"...the defining moment in my life was the realization that I was never going to enjoy working for other people." Bernie Swain
In a September 2016 article in HBR titled Successful Leaders Know What Made Them Who They Are Bernie Swain, Co-founder of the Washington Speakers Bureau wrote:
"Can you identify the one person, event, or influence that made you who you are as a leader and a person? Over the past 10 years, I've put that question to one hundred of the eminent people I represented as chairman of the Washington Speakers Bureau: Madeleine Albright, Tom Brokaw, Colin Powell, Terry Bradshaw, Condoleezza Rice, and many others. I was curious to find out what they felt were the turning points in their lives - the defining moments and influences from which they draw motivation and inspiration."
That question lead to Swain's book, What Made Me Who I Am, which captures the leadership transformations of 34 of the speakers and friends he represented.
It's a fascinating book, and it turns out, speakers bureaus have been around for a long time - much longer than I would have thought. The Redpath Bureau represented Mark Twain, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Susan B. Anthony, and Frederick Douglass.
The Washington Speakers Bureau founded by Swain, his wife Paula and friend Harry Rhoads, spent its first year working out of a supply closet, and almost closed its doors before landing its first client, Good Morning America anchor Steve Bell, luring him away from the Harry Walker Agency. With nothing more than a handshake.
I'm your host, Peter Clayton. David Dalka and I are delighted to have Bernie Swain on this Leadership Channel edition of TotalPicture Radio. In our podcast, Bernie reveals how the Washington Speakers Bureau became famous and successful.
PETER: Starting business in a closet is a little unusual. Please give us some backstory -- tell us how your entrepreneurial team started Washington Speakers Bureau....
DAVID: Your website states that you, "represent (speakers) exclusively on the strength of a handshake". How did that come about and how did it evolve your firm's culture?
DAVID: Ann Rhoades, author of the book Built on Values, told me that the Washington Speakers Bureau does a great job in matching speakers with clients. She stated that she has never been in a situation that wasn't appropriate. How does the Washington Speakers Bureau make that happen and what has been learned in over 50,000 engagements?
DAVID: WSB says that you go beyond providing a service, you provide solutions. How do you explain that to new potential corporate and association clients and what methods do you use to attract and retain clients?
PETER: What are the various methods that speakers become a part of your roster today?
PETER: Why do certain excellent speakers speak at many conferences on side session stages whiles others only keynote on the big stage?
DAVID: What are the attributes that successful speakers share?
DAVID: What are the best techniques to reach out to important people that are hard to reach?
DAVID: A book is a large undertaking. What were the turning points and defining moments in writing What Made Me Who I Am and what did you learn about yourself?
PETER: In the introduction to What Made Me Who I Am, you refer to yourself as a recruiter - can you unpack this for us?
PETER: What about the speaking business is the same today as when it started and what has changed?
PETER: Do you consider the WSB more of a marketing company or a negotiator?
PETER: With content so publically available on the Internet and Youtube, how do you recommend that speakers protect intellectual property in the 21st Century and how has technology changed the speaking business?
PETER: Speaking specifically about social media, you tell of funny story about former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates taking his motorcade through a Burger King drive-thru. It that happened today, it would be all over Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Periscope -- how has social media specifically changed your business and how your (mostly famous) clients approach speaking opportunities?
PETER: In the introduction to Doris Kearns Goodwin's chapter you wrote. "We live in an era of polarization. We sort ourselves into groups and surround ourselves with the thinking of those who agree with us. Doris taught me how vital it is to open one's mind to the possibilities of the other side of any argument." Bernie, you've been in Washington for a long time. Have you ever seen it as polarized as it is today? WSB has former government officials from both parties. Is it becoming harder to make that work? Do you see this changing in the future?
DAVID: What would most surprise people to learn about your business or the people you have interacted with over the years?
DAVID: You are a member of the International Association of Speakers Bureaus, what gets discussed at their meetings? How do competitors meet in this environment? It has to be interesting?
PETER: What are your personal views on Leadership?
Today's show with Bernie Swain was sponsored by JobsinPods, it's a podcast, it's a jobcast and a YouTube video all on one platform - where real employers and staffing agencies advertise their jobs and tell you how to get them.
Recruiters & HR Managers, If you're looking for a mobile first, employment branding and social recruiting marketing solution where your job posting will have real voice, talk to Peter Clayton about jobsinpods, - Join the conversation on our Facebook page, facebook.com/realjobcasts and follow us on Twitter @jobsinpods. This is Peter Clayton, you'll find me on LinkedIn Twitter, and TotalPicture Radio's Facebook Group. Thanks for listening. Have a great week!
About Peter Clayton
Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.