In this week’s episode, we’re chatting with 30-year speaking business veteran and coach, Jane Atkinson.
Jane Atkinson has been helping speakers catapult their careers for nearly 30 years. She is the author of The Wealthy Speaker 2.0, The Epic Keynote, and The Wealthy Speaker Daily Success Planner and Journal.
Today, we’re chatting about what it takes to scale a speaking business.
If you’re ready to make the leap into scaling, this is the episode for you.
Let’s dive in!
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✅ Learn more about Jane Atkinson and her programs here: speakerlauncher.com
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Taylorr: Welcome to another episode of technically speaking. We are so excited to have today’s guest speaker coach and author Jane Atkinson. Jane, welcome to the show.
Jane: Hey, I’m excited to be here. Thank you for having me.
Taylorr: Oh, you bet. We just love having conversations with you, Jane. Always a well of wisdom. So, for those of you listening, who haven’t heard of Jane, or maybe you already know Jane, we’re going to talk about her anyway. Jane has been helping speakers, catapult their careers for nearly 30 years. She is the author of The Wealthy Speaker 2.0, The Epic Keynote and The Wealthy Speaker Daily Success Planner and Journal. Prior to coaching, Jane worked as an agent for several speakers whose careers skyrocketed. She also served as the vice president of a Speakers Bureau in Dallas, where she represented several celebrities, bestselling authors and business experts. Jane’s Wealthy Speaker School offers online courses, masterminds and private coaching programs for speakers of all levels, helping speakers position to gain those almighty higher fees. With all of that background, Jane, 30 years in the space. How did you find yourself in the crazy world of speaking to begin with all those years ago?
Jane: Well, I had done many, many jobs and landed around 25 years old, I put it out to the universe, hey, I want to work for a motivational speaker. I had seen Les Brown on TV and I’m like, that’s it, that’s my next move. And I had just started to get into the whole learning and development idea. I hadn’t even picked up a book since high school so this was like a big idea for me to continue your learning in order to do whatever you want in your life. I put it out there and within a week I think I had a job working for a motivational speaker. And I say 30 years, I’m not going past that, so it’s going to be 30 years for a long time to come [cross-talk 02:2]. I’m putting a cap on it. I went first representing speakers.
I had three different speakers that I represented individually and we kept doubling their business year over year and people were starting to take notice and by the third speaker that I wrapped people were calling me out to pick my brain. And I got recruited down to a great job in Dallas that actually included representing an Olympic athlete, Vince Pesenti who you may know. And I repped him for four more years in Dallas and then worked for his wife’s Speakers Bureau for two years. But that entire six years under the roof of a Speaker’s Bureau was incredibly enlightening. I was in on every meeting from the moment I arrived, where it was three of us and a dog to the end where it was 30 people in a beautiful big office space. That was a very good eye to what we’re talking about today, which is scaling, just witnessing that kind of growth from three to 30, very, very interesting and enlightening.
Taylorr: That is so cool. That’s one of those things too, you really just have to experience it to even be able to conceptualize what it means to scale a business. I don’t think there was a book out there that can really wrap the experience that you go through around the concepts themselves.
Jane: Exactly. When I left there, I came back to Canada and actually got trained as a coach and that was probably 16 or 17 years ago. I’ve been doing my own practice of coaching ever since, we built a school, The Wealthy Speaker School, put out lots of products, lots of programs and masterminds and things like that. We now have something for speakers at every level.
Austin: That is awesome.
Taylorr: Yeah, and you’re prolific. I would be shocked if anybody listening to this podcast hasn’t heard of the legendary Jane Atkinson.
Jane: Aww, you’re so sweet.
Austin: It’s true credit where credit’s due, as we say, here at Speaker Flow. But I’m curious, when did you first get your start working with the associations? Because I know you’ve got quite the name for yourself with the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers up there in the great up North and here in the States with the NSA too so at what point did you start merging with that world? Was that earlier on in your career or was that later on after you become a coach?
Jane: I’d actually been a member of one of the either CAPS or NSA associations for the entire 30 years. The minute I kind of joined with my first speaker, I was introduced to CAPS and started going to meetings then. I actually had memberships in Toronto, in Vancouver, in Calgary, in Dallas, and now back to my hometown, which is a Southwestern Ontario Chapter. They asked me, or I guess I probably got on to the roster to become a speaker for them maybe about three years into working for Vince, was my first actual session that I ever did, like a breakout session at the NSA. This was a winter workshop in Norfolk, Virginia. And when Vince sat through that session, he said to me afterwards, I didn’t know you did all that stuff. I laid it all out for him and then he had no idea all of the things that went into actually building this speaking business that he was the recipient of.
That was a really nice compliment I thought, oh wow. Okay, that’s good. That was the beginning of many, many, many, I’ve spoken at nearly every NSA and CAPS Chapter. And I love that it’s virtual now because virtual is a beautiful thing. That’s the only real thing I don’t love about it is I don’t like to leave home, so they take me kicking and screaming sometimes. But at all of the national event conventions and winter workshops and everything I’ve spoken at pretty much everything under the sun and I would say that huge, huge, huge chunk of the knowledge that I have come from my colleagues at those associations.
Taylorr: Yeah, definitely. Well, we’re here to talk about the scaling of a speaking business today and you have direct experience with this multiple times over, and I’m very excited to pick your brain about this. What are some of the things our listeners who maybe have not scaled their speaking business need to keep in mind as they’re starting to do this? What are some of the initial steps that it takes in order to start scaling the business and create this lifestyle that we’re all kind of after?
Jane: I’m so excited that we’re talking about this today, because I’m actually in the throes of editing right now, a new book called Scaling Your Speaking Business.
Taylorr: So excited.
Jane: So, we have 10 strategies for earning more while doing less. Because, and this is I think a really interesting place to start to me, it’s all about lifestyle. And if you scale your business and you are working 24/7, something is amiss. There is something wrong with this picture people, that’s not why you got into the business was so that you could work your butt off, it’s probably because you had some goals. One of the first things that we of course talk about is really aiming high with your goals and making sure that you have your mindset shored up around that. And we sprinkled some thoughts, work and mindset work throughout the book, because that’s such an important element of going big. There’s a thing that I… Austin, I don’t know if you were there or not, but last year in London at the CAPS convention, I did this five-minute talk on the main stage called As If Thinking. And it was about making your decisions from a place as if your goals have already come true. Let’s say your goal is to earn a million dollars a year, now you’re making all of your decisions from the place as if you were a million dollar a year earner. Would you buy this new software that you need? Would you get a new piece of equipment? Would you hire another team member? Those answers become a lot easier when you come from that place. We have 10 kind of key ideas. It all starts, I think, with mindset.
Taylorr: Yeah. That makes total sense to me, right? I mean, you can’t ever pave a path in the world. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re just going to wander aimlessly. We talk about goals all the time here and Speaker Flow too. We’re avid goal setters ourselves, we love smashing goals, we love setting lofty goals, we love failing on goals sometimes because we can adapt and get better.
Jane: [Inaudible 09:54] Hello COVID.
Austin: Sure, I would see that too.
Austin: I’m curious from your seat is there a goal setting framework that you teach people? Because I think people set annual goals, let’s say, the typical new year’s resolution thing, and I think that there is certainly value to setting goals like that but I also think that we can get too locked in on what we think our goals should look like and oftentimes they’re not far enough out or they’re too far out and it can be hard to measure the progress towards actually achieving them. I’m curious, are there any best practices you can think of in that area?
Jane: I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert on goal setting per se, but what I have really been studying is your thoughts about your goals. Let’s say you have a goal again, back to the seven-figure income goal and is somewhere in the back of your head, you have made up that oh, I’m going to have to work really, really hard to get there. Now your goal equals hard work and that may not be serving you that idea, you really need to work on your thoughts to believe that you can have a 10 times business from where you are today, out in the future, while everything stays the same in terms of workload, if you’re at your desired workload now. 10 times is an idea by the way that Dan Sullivan brought to the table, I am a member of strategic coach and I go to see Dan Sullivan’s group quarterly, and when they first brought up the 10 times idea, I thought, ooh, yay, 10 times. I really did think that in order to 10 times your business, you had to work exponentially harder.
I recognized about three or four years into strategic coach, I’ve been there maybe for eight years now, that I’ve already done it. I didn’t even realize it, but I have already 10 times my business once, and I haven’t changed anything. I still take Fridays off, I still have Mondays as buffer days or podcast recording days, I’m really, really clear with my boundaries and my time and I believe it’s possible. And that belief is what’s going to help drive the growth. I know that’s not exactly what you were asking about goal setting, but I will say in terms of setting a timeline for your goals, if COVID has taught us nothing, it’s patience. What I do know is that everything I’ve ever set out to do before I’ve checked it off eventually, and I just have to be patient.
Austin: What do you say to somebody that may be feeling impatient or feeling like they’ve failed at hitting their goals in the past? Do you have any thoughts for somebody that might need to rebound?
Jane: Yes. Because that thought that it’s not happening fast enough when you really drill it down, your thoughts equal your results. That thought needs to be flipped around to something more like I have confidence that I’ll get there eventually. That is a more helpful thought. impatience and impatient thoughts can actually not give you the results that you’re after. If thoughts equal results be really, really careful on what it is that you’re thinking about all day long. This thought worked by the way I attribute back to Brooke Castillo; I’m getting certified from the life coach school on this thought work so I need to make sure I give her props.
Austin: Definitely. Again, credit where credit’s due.
Taylorr: That’s right. That’s an important component too, like you said, your thoughts can dictate every decision you make and just leveling up your awareness to say, okay, this is my goal, what am I thoughts about this goal before I didn’t actively pursue it? That can make the biggest difference as you’re actually setting those things.
Jane: Yeah. Because your beliefs then turn into feelings and if your feeling is like, oh, you feel defeated before you’ve began, or it gives you a pit in your stomach and it doesn’t feel good then that you’re not going to get the results that you need. Yeah,
Taylorr: Definitely. So, okay, we’ve got our goals sorted, we’re aiming high now. What is the next step we need in order to scale our speaking business? I would imagine some groundwork may need to be laid in order to start achieving that, right?
Jane: Yeah. Well, we really want to check in and see how we’re doing. One of the biggest groundwork exercises that I needed to do was to get my financial house in order. Clear up all that debt that was just kind of nagging at me getting out there below the surface, make sure that I had a really good handle on my books, that I was looking at my P and L on a regular basis, and Meredith Powell who writes the foreword for my book, talks about describing scaling as normally when you’re building your business, you kind of keep reinvesting in the business and reinvesting and reinvesting so it feels like money in money out. Scaling is when you hit on something that does not increase your expenses, but allows you to go significantly higher in your fees. That’s really the goal.
So, making sure that you know what your numbers are and getting right and getting your finances in order, checked seeing if you have any dead weight on your team that you might need to adjust, looking across the horizon at what maybe the hires might need to be in order to take you there, there’s a whole bunch of different things. We have a checklist in there of things that you’re going to want to look at to make sure that you’re truly ready to go. A lot of people just don’t have time and I feel like this last, this pandemic has actually allowed people to stop and think about what it is that they wanted and to reassess everything and that has been a blessing for people who want to scale, because normally they’d be out on the road speaking flat-out and they didn’t have time to actually do this work that we’re talking about.
Taylorr: Yeah, definitely. One of the things that comes to mind as we’re having this conversation is sometimes, we hear from speakers and they’re like, well, I mean, scaling, I don’t want to hire a team, I want to have a lifestyle business. What do you have to say to that statement?
Jane: That’s actually what we’re talking about here is developing a lifestyle business where it’s all about working less, but making more. I think personally… there are definitely people out there, we know Joe Calloway, he’s an example in the book, he gave me a story for the book, who did it himself and got where he wanted to go. He got to a seven-figure business. But I think he’s more of an outlier rather than the norm in that. Here’s how I look at that in terms of team. If you are spending your time, let’s say you’re an expert consultant and your hourly fee is like 500, 750, 1000, 1500 an hour like we probably all are, and you’re doing the $35 an hour jobs, you’re doing the 60 and $70 an hour jobs, look at the difference in the hourly wage alone in terms of output. It’s not worth your time to be doing those and hiring them out frees you up to think all day every day about how to grow your business. So, you can be really good at the kind of core competencies that you have, maybe it’s speaking, maybe it’s selling, maybe it’s developing, designing, writing, do those three things, but then take all of the rest off of your plate.
Taylorr: I know for a fact there are some of our listeners right now that are extremely intimidated about bringing a team in around them. I’ve run huge team so I get that there really are some considerations to make. You’re now responsible for these people and giving them the jobs and the support that they need to successfully complete it and depending on how you’re running your business, you probably got to think about payroll and expenses start changing in terms of how you look at them so I don’t want to downplay the significance of taking that step towards hiring a team because it is a big job, but obviously there are long-term benefits here. For somebody that has a lot of hesitation around the responsibility that comes with building a team, do you think that that person should try to reframe their ideas around running a team? Or would you say that they need to change their ideas about what their business is going to look like if they don’t want that team?
Jane: Well, I think it’s a matter of one, you can do it with self-employed contractors so that you don’t get into running payroll every week. You can just say bill me at the end of the month and I think that when somebody is being a self-employed contractor for me, which all of my team members are, I have five and they’re all self-employed and they all run their own businesses and I help them. We talk a lot about how are you doing? Are you fulfilled? In our team meetings, we’re really talking about everybody’s happiness and balance and lifestyle and things like that but everybody works on their own. So, I would say that, be thinking about how you might do it and start small, start with something that’s really, really simple to hire for. Get a VA to just start taking like a little chunk off of the things that are really nagging you in terms of time. And it’s not always team necessarily, you all are the experts on systems.
It could be, you know, setting up Acuity or TimeTrade or something like that to just take the whole scheduling appointments with clients off of you, it could be just some little slight technology change that can allow you to free up some time. So, when we do a time audit, we can take a look and I would just go for the low hanging fruit first and just start small and hire that out. And one tip for hiring is assign people a task and see how they do it. The task, if it’s good, then you layer on more. Here’s something that I’ve learned. It turns out that my, one of my mentors, Brooke Castillo got a lot of her ideas from Dan Sullivan, who happens to be another one of my mentors and I don’t know who said this first, but when you hire to solve a problem, you’re putting too much pressure on that person to come in and save the day for your business. When you solve the problem first and then hire someone to implement the solution, you get much better results. So that might appeal to you guys because you’re such systems guys. We want to fix it and get the system in place first and then hire someone to implement the system because sometimes we’re hiring and it’s the blind leading the blind when you’re trying to figure out what the job is.
Austin: That’s right.
Taylorr: We’ve seen this a couple of times where we’ve had speakers come knocking on our door and the worst-case scenario happened with their self-employed contractor. They either quit or they just stopped or they just kind of fell off the face of the earth, all of a sudden and…
Jane: Took all of the passwords with them or something like that. You know that could be bad, right?
Taylorr: Yeah, right. Or they just didn’t know how it operated in the first place and you have that thing you just mentioned about the blind leading the blind, that can be a really sticky situation to work out of and now you’re being reactive rather than proactive. And we talk about this all the time the first stage is just to start making money for yourself, start doing that. Once you’ve got that locked down and let’s say, it’s not as useful for you to be spending all of your time on that minutia of finding leads and running them through the thing and [inaudible 22:47] them and what have you, well, now it’s time to hire somebody else to do that for you assuming you’ve already figured it out first.
Taylorr: And then that goes with all of the other tasks that you need to outsource along the way as well. First do it a couple of times so you have a box for it you understand how to manage it and document how you would do it and how you would be happy with the results and then give that to somebody like you said, to execute on the task in order to see how it shakes out for them. It’s a pretty simple progression when you break it down like that, but they can be complicated to conceptualize all of the different things I needed to do, how do I figure out what to outsource first?
Jane: That’s why we start small and build. I have an amazing assistant, but she just had one job when we first started that was live events. You’re going to help me book the hotel and help run the live event. That was her job. Well, then we added in the podcast and then we added in something else and now she runs practically my whole backend and I don’t know what I would do without her and it’s amazing when you can start small and build from there.
Austin: Definitely. One of your key points in the outline that you’d sent over before the show kind of stood out to me, it was a subtract in order to add. I’m curious to learn more about that. We’ve talked about adding in some systems and we’ve talked about adding in some team members to help you scale, but there’s a balance to that and I think that’s what this point is alluding to. Could you talk more about that subtraction and how that can be beneficial to your speaking business?
Jane: I think Dan Sullivan created, maybe it was an article or something like that, that I read originally and it was just about team. Who do you need to let go of on your team in order to grow because sometimes there are people that you don’t realize as once they leave that, oh, that was a cancer person inside my team and I didn’t realize it was getting out of control and so that can happen. But when it comes to subtracting in order to add, it could be clients. There might be low paying clients and business that you’ve done year after year, just because, but it might be taking up room in your calendar that would allow you to be freed up to take on the work at higher fees and better clients. So really doing a review of your clients, really doing a review of your team to see whether or not there’s anybody on the team that might need to be maybe moved into something that’s more suitable to them. It could be that you need to subtract some old school systems that you’ve been using and start moving into some higher tech things that are going to serve you better long-term, there’s all kinds of things that you can kind of review in order to subtract. I love saying no to things and getting rid of, we’ve had clients coming to us before, or that are circling back to us for a second time who we didn’t have a good experience with the first time out and we were happy to subtract them.
Taylorr: Yeah, you got to make those decisions sometime.
Jane: I don’t think it’s worth it to have people who might be mean to your staff or something like that. You have to really take a look at that and if there needs to be some subtractions, then you make them. Financial subtractions are the hardest and the most painful ones to make, but they sure feel free after it’s done.
Taylorr: Absolutely. And it’s good to keep that front and center. When you’re running a business, you have a lot going on, you’ve got the clients who manage, now we’re talking about adding a team, talking about the systems that you might have and it’s important that we take a hard look at all of those moving components to make sure we’re don’t have any dead weight for lack of a better term, as we’re carrying those things around. Now Jane, this has been a super informative and impactful episode about scaling your business. Thank you for sharing all of your wisdom. As you know, that’s why we brought you on the show here today, we’re all about creating value for our audience. You mentioned the book, but what are some other things that you’re working on right now that our listeners can benefit from?
Jane: We have the wealthy speaker’s school, if anybody thinks, oh, I’m curious to know what that’s all about, they can reach out to me, [email protected] and depending on where they are, we will maybe set up a phone call and see where there might be a good fit for people. That’s probably the best first step, if they haven’t already read the Wealthy Speaker 2.0 that’s always a good starting point for people who wanted to get to know me.
Taylorr: Wonderful. Thank you for sharing all of those resources. And for those of you listening, if you found this show valuable, you liked it, don’t forget to rate to subscribe and if you want more awesome resources like this, go to speaker flow.com/resources. Thank you so much for chiming in. I just wanted to take a second to thank our sponsor Auxbus. Auxbus is the all-in-one suite of tools you need to run your podcast. And it’s actually what we run here at Speaker Flow for Technically Speaking. It makes planning podcasts simple; it makes recording podcasts simple; it even makes publishing podcasts to the masses simple and quite honestly, Technically Speaking wouldn’t be up as soon as it is without Auxbus. Thank you so much Auxbus. And if you are interested in checking Auxbus out, whether you’re starting a podcast or you have one currently get our special offer auxbus.com/speaker flow, or click the link below in our show notes.