Randy Wilburn is the founding father of Encourage Build Grow, an company that focuses on management growth, communication and private growth for design professionals. In Randy’s phrases, he helps engineers and designers, environmental consultants, and planners “be better leaders, better communicators, and ultimately better people.”
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Randy, who was featured in our first quantity of “Black Entrepreneurs Speak Out,” can also be a self-professed “serial podcaster” whose newest venture has an particularly native taste. I Am Northwest Arkansas covers the intersection of enterprise, tradition, entrepreneurship, and life within the Ozarks of—you guessed it—Northwest Arkansas.
“I started that podcast here because I didn’t know anything about this area,” Randy says. “When I left the company that I moved here five years ago to work for, I didn’t really know anybody. I knew the gate agents at my local airport better than I knew people in town. So I said, let me figure out, let me learn a little bit more about this place.”
While “Northwest Arkansas” won’t readily mild up the psychological map, this area close to the borders of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri is the house of retail stalwarts Walmart, Tyson Foods, and J.B. Hunt, in addition to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, the place Randy lives together with his spouse, Nicola, and their three children.
A Family Tree of Entrepreneurship
Randy has at all times possessed an entrepreneurial spirit that blossomed from a basis of household go-getters. Plenty of his family have run profitable companies, together with his nice uncle, who owned the primary Black pharmacy in all of Western Pennsylvania.
Randy was additionally drawn to on-line enterprise due to a want for flexibility. Today his three children are fifteen, 13, and ten—however ten years in the past, when Randy started having designs on the web world, they had been 5, three, and a new child.
“I had my hands full, and I wanted to figure out different ways” of working and making a dwelling, Randy says.
He was additionally “never a big punch clock puncher. I don’t mind putting in the time. But if I had to compare the two, I would love to do it on my terms as opposed to somebody else’s.”
And so, in web time and phrases, Randy turned himself right into a little bit of a pioneer. Late within the first decade of the twenty-first century, he found out put an e-mail checklist collectively and supply companies on-line. He and Nicola finally spun up a lot of firms targeted on actual property, consulting, design, and even child meals firms out of their residence.
Way again in 2008, they had been even featured in a Businessweek article known as “Mom-and-Pop Multinationals” for the way they used digital assistants—on the time nonetheless a cutting-edge observe—to develop their on-line companies.
It was round this time that Randy got here throughout Pat Flynn, who was additionally a member of the Internet Business Mastery group run by Jason Van Orden and Jeremy Frandsen.
“I have been around Robin Hood’s barn” relating to on-line enterprise, Randy says. “And I’ve always tried to figure out, okay, how can I really leverage this and create passive opportunities? And also just to leverage the online space to make life easier when it came to work? And so it’s just been a never-ending conquest to figure that out.”
Podcasting: Off the Ground and Into the Sky
Online entrepreneurship is the airspace through which Randy has been hovering for over a decade—and podcasting is the engine that’s propelled him.
“I’ve kinda followed that pathway to try to have a better understanding of how to run my business online, how to make my mark.”
He’s helmed greater than 600 episodes of a wide range of exhibits, together with a podcast for his outdated agency, Zweig Group, known as the Zweig Letter, which is 173 episodes deep and going sturdy. He’s additionally been a visitor on many different exhibits. “And I got trained by the best.”
“The best” is a fellow by the title of Cliff Ravenscraft, who additionally gave Pat his podcasting wings.
Randy took Cliff’s Podcasting A to Z course means again in 2011. He had executed some podcasting earlier than that however “really wasn’t certain about it. And Cliff really crystallized some things” for him. Through the course, Randy discovered construct his podcast episodes on a stable basis “with a clear beginning, a clear middle, and a clear end, and in a way that I can kind of tell a story through whatever information is given to me.”
Randy began I Am Northwest Arkansas a couple of yr and a half in the past, and he’s already 83 episodes in. “It’s created an opportunity for me to kind of extend myself and have a better understanding of what the market needs, because I’m communicating with the market on a regular basis, through the podcast, through social media platforms.”
That communication has led to a lot of development alternatives, together with partnering with native sponsors to assist cowl podcast bills. He credit the area of interest nature of his viewers—the “four-hundred-plus-thousand people that live in the greater Northwest Arkansas area”—a demographic that gives an apparent draw for native companies that need to work with him.
Some of his sponsors have even been previous interviewees. “I came back to them and they were like, ‘Wow, that show was great!’ And I said, well, there are other ways for you to be a part of this. And sponsorship is one of those.”
Beyond this native focus, the built-in economics of podcasting have additionally been helpful. “The beauty of podcasting is that typically your podcasting audience tends to be a higher income bracket here in the United States. And that’s something that’s never been lost on me.”
What Matters More Than Your Podcast Tech
In his decade-plus on the mic and behind the scenes, Randy has change into a podcasting grasp in his personal proper. So it’s no shock that he has a ton of nice recommendation for different podcasters, particularly these simply getting began.
But perhaps his most vital piece of podcasting recommendation isn’t actually podcasting recommendation per se—it’s simply good enterprise recommendation—knowledge he’s carried with him for the reason that starting of his on-line journey.
“You’ve got to build a list. You have to offer something that makes a difference for whoever your audience is. You have to find your tribe, and that’s the one thing that has always stayed consistent throughout. Whenever I’ve developed a podcast, I’ve tried to find my tribe for that podcast and speak to them, with the understanding that I can’t reach everybody. I can’t be all things to all people.”
Audience first. Find your tribe. Offer one thing that makes a distinction. This is the core, important stuff of any profitable on-line enterprise or venture.
Podcasting can also be about expertise and course of, elements that may be both thrilling or overwhelming relying on who you’re speaking to.
Speaking of expertise, though he’s a self-professed audiophile, Randy swears by the AudioTechnica ATR 2100, which he calls “the gold standard of beginner mics.” He additionally has a Røde NTG2 (the same shotgun mic Pat uses in his studio) and a Zoom H6 for recording on the go (“The sound is amazing”), however the AudioTechnica is Randy’s podcasting bread and butter.
One factor Randy sees folks fret an excessive amount of about is sound insulation. For the document, once we spoke, Randy was in his insulation-free storage rocking his ATR 2100—and he sounded nice.
The backside line of Randy’s gear-light strategy? “The barrier to entry for really good audio is not as high as you think it is. It’s not nearly as expensive as it was before to get in the podcasting space, which is why I’m basically telling everyone, ‘You need to start podcasting.’”
Randy emphasizes that getting began and determining how the items of your podcasting system and course of match collectively takes time and legwork. But, he says, when you get right into a rhythm and get your course of down, it may be easy crusing.
He figures that for every episode of I Am Northwest Arkansas, he spends “all of thirty-five minutes from start to finish editing, putting everything together, and putting it out and throwing it up on Libsyn and pushing it out to the world.”
“If you know what you’re doing, once you learn it, the basics of it, the foundation of how to get good sound and how to qualify for your space and know what spaces are good, what acoustics are going to be like in any type of environment that you’re going to be in, you develop that over time. That’s not something that you’re going to learn overnight. Then you stand a much better chance of putting out a good product.”
He’s at present creating an internet course for his native public library known as Think and Start a Podcast (a play on Think and Grow Rich, the landmark guide by Napoleon Hill). Part of the impetus for this course was a method Randy sees many would-be podcasters holding themselves again: focusing an excessive amount of on—sure—the tech that they neglect to create a compelling product.
“If you do not have nice content material, I do not care. I do not care what system you are utilizing to document your podcast with. I do not care what microphone you employ. You can have fifty Heil PR 40s in your workplace. It’s not gonna matter as a result of no person’s gonna hear.”
Randy factors out how the booming podcast area nonetheless has plenty of room to develop for these prepared to create nice content material. The business solely lately hit a million exhibits, which nonetheless pales compared to the variety of channels on YouTube.
“When people ask me, ‘I want to start a podcast,’ I’m like, ‘Do you have an iPhone? Great. Go record on your iPhone. Let’s listen to that, and let’s put something out.’”
So, if you wish to get into podcasting, fear much less about having the perfect of all the things and extra about placing within the work to create one thing nice.
“At the end of the day, if you have a ton of shiny new objects but you can’t put the work in, it doesn’t matter anyway.”
COVID: The Silver Lining for Black Business Owners
When it involves one among 2020’s most impactful phenomena, Randy doesn’t mince phrases.
“COVID-19 has just changed everything. I don’t care who you are. Black, white, purple. It doesn’t matter.”
But he’s equally fast to level out that the pandemic has had an outsize influence on Black enterprise house owners. This impact has been borne out in analysis by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research exhibiting a 41 p.c plunge in lively Black enterprise house owners (440,000) as of May 2020, a bigger drop than some other demographic’s in share phrases.
Nonetheless, Randy sees an opportunity for struggling African American entrepreneurs to embrace the potential of on-line enterprise and digital advertising and marketing to remain afloat and even prosper within the midst of the pandemic.
“Now is the perfect time to consider, How might I take my enterprise on-line and put it aside?”
He sees “an opportunity for several of those companies that have closed up shop, unless they’ve just totally gone bankrupt, for them to kind of pivot, to do an online marketplace. I think the online marketplace provides so many more opportunities than you realize, and that just enough people are not on there.”
“As African Americans, we have some knowledge of online marketing and digital marketing, but we have never utilized it to the ability that it’s available to us.”
As an instance, he references the entrepreneurs which have shortly constructed on-line companies making and promoting masks. “They started out from nowhere… and these are all minority Black and Brown entrepreneurs that saw a need and said, ‘We’re going to fill it.’”
Adventures in SPI Land
“I can’t get enough of Pat,” Randy says.
He’s been an SPI Podcast listener “since day one” and has discovered himself impressed by extra episodes than he can depend—”Pat’s had a gajillion nice folks on his present”—though some current and not-so-recent exhibits that includes David Siteman Garland, Jacques Hopkins, and Jessica and Cliff Larrew have been particularly impactful for him. In reality, the Larrews’ episode impressed Randy’s spouse, Nicola, to begin her personal arbitrage-based enterprise promoting gadgets via Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA).
Randy can also be an enormous fan of a lot of SPI programs—and of programs typically.
“Build Your Own Brand is wonderful. For anyone that’s beginning out within the on-line area, BYOB will provide you with the muse that you simply want. You know what they are saying, is how for those who construct a home on stable floor, it will not falter. And Build Your Own Brand is a superb instance of that.”
“There’s a lot of people out there in the online space that keep everything close to the vest. They don’t share everything. They don’t want to. It’s as if it’s all a secret, but it’s really not. All this information is out there at your disposal. You don’t technically ever have to take a course.”
So why take a course, then?
“To save you time, so that you’re not going over here, you’re not going over there. It’s all right there in front of you. And if you’re like me and you have a hard time, because every time you see a squirrel you start looking around, then you need a good course to keep you grounded and to keep you focused.”
He additionally credit Pat’s dedication to streaming daily on YouTube. “It’s just been a testament to who he is. He’s just been throwing nuggets over the bow. Every day is something new.”
“I tell people all the time, if you’re trying to get started in this space, I couldn’t think of a better place” than SPI.
Why You’re Never Too Old to Chase Your Dream
“Our time here on earth is—we don’t know how long it is. Some of us can live to a hundred. Some of us can live to fifty. And every day is precious, I guess is my point. So I always tell people, if you still haven’t gotten to the place that you want to be, don’t give up.”
Randy’s hero is his grandfather, a person named Mal Goode. In 1962, on the age of fifty-four, Goode was a author for the Courier, a Black newspaper in Pittsburgh.
That identical yr, ABC News was trying to rent its first Black community newscaster—the primary on any community.
Goode was good buddies with Jackie Robinson—sure, that Jackie Robinson—who Goode used to cowl on his beat for the Courier. The Hall of Famer inspired ABC’s information director to offer Goode a shot. So ABC News invited Goode, together with about forty different African American candidates, to audition for the position.
“My grandfather knocked it out of the park. He beat out a lot of younger people for the job. He was fifty-four years of age, and he got his shot.”
Goode went on to cowl the assassinations of John F. Kennedy assassination and Malcolm X, the Poor People’s Campaign march, Martin Luther King’s funeral, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. According to Randy, he was additionally a mentor and pal to each Ted Koppel and Peter Jennings and a lot of others who got here via the ranks at ABC information.
“He wanted to do things at a younger age, and the doors weren’t open to him because he was an African American. But he persisted, and kept pushing the envelope and pushing the envelope. And in 1962, he broke through.”
“At a time when folks weren’t used to seeing African Americans on TV interval, he was there.”
Learning how his grandfather bought his break properly into his middle-aged years gave Randy a crisp perspective on what’s doable no matter your age.
“If you are feeling like, Man, I nonetheless have not met my calling, it is by no means too late to try this. And I feel that doing one thing on-line creates leverage and creates a possibility that you simply would not essentially get with a brick and mortar enterprise. And I simply suppose that for those who be taught to grasp this area, the sky’s the restrict.”
His personal expertise as a serial podcaster and digital pioneer has solely fortified Randy’s perception that “nothing is impossible,” particularly on-line. He additionally nods to Pat’s personal story of making entrepreneurial lemonade from life’s lemons.
“You know, [Pat] talks about, when he bought laid off from his architectural job and he had simply been named the job captain and all that stuff. And then he simply realized that, You know what, I’ve to be grasp of my area.”
Home & Away
Find a necessity, then go serve it. “Simple,” perhaps, like Randy says, however probably life-changing, too.
“I feel all of us come to that place, you realize, these of us that select this path. We all come to that place the place we’re like, You know what? I might slightly simply name the pictures. And generally the pictures are going to return up brief, however generally I’ll knock it out of the park, and that is when you possibly can have some actual success.”
Perhaps Randy’s most inspiring story of overcoming a seemingly insurmountable barrier got here early on in our interview. This Boston sports activities fan was grilling him for tidbits from the seventeen youth he spent in Dorchester, a suburb of Boston.
“I always tell people, ‘Never say never.’ I grew up in Northern New Jersey, and I always said I would never go to Boston. Hated the Celtics, hated the Red Sox, Yankees fan growing up, and definitely didn’t want to have any part of Boston. But it took my heart and introduced me to my wife. And all three of my boys were born there. So I have nothing but love for Boston.”
Talk about knocking it out of the pahk.