Jim Smith, Jr., inspires other trainers
with his contagious energy during an
I turned to another client who I could
always count on whenever my phones
went to sleep. What do you think happened? This client bailed on me during
the final “book the hotel, determine the
AV needs, decide if we’re sending all 70
people to the training at once or contracting for two sessions of 35 each” stage.
The client needed time to rethink the
value of conducting presentation skills
training at all. Two proposals, two site
visits (one to north New Jersey, one to
New York), countless pre-session meetings where I fielded more questions than
a teenager returning home late after her
very first date, were all for naught. I
never heard back from the client. A pattern was developing.
As the months passed, keynote opportunities were as prevalent as empty flower
shops on Valentine’s Day. Clients and
potential clients returned my calls, emails
and mailings as often as U.S. presidential nominees Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)
and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) agree on
foreign policy and taxes. My billable days
went on a Jenny Craig diet. In 2006 and
2007, I averaged between 10 and 15 billable days a month (i.e., keynotes, trainings and consulting days). During the first
• Join more networking groups.
• Volunteer your time and speak to gain
• Partner with others to develop products, services or offerings.
• find an awesome coach, maybe not
even in the speaking profession, who
can offer another viewpoint on running a business.
• take on stretch assignments and projects, and welcome opportunities to
reinvent yourself. by doing so, I landed
a huge contract to facilitate the customer service training for a prestigious
company in Philadelphia.
• Partner with colleges and universities.
I’m now on the faculty of the rutgers
university executive mba program. I’ve
met many leaders and decision makers
there, and I’m writing a book with one
of my students.
two quarters of 2008, I averaged three to
four billable days a month. I reduced my
staff count and started to worry. On any
given day, you could find me spending
time in my “whine cellar” as my “whine
The Economy’s Role
Although the failing economy played a
role in my empty calendar with companies tightening their training and development dollars, my mindset was the greatest
contributor to my slump. My business and
marketing plan probably could have used a
makeover or some tweaking. And I should
have known better than to depend on the
same keynotes and the same offerings to
continue to produce the same results.
It seemed like a waste of time to discuss my situation with friends and what
I could do differently because many of
them didn’t know the totality of being a
speaker, trainer and consultant. Many of
my colleagues in the speaking business
were experiencing similar or other hurdles and couldn’t provide a panacea to
help me bounce back quickly. When they
provided poignant feedback and direction, I probably didn’t hear their words
of wisdom because I was stuck