For this week’s edition of FinanciElle “Statements”, I had the opportunity to interview Farah Perelmuter, CEO and Co-Founder at Speakers’ Spotlight and The Spotlight Agency.
Speakers’ Spotlight has grown into one of the world’s largest and most respected speakers’ agencies.
“Speakers’ spotlight was started on the belief that a speech can change the world. Today, not only do we still believe this, we believe it is the only reason to give a speech” – From the Speakers’ Spotlight website.
Speakers’ Spotlight helps their clients put the right speaker in front of the right audience at the right time.
The Spotlight Agency is devoted to help match celebrity talent with clients who wish to work closely with them. It connects high-calibre talent with opportunities all over the world.
Paolina: What has been your hardest experience dealing with your business and finance and what did you learn?
When my husband and I started our company we had no experience, no staff, no clients, and definitely no money. Early on, we decided we never wanted to be in debt. We worked out of a small room in our apartment, we shared a phone, he was the company courier and I stuffed envelopes until my fingers bled. We did every small job there was to do when building a business. Slowly, the business started to grow so we hired employees and moved out of our apartment, then we hired more employees and moved to a larger space, and this pattern continued on and on, you get the picture. We now have a staff of over 30, represent more than 500 speakers, and book over 2,000 events a year in over 30 countries. Martin and I no longer work on all the small details and have hired many “business and finance” specialists over the years. I find that as the business grows, and becomes more complex, it is difficult to maintain control over all aspects of the financial structure and transactions. What I have learned is that it is extremely important to have the right experts, whom you can trust and who will guide you. And btw, we never did borrow any money or ever go in debt.
Paolina: What advice do you wish you had gotten about finance when you were first starting your business?
When I was in university I dropped my accounting course, hating it and thinking that one day when I own a business I will just hire accountants. I always knew that math “wasn’t my thing” and I’m an “ideas person”. I didn’t fully appreciate that, as a business owner, you really do need to do more than simply understand a balance sheet. I have had to literally train my brain to become a meticulous detail person and work alongside our lawyers and accountants. Working on the financial aspects of our business will never be my strength; but, I am surprised that I do find it more interesting than I ever thought I would. I only wish someone would have told me how important it is to understand (at least) the basics yourself and not to rely completely on someone else (and the fact that even an “ideas person” can do it!).
Paolina: What topics would you want to learn more about when it comes to finance and your business and why?
We do a number of interesting initiatives at Speakers’ Spotlight and The Spotlight Agency. For instance, every year we have our highly-anticipated charity event, our Annual Showcase, which are invitation-only events featuring many of North America’s most outstanding speakers, emcees, and entertainers. All proceeds support various charities over the years. We also do in-house VIP events and other creative marketing projects. I would like to fully understand the ROI on these projects. I would like to analyze certain data including; dollars spent, time spent, social media traction, return on the investments (how many bookings did we get for the speakers), and how much money we raised for the charities. I want to do this analysis thoroughly to ensure our efforts (and resources) are being used in the most efficient way possible. And if not… I’m sure I can come up with an idea or two!
Farah has been recognized in the events industry a number of times. For seven consecutive years, Profit Magazine ranked her as one of Canada’s “Top 100 Women Entrepreneurs”, and in 2008, she was select as one of “Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100”, through the Women’s Executive Network.