Joe Davy of Banzai: “Keep the news to under a few hours a day”

Keep the news to under a few hours a day. Keep focused on what is going to happen five to ten years from now. The news is about today and tomorrow only. Spend the time developing your mindset. The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many […]

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Keep the news to under a few hours a day. Keep focused on what is going to happen five to ten years from now. The news is about today and tomorrow only. Spend the time developing your mindset.

The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.

As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Joe Davy, founder and CEO of Banzai.

Joe Davy is the founder and CEO of Banzai, a global leader in professional event marketing. When the pandemic hit, the company saw its sales funnel fall to zero. The company had a choice, staff down and weather the storm or take some risks to evolve with the times. They chose the latter and experienced triple-digit growth as a result.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up in the university town of Buies Creek, North Carolina, where my parents were both English professors at Campbell University. My childhood was fun and very academic. I used to interrupt my father’s class to ask him for candy money. The University was great about hosting community events for the families who lived nearby. The town was very rural with a small population of under 3000. The road to our house was only half-paved.

Campbell was a “tech-forward” university and was one of the first to have fiber optics in the 90s. I spent a lot of time with one of my dad’s colleagues, who was the Chair of Computer Information Systems and started building websites. When we went to Barnes & Noble, I typically went straight to the technical manual section. I even helped plan a summer camp for coding. So yeah, I was a tech nerd pretty early on.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The Chains of Habit Are Too Light To Be Felt Until They Are Too Heavy To Be Broken — Samuel Johnson

Quoted by Warren Buffett

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

High Output Management by Andy Grove, the founder of Intel. I first read it when I was 25 and wished I had read it when I was 15. His story simply fascinated me: a Hungarian Jew who had to flee the holocaust who learned to make processors and ended up leading Intel. The book helped me establish my philosophy and basic principles for being the leader of a company. I’m not the smooth-talking type of CEO, I’m basically a programmer, and Andy’s book helped me a great deal. Books are great in general; you can download someone’s experience and brain right into your own.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?

I founded Banzai on the idea that the way people buy things was radically changing, evolving more into an experience-driven economy. 60% of buyer’s decisions are done before they ever encounter a salesperson, and they are often values-driven. The companies that can educate their buyers first win. Events are perhaps the best way to educate buyers, they’re engaging and interactive. Recently companies have shifted 30% of their marketing budgets to focus solely on events.

Just before the pandemic, 87% of all of our business was marketing for live in-person events. When the pandemic hit, our sales funnel plummeted to nearly zero in about a week as uncertainty hit and all events were canceled.

What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?

What we initially saw as a ten-year trend for the growth of virtual events took place over six months. We were comfortable with our in-person events business, but COVID made us move on a vision. We had two choices. We could either staff down and weather the storm or make some bold moves and provide solutions for our clients to keep moving forward. We chose the latter. We figured out how to make acquisitions and did two of them. We acquired the virtual meeting platform High Attendance which now serves as our virtual meeting platform, and earlier this year acquired the top-rated webinar solution, Demio.

Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?

It was Friday, February 28, 2020. Facebook and Adobe had just announced the cancellation of their major conferences. Our new board was scheduled to meet that Monday. Initially, the board thought the virus wouldn’t be a problem, but by March 6, our sales pipeline went to zero as every single event went on “pause.” It was a life-or-death moment for the company. Thankfully, our plan to purchase existing companies for virtual events and webinars worked!

How are things going with this new initiative?

Since the pandemic, Banzai has been experiencing triple-digit growth, and we have doubled our staff. On March 3, 2021, we announced 15 million dollars in financing to help us grow even more.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

The chairman of the computer information systems took me under his wing at an early age, giving me access to software that I would never have otherwise. I used to sneak over to his office, and we would talk for hours.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

We were in the middle of our first acquisition when I was introduced to what would be our second. I had taken a meeting with a private equity investor who had reached out to me. After I explained the vision to grow the business with him and that we were looking for acquisitions he recommended that I meet the Demio founders. He connected us the same day.

When my team and I met Wyatt and David, the co-founders of Demio, we thought they were a smart and professional team who had built a great product. The more we looked at the company, the better it looked. The alignment was there, and about five months later, we had our second acquisition. If you had asked me in February 2020 if we would have been looking at purchasing companies to expand our offerings to customers, I would have said “no way.” Now here we were forging a new and unexpected path for the company that has paid off tremendously.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. I wish someone had told me that COVID was coming!
  2. Embrace your weaknesses, hire to support
  3. Learn to delegate, learn to trust your team
  4. Create a personal OS that works for you
  5. Take the time to get the product right.

So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?

Keep the news to under a few hours a day. Keep focused on what is going to happen five to ten years from now. The news is about today and tomorrow only. Spend the time developing your mindset.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I think the most good can be found in teaching financial literacy. There are simple things that people don’t know by the time they reach adulthood. For example, if you can save 5k dollars a year, you could be a millionaire by retirement. Teaching these skills to children, teens, and young adults would eliminate much of the financial hardships that too many people experience later in life.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Warren Buffet! The man is a legend and I would love the opportunity to pick his brain over lunch.

How can our readers follow you online?

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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