Paul Vorreiter Shifted Reflective Spark from Graphic Design to Speech Coaching

OWNER
Paul Vorreiter, 50

BUSINESS
Reflective Spark, the agency Paul created to coach corporate speakers on giving compelling presentations

LAUNCHED IN
2009

FULL TIME?
Yes

FUNDING
Self-funded

BEFORE BEING AN OWNER, HE
earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and business administration and an associate’s degree in design, worked as marketing director and art director at several companies and agencies, and owned a graphic design business.

HOW IT ALL STARTED
After another agency acquired the company Paul had been the art director of, he decided it was time to “hang his own shingle.” Reflective Spark’s initial work, Paul says, was 80 percent graphic design and 20 percent coaching executives to give better presentations and create engaging PowerPoint decks. After about five years, he realized the design projects ended up “going on forever,” needing many revisions, and he felt more energized working with the coaching clients. “I could stand in front of an audience of 500 people every day and not be tired,” he said. “But I could start a design project on Monday and be tired of it by Thursday.” So he made a conscious decision to “flip the business on its head.”

HOW HE DID — AND DIDN’T — SPEND HIS MONEY
From the beginning, Paul’s mantra was “never go into debt for the business.” He started – and still works – out of his home office, and used the computer and design software he already owned from his past jobs. His biggest expense the first year was updating the Adobe Creative design suite for $1,600.

THE MOMENT HE FELT HIS BUSINESS WAS REAL
Within his first year, Paul found himself on an airplane to Boston. International Data Group, or IDG, had discovered his presentation workshop online and called to see if he would be willing to come and train their employees. It was the first time he’d been paid to travel as a speaker.

SOMETHING HE’S PROUD OF
Paul says his favorite phone calls are the ones he gets from speakers after the first time they’ve used the presentation decks he helped create. Audience members have told his clients they’re the best speakers they’ve ever heard. He also finds evidence his message has hit home in his Twitter feed, where clients and workshop attendees have been known to Tweet examples of bad slides they see. “Hey Paul, like you said, ‘Bullet points kill people.’”

SOMETHING HE’S STRUGGLED WITH
Entrepreneurship can be lonely, Paul says. In fact, missing daily interaction with colleagues was one of the reasons he shuttered the first design business he owned and returned to a corporate office setting. This time around, he’s purposefully build a network of other professional speaker friends meets with and talks to regularly. “People I know will give me honest feedback,” he says. And – bonus – he’s met some of his best clients through this network.

“I try and have a coffee a week with someone in my network and schedule a work session with someone once a month,” he said. “Those work sessions usually involve getting together and work on our own projects. But it’s nice to have someone there to bounce ideas off of.”

BIGGEST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OWNING AND WORKING FOR SOMEONE ELSE
“I like to have fun at work,” Paul said. “Agency work isn’t like that. It’s all timeline driven. It’s all about cash.” Now that he’s the boss, Paul chooses the clients he wants to work with, even if they’re not always the highest bidders. He chooses people who work on subjects that appeal to him and are open to having casual brainstorms over lunch or a walk, rather than in a conference room. He’s coached several TEDx conference speakers, teams of college entrepreneurs trying to pitch for funding, and even a motivational speaker who talks about his journey up Mt. Everest.

BEST ADVICE TO OWNERS JUST STARTING OUT
Paul can’t overstate the importance of making sure you’re part of a community when you ‘go out on your own.’ His friendship with five business owners gives him people to share ideas with so he never feels truly solo as a sole proprietor.

“You can call it a mastermind or a work group,” Paul says. “Either way, find a people you like who are different then you who want to be successful. Everyone needs a group of people to bounce ideas off of and to cheer you one when good things happen.”

RELATED: So what does Paul tell his entrepreneurial clients who want to make a big impression when they talk about their work? He shared some of his best tips with us.