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“From Avocation To Vocation: How I Turned My Hobby Into A Career” With Bobby Glen James of Speakup Speakers Studio

It is OK to use the word “love” in business. The second someone knows that you love them, they will be your biggest supporter and greatest fan. If you want loyal employees, then show them you love them, and they will never want to leave. I had a boss in the early 90s. We did […]

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It is OK to use the word “love” in business. The second someone knows that you love them, they will be your biggest supporter and greatest fan. If you want loyal employees, then show them you love them, and they will never want to leave. I had a boss in the early 90s. We did foundation work under houses. It was a horrible hard job. He was a good friend, and even after I quit that crazy job, he continued to be a friend. You got to work hard like really hard.


As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bobby Glen James. Bobby is an Accountability Leadership keynote speaker, author and president of Speakup Speakers Studio. He’s also the host of the popular #Biz4Good show podcast, which has featured prominent guests such as John Lee Dumas and former NBA star, Mark Eaton . Bobby has two decades of experience as a keynote speaker, training corporations across the United States, and speaking to hundreds of audiences about Accountability Leadership and Customer Service. He has been featured in well-known media such as Business.com and KUTV news. He’s the co-founder of Speakup Speakers Association in Salt Lake City, UT, where the core mission is to teach professional speakers, coaches and trainers how to captivate audiences with three guiding principles: to entertain, educate, and inspire. Bobby’s ideas and insights come from more than 20 years of experience as a speaker and business owner. He’s personally been involved in over 20 startups, has hosted hundreds of networking events, and has trained thousands of entrepreneurs and business owners in the United States.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I grew up with dyslexia, with a paranoid schizophrenic father and a bipolar mother, but managed to have a positive life in spite of this. As crazy as it could get, I still had parents that loved me and thought I would be something great someday — they were always my biggest fans.

I was always the fun one, and I remember telling myself I could never see myself being grown up. I made a decision never to grow up and I discovered I was an entrepreneur the day I realized I was the wealthiest 8-year-old that I knew. This was no accident; I attended swap meets and sold items for my father. My father would set the price he wanted, and if I sold an item for more than that price, I got to keep the difference. I soon discovered I had an easy way with people that made me a natural salesman. I had my father’s likeability.

What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah-ha” moment with us?

I had been a corporate trainer, and as I traveled all over the country, I found more and more that people were refreshed by my ability to engage them. I had people say to me, “this was the first time they didn’t feel like going to sleep during training.”

I have owned a few companies and understand business, so I started a small training company and wrote a book. Little by little, I did more and more. I am now the president of a speaker training group and still travel all over to speak and train people.

There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?

It’s all about the MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Everyone has that million-dollar idea, but most people do nothing with it. The key for me has always been to get out and do something with the idea — not something big, but to at least test it. If you get a reaction and people are interested, then you know you have something.

If you want to be successful with your fantastic idea, then DO something with it. Action is the key to success, and if you wait for everything to be perfect you will never find your dream. I had an idea to start an IT service company from scratch with no investments and no money to start it. In two years it was making me over a quarter of a million dollars a year in income. That company is still going strong today. It was just an idea that would have went nowhere if I hadn’t done anything.

What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?

Don’t quit your day job. I have seen too many people follow their dream, only to end up in a very bad place after six months, and their savings depleted. It does not have to be all or nothing, especially in the beginning.

If you start small and learn, you can build something great. If all you are focused on is that you have to make money to feed your family, you will not create something that will last. People do not want to do business with someone desperate.

The time to quit your day job is when you have built the side business and your day job is in the way of your growth. If you can’t keep of with the side business because your day job is in the way, it is time to cut the cord.

It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?

Great question. Burnout is a big deal. You loved this thing, but now you are working so hard that it isn’t fun anymore.

I will tell you the secret. You have to build something big enough that you have other people employed. Every solopreneur I know works too hard and gets burnout.

You must have employees, or other team members to delegate to. If you hire people that love the stuff you hate your world is beautiful.

What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?

The thing that I enjoy the most is that the sky’s the limit. I was in the corporate world for many years , and I saw so many great people get laid off or demoted just when it had nothing to do with their performance. If you own it, the world stops with you. If you fail, it is because of what you did. If you succeed, it is because of you. There is no limit or lid on what you can make or do.

Crazy enough, the fact that you have all the responsibility is also the most significant downside. If it is to be, it is up to me and my committed action. That is a lot of pressure. It may sound crazy, but meditation works for me and other side things that take my mind off the central business. People will tell you “you need to focus” but it has been proven that if you get your mind off of the big issue and focus on something else you come back stronger.

Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

It’s still a lot of work but so satisfying that it doesn’t feel like work.

Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?

My wife has asked me many times, “Why don’t you get a corporate job? You would have good pay, excellent benefits, and life would be a lot easier for you and much less stressful.”

I have thought about it, but every time I think of that my stomach hurts and I realize I can’t do that. This is just too much fun for me.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I don’t know about funniest, but it sure sucked. I remember when I started asking for money, I got so weird about it. It was hard in the early days I am surprised anyone signed up for anything I sold. I just got goofy when I asked for money. It was so bad.

People that were in my group would say “what the hell happened to you? You killed the presentation, and then you got super nervous and looked like a scared kid” I see now it was only a problem with my worth or that I wasn’t sure that what I had was valuable, but as I see people’s lives change, and the sincere thank yous from so many, I know that what I do does have a lot of worth.

Believing that what I was offering had a lot of value made all the difference.

Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?

I am inspired by so many. There are so many great people in this world doing amazing things. Being a little cliché though I would have to say my dad and mom have been my greatest inspiration and mentors. My dad taught me to just be me, be real, and you will connect to others. My mom taught me to be proud of who I am and believe in myself.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

It is my driving force. Everything I do is focused on making the world a better place. The reason we started the Podcast the Biz4Good Show is to highlight what I believe is the most significant business model and that is the more you focus on being good and doing good, the more success you will have.

With SpeakUp, my vision is to create an army of powerful speakers that ripple a sweeping change in the world to bring light and goodness to the world.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Be your brand. You are your brand. Impressions matter, and people will form assumptions about your brand based on how you present yourself. Be the brand you want people to see.
  2. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain. I had a mentor tell me one day that if you want to make a difference and get above the noise, you have to go the opposite direction than everyone else is going. Time and time again, I see the value in that statement.
  3. It is OK to use the word “love” in business. The second someone knows that you love them, they will be your biggest supporter and greatest fan. If you want loyal employees, then show them you love them, and they will never want to leave. I had a boss in the early 90s. We did foundation work under houses. It was a horrible hard job. He was a good friend, and even after I quit that crazy job, he continued to be a friend. You got to work hard like really hard.
  4. If you want to be successful, then there is a straightforward concept to get that success. “WORK HARD.” In one of my businesses, I worked 60 to 80 hours a week until I grew it to the point that I only put maybe 15 hours a week, and it ran itself. It would have never become that if I hadn’t have worked my butt off first. People think I want to own my own company so I can do what I want. I see this person, and they look like they never work. I guarantee you they did at one time, or you are just not seeing it. Self-employment is not a lazy person’s gig.
  5. Don’t quit. How do ultra-successful people become ultra-successful? They don’t quit. I remember when everyone was calling Elon Musk a crazy person because he put all his money into electric cars. He put everything in it. He bet the farm, so to speak, and now everyone calls him a genius. Most people would have quit. Read the book “Shoe Dog” about Phil Knight from Nike. Most people would have stopped 20 times over, but he didn’t, and that is why Nike is what it is today.

What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I promote #Goodagainstthenoise. There is so much bad noise in the world, but there are so many doing so many good things. I want everyone to get out and push for businesses using the being good and doing good model as the cornerstone for their business. What good did you do today?

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

“Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Bill Gates was and still is a powerful doer and I think it would be fun to just have a talk.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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