Several weeks ago, a student from Baldwin-Wallace College, Drew Thomas, asked, after a training I did at their school, if he could interview me for a class project. Today we conducted the interview while I was driving between Houston and Lake Charles. Here’s the list of questions he asked with some of my answers…
How did you get into this field or job?
I’m working on a longer post about this, but the short answer is a speaker, Patrick Combs, came to my school, College of Dupage, and inspired me. Around the same time, I won an academic award, All-USA Academic First Team, and was asked to tour around other community colleges in IL and tell my story. One school paid me a $50 honorarium. Then I saved up $2000 and attended a conference, APCA, where speakers go to get booked on the college market. It was a train wreck. So I went and worked for SuperCamp for three years to beef up my facilitation and speaking skills. While there I met Kevin Prentiss, who because my partner in Swift Kick. We built our Dance Floor Theory program, and came back to the market and it took off like wildfire. The rest, as they say, is history .
What do you enjoy most about your position?
Seeing students discover themselves and their passion through co-curricular activities.
What parts of your work are your least favorite, and why?
Rushing from one place to another while on the road. Taking one flight, to one rental car, to one hotel is fine, but doing that 100+ times per year can be exhausting.
What is your educational background?
B.A. in Business Management from Aurora University. The intangible skills I learned in college (time management, confidence, creativity, etc) I use far more than the tangible skills I learned (accounting, economics, etc).
What is a typical work day/week like?
Every day/week is different. I really don’t have a typical week. There are also travel days vs non-travel days. There really isn’t a normal day. I do however like to keep the same morning/night routine. In the morning, I wake up and drink a big glass of water, then do a combination of stretching, yoga, meditation, and pushups for 15 minutes. At night, I like to do a quick reflective journal on the day as well as set up my top 3 most important projects to get done for the next day.
What are the responsibilities in your position?
Everything. I’m serious, at this stage of a company I really keep a hand in just about everything. I have a team of two programmers who work on Student Launcher every third month, one full time assistant, and a part time community manager. It’s been said that the three most important things a CEO should do are to set the right strategy, hire the right team and support them to make the strategy happen, and make sure there’s enough money in the bank to make it all happen. I suppose I do that, while also taking the garbage out.
What can a person do to prepare to enter this field?
Whew. Honestly I don’t think someone can prepare to be an entrepreneur and start something from nothing. The learning happens as you go. As for professional speaking, the best thing to do is get training. Great speakers got great training to be great.
What is the work environment like?
My team is all virtual right now, so the work is done with a constant set of check-ins over daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals.
What are some of the problems you deal with on a day-to-day basis?
Cash flow is always on the top of my mind. How can I get everything done with limited resources. Specifically with spreading and growing Student Launcher.
What are the challenges you face with regards to communication in your job?
Since we are a virtual team and I’m often on the road, communication is key. Skype, IM, Email, and Texting are critical to our work flow and communication.
What kind of future is there for this type of job or industry?
As school budgets go down and academia is tightening the spending belt, fundraising will continue to go up, so Student Launcher is in a great spot. As for speaking, the requirements for assessment are increasing and thus speakers have to prove the value they give to a school, which I think is great as it weeds out the bad speakers.
What social, political and economic trends influence this field of work?
As I said above, smaller education budgets and requirements for assessment.
If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently?
Hmmm, I would have grown our speaking business a bit longer before starting Red Rover. We were just starting to hit it big when Kevin and I opted to use our resources (time and money) to build Red Rover. Had we kept going with speaking a bit longer, I bet we could’ve built an amazing foundation from which to built out from.
What is the best advice you can give a person interested in this occupation?
As Nike says, “Just Do It!”