When it comes to diversity I’ve always seen the strength as additional diversity of thought. Everyone is the sum of their experiences and diverse backgrounds provide the opportunity for ideas to bloom and help to avoid groupthink that a more homogeneous company might fall into. Having a diverse executive team allows for an array of unique life experiences that translates into a better, more well-rounded brand.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Troy Roques, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Symposium.
United States Marine Corps Veteran, Mr. Troy Roques, discovered the value of reputation early in life having the opportunity to work with sports and entertainment moguls such as Dr. Jerry Buss (former owner of the Los Angeles Lakers ) and Mr. Roger King (credited with launching the careers of top television stars including Oprah Winfrey).
In 2007, “Roq” was introduced to the Las Vegas Palms Club House and Sacramento Kings owner George Maloof, where he found his niche in Club House Marketing, managing the profiles of numerous high profile clients. Mr. Roques is considered a trusted marketing influencer and business development visionary having direct access to many sports and entertainment, taste-makers, and trendsetters.
In 2014, Roques became an International Hotel Broker and partnered with National Hotels Association having developed his own brand, Room Deals Travel. Room Deals provided wholesale rates to over 750K hotel destinations worldwide and hotel services to IPC/Subway, an independent Subway® franchisee-owned and operated purchasing cooperative.
Today, Mr. Roques and his team have developed a dynamic new app called Symposium which is disrupting the video conferencing industry as we know it by allowing the user to package their skill set with the monetization of time geared to educate, entertain, and inspire. With approximately 37% of Americans having a second job, or “side hustle”, and unemployment skyrocketing passed 23% Symposium’s users can maximize their earning potential by setting their price and time for personal video chat experiences.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Troy! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve been an entrepreneur since high school, starting my first business going door-to-door washing cars on the weekends while still holding down a job at the local pizza restaurant. I always believed that if I put the same eight hours into myself as I put into someone else’s business I could create a successful endeavor. I served in the United States Marine Corps where I discovered the value of reputation early in life. When I worked in Club House marketing, managing the profiles of numerous high profile clients, I worked with many sports and entertainment, taste-makers, and trendsetters. I then owned my own business, Room Deals Travel. Room Deals, which provided wholesale rates to over 750K hotel destinations worldwide and hotel services to IPC/Subway, an independent Subway® franchisee-owned and operated purchasing cooperative.
All these experiences led me to Symposium, which is disrupting the video conferencing industry as we know it by allowing the user to package their skill set with the monetization of time geared to educate, entertain, and inspire. Symposium provides something I wish had early in life — a mentor by enabling people who may not have access to a mentor or someone to guide them to connect with someone who has been in their shoes and came out on the other side successful. In this life, we either pay tuition or we pay attention to get to where we are. Had Symposium been around back in the day I’m sure I would have reached a few milestones much sooner.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
One of the most interesting stories that have happened to me (and my team) during this journey was my experience with racism. Symposium is a minority-owned technology company with a very diverse core group of founders. One day, we received news that a financial institution heard about us and was considering investing. A gentleman came to our office in Las Vegas to meet with us. The meeting started and seemed to be going well. At the conclusion of a short break as I returned to the office I was stopped in the hallway and informed that the gentleman had left! “Left?” I said, “why?”They proceeded to tell me that after I exited the room, the gentleman asked, “Do they all look like him?” WOW! Let’s just say I was shocked but not surprised. Later, we found out that he had invested a significant amount into another company.
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?
The funniest mistake I made is one that I can look back on and laugh about now. It’s related to sending out emails. I would spend much time formulating a great script that I was proud of and then would send individual emails out one at a time from my personal account to give each email a personal touch. Because I would copy and paste the emails one at a time, I would often forget to change the name of the recipient. OMG, I would be so embarrassed when they replied and corrected me. I still feel embarrassed about telling that story. The lesson learned is to always proofread carefully before sending emails and not fall into the copy and paste trap.
Can you share three reasons with our readers about why it’s really important for a business to have a diverse executive team?
- When it comes to diversity I’ve always seen the strength as additional diversity of thought. Everyone is the sum of their experiences and diverse backgrounds provide the opportunity for ideas to bloom and help to avoid groupthink that a more homogeneous company might fall into. Having a diverse executive team allows for an array of unique life experiences that translates into a better, more well-rounded brand.
- A diverse executive team allows for a diverse audience. Customers are more likely to do business with a brand if they believe in the brand and see that a brand represents everyone, not just in rhetoric, but in the way the company structures itself.
- If the leaders of a company all have similar upbringings and backgrounds, it can create blindspots that may give the impression that the brand only speaks for a certain audience. Going back to inclusivity, having a diverse team allows a business to speak to those different experiences from a place of authenticity.
More broadly can you describe how this can have an effect on our culture?
Culturally, having greater diversity among the people in leadership positions and executive roles allows for the narrative to change and dissuade the assumption that these positions can only be aspired to and held by one kind of person. Diversity allows for more hope, which creates more dreams, which leads to more people willing to develop goals and which will hopefully lead to a more creative, expressive, innovative society at large as the marketplace diversifies. The unique experiences of those groups that have been under-represented have so much to offer. Diversity and inclusion opens the door to new visions and ideas, which can shift the dynamics of the standards we’ve grown to accept and push the boundaries of what is possible further.
Can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do help address the root of the diversity issues in executive leadership?
- Society and industries can provide the checks and balances needed to keep organizations accountable. Collectively, we need to work to break glass ceilings and other artificial barriers that prevent women and minorities from being promoted to managerial- and executive-level positions within an organization. Organizations cannot close the door on people before they even give them a chance to succeed.
- It is time to revise the outdated metrics we use to examine competence. These are often based on biases and stereotypes, which potentially dancer people of the confidence to express their leadership talents. These biases impact hiring practices, funding for start-ups, and the culture we’ve created to determine value. We’re counting leaders out before they even have a chance to spread their wings and share their worth.
- Biases are taught and learned. Parents and educators need to develop an action plan to implement initiatives that will create freedom of expression. Adults need to understand and share with children the concept that everyone brings unique experiences, strengths, and ideas. These differences can be a result of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, socio-economic status, age, ability, religious or political beliefs, and everyone’s perspective needs to be respected, even if we do not agree with the person.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
My grandfather taught me early in life to treat everyone the same from the janitor to the CEO and I have continued to live my life by that motto. A good leader has the ability to listen, connect and inspire. This past Father’s Day, I received a card in the mail from a former employee of over 15 years. The card said how she has been following me on social media and how I am still an inspiration in her life after all these years. Not only was I moved by the gesture, but it also rejuvenated my motivation and reminded me to keep fighting because I am inspiring hope. Energy is transferable and building a business is a marathon. I think your team will work harder and continue to improve the business even during their off time when they feel a connection to you.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- You may lose some friends.
It has been an eye-opening experience for me to see the people I thought would be the most helpful not show up when I needed them, especially some of my celebrity friends. I’ve actually been blocked by a celebrity for sending him all the articles we are mentioned in. Symposium is a work-from-home solution. and with unemployment at an all-time high, our teachers out of work, and basically the whole country shut down for the remainder of 2020, I would have thought that everyone would want to support that.
2. Whatever amount of money you think you need DOUBLE IT!
I am fortunate enough to have a First Ballot Hall of Fame investor and a co-founding partner with a champion’s mentality because getting Symposium out of beta to the point where we are today was over budget and took longer than initially anticipated. Having to find another early-stage investor would have been disastrous, and asking for more money with no leverage is a tremendous disadvantage.
3. Say goodbye to sleep.
If you want to work from 9 to 5 then get a job, this life is not for you. Being responsible for the success of your business and your investor’s money is a huge responsibility. My team and I work around the clock, learning, building, and strategizing to improve Symposium and our customer experience. Also, 3 am text messages from the team and sleeping with my laptop are a common occurrence.
4. You can’t do it all yourself.
I can’t stress to you enough the importance of having a good team. Having a good idea is just the beginning, it requires a team to implement your vision and bring it to fruition. I am blessed to have a team of knowledgeable hard workers who don’t see problems, they see only opportunities for solutions. I have grown a lot on a personal level by being in the presence of such an amazing group of people.
5. Get a dog.
OMG I love my dog, her name is Kona and she is our greetings director. Kona always seems to know when my stress levels are high, she jumps in my lap and demands attention. You may see her on conference calls with me or at the boardroom table where she has her own chair. If you’re ever in Las Vegas make sure to stop by the Symposium offices and meet Kona and the rest of the team.
You are a person of enormous 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? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
One of my favorite sayings is “you have not, cause you ask not,” which I learned about from Steve Harvey. You can’t get discouraged by all the noise along the way; you have to stay true to your vision. I would love to spread this message to as many people as I can to create a society in which everyone strives for success. People may be afraid to ask for resources that will help them to achieve their goals. People are afraid to take risks and to step outside their comfort zone. If we can all work together to support one another in our goals and not hinder others from following their path to success, the world would be a better place.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have so many life lesson quotes, I often start my days by listening to my favorite life coach Eric Thomas. My current favorite one is “Imagination is everything. It is the preview to life’s coming attractions.” That’s by Albert Einstein. As a creative, I really vibe with this quote because I have been able to take ideas and implement them into reality. With Symposium, we have created a platform that changes people’s lives and allows them to dream. That touches me to my core.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would like to have lunch with President Barack Obama after a pickup game of basketball. Aside from the obvious accomplishments as our nation’s first African-American President, I am also inspired by his life as a husband and father, his ability to address a nation, or speak to a group of kids on the corner. I’m moved by his humbleness and his relatability. Besides, after a meeting with Barack, you can probably get a meeting with anyone. Hi Barack, find me on IG @MrTroyRoq.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much!