Speakers Corner is tapping into growing demand for great stories and close contact with remarkable individuals.
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Nick and Tim Gold, co-founders of keynote, motivational and after-dinner speaking business Speakers Corner, tell us why big names don't always guarantee engaged audiences and why their biggest regret is failing to invest in Kings Cross a decade ago.
1. What’s the business in a nutshell?
Speakers Corner supplies keynote speakers, motivational speakers, after dinner speakers, awards hosts and facilitators for conferences and events around the world. We provide impartial advice to our clients about the best speaker for them event based on the aims and goals of the event.
We take great pride in our full end-to-end service, ensuring that our clients have an amazing experience both during the planning through the actual event and any post-event activity.
2. Why did you start it?
From a personal perspective, the chance for us to build and develop a business together was both exciting and an opportunity that was too good to ignore.
We figured as we were both starting from scratch, we could enjoy the benefits of complete trust as brothers to ensure that, through the highs and lows, we had something that would withstand any challenges.
From a business perspective, we understood that the speaking marketplace was changing both through advancements in technology but also from the proposition of content and tangible takeaways for the clients being at the forefront.
We felt there was a chance for us to deliver a clear and meaningful proposition with our personality stamped all over it.
3. How did the business develop?
The business was originally created in the backdrop of the after dinner speaker whose main responsibility was to entertain an audience of eight to 80 year-olds, with disparate interests and reasons for being at an event, without offending anyone.
This was alongside the awards hosting where, alongside delivery on the night, it was very much about the name and profile of the host.
We understood that in order to deliver true value to clients, we needed to look at the keynote and motivational speaking sector and knew that if we could deliver an understanding of the tangible deliverables of a speaker rather than just their CV, the client would have a better knowledge of which speaker would be most suitable for their event.
It would be based on what they want to achieve rather than hoping a bit of ‘magic’ rubs off on the delegates from the stories of the speaker.
Not just any speaker, but one that fits the bill
4. Tell us about market conditions.
Noone truly knows what is going on in the world, there are so many challenges and uncertainties that it is up to each individual person and every company to forge their own destiny based on their own, unique visions.
As such, what can help to form these opinions and plans is not answers but rather opinions and ideas from which we (as individuals and companies) can forge our own identities. This premise is becoming more and more understood in the market and the best way to deliver these ideas is through a live experience for individuals.
A thinker, storyteller or motivational speaker can bring events to life and allow people to use the long-lasting memories of a talk to make their own plans. As such, an external speaker for any event or conference - whether to complement internal company speakers or experts from the event sector - provides that spark which can transform or elevate any occasion.
5. What’s been the biggest challenge?
The two biggest challenges have been and will continue to be having faith and courage in your vision throughout the fluctuations both within our own industry as well as the wider world.
Taking the easiest path of adjusting to the day-to-day will help solve short term problems but runs the risk of losing your long-term identity and vision.
The other challenge is to ensure that the culture and ethos of the company becomes part of every member of the team and that they embrace it and live it, so employees both enjoy their work and also deliver amazing experiences for every customer.
6. What has been your biggest mistake?
Too many to mention! But if we had to pick one, it would probably be that we talked about buying a property in the Kings Cross area of London for our office space around 10 years ago before the regeneration.
But we figured it was too high a risk as at the time, it wasn’t the most salubrious area. But we decided that we were in the speaker marketplace, not in the property marketplace – which on one hand was a massively sensible solution but if we had to live with a regret, it is that Kings Cross is now an amazing area to work (and property prices have gone crazy there!).
Kings Cross has received billions of pounds in investment in a complete regeneration programme
7. What major bumps in the road have you had and how did you overcome them?
When we started in this industry, the speaker marketplace was still very much in its infancy (and to some extent still is). As such, navigating the path of growing a business within an industry that is also finding its feet means that we have seen challenges along the way.
Being brothers, the main bumps in the road have come through the knowledge that, in the down times, when things have been tough, our relationship as brothers was always more important than the business. This has kept us focussed on what we wanted to achieve as individuals but also for the business and has helped see us through those tricky patches.
8. What sets your business apart from the rest and how have you nurtured this point of difference?
We have always been clear about where our values lie to clients, we work with incredible speakers and it is easy to think that you differentiate by the speakers themselves, but they are our ‘product’ - we need to have a deep understanding of our product and, as we are dealing with people, amazing relationships must be developed so that we can provide our clients with the right information in a timely manner.
But we understand our true value to our clients is based around the service we provide to them from the initial impartial advice ( including questions about their event and what they hope to achieve from it - rather than which speaker they think they want based on their own perceptions) through to the booking process.
We ensure the speaker is fully briefed and that the client is extracting the value from the speaker in the best way to meet their goals.
Finally, we are there for the client all the way through and strive to be positioned as a valued partner for them in creating an amazing event, where we take one small part of their massive endeavour of putting on the occasion and make it as seamless, painless and enjoyable as possible for all involved.
9. How do you attract and retain good people?
This is the million dollar question and ultimately is the bedrock of a successful and growing business. The key is to give clarity to your team about the vision and purpose of the company, ensure that they are engaged in the ethos of the business and enjoy coming to work every day.
People want to feel part of something and have a sense of ownership so we encourage the team to try everything, make mistakes and learn from them and have absolute faith in themselves and each other.
We try to put in place an environment where they can enjoy themselves and endure the stresses as a team with shared experiences. But we are also not afraid to encourage people to follow their ambitions and dreams, we understand that people’s lives and careers can take them in multitude of directions and we want them to be part of the Speakers Corner family always.
The sense of ownership and empowerment, in our view, is ultimately what will attract and retain amazing people.
'Our true value to our clients is based around the service we provide'
10. Final advice to others?
Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t understand something. Building a company doesn’t mean that you have all the answers but rather you should have great people to guide you through the ups and downs of the journey – this is not a show of weakness but rather a massive strength.