, not all of them. It lists a bunch of startup conferences. Now I can go through their list, see who’s spoken in the past, what they’ve spoken about. What did you do? Did you start calling up local schools?
Grant: No. I’ve never done any cold calling. That sounds horrible and miserable and that’s a good way to piss off a principal. Early on–and this is one of the things we still talk about and teach–I think it’s a lot easier to focus on conferees and existing events.
The reason being if you focus on corporations or schools or colleges, the reality is that some of them and maybe a lot of them are going to be able to book and bring in speakers, but it’s difficult to know who the decision makers are, what they bring in speakers–for example, Google. Google brings in speakers, but who do you know to contact at Google to bring in? Unless you have someone on the inside, you’re not just going to email.
Andrew: My friend Rachel.
Grant: if you know someone, that’s a great first step. But if I don’t have any connection there, then it’s a lot easier to Google and figure out what are some existing conferences that I know bring in speakers. At that point, I’m not trying to convince you to bring in a speaker. You already have a speakers either way. It’s just a matter of figuring out, “Am I good fit for what it is that you’re doing?”
Andrew: So, what did you do? You wouldn’t cold call schools? It sounds like you did. It sounds like you were looking what schools already bring in speakers.
Grant: No, cold calling in terms of actually picking up the phone. But I would send an email to them.
Andrew: Oh, I see. The phone is not the way you did it, but email was.
Andrew: And you would email the principals?
Grant: No, I wouldn’t even focus on schools in the beginning. I wouldn’t even focus on corporations.
Andrew: Who did you focus on?
Grant: I would focus on conferences and those existing events–
Andrew: Oh, you actually did go to conferences. There are conferences where speakers speak to kids?
Grant: Oh yeah.
Andrew: What kind of kid conferences are there?
Grant: Like student leadership-type conferences. So, there’s a variety of different student council, student government, FFA, FBLA–those types of groups that have state, regional, national conferences. So, I would speak at a lot of those, several college conferences as well that I would speak at. Part of the reasons this is valuable, two-fold–one, they are used to hiring speakers already. Btu the second part is if I’m just focusing on one-of schools or one-off corporations, it’s just basically that, whereas if I go speak at a conference, often times it’s a gathering of 50, maybe 100 different schools or corporations.
So, not only is it a great opportunity for me to speak and get paid, but it’s also a great marketing tool, “Grant, we really like that. Can you go to our local place and do that same talk?” So, that’s really how we built a lot of the business. A lot of it was guerilla marketing in the beginning. But over time, the longer you do it with anything, you build up good reputation, good word of mouth and it goes from there.
Andrew: What was your process for keeping track of who you were asking and what their response was and who didn’t respond?
Grant: We used a combination of spreadsheets and emailing people and contacting people. We used Highrise from the artist formerly known as 37 Signals. That was a great tool. I think that was a thing that really helped us to build our business, to be really, really consistent on following up. There are a lot of times where we might hear form someone and they’re like, “Hey, we’re not interested right now, but check back with us in six months.”
Most speakers, most sales people of anything would be like, “Great,” and hopefully I’ll just magically remember in six months to follow up. But I would make a note. Same with you. You’ve said a couple times, “Hey, I’m busy right now.” I think we talked in January and you said, “Check back with me in a couple weeks.”
Andrew: And you did.
Grant: Yeah. It’s not overly difficult.
Andrew: So, how do you do it? How do you make sure you check back in time?
Grant: Highrise, you can schedule a task to follow up with a certain time. Right now with emails I use Followup.cc.
Andrew: I do too.
Grant: And just throw in whatever the time frame is. It’s just basic simple stuff. If you tell someone you’re going to follow up with them in three weeks, follow up with them in three weeks. I think there are time is got speaking engagements not necessarily because I’m the world’s greatest speaker but because I was consistent and followed up with them and did what I told them I was going to do. I think this is helpful not just with speaking but with anything.
If I’m a great speaker but I’m a pain in the butt to work with and I’m just dropping the ball and I’m unorganized and drop the ball in a lot of different ways, people don’t’ want to work with you. If Apple has the most amazing product but their customer service sucks and their experience sucks, we wouldn’t be as excited about it, but if you have an overall great experience–I think that’s what people liked about working with us, not just that he’s going to provide a great product on the stage, but he’s just easy to work with. I think that made a huge difference for us.
Andrew: Let me take a moment here and tell everyone about Toptal. I’ve been saying that if you want a really good developer, they are the place to get it, the top of the top developers and not surprisingly, actually, not at outrageously expensive prices. I used to think that they would be really outrageously expensive. We’re talking about the best of the best and its’ just going to be too hard to hire them. That’s not for me. But I’ve hired them. They’re really reasonably priced.
And I’ve actually offered anyone who wanted an introduction to my guy over at Toptal to just email me and I’ll make the introduction. I see a couple of people have asked for those introductions. I emailed them yesterday and connected them. I have to tell you, within–let me see how long. It took me a while to get to my email. But within an hour, they got a response back from the guy over at Toptal who was there to just help them out.
And one of them said, “You know, I just don’t even know if I’m ready to hire a developer. Here’s where we’re at. Is this going to be a good fit?” I just made the introduction. I said, “Look, talk directly to Toptal. See what they say.” Toptal jumped right into the conversation and it looks like they’re scheduling a call to talk one on one.
So, if you’re looking for a developer, you could have this kind of experience too where you get the best of the best at a price that you can really afford. They don’t really sell themselves as the affordable company, but I’ve found that the price is really reasonable, so you can get that, you can have a person talk to you directly at Toptal about your needs, about who you want to hire. What kind of person is your ideal fit? How many hours do you want? Do you want full time? Do you even have a team? Do you want them to work with your team or do you want them to work directly with you one on one? Do you need someone part time? Is this just a one project thing?
Whatever it is, they then reach out to their network of top developers, top three–I’m telling you, really good developers–and they will introduce you to the right person. If you like that person, you can get started. If you don’t, they’ll find another person for you to talk to and once you hire that person, you an often get started that week.
There isn’t another option as far as I know and I’ve done a lot of research that is like this at all. All you have to do is go to Toptal.com/Mixergy and when you do, they’re going to give you 80 free Toptal developer hours when you pay for 80 in addition to a no-risk trial period of up to two weeks. I’m reading this directly from their webpage and you can too. Go to Toptal.com/Mixergy.
Look at that page, by the way. The attention to detail–they know the Mixergy audience so well that they actually created this page just for us and I think the fact that they did it like this–and I won’t tell you what it is about it, you’ll notice it as soon as you get there–shows their attention to detail, shows how these guys are serious, that they want to not just throw another ad up on another podcast, but they really, if they’re going to commit to something, they’re going to do–I was going to say perfectly. No one could be perfect, but man, they are so close.
Go to Toptal.com/Mixergy. If you don’t need them right now, write that URL down. If you don’t ever need them, write it down anyway because someone you know is going to need them in the future and you’re going to want to make that introduction to Toptal and send them to Toptal.com/Mixergy. I’m so glad that they’re sponsoring.
This is one of those sponsors, Grant, that actually elevates my brand. The fact that Mixergy is associated with Toptal and not just some crappy company you’ve never heard of that’s never going to do anything but maybe sell you something you’re going to regret later on. These are top of the top. I think that says a lot about the Mixergy audience. I’m so eager to keep them as a sponsor because they’re so good.
Grant: Can I speak to something you said earlier?
Grant: You said the number of people that have reached out and heard back within an hour. That speed makes such a difference. I know for us, whenever we would get booking requests in or someone would reply back with an email, like, “Yeah, we might be interested, tell me some information.” Rather than just replying to them in an email, I would always pick up the phone and just call them.
I was amazed at the number of people that caught off guard in such a good way. They’re like, “I didn’t expect to hear from you. I didn’t expect to hear from you so quickly.” So, it just sets the tone for the entire relationship. Like if this is how they do this one thing, then I can’t imagine working with them is going to be a negative experience in any way. So, that quick response they’re doing that makes a huge difference.
Andrew: That’s a good point. There’s something else that you said earlier about how if you email me and you ask me about being on Mixergy and I say, “We’re a little packed right now, maybe later on.” If you respond later on, not only is it impressive that you did, but now I feel guilty saying no, even if all I was doing was procrastinating on saying no by telling you, “Hey, we’re booked. Maybe check back in a few months.”
The fact that you checked back in a few months means I have to live up to what I said. And it’s a really powerful thing to be able to do that. I use FollowUp.cc for reasons like that too. It really is helpful to be able to follow up with someone when you committed you were going to follow up.
Grant: Yeah. And I think a lot of people use that as a filter, of if this person is serious, they’ll follow up with me later. And I get it, like whether I’m reaching out for a speaking engagement or a podcast or whatever the thing is that if someone is pushing me off in a kind way, but if they tell me to follow up with them- I think that’s the key.
If they’re just like, “Hey, we’re not interested,” then don’t keep stalking them and bugging them. But if they say, “Check back with me later,” then be clear on what later means. “Do you want me to check back with you in a month or six months? Whatever it is, you tell me and I’m totally cool,” because FollowUp.cc is going to allow me to do either. So, tell me when it makes more sense for me to follow up. Sometimes I’ll just ask, “Hey, are you cool with me circling back in another month or two months and we’ll just go from there?” So, just getting that permission makes it a lot easier.
Andrew: I should say what Followup.cc does is it allows you to say when you want to get an email back form their service as a reminder. So, if I want to be reminded in two weeks to follow up on this email to you, I’ll email you and then in the bcc field I’ll say 2weeks@FollowUp.cc or maybe I’ll just email–if you said, “Andrew, follow up with me in two weeks and we’ll see. What I’ll do I’ll take your email, forward it to 2weeks@FollowUp.cc, they’ll bounce it back to me in two weeks and that reminds to respond.
Grant: Keep in mind here, if you tell me to follow up with you in three weeks, I’m not being annoying when I follow up with you. You asked me too. So, again, this isn’t through a speaking–this is for anything. Any human interaction, if someone asks you to do something, you’re not being annoying when you actually follow through and do it. If anything, you’re just living up to the expectation that was set.
Andrew: And there are other services that do that to like Boomerang. But I have just been using FollowUp for so long, and they’re really good. It looks like they’re adding all these features. Now they’re not just about following up. Now they also have these integrations so that now that somehow by working with FollowUp.cc, you can work with other software. I haven’t actually messed with their API, with their integrations at all. But it’s a good service. I’m really happy to be with them.
How do you know what to charge?
Grant: Yeah. Good question. There are a bunch of different factors that go into it. One of the factors would just be the market. If you’re speaking in the corporate market, you’re going to be able to charge more than the youth market, you can vernally charge more if you’re speaking in the college market versus like speaking to elementary students or something. So, some of it depends on the market. Some of it depends on your experience. Even if you have a good name and you’ve never done nay presentations and you suck as a speaker, it’s going to be hard to charge a lot.
The other thing would just be your–I think some of it comes down to how you present yourself and how much of a part do you want speaking to be in your overall business, meaning do you want to speak five times a year or do you want to speak 50 times a year. If I go to your site and I see that you really don’t have anything about speaking on your site, then I’m not going to take you super seriously as a speaker.
Andrew: So, what did you do? You’d email them. You’d eventually get on a call. And then would you give them the price? Back when you were starting, did you give them a price or did they give you the price?
Grant: A little bit of both. One of the things I did was I reached out to some other speakers that were in the same niche, so not just like, “I’m looking at that person way up there and they’re charging $50,000.” No. I want to find people actually in my space and just ask them, “What is the going rate for people in this world?” You don’t know what you don’t know.
And then from there, the question I would always ask is, “Do you mind me asking what kind of budget you’re trying to work within?” That just gives me a ballpark. Are we even in the same playing field right now? If my speaking fee is, let’s say, $5,000 and they say, “Our budget is $17.” Well, I can’t even fly there for that. But if they say, “Our budget is $10,000.” Okay, we should be able to make this work then.
Andrew: That’s a good way to say it. When you’re getting started, it’s so easy to say, “What do you pay for this?” and look like an amateur. But if you’re asking, “What’s your budget?” You’re almost asking them to justify that they have a budget and that they can really afford you
Grant: Yeah. At first I was always intimidated by asking the question because I’m asking them to show me their cards. I can think of one or two times where someone pushed back, like not in a negative way, but like, “You tell me your number first.” But most of the time, people are like, “Oh yeah this is our budget.” They just come right out and say it. And again, this is applicable for any type of like service-based business that you’re in.
Andrew: You know what? I’m sorry. Let’s just take the call while I’m in the interview. My son’s nanny is on the phone. She never calls.
Grant: Better get that.
Andrew: Hello? Hi, yes, is everything okay? Yes. Okay. Is he okay? Okay. That’s better than I thought. Is he bleeding? Okay. And if you want to take him to the library or something, that’s fine too. Oh, it’s really swollen up, really badly? Okay. Can you send me a photo? Do you think we need to go see a doctor? I can come right home.
It sounds like it’s going to be okay. If you need me to come home, just let me know and I’ll be happy to come home. I’ll look for the photo. Thank you. Thanks for telling me. No problem at all. These things happen. I know he’s been roughhousing. Don’t worry about it. He’s been playing pretty rough with me too. Don’t worry about it. He’ll be fine. I’m so curious. Send me a photo. I’d love to see it. Okay. Thank you. You bet. Bye.
Grant: Everything alright? Is that the first time that’s happening?
Andrew: Was it weird to just watch me as I’m on the phone there, one half of the conversation?
Grant: No. You can pick up what’s going on. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m married to my high school sweetheart, got three little girls. One thing I talk a lot about is that who you are is more important than what you do. Your role as a husband and your role as a father is way more important than anything we have to talk about. Even when the son scrapes his knee or whatever, it’s just more important to deal with that.
All this business stuff is great, but I firmly believe that if we kill it in business and my kids don’t know who I am, what’s the point? They don’t care what my email list size is. They don’t care how much traffic I get. They don’t care how many speaking engagements I do. I want to provide a great life for them, but if I’m gone and just mentally not present with my family, it’s like what’s the point of that.
Andrew: I might be a real jerk and maybe I’m giving ammunition to my kid to go back into the transcript years from now and say, “This is why you’re a jerk.” But my personal belief still is that I feel like I’m on a mission, I have to do as good a job as possible at that and I believe that people around me need to be understanding of it. And even if that means I’ve got to go off for six months or a year and go work on something and it means I’m not going to see my kid for a year, if it’s that significant, I think I’ve got to do it.
Now, having said that, I was with him this whole weekend, every single moment, every kid’s parent seems to think that it’s weird for me as a dad to spend so much time with my son and that I must be falling apart. But I freaking love it. I would have cut off this interview to go home and check out what’s going on with him because this is not that dramatic that it actually hurts your career or my career. If anything, it adds some drama to the interview.
So, what happened was he’s like a year and three months and the kid is now exploring everything. So, he’s just walking around with a basket which we keep his dolls–he doesn’t have dolls–we keep is something in, probably crayons in that thing. He was walking around with it and it fell and smacked him on the lip and now he’s got this fat lip and she doesn’t want to take him to the park with this fat lip because it’s swollen and it needs to calm down. Let me see if I can see what it looks like. Oh my god. He does have a fat lip. He looks like he was in a boxing match.
Grant: Can you show us?
Andrew: I can’t. I don’t know how to show it. In the photo she sent me, he looks dizzy. He looks like he was in a ring with Rocky. Yeah. I wish I could show you guys.
Grant: And to speak to your point earlier, I know there’s a balance there. I think most of the people listening to this, you and I are very, very driven entrepreneurs. I want to crush it in business. So, there’s always that pull in both directions. When I’m doing my business, I’m making the tradeoff and not spending time with my family. When I’m spending time with my family, I’m making the tradeoff and not spending time on my business. So, I think you’re always pulled one direction or the other. I don’t feel like any of us ever get it right.
So, there’s always that tension there. I had a mentor say one time, “Embrace that tension. If you have the tension, at least it means that you care,” versus, “No, I’m going to spend 18 hours of my business per day and I’m going to provide some killer trips for my family and I’m going to provide some great trips for them and who cares if they know me or not, but look what I gave them.” If you feel that tension, then you know at least it matters to you.
Andrew: Yeah. I get that. And there were times when you weren’t home that much when you were a speaker. How did you deal with it?
Grant: I think it’s tough. I think it’s always tough because I want to be a successful entrepreneur. I want to do well. I would like to make a good amount of money, but I always want to be a good husband. I want to be a good father. There are days when I feel like I’m going too far in one direction versus the other. So, again, I don’t feel like there’s ever a perfect time. I would go back to something I said earlier. I think you can always ask yourself, “Is this the busy season or is this the way it is?”
There are times in a business where it’s just hectic. You’re going through a launch or speaking schedule where there’s just week after week after week and there’s a lot going on. But maybe in like December/January, there are just not a lot of speaking engagements. So, I may be home for eight weeks in a row without anything. So, it’s always good to look at like, “Hey, hang with me for these next three weeks, it’s going to be a little organized chaos but then you’re going to see way too much of me.” There are both sides of it.
Andrew: I see what you mean. I feel like my wife is going through that kind of a busy season now. She’s working as the director of Yahoo for Good and the hours are insane. I just keep encouraging her. “Don’t worry about it. I’ve got this covered. I can still work.” We have a 50-hour a week nanny. We’re totally covered at this point. He’ll be fine. At some point, it’ll have to slow down. If that’s her life for the rest of her life, then we’ve got a real problem.
Grant: Exactly. There’s a point when you’re building a business, whenever I was building my speaking business, I was working a ridiculous amount of hours, when I was working the security thing, I was also working at two different fine dining restaurants also at nights but I was also trying to build the speaking business.
So, yeah there were times when I’m working a ridiculous amount of hours but I know this is leading to something and this isn’t the way it’s always going to be. This is a season where I’m really going to bust my butt but I know it’s leading towards something.
Andrew: When you do over $400,000 in speaking, how many speaking engagements do you have?
Grant: Last year we did 67 engagements.
Andrew: 67 times you’re speaking. That’s a lot of time being away. What’s the average–actually, let me do the quick math. It’s $400,000 divided by 67. We’re talking an average of $6,000 roughly.
Grant: Yeah. I would say a little bit less than that for some of the gigs just because the $400,000 also includes product revenue as well, but nonetheless, several thousand per gig.
Andrew: So then at some point, do they all start to get to know you and start booking you? Does it ever become easier than having to create that spreadsheet and using Highrise and doing the whole system with FollowUp.cc?
Grant: Yes and no. I mean, the longer you do anything and the better you are at it, the more word of mouth you generate, so it’s definitely a lot easier not only for people to then reach out to me and I get a lot more inbound stuff that I used to, but it also gives me a lot more leverage whenever I talk to someone who’s never heard of me to say, “Oh, I’ve worked with this group and spoken at this conference and this conference and this conference or this decision maker or that conference planner. I’ve worked with them before.” But it gives me more to work with there.
I think you always are, whenever you’re building a business or whenever you’re speaking, I think you always have to be reaching out and making those connections and continuing to put yourself out there, rather than sitting back and kicking your feet up and hoping that it all magically works out. I don’t think it works like that.
Andrew: I remember when Tony Hsieh was just killing with Zappos and he decided he was going to start speaking at conferences. I got to know him through a friend and another friend was looking for a speaker at his conference and I said, “How about Tony Hsieh? I think he’d be great.” And the conference organizer said, “He’s everywhere. I don’t think he’s a good fit,” because he’s just so over-saturated the market that it’s time to move on. Do you ever get that way?
Grant: I would say in certain states, the nature of what I do, at least what I used to do with a lot more high school conferences is I could be at different conferences within that state. I remember one time where a high school student came up to me and said, “Hey, this is the third time I’ve seen you speak in the past six months. I’m like, “Ah, crap.”
As a speaker the nature is you do a lot of the same material, you do a lot of the same stories. So, if Tony is going from place to place and there’s a massive amount of overlap everywhere he goes and it’s a lot of the same audiences and he’s doing the exact same talk, then yeah, you’re definitely going to get some of that, but at the same time, the number of speaking opportunities and events and conferences that exist, there are a lot of opportunities. So, it’s definitely possible to be a part-time or full-tome speaker and not saturate the market.
Andrew: What did you do in the beginning to get your audience excited early on in your speech?
Grant: For me personally–everybody’s different–for me, I use a lot of humor. I use a lot of comedy. I use a lot of jokes and stories. Whenever someone is listening to a speaker, “It’s great that they put you up on stage, but I have no reason to listen to you.” So, you have to spend a lot of time building that trust, building that rapport, building that connection.
Andrew: Do you remember the first big joke that you told, the first big thing that got people’s attention? What was your go-to? I get you up on stage right now; you know you need to start with something, what are you going to start with?
Grant: It depends on the audience. There are times when I’ll just do–I’ve got a story about my first car, which was a 1986 Honda Accord, which was a piece of junk. So, I can go to that. That’s a good story.
Andrew: What’s a good story? Can you tell us now?
Grant: Just different things about the car that went wrong. The windshield wipers were broken, the power locks were broken, the moon roof leaked water whenever it rained, it wouldn’t go in reverse–all these little things that you can just tell a story that’s just a funny story, but the nice thing with stories is you can make a lot of application on them from them depending on the audience that you’re speaking to.
Andrew: So, what’s the message about this, that you had this really bad car?
Grant: So, one of the things I talk about with the car, there were a lot of things wrong with it. There were a lot of things broken. It was annoying. It was frustrating. It was pain. But none of it ever bothered me enough that I was going to actually do something about it. So, you tolerate it. You just put up with it. So, the illustration then is with life, there are a lot of things that bother you, things that you put up with.
So, another way to think of it is if you have a light bulb that’s burned out. Most people probably have a light bulb that’s burned out in their place right now and you see it, you know you need to do something about it, but you don’t. It bothers you, but it doesn’t bother you enough to do anything about it. Health, weight, diet, “I know I should eat better. I know I should exercise.”
Andrew: So, what do we do with that if we’re not feeling bad enough to make that change, whether it’s eating better or changing our car that’s got a leaky moon roof? What do we do?
Grant: Well, part of it is just realizing that you’re the person that’s in charge with it. Another example would be I was on a Southwest flight and the flight attendant, after going through the whole safety spiel, she said, “Have a great fight or don’t. It’s up to you.” That’s so true. Everybody on the flight has a totally different experience. Some people get off the plane, “It was bumpy. It was turbulence. They lost my bag. I’m pissed off. I’m jaded. Whatever.” Or some people are like, “That was so cool. We got to fly in a plane in the sky. That’s amazing.”
I think the same thing is true in life or in business. Whether your life sucks or your life is great, you’re in charge of it. There are some people that have a horrible, horrible life, but they decide to make life great, people that like life has been great the other day and they decide to be miserable. The point is like you have a choice of what it is you’re going to do.
Andrew: How does somebody come up with a story like that? I’ve found that speakers or interviewees here on Mixergy who have those stories are so much more interesting in their ideas than stay in my audience’s brain. But it’s not an easy thing to find those stories and connect it to the message that you have. How do you do it?
Grant: Well, the nature is as a speaker, I’m always looking for those stories. The car story or the flight attendant story, I can tell that story a lot because I’ve done it a lot, versus if you’re just asking someone on the fly or your producer is, it may be harder to come with something.
I’ll give you another example. I remember a couple of years ago, my family and I went to Disneyworld and had a great trip at Disney. So, my daughters were dressed up like little princesses. All the cast members all day kept referring to them all day kept referring to them as princess. “Hello, Princess.” “You look beautiful, Princess,” and so on.
So, at the end of the day, my oldest daughter, who had been like six or so at the time, we were walking out and she says, “Daddy, I think they really believed that I’m a Disney princess.” As soon as she said it I’m like, “That’s a story. That’s a great story. I’m going to use that in some way.”
Andrew: How did you end up using that?
Grant: Just talking about that often times the things that we hear from other people can really have a big impact. A handful of people at that park told her she was a princess and by the end of the day she was literally questioning whether or not she was a princess. So, if you’re surrounding yourself with people who say that you suck and you’re never going to amount to anything, that you can’t build a business, who are you to think that you can start something? Then you’re going to start to believe it. But if you’re around people that are like, “You can actually do this.” “People actually believe in me,” then it forces you to raise your game.
It’s little things. So, it’s sometimes when things will happen and you’re like, “I don’t know how I can use that, but I’m going to look for a way or an angle where you can use that.” So, being a speaker, whether you’re full-time or part-time or even just some local things forces you to pay attention to those stories and forces you to know how to tell those stories in a precise and compelling way and also how to make a point out of it.
Andrew: Let me ask one final question here about how you grow beyond you making all the sales. You actually hired an assistant. What’s your process with the assistant that allows the assistant to make sales for you and help you grow your business without having to do it all yourself?
Grant: I would say that I still handle a lot of the sales portion of it. She helps me more on the logistics side of it. Some of it’s just on the screening side of it. So, whenever we get a booking request, she’s able to talk to them and figure out, “Is this legit or is this someone that has $17 and they want you to come in and speak?”
The other thing she’s able to do is on the back end. If you’re looking to book me as a speaker, you and I will talk, we’ll nail down the details and then I will hand the relationship to her. She’s in charge of travel and invoicing and contracts. So, if you have any questions as the event organizer, talk to her. And then as we get closer, you and I will connect again. We’ll go over some details. Make sure we’re on the same page.
But it just frees me up. If I’m doing 50 or 60 events a year, that’s a lot of little details that I’ve got to think through. But if I know that once you and I have talked and it’s booked, I don’t have to think about it until the event actually gets there. So, a lot of the events are booked six, nine or twelve months out. So, I don’t want to have to be carrying around those details for all that time. I know she’s got it. She’s taking care of all of that. So, I would say it doesn’t necessarily help from the sales standpoint as much as it frees me up to build those relationships with people.
Andrew: All right. The website is BookedAndPaidToSpeak.com. That’s where people can learn how to do what you just did through your nine-week course. Is it nine weeks or nine emails?
Grant: Nine emails. It comes over the course of about two and a half weeks.
Andrew: Two and a half weeks. And your personal site is GrantBaldwin.com. My sponsor is HostGator.com/Mixergy. Remember this, the gator is who you want to have host your business–HostGator.com. And if you need a developer or your friend or your colleague or someone else needs a developer, tell them about Toptal. You will be thanked by whoever you introduce to Toptal. I’m grateful to them for sponsoring.
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Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy. Bye, Grant. Bye, everyone.