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IN CONVERSATION WITH: JARROD GOLDSMITH’S ADVICE ON NETWORKING AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Originally published by Ioana Pitu of Minstral Spirit on June 21, 2018

Last week, I attended a youth entrepreneurship conference in Ottawa organized by the Government of Canada. I had a phenomenal time, learned a lot, and got to meet some amazing young and veteran entrepreneurs. Among the mentors we were able to learn from was Jarrod Goldsmith, an entrepreneur specializing in networking events, and saxophone musician based in Ottawa. His companies are eSAX and SAX Appeal. You can find him below at these links:

Website
eSAX website

Twitter

Facebook

YouTube

He was kind enough to take some time out of his schedule a few days ago to speak with me on the phone. He shared his experiences as an entrepreneur, as well as his advice for those just starting on how to network and brand themselves. Here is our conversation:

What did your career path look like? Can you tell us a bit about your journey?

Most people these days study something in school and find a job in a completely different field. My background is in music and my specialty is actually in archaeology because I never thought music would be a viable path. It was just a passion of mine, but I kept it up on the side. I ended up doing a master’s degree in archaeology and I enjoyed it but I thought there was more to life than sitting behind an artifact, studying a rock.
So I moved to have a day job that everyone wants and needs and so that way I could do other things on the side. I kept up the music all these years. My last government job was in May 2011. And then I said enough is enough.
I finally decided to go into music full time. I heard all my life it is hard to go into music and it as even more difficult in my case because my band is only saxophones. So it’s not a very common group, nobody is going to hire us because they’ve never heard of it before.

So I learned a lot about marketing and social media, because I had no choice! I had to make this viable. There was no option or plan B. I didn’t want to go back to a government job. I realized I had to go all in to make this a success.
When you don’t have a plan B you find ways to make this work.
I started going to networking events to find gigs. At the time there were a lot of networking events in my area. You’ll see that a lot of people are there to, well for lack of a better word, “hawk” their businesses. Throw their business cards. Get customers.
This is what they’re told to do. Give your sales pitch, work on your elevator pitch. When I was making these contacts I was trying to develop long term connections because nobody is going to hire a band – this type of band – for a 600-person dinner or wedding. But they might tell someone in a year or two from now; they’ll keep me in mind.
So what I was doing without even realizing it, I was creating these relationships with people. Not trying to sell them anything but just trying to develop this trust factor.

I got tired of the way networking was being done, and so then I started eSAX.

At the time there were a lot of chambers of commerce around the Ottawa region. But business has no boundaries in a geographic region. I’ll make a gig anywhere. Now with social media these days you don’t care where they’re from.
I started eSAX to help teach small businesses and startups and students about networking.

What does eSAX stand for?

eSAX is a bit of a long acronym. But it’s the entrepreneur’s social advantage experience. Three reasons. It’s cute. It works with the band because the band is SAX Appeal. And it’s short.
The word social and the word experience is very important. With any business out there, you’re trying to develop this experience so people want to come back. And by having the word social, it differentiates it from any other event out there.

What was your experience starting out?

Most musicians they teach on the side to make ends meet. But I became very very good at e marketing and the branding side. Any passion can be turned into a business if you know the business sense. I didn’t have a background in entrepreneurship, I didn’t know anything about startups. I just went all in. You learn really quick to sink or swim.
To me a lot of it was using social media to the point that people were thinking that SAX Appeal was performing two or three times a week but the reality was that when we were starting out we were only getting a gig every four or five months.

Right now you host networking events, do music gigs, and get called to other events. What is your typical week like? Do you have one?

Well everything changes depending on the events I get called to. I was out until ten last night for an event. And I get invited to guest speak quite often.

So a typical week is going to early morning breakfasts, scheduling meetings downtown and going to events in the evening. And I book another group, so I’m a music agent as well. I like to think I’ve developed a credibility as the guy who plays music and books bands and also hosts networking events.
I’d like to think that developing this rapport with people helps your branding in the long run. It takes a long time. You’ve heard the expression “an overnight success takes about four years”? I think the reason for that is because it takes that long to develop those relationships with people.

In dealing with people so much, you’re often expected to always be on the ball. How do you deal with being tired or not feeling at your peak ability?

As soon as I put on my hat [Jarrod’s unique personal branding has to do with the fedora he wears at all the events he attends and in the videos he creates] and attend the events, I get my energy back. Being a professional means you go on regardless of what happens. Now, I’m a professional at networking. Think of it this way: if you’re not out there networking who’s selling your business?
I’ve always thought to myself, if I want to stay in business two years from now, what do I have to do now to get there? A lot of it has to do with this passion to make something out of nothing. This is the epitome of being an entrepreneur. So I started these Ask the Fedora videos to help others. It’s not rocket science. But people aren’t taught these skills.

Where did you learn these skills?

Trial and error. A lot of the things I’ve talked about in my videos I learned the hard way. Anywhere from spilling food on myself, to not having a free hand to shake, to throwing people my business cards and giving my sales pitch. I used to do everything wrong but I learned through time and time again better ways to interact with people.

Do you read entrepreneurship books?

I don’t. I never have. I just do things because I think it’s the right thing to do. I guess I’m a bit of a dinosaur in that way. I just don’t read entrepreneur books. I know I should but I just never have.

Do you read other books?

I don’t read much. I don’t watch TV, I don’t watch movies. I’m always on; I’m always working. I mean, it’s not work for me. But it also keeps me on my toes.

What is your biggest challenge in your industry?

I mean the drive to Toronto once in a while gets a little tiring. But the biggest challenge is changing things up. Businesses get stale. Butsineesses have to change. You have to do something different every three months. I found a format that works really well for my networking events, but I change it up each time.
For example, the one in July is a pitch fest. The one in October is a fireside chat, and I’m looking to get one of the Dragons [from the popular entrepreneurship TV show called Dragon’s Den] to attend. Things are changing all the time. I encourage people – whatever you’re doing – keep tweaking.

What are some of the biggest changes that have taken place in your profession?

Well I’m not sure how much the music has changed but people understand the need to support local. Everybody likes to support local when they can.

Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs?

Everyone needs to become known as the go-to in their field. In my case, it’s networking. Think: how else can you branch out without losing that. You know, being a specialist in everything is not going to work.
And leverage your strengths. Because I host eSAX, I’m getting calls to help other people plan events. So now I’m an event planner. Go figure. But it’s a paid gig, so as an entrepreneur, your first reaction should be yes to everything,
You know, you’ll get calls from people asking, “do you do this?” And you go, “oh yes, that’s my specialty.” Then you hang up the phone and go, “oh shit.” And you learn real fast.
In your industry and as somewhat of a “freelance entrepreneur”, you have to negotiatie your own value with your client.

What was your process for learning how to price yourself?

So that’s a tough one. I’m going to talk about the music right now. When I first started, there were no saxophone quartets. At least in Ottawa. There were very few in the world.
So I based our prices on on a string quartet. And I even priced us lower than a string quartet when we first started out, just to get our foot in the door. After a few years I realized there’s no reason to be cheaper than a string quartet because we are so unique.

We’re not the cheapest, but I can do that because there’s no competition.
So when I started eSAX, the events used to be free. I used to spend four or five hundred dollars for food and for everybody. And everybody was happy. I started getting twenty, then forty, then in October 2013 I had 280 people. So I realized I could start charging. I upped it to forty a person. Now it’s 65 at the door plus sponsorships and booths and things like that. You have to do market research and know what can the market bear. But you also have to see how you stand out and why they would pay more and come back.

How do you determine how much to put back in your business, and how much to keep for yourself?

I put everything back into my business.

Do you have last pieces of networking advice for people just starting their careers?

Well of course, subscribe to the eSAX YouTube channel. Obviously. Little plug plug.
Don’t treat networking as a sales pitch. Wait until someone really wants your business card before giving it to them. Then ask for their business card.

When you’re starting, of course you want to throw it into everybody’s face. Then it comes across as a sales pitch, but nobody likes that. Engage in conversation. Talk about everything else but business. Try to get them to relate. Ask questions.

Eventually the conversation is going to be brought back. Why are you at this event, what do you do, why are you here. And I would let the conversation take the time to get there.


And that’s a wrap!

Hope you enjoyed our conversation and that you learned a little something from it. Let me know in the comments below if you’d like to see more of these interview-style posts!
And of course, special thanks to Jarrod for speaking with me and sharing his story. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel, eSAX! His bite-sized networking tip videos are a fantastic resource for anyone looking to improve the quality of their interactions with others!

THINK YOU’VE GOT THE HOTTEST SAX BAND IN CANADA? THINK AGAIN. MEET JARROD GOLDSMITH.

Have you ever found yourself at a swanky event thinking, ‘This string quartet is nice, but I could really use some more saxophone’? That’s music to the ears of Ottawa’s Jarrod Goldsmith, possibly the hardest working saxman in Canada. As a lifelong player, Jarrod finally took the leap and turned his passion into a career.

image of Jarrod Goldsmith playing sax on stage

We interviewed the young entrepreneur and spoke about struggles of creating a market for your product and the joys of not only making your own dreams come true, but helping others do the same.

Tell us about yourself. Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Jarrod Goldsmith and I’ve created two full-time businesses: Sax Appeal (which is Canada’s Premier Saxophone Ensemble), and eSAX (the Entrepreneur Social Advantage Experience). I have a real passion for music, but I also get to use my organizational abilities, public relations and leadership skills. I’m also know for my signature fedora.

Tell us more about your businesses.

Sax Appeal is a rather unusual professional all-saxophone ensemble whose specialty is to provide live music to enhance the ambiance of functions that require the finest of touches. With our distinctive sound (ONLY saxophones), Sax Appeal provides a unique musical experience by playing jazz music, classical music, or anything in-between for literally any event, ranging from weddings to festivals, to cocktail receptions to Christmas festivities. There’s a short documentary explaining more.

When I started networking to literally create a market for Sax Appeal, I became one of the region’s most active entrepreneurial networkers.

This led me to create eSAX; an entrepreneur networking group for startups to develop connections, gain knowledge from featured speakers and promote collaboration among regional Chambers of Commerce. Events are held every 3 months to coincide with the provincially funded Y-Enterprise Center Ontario Self-Employment Benefit Program (OSEB).

Sax Appeal at the 2013 Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival

Sax Appeal at the 2013 Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival (photo by MillsPhoto.ca)

What made you choose this path?

I’ve been playing the saxophone for close to 30 years, and I grew up listening to everyone telling me not to pursue a career in music. While earning a graduate degree in archaeology, and having tried for close to 10 years to secure a permanent federal government position in any department, I continued to hone my skills at music by playing ‘on-the-side’, never intending to pursue music as a full-time career.

I bounced from contract to contract and government department to department, but finally decided to literally ‘throw-in the trowel’ and pursue a music career in 2011 (much to the chagrin of my family). Being accepted into the Y-Enterprise Center (OSEB) made me realize that in order to make music a viable career, I needed to embrace being a startup entrepreneur and treat my passion like a business.

Why do you love what you do? What it is that drives you every day?

I never had any business training, let alone any aspirations on becoming an entrepreneur. Hard work, coupled with unwavering persistence, has led me to make my passion for the sax a viable business.

There simply was no alternative or ‘plan B’. My motivation was simple. If I didn’t get gigs, my dog will starve and I’ll need to sell the house. As these were not options, I devote every waking moment to furthering the Sax Appeal and eSAX brands.

eSAX-event-october-2013

Everyone knows that first impressions have the capacity to make or break a relationship, so it’s important to show others that you absolutely LOVE what you do. Anyone who has ever met me knows there is nothing else in life I would rather be doing. This enthusiasm for playing music and helping to encourage other entrepreneurs is so infectious that it’s easy for others to believe in me. Plus, you’ll never hear me call his businesses ‘work’!

Was it all smooth sailing or have you had to overcome adversity to get where you are?

The decision to pursue music as a full-time career is difficult for anyone. The challenge is compounded immensely since a saxophone quartet is, from the general public’s perspective, a rare and almost entirely unknown kind of ensemble.

It’s a guarantee that no one is going to wake-up one day and rip through the telephone book looking for a saxophone quartet to perform at their upcoming function… though I’m trying to change this perspective.

There are almost no full-time saxophone quartets in the world. As such, the public has little knowledge that four saxophones are capable of performing as an acoustic ensemble together. If someone is getting married, they would most likely consider a traditional string quartet, maybe a flutist or harp.

We all know that crazy happens. What’s the wildest thing that’s happened on the job?

Oh you don’t know crazy till you’ve toured with a band (lol)!

Perhaps the most memorable was a gig at a private Ottawa-area golf course last year. An elderly woman seated near us momentarily passed out and her chair fell backwards onto the floor. As I was dialing 911, the other sax player leaned over and asked if she would like any requests which greatly helped to break the tension! After 10 minutes she got up and we continued playing since the show must go on.

And now for something completely different… a few months ago I was contacted by the BBC who somehow came across the following sample we recorded of a Sousa March. Turns out they were interested in featuring that clip during the closing credits of a new Monty Python reunion documentary. How wild is that?!?!? Watch out for it 

A rare Fedora-less shot!

A rare Fedora-less shot!

What do you do with your time off?

A normal day involves playing with my dog pretty much every time she trots into the room and going for regular walks in the forest. I also often bike to the store for a little exercise to get away from the computer, but I’m never far from my phone.

The only time I take time off is when I go home to Montreal for a few days. Seems all I ever does there is eat, drink, sleep, eat more and gain weight. (I’m convinced my parents think I’m lazy, but if they ever saw me in action they’d know otherwise).

This is the age of the social network. How important is social media to your business and how do you make it work?

As most Sax Appeal gigs are private events (weddings, cocktail receptions, etc), I quickly realized that social media (particularly YouTube) would be essential to allow people the opportunity to see what the group is all about. Even today, many people who know about the group have never had the opportunity to see a Sax Appeal performance first-hand.

Back in 2011, Sax Appeal was only getting a gig perhaps every fourth month or so. Obviously this was not enough to live-on, but as I began engaging people and promoting the ensemble via various social media outlets, the impression that some had was that the group was performing a few times a week! One of the lessons learned was that starting out, it was important to appear more successful than one actually is in order to start developing a deep-rooted trust from the public’s perspective.

eSAX event, April 2014.

eSAX event, April 2014.

Are you involved in your local community?

All business owners understand that they need to network to get work. Having attended hundreds of networking events myself, as well through the hosting of eSAX, I’ve strategically placed myself at the forefront of the entrepreneurial networking scene in Ottawa. I’m an ambassador for the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce as well as the Orleans Chamber of Commerce. I’m also extremely active in three other local Chambers of Commerce: the West Ottawa Board of Trade, the Nepean Chamber of Commerce, and Le Regroupement des Gens D’affaires de la Capitale Nationale (RGA). I am very active within Ottawa’s entrepreneur community and regularly devote my time to promote, encourage and assist other entrepreneurs.

What does the future look like for you and your businesses?

GREAT! With any niche business, of course, it takes a few years of hard work to build a brand.

As I’ve been literally been branding himself (via the signature fedora and music ties), I’m starting to get a lot of recognition. However, it’s important not to become complacent and wait for the phone to ring, so my future will continue to consist of extreme amounts of both attending and hosting networking events, using social media and playing as many gigs as I can!

Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners just starting out?

First off…never underestimate the power of face-to-face networking!

Networking is not about people buying your products and services NOW, but it should be about building future relationships. Relationships take time in order to develop trust. Think to yourself that everything you are doing now is to help make your business a success in 2 years from now. People tend to ‘buy-into’ others whom they like, trust and respect. This building of trust takes time and persistence. Be patient.

If you really don’t like networking events, try to at least smile a lot, let your passion shine through, listen, ask questions and follow-up with everyone you meet.

  • Smiling lets people know that you are outwardly warm and friendly. Plus, let’s face it…who would you rather go introduce yourself to…someone who is smiling, or someone who is not?
  • Being genuinely passionate about what you do is often the very first impression people make. Always make sure to keep a positive attitude, as well as sincere enthusiasm around people (and even at home). This is very important because people see through fake. If you don’t absolutely love what you do, then it will be almost impossible for others to believe in you.
  • As people generally like talking about themselves, it’s often not hard to engage people you just met by asking them some simple questions. Doing so puts you in a stronger position to find ways you can help them, as well as bring your background and business back into the conversation.
  • Always make sure to follow-up with every single person you meet right away. Even if you think someone has absolutely nothing to do with your business, one never knows where a referral may come from. It’s also wise to keep a detailed database and track which event you meet someone at and when you followed-up with them.

Success breeds success so associate with like-minded people. It’s simply not healthy to be around people with a negative attitude who always complain about how unfair life is. If you don’t like how things are done, change it. Embrace what it means to be a startup entrepreneur by standing out and transforming the status-quo.

Mastering a Great Handshake for Ottawa Networking Events

eSAX-Ottawa-Networking-Events-Handshake-GuideOne of the most important, but often overlooked, part of successful networking is the handshake.

The origins of handshakes are interesting. They were originally a sign between medieval knights (or ancient Greeks, depending on who is telling the story) to show that they were approaching each other unarmed. Handshakes have remained a way in which people broker relationships, seal agreements, and otherwise commit to honorable action.

Nowadays handshakes are common in business networking, and is one of the few forms of physical contact that we experience in the networking world. It is good to have a solid handshake because it is part of the all-important 90 second “first impression” that people make of you, and a lot can be communicated through this one action.

Handshake basics:

  • Extend your right hand, palm vertical to the ground. If you want, you can tilt your palm slightly toward the sky to indicate openness, humility, and the desire to help.
  • Handshakes should be dry. If you have a problem with clammy hands try to wipe them off before you shake. Men can get away with carrying a handkerchief in their pockets and discretely drying their hands before they shake.
  • Use a firm grip, making sure not to be too weak or too strong.
  • Pump the handshake two or three times from your elbow and forearm, not your shoulder or upper arm. Water pump motion is uncomfortable, jolting, and aggressive to your partner.
  • The handshake should last 3-4 seconds, and should end before your oral greeting does.
  • Signal you are ready to release by relaxing your hand, but if your partner is a longer shaker just hang in there until they are done. You can come off as rude by pulling away before they release.
  • Remember: not everyone likes to shake hands! If you are unsure if someone wants to shake hands then it is okay to pause and wait for them to extend their hand or not.

It’s not just about the hand-to-hand contact! Other important parts of a good handshake include good eye contact, a warm smile, confident posture, and a step in toward the person you are making contact with (without getting too close). Also remember that if you are sitting, you should stand up to shake hands as a sign of respect. Greeting before and during the handshake.

Neuroscience has proven time and again that an impressive handshake leaves people with a better impression of you. Now, this doesn’t mean certain actual personalities use certain shakes, but this doesn’t stop people from making assumptions. Make sure to avoid these handshake “types”:

Handshake types to avoid:

  • The Crusher: Both the “finger crusher” and “bone crusher” variety happen when your grip is too strong. Seriously, don’t crush someone’s hand! If you squeeze too tight they will likely spend your whole pitch time thinking about the pain in their hand rather than actually listening to what you do. These people come off as well-meaning, but overenthusiastic person.
  • The Dead Fish: This is what people call the handshake that has no grip and no pumping action. It is basically placing your hand in theirs. People with dead fish handshake are perceived of as unemotional and apathetic with low self-esteem.
  • The Monarch (also known as Lady Fingers): Offering of just the fingertips shows either superiority, or extreme shyness. Can often be accompanied with the “polite pinch”.
  • The Double Hander (also known as the Politician): Using your other hand to clamp on to the top of their hand, or to even grab their elbow. This is too much contact for just meeting someone. It can make you seem overwhelming, overbearing, and too intimate. It can also make you seem too eager to sell something.
  • The Palm Down (or “Coming from Above”): When your hand ends approaches or ends up on top of the other person’s it appears you are attempting to be authoritative and coming off as aggressive. This can sometimes start as a normal handshake and turn into “the twister” when the other person’s hand ends up on top.

Practice your handshake on friends, coworkers, or colleagues and ask them for their honest opinion. It might seem silly, but it is a great way to find ways to improve if you’ve never gotten feedback from anyone on your handshake. It’s the best way to figure out your grip if you are otherwise unsure! You will have a great handshake for Ottawa Networking events in no time!

 

eSAX Tips for the Startup Networker

eSAXOttawaNetworkingSuggestions

Are you a new entrepreneur wondering if you should make networking a priority in your business?

Aspects of every business are relative to each business owner. That’s why you’ll never hear someone tell you an absolute that will make or break you. This means it is important to look into the facts and get some personal experience that will guide you in your decision-making.

Some people hate networking events and are able to have great success without stepping foot into one, but others love networking events and make many connections at them each week. It’s easy to say that you might as well network because any additional exposure for your business is good for business, but it is true that if you are uncomfortable and miserable you won’t be doing any favors for yourself.

Before forcing yourself into networking, consider some of the following ideas that may help you to realize some of the benefits you can get from the events.

Suggestions

  • Jump into networking when your business is new, especially if you don’t already have a ton of contacts in your industry. It will help you to build a strong foundation of supporters that you will lean on for the life of your business.
  • Don’t look at networking events as an opportunity to sell. Look at it as a chance to meet people that MAY end up being important mentors, partners, investors, or sources of referrals.
  • Have your website up and your business cards ready to go as these events are key to increasing your brand visibility. This is your opportunity to get the community used to seeing your logo and business name.
  • Use networking events as practice to improve networking skills and get comfortable talking about your business. This includes your 30 second elevator pitch!
  • Consider a networking event as a chance to do some research. Find out what are the current trends and demands in your industry or target market, or talk to many people that may offer insight and solutions into your own pain points.
  • Understand that coming away with just one new quality contact (mentor, colleague, friend, etc) is a very successful night.
  • Pick the networking event that is right for you. With an event like eSAX there is more of an emphasis on the social aspect, as well as mentorship and support of the small business community. You can also find events for your specific industry.
  • Decide if you are interested in “Hard Networking” groups that have a heavy focus on referrals (and also require membership fees and attendance) or “Soft Networking” such as eSAX networking events or your local chamber events that are more casual
  • Let yourself socialize! New business owners spend so much time on their business and neglect the social side of their human nature. Let yourself unwind a little bit and enjoy talking to like-minded entrepreneurs that are just as passionate about their business as you are about yours!

When starting out, it is easy to overlook networking since you have so much you are already devoting your time to. eSAX makes it easy to attend networking events in Ottawa with the scheduling of the events quarterly. Surely you can at least make time to spend one night of networking every three months! If you’d like to network more, but are nervous about it you can check out the “Find the Fedora” posts on the eSAX Facebook page and follow Jarrod to some great local events!